Thanks to BookTok, we have reconnected with our inner child's passions.
( CaptPiper // Creative Commons )
I remember being four years old leaning into the saccharine sound of my aunt’s voice reading from pages of Alvin Tresselt’s “The Mitten.” When I could finally piece together sentences on my own, I delved into the worlds awakened by Mary Pope Osborne’s “The Magic Tree House” series. As I grew, the fluorescence of Harry Styles fanfiction peered back at me, and young adult novels like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” invited me into an experience of romance I had never actually grasped in real life.
These books kept me company and gave me advice to keep tucked away in the back of my brain, like how to let go of an old friend or when to realize a crush is actually crushing you. For the longest time, reading had been a constant in my life. Though, somewhere towards the beginning of high school – once the forced readings brought on by honors and AP English classes started to rack up – cracking open a novel began to feel like more of a chore than an activity for enjoyment.
The pleasure brought by reading was easily forgotten and replaced by less time-consuming joys, such as the blur of another Netflix binge, or the carousel of phone apps. That is until recently when TikTok, a phone app itself, re-opened the door most of us had closed: reading by our own choosing and for our own delight.
Instead of wasting the summer on the momentary gratification of constant phone usage, coincidentally many people’s TikTok gifted us with book homecomings. Suddenly, For You Pages flooded with book recommendations (plus rug-making tutorials and tell-tale signs of comp-het, but we’ll save discussion of those for another time).
Now, I bet if you told any middle-aged social media shamer – think the person who gets mad when teenagers use their phones in museums – that a social media platform would be the cause of a reading re-awakening in Gen-Z, they would keel over onto their coffee-stained used copy of “1984.”
Tik-Tok convincing people to start reading again is just so timely; I mean, this is the same platform that told us to start styling our hair with claw clips and wearing Twilight-era cardigans again; rebirth is inevitable!
Let’s just say everyone’s GoodReads, “Want to Read” shelves started to stack up with classics, queer reads and everything in between.
The self-proclaimed “BookTokers” have advertised countless novels, using hooks like “POV: you ask a hot girl what her favorite books are.” If I see a TikTok guaranteeing that hot girls do this!, I am absolutely going to give it a try.
There were minute-long spiels stating the magnificence of “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,” by V.E. Schwab, or enthused beckoning to pick up “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Folks gushed over “Beach Read” by Emily Henry and unraveled into “Her Body and Other Parties,” by Carmen Maria Machado.
Seeing how TikTok influenced the masses' renewed infatuation with reading can be somewhat mind-boggling. Social media forums like TikTok, Instagram and Twitter can send users into a spiral of never-ending content consumption. The difference between TikTok and the latter, though, is that the content on TikTok often inspires us to accomplish things outside of the app, like broadening one’s personal library.
This inspiration might come from a place of escapism and desire to experience new worlds when the real one is still somewhat out of reach, due to the year spent in a pandemic. Although avoiding real life can become an unhealthy practice if not done in moderation, escapism via reading seems far more beneficial than being sucked in by the internet black hole. Not to mention, fiction isn’t too far outside of our physical realm. Oftentimes, fantasy stories are more of a warped reflection of our realities and a means to make sense of them.
Then there’s the possibility of a yearning to reconnect with one’s inner child; the one who would likely be aghast at the piles of hardbacks collecting dust on the bookshelf of your childhood bedroom.
BookTok has allowed my older self to find books that have given me bits of knowledge just as significant as the ones I’d received as an adolescent.
So, this summer might have been primed to be a sun daze during a post-COVID universe, but instead it saw us traipsing out of Barnes and Noble, with our tote bags weighed down by the paperbacks from the BookTok display.
What was decidedly coined as Hot Girl Summer transpired into Well-Read Girl summer, all thanks to the TikTok algorithm doing its – extremely unpredictable, but impressive – thing. I know the thirteen-year-old girl still inside of me who thought every man I encountered would be just as marvelous as the ones written by female novelists’ POV would be grateful for the shift.
Now let me get back to sitting in my bedroom reading “Conversations with Friends” and having it read me right back.