Leah Cowan reveals some lesser-known titles that burst into the mainstream after gaining huge followings on TikTok.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Tiktok, a short-form video-sharing social media platform, would not be the place for an enormous community of bookworms to develop. And yet, 'BookTok' is an ever-growing phenomenon full of fervent fans recommending their favourite reads. At time of writing, BookTok videos have amassed 28 billion views in total.
Here, Leah Cowan delves into the BookTok community and highlights some books that have shot to widespread popularity as a result of being featured on BookTok.
The internet can be conceptualised as a two-headed chimera. On one hand (or head), it has spawned forums where bile can be spewed and hatred whipped up; platforms where exploitation festers, and spaces where companies and states conduct surveillance and mine our data. On the flip side, the internet has also enabled the creation of precious, cherished spaces where voices and perspectives that have historically been pushed to the margins can speak loudly and proudly. BookTok, a loose online community on the video-sharing platform TikTok, is such a space.
On BookTok, users (typically in their late teens and early twenties) share book reviews in the format of short, digestible video clips. There is a real sense of vulnerability, authenticity and open-ness which differentiates this community from traditional spaces where books are reviewed and recommended; a recent trend is for BookTok'ers to post clips of themselves crying while reading a book, urging others to jump aboard the emotional rollercoaster that novels so often take us on.
What’s most interesting about BookTok is its sub-communities. For example, on black BookTok and queer BookTok, books by authors who don’t adhere to the straight, white, privileged, often male profile that have forever dominated the publishing industry, take centre stage. Even on mainstream BookTok, titles which showcase a range of experiences and identities often receive the most hype. Some of the most-loved books on TikTok at the moment, such as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and The Song of Achilles both feature queer protagonists (although notably, both are written by authors who identify as straight).
BookTok has had a remarkable influence on sales; it has propelled books to ‘go viral’ and created a renaissance of interest in titles many years or decades after their publication. In an age where corporations are clawing back control of the potentially democratising space of the internet, BookTok is ahead of the curve in showcasing titles which reflect a broad range of lives and experiences, and opening up the world of literature to ever-widening audiences.
Here are just some of the biggest hits of BookTok so far: