BookTok: What Has It Done?
By: Brigid Feeney and Christina Griffin
A lot of people don’t really like the work of reading books. Sure, it seems nice. Who doesn’t like the aesthetic of sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping tea, and reading a book? But honestly, who has the time? No matter how hard English teachers try, it can be difficult to devote time to finishing a book. And besides, what even is there to read? That’s where BookTok comes in. But can a little hashtag on TikTok really have a big impact on the books being read today?
You may have seen a librarian or two using BookTok in a slideshow to make reading seem trendy, but what even is it? BookTok sprung up around 2020. The times were right, quarantine gave people more free time, and people were on TikTok a lot: perfect conditions to add books to your to-be-read list. And, it really had an effect on what books landed at the top of people’s lists. There were older books like They Both Die At The End (2018) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017) that became really popular because of BookTok. One book, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a retelling of the Iliad that came out a decade ago, blew up. That’s not normally how books get to the top of lists, but BookTok isn’t normal.
A display of popular BookTok books outside of the Conard Library
The most popular books tend to be fairly similar. Popular YA and fantasy books have always been popular, although the most popular author, Colleen Hoover, writes adult fiction. Books about underrepresented communities like Mondays Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson and Heartstopper by Alice Oseman have also become popular, although they’re hardly the majority. What’s interesting about this is that the popularity of the book doesn’t depend on the author being active on TikTok. These books aren’t popular because of movie representation or because the author is a celebrity; they are popular because of the teens and adults reviewing the books.
If you were to look up "#booktok" on TikTok, what would you see? BookTok is filled with reviews of books of all genres, including both positive and negative ratings. You might see a positive review for a book you think you might enjoy, but then 20 seconds later see someone else call it terrible and disappointing. People like different trends in books, so their opinions differ on how well written the book is. BookTok truly is a mini community of booklovers in the palm of your hand.
Overall, BookTok has had a surprisingly large impact on books being sold. The creators and viewers have been reigniting the careers of authors and determining what tops the chart. Of course, nothing lasts forever and this could be an irrelevant trend in just a few years, but while it lasts, it’s having quite the impact. Barnes & Noble and Tik Tok even teamed up for a summer reading challenge, and there’s a whole section on Barnes & Noble’s website dedicated to popular BookTok books. So next time, take a gamble, and I mean a gamble, and read a BookTok book. Maybe you’ll get out of your chronic reading slump.
(1) Conard Library