I’ve always been a pretty strong reader–I remember in elementary school, my teachers started giving me the harder 8th-grade level books because I was flying through stories so fast. That being said, I’ve always been more of a writer than a reader, so when I was in high school and I started to become busier than I had been in elementary school, I used my free time for writing. I took a lot of English classes in high school, which were all reading-heavy, but I wasn’t doing much pleasure reading.
This past summer, I came across “booktok,” which seemed to be a section of TikTok for avid readers. They discussed new books they had read and characters they enjoyed and were given recommendations for books to read. The video that appeared for me recommended a book called “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover, a romance author.
Now I had no strong interest in romance novels, I was always more of a dystopian/science fiction fan. I brushed by it and kept scrolling, but over the span of a few weeks, the book kept appearing on my feed because the TikTok algorithm had now recognized I had clicked on the “booktok” hashtag. I eventually caved and purchased a copy of it. I don’t want to spoil the book, but it really isn’t a romance novel. When you start the book, you would think so, but by the middle, I was hooked. I read it in one sitting. It may not have been Steinbeck or Tolstoy, but it had good characters and a plot I wasn’t expecting.
So I found myself going back to “booktok” for the rest of the summer, and I read some great books, mostly from Colleen Hoover and Taylor Jenkins Reid. However, I also read some books that I wish I had never even started.
I suppose that that’s the nature of a recommendation; some people will agree with you that it’s good, and some people are going to disagree. Something about this new rise of “booktok” threw me off, though. I fell victim to this as well, so I’m not calling anyone out, but I found that every time I went into a bookstore, I only wanted to pick up books I saw from TikTok. Sometimes I still do. I wasn’t the only one doing this, though. I talked to numerous people who were only reading books they saw on TikTok, even if they weren’t super great books.
What was even more alarming was that they thought these books were the greatest they’d ever read. I do enjoy TJR and (some) Colleen Hoover, but even I can stop and admit that these books aren’t masterpieces.
With people only picking up books they see on social media, this can harm smaller authors who have created books that could be deemed masterpieces or very high quality. It overall limits the knowledge of books that people have because they feel like they have to read what everyone else is reading.
Next time you walk into your local Barnes and Noble, note the small table at the very front of the store. It reads, “As seen on TikTok”. Pushed aside are the tables for new authors or recently published books. It’s definitely a marketing technique from Barnes and Noble because, obviously, if most of their buyers are coming from TikTok, they will promote everything from TikTok. It’s just something to keep note of next time you go.
I do give complete credit to “booktok” for getting me back into reading. It provided a cool and aesthetically pleasing way of looking at books beyond what we were taught in high school, which was just to read and take notes. I know that it’s a great outlet for other people who are in my situation, and I think that any outlet that promotes reading is an inherently good outlet.
Phones consume so much of our time today that even with a burst of reading popularity in the media, it’s still rare to be able to have a conversation with someone about a book they read recently. I do hope “booktok” spreads and gains more attention from people on TikTok.
I would say “booktok” is a great place to learn more about books. That being said, I think people on this platform should be more open-minded and acknowledge that there are so many other amazing books to read beyond the small section of books on the internet. It is an amazing platform for new readers or people looking to get back into reading, but once you’ve read some of the popular books on there, branch out! Don’t limit yourself to reading what everyone else reads. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover the next big “booktok” read.