Every door on the internet seemingly leads to a different boxing arena where twitter fingers fly and clap backs are common currency. But tucked away in a cozy nook is a corner of TikTok that is often described as the last wholesome place on the internet — BookTok. #BookTok is a community on TikTok that has amassed over 15 billion views from fellow book lovers and is not showing any signs of stopping.
In the depths of Tiktok, BookTok remains a sanctuary for readers and writers alike to discuss their favorite books, leave recommendations, make memes, and have fun with other literary lovers. Although others have dubbed BookTok as the last wholesome place on the internet, I don’t know if they have read any of the recommended books because they are spicier and steamier than one would think. But what they don’t know won’t hurt them. BookTok remains one of the most wholesome places on the internet and serves as the gigantic online book club everyone wanted and didn’t even know they needed.
The once small community has grown to include billions of views, millions of creators, and a myriad of conversations that establish real connections from readers across the world.
The users are predominantly young women that post short videos inspired by the books they love. However, as the community has grown, there has been a flurry of representative BookTok Users ranging in all ages, sizes, colors, and genders. TikTok user @literarylesbian posted a video shown below that gives viewers a look at representative books with trans main characters that were written by trans authors. By exposing these books to new audiences the books garner a new fanbase they wouldn’t been able to reach while also introducing new readers to representative and inclusive content they might not have known was out there. BookTok is a major player in diversifying book stores, libraries, and calling for inclusion while actively supporting content they want more of. Trans readers everywhere can find books that accurately represent themselves and their struggles and find comfort and community in the palm of their hands. Because so matter who you are, you can be involved in the community that celebrates readers above all else.
The users are also incredibly creative and are always pushing out new forms of content to get readers excited about books old, fruity, spicy, and everything in between. Some users post videos inspired by the mood and “aesthetic” of the book that allows readers to get a visual feel for something that cannot be otherwise translated into perceivable content. Flashes of glamorous scenes, settings, and character quirks with a beautiful score make the viewer feel as if they are in the world of the book that used to only be available in their minds.
For example, user @shereadsforfun created a video using the novel Anna and the French Kiss in the video below and the aesthetic scenes push readers towards new books they have not been interested in before. Or, if you have read the book mentioned it is interesting to see how others can view the same book in a different, and always aesthetically beautiful way.
These visual trailers make books accessible to those who generally don’t read as they can visualize the world. This way of getting readers interested in novels is speaking to marketing companies across the globe as they have been trying to find a way to do this for ages. It turns out, all it took was a girl with glasses and a ring light — oh, and a genuine love for reading that a business degree cannot buy.
Other videos are less artistic and more relatable as readers record themselves before and after reading a book, sobbing as they finish the final line. The feeling of finishing a book is like no other and to see the visual representation of someone finishing a book and having to tuck away the people they have arguably spent the most time with is a feeling all readers feel and seldom see.
There are even other sets of videos that take a comedic approach to BookTok. These videos showcase “books that make me sob at 3 am but I liked it” or tropes like “how can we make this malnourished white boy enticing — insert cigarette” and “which dress would you wear to run romantically through a field then into a castle to find your lover?”.
Of course, the jokes and tropes are only funny to fellow readers of YA romantic novels or anything on the New York Times best-selling list. Since BookTok videos are rarely shown to anyone who is not a fellow reader, the comment sections are full of laughs and relatability as the TikTok algorithm has us all by the throat.
The Future of BookTok
The concept of online book communities is not new and only continues to be replicated on each new platform. As TikTok rises in popularity, so will BookTok, and it will follow the footsteps of its elders — Booktube and the bookish side of Tumblr, where fandoms obsess away in the depths of the internet.
BookTok will also have an increasingly important role in marketing and publishing new novels as BookTok has major influence over what people are buying in second-hand shops as well as your favorite Barnes and Noble.
Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End infamously gained a lot of popularity online from BookTok, and now the book has sold over 200,000 copies in the UK with the spike of copies sold years after its release. #Adamsilvera has 15 million views on the app and has even commented on his newfound TikTok fame with gratefulness and grace as the queer Latino writer churns out his next novel.
Retailers like Barnes & Noble have accepted the BookTok community, (and their wallets) with open arms, as they now have shelves, tables, and displays set up for the latest trending books. Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, said, “let’s create a statement because I know I have so many customers coming in saying, ‘I saw this trending on TikTok.’’”
Now, marketers are hoping that their clients’ books wind up on the right side of BookTok because they know it will lead to views and, therefore success. In time, I am afraid that the community could be bogged down by disingenuous videos and promotional content. However, I am holding strong, in the belief that the last wholesome place on the internet cannot be bought from large corporations and will remain a sanctuary for people who want to travel the world with the flip of a page and a flutter of their fingertips.
What rose to power in the depths of quarantine has evolved into a force to be reckoned with that now holds real influence over book stores and bestsellers lists alike. From the pandemic, an international book club has formed with young adults leading the way for readers of all ages. When people couldn’t leave their homes, BookTok was standing with open arms and an opportunity to go wherever you wanted in the safety and serenity of your mind. Afterward, you could watch relatable memes and share inside jokes with people across the world who knew all the characters and plot points that you did. It is the kind of community everyone wanted and didn’t even know they needed — the last wholesome place on the internet — #BookTok.