BookTok: what is the TikTok phenomenon, and what are the best book recommendations for summer 2022?

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Here’s the story of how BookTok became so popular - and some of the top book recommendations from the literary influencers on TikTok

There’s a place for every obsession on TikTok.

The app has expanded well beyond its dancing origins, with users nowadays sharing anything from their favourite recipes, to their best budget travel tips, to hilarious childhood memory ‘story times’ told in several parts.

But for literary fanatics, the best corner of the social media platform is without doubt #BookTok.

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Under the 69.7 billion views strong hashtag, TikTok users are sharing their passion for books - discussing their top recommendations, sharing ‘relatable’ content, and bringing the titles they love the most to life online.

TikTok users are sharing their passion for books under the 69.7 billion strong hashtag #BookTokTikTok users are sharing their passion for books under the 69.7 billion strong hashtag #BookTok
TikTok users are sharing their passion for books under the 69.7 billion strong hashtag #BookTok | Unsplash

The tag largely centres around Young Adult fiction, with book-loving influencers often circulating the same five to ten reading recommendations, but there’s also a place for those who love classics or nonfiction - as well as of course a sizeable Harry Potter community.

If you’re looking for your next favourite novel but are not quite sure where to start - recommendation lists on the app vary from “books I sobbed at” to “series I would sell my soul to read for the first time again”... so there will definitely be something that takes your fancy.

But if you simply want to engage with like-minded people in an online, bookish sanctuary, there are plenty of influencers whose videos focus on talking about their most beloved characters or sharing their favourite literary quotes.

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What impact has #BookTok had on the literary community?

Many TikTokers in the BookTok community credit the space with helping them fall in love with reading (again or for the first time), in a similar way to how “BookTube” - the ‘bookish’ corner of YouTube - did a few years prior.

But the skyrocketing popularity of BookTok has also attracted the attention of authors and those in the publishing industry, many of whom are now viewing the online community as a powerful place to market new and upcoming novels.

Kat McKenna, a marketing and brand consultant specialising in young adult’s literature, told The Guardian: “BookTok is exciting.

“Its short, entertaining videos [are] bringing a new, powerful opportunity to reach and engage non-readers - to create more book lovers.

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“The snapshot visual trailers are making books cinematic in a way that publishers have been trying to do with marketing book trailers for a really long time, but the way TikTok users are creating imagery inspired by what they are reading is so simple, and so clever.”

This is exactly how up and coming author Alex Aster got her publishing deal.

She posted a video which started with the text, “would you read a book about…”, and then went into a short description of her novel, coupled with a trending audio and aesthetic images that reflected the plot.

Her video went viral, and now her debut young adult novel Lightlark will be published later this month. Universal Studios have also already bought the film rights.

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But it isn’t just new writers who are benefitting from BookTok - established authors are also finding that their older books are being thrown back into the spotlight.

Author Taylor Reid Jenkins, whose first novel was published back in 2013, is one of BookTok’s favourite writers. It’s unlikely you can scroll through the hashtag without coming across two or three or her novels.

There’s a similar effect with Sarah J Maas’ 2015 fantasy series A Court of Thorns and Roses - which now practically has its own community within BookTok.

Adam Silvera’s 2017 novel They Both Die at the End even had a trend created for it - where readers filmed themselves before and after reading the book.

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The result was that in March 2022, four and a half years after it was first published, it shot back into the charts and sold over 4,000 copies in one week.

What are the best books on BookTok?

Outside of its online popularity and influence on the publishing industry, BookTok is also simply a great place to go for new book recommendations - for whatever the circumstance.

So here are some of the top books recommended by BookTok and the literary influencers on the platform.

1. If you’re looking for a page turner, try The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid JenkinsThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins | Amazon / Taylor Reid Jenkins

As a Reid Jenkins novel, this will likely be the first book you come across on BookTok - and for good reason.

It follows the glamorous and scandalous life of Hollywood film icon Evelyn Hugo, told by magazine reporter Monique Grant. You’ll find yourself immersed in the story from the first page, and it will be almost impossible to look away until you reach the last one.

2. If you’re looking for a beach read, give The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood a go.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali HazelwoodThe Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood | Amazon / Ali Hazelwood

This novel follows protagonist Olive Smith, who is a third-year PhD student. It contains many of BookTok’s favourite tropes (such as fake dating and academia) and is a fun, easy read to enjoy in the sun.

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3. If you’re a Shakespeare fan but want something for the modern day, look no further than If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio | Amazon / M.L. Rio

This murder-mystery set in a Shakespearean acting school is filled with twists and turns. It’s structured in scenes, and the lines between the characters the actors play and who they truly are gradually merge as the murder investigation develops. It’s a firm favourite on BookTok.

4. If you’re looking for a tear-jerker, look no further than It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover.

It Ends With Us by Colleen HooverIt Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover | Amazon / Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is another author you will not be able to escape on BookTok. One of her most popular reads is It Ends With Us, the story of Lily Bloom. Most BookTokers say it’s best to read the book without knowing too much about the plot - so we’ll leave the mystery intact. (Warning: mentions of abuse)

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5. If you want unique storytelling, try The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Amazon / Markus Zusak

The Book Thief boomed in popularity in 2014 when a film adaptation was released, but BookTok has given the book a new lease of life. It’s set in Germany during World War II and tells the story of a young girl called Liesel and her family. The most unique part of the novel however is its storytelling style, as the book is narrated by Death.

6. And finally, if you still haven’t read it, pick up Normal People by Sally Rooney.

Normal People by Sally RooneyNormal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People by Sally Rooney | Amazon / Sally Rooney

Even people who are not book fans have heard of Normal People, after the story became a sensation in 2020 when the Hulu TV adaptation was released. But BookTok is still raving about the simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking love story of Connell and Marianne, so it’s an idea to give it a go before delving into the community.

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