How BookTok transformed reading culture

Post-pandemic times have experienced a surge in reading

The library is filled with popular reads

Photo by: Emma Grace Gregory

The library is filled with popular reads

On Mar. 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 an international pandemic. Schools and businesses shut down, forcing many people to stay at home in search of things to do. While streaming servcies such as NetFlix and Hulu saw a significant bump in viewership, social media apps such as TikTok offered a form of entertainment in short-form  video that resonated with millions of people. 

TikTok’s algorithm showed users videos that catered to individual interests such as dances, cooking instruction, or comedy.  Users began to refer to the curated stream of videos as “their side of TikTok.”

The “BookTok” side to TikTok offers a form of community to many readers. Through the book hashtags and popular sounds, people engaged with videos that other people have made about the many series and stories that they love such as The Folk of the Aire series or some more widely known like The Hunger Games.

One story line in particular took on a large surge of recurring popularity over quarantine- Harry Potter. There were thousands of TikToks made on this series with special attention given to Draco Malfoy and the Marauders. In a time filled with a lack of community and self isolation, BookTok offered the opposite. Through TikTok, readers were able to engage with others through their shared common interests of all things reading.

Even during post-pandemic times, BookTok still remains immensely popular. Thousands of people interact with book related videos every day and will likely continue to do so. Through this form of continuous and growing communication, more books are becoming better known and can be seen being recommended across multiple accounts.  For users on”BookTok”, these books are frequently seen across their For You Pages in a variety of contexts. There are multiple ways in which these books are mentioned in videos, such as paired quotes and audios, fan theories, and even user’s fan art for series/characters they love.

Another display seen in popular bookstores, like Barnes & Nobles, features popular sayings such as “he’s a 10, but…,” then associating them with common BookTok characters. An example of this can be seen from the popular science romance, “The Love Hypothesis”– “he’s a 10, but he’s antagonistic and unapproachable.” In store displays showcase popular books on TikTok with the label “#BookTok.”

Some other popular BookTok books include The Inheritance Games, The Song of Achilles, Shatter Me, The Secret History, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and many more. Some authors that take on a special interest include Emily Henry, Sarah J. Maas, and Taylor Jenkins Reid.

One author in particular, Colleen Hoover, grew in popularity because of “BookTok.”  any people who never really took on any particular interest in books when they were younger found themselves wrapped up in the reading world once they discovered some of the works of Colleen Hoover. The most well known book written by Hoover is It Ends With Us, a story of Lily Bloom and her life and relationships in Boston. 

“‘It Ends With Us’ opened my mind up to reading when I had never liked it before. Reading this book drove me to purchase a Kindle and read basically a book a day in the summer,” Kathryn Meyls, 11, said.

“BookTok” seems to have increased the popularity of reading among the school’s culture.  Midlo’s Book Club has seen a spark in attendance as of late, the tables of the library filled to the brim with students eager to discuss the book they read that month. Book Club offers a chance for students to obtain that reading community in a real life setting. It also encourages students to interact with classmates that they might not have otherwise, forming a quick and unique bond through their shared common interest. 

“I have been pleasantly surprised with both the increase and level of participation in Midlothian’s YA Book Club this school year.  It feels that more and more students are choosing leisure reading as entertainment,” Book Club sponsor Heather Murfee said.

While some may only see the negative effects of social media, today’s reading culture has been heavily influenced by online sources, like BookTok, in a positive way. It enables readers to communicate their shared love of series and characters in a way that is catered to their unique interests. Popular books and authors are spread through platforms such as TikTok, spreading reading culture around the world and encouraging more and more people to start reading. An evident example of this can be seen in the surge of Book Club attendance and the discussion of popular books at meetings. BookTok and romanticizing mindsets have influenced the reading world, establishing a culture that can be specific to anyone who should choose to engage.