Whimsical fantasies. Seductive thrillers. Heartwarming romances. Suspenseful mysteries.
BookTok is, “a corner of TikTok devoted to reading, which has clocked up 9.6bn views and counting,” according to The Guardian. It provides a plethora of popular book recommendations for story lovers across the globe.
BookTok is just other book readers getting together and figuring out what books are good and which ones not to read, junior Elija Gatling said.
For Pepperdine students, BookTok serves as a constant source of both comfort and entertainment. It helps them discover new stories and allows them to escape from the chaos of their semesters by simply turning one page at a time.
“It’s hard to find people who are open to talk about their favorite books and analyze the stories in a quick and concise manner, but you can find all of that on TikTok,” senior Matthew Harvill said.
With this explosion of social media content comes a rising rate of reading across generations. In 2021, publishing sales increased by 50%, and the most popular BookTok authors managed to generate 20 million sold print copies of their works, according to the New York Times.
Harvill’s favorite BookTok recommendation was “The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt. The novel revolves around a group of university students studying classics who all experience a traumatic event and must process the aftermath together.
“I was pulled in by the dark academia elements,” Harvill said. “The characters are all really messed up but also relatable, and you can’t expect how it ends. I would give ‘The Secret History’ five out of five stars.”
Junior Julie Ahn said it wasn’t until this past summer that she somehow wound up on BookTok and got hooked on reading. Since the semester started and coursework has picked up, she said she wishes she had more time to read.
“BookTook means a lot to me because I re-found my passion for reading,” Ahn said. “Now that I have these books that I am genuinely interested in, I am reading all the time again.”
Ahn’s first introduction to BookTok was when a TikTok video discussing Colleen Hoover’s trending best-seller, “It Ends With Us,” showed up on her “For You Page.” One of her favorite books from the app thus far has been “Book Lovers,” by Emily Henry, due to her love for romance stories.
Both Ahn and senior Erin Dean shared that “Verity,” Hoover’s popular psychological thriller novel, immediately grabbed their attention.
“It was so fast-paced and engaging,” Dean said. “It grabs you in the first couple of pages and makes you wonder what’s going to happen next.”
She said she ended up stumbling upon a BookTok section located in a Barnes & Noble store while hanging out with a friend. The bookstore’s website even has an entire page dedicated to the most popular BookTok books. Araza said she and her friend have since created a book club together to trade off series between them.
Araza said she enjoyed Michelle Zauner’s debut memoir, “Crying in H Mart.” She said Zauner uses heart-wrenching prose to recount her emotionally distant relationship with her mother, who she lost to cancer.
“I would never think that I would relate to something like that, because I don’t have a mom in that position,” she said. “But [Zauner] reaches out and touches your heart so well.”
If one is interested in exploring a fantasy fiction series to invest in, Araza highly recommended “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas. She said she appreciated how it felt like an extremely well-rounded story.
Gatling’s favorite BookTok book is also fantasy fiction, and he said it explores every possible theme: romance, race relations, drama and magic.
“The best [BookTok book] that I saw was ‘The House on the Cerulean Sea,’” Gatling said. “It is so good, it is literally my favorite book I have ever read. I give it a five out of five.”
The book, written by TJ Klune, follows a case worker who works for an orphanage that houses magical kids. It showcases the protagonist’s parental love for the children and his romantic relationship with the orphanage’s headmaster.
Harvill said this online community of book lovers has rejuvenated reading in a new way. The coolest thing about this, he said, is that, by reading, anyone can imagine a world that is so unlike their own.
“I have a really strong desire to travel the world,” Araza said. “For the longest time as a kid and even now, books have allowed me to do that even though I’m sitting in my bed at three in the morning.”
BookTok creates a safe space for creativity and imagination, Harvill said, and it rekindles past book lovers’ passions for literature and introduces new readers to the beautiful power of storytelling.
“These days, it’s inevitable how much screen time we have,” Dean said. “We watch a lot of Netflix, we’re always looking at our phones. If I can find a form of entertainment that is not a screen, I think that’s really great.”
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