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BookTok: The Pros and Cons

March 7, 2021 | 11:05pm EST

If you are an avid reader who occasionally scrolls through the app Tiktok, it is more than likely that you have found yourself on BookTok.

This community of TikTok readers, known as Booktok, encompasses literary fanatics of all genres from the classics to steamy romance novels. The most predominant faction of Booktok, however, are dedicated fans to a select few young adult fantasy series and authors. Their zeal is evocative of fandom tumblr circa 2014 when the only books that mattered were The Mortal Instruments, Divergent, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and Harry Potter (among a few others). If you went down that rabbit hole, you know exactly the cult-like community I am referencing.

Through Booktok, I have re-entered the world of young adult and new adult fantasy. Through my hours of scrolling, I have racked up recommendation after recommendation, placed an unhealthy amount of books into online shopping carts and written a to-be-read list longer than I care to share. I have been both blown away by books that met the hype they were given, such as The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, and I have also been let down.

At first this community of online readers seemed like a gift. I often struggle to find others who get as excited over books as I do, so it was refreshing to know there were thousands of others out there with the same passion. However, recently I find myself quickly scrolling to another video when BookTok content creators pop up. Even before the video starts, I can confidently say I know all of their recommendations. After the first week of watching, everything became redundant. The same books continue to be discussed over and over again, to the point that I actually groan when I see a familiar cover. Every once in a while I find a video that reviews a book I have never heard of before, or offers a selection that promotes diversity and inclusion, but for the most part I am being forced into a YA fantasy corner surrounded by the same authors and tropes.

What’s more, if you have not read the books that continue to be pushed onto TikTok users, it automatically feels as though you are the odd one out. Through these videos, reading is transformed into a contest, in which the winners own beautiful bookshelves filled with hard cover series sets and stay up to date on the latest book trends. Everyone else is pushed aside.

I realized this when I kept seeing videos in which people said “If you have read these books, we can be friends.” In a world with so many books to explore, I found it strange to promote the idea that you MUST read these select few books to be “cool” or accepted by the reading community.

To sum up my feelings about Booktok, it is a great way to find out about new and trendy books, but it does not go beyond that. After a few videos you will find yourself confined to one category of literature, and while those books might be amazing, some range is necessary. The moral of this story is take recommendations with a grain of salt, do not allow strangers on the internet to control your reading tendencies; read and enjoy whichever books you’d like.

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