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The Mass Media

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February 20, 2024
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Did TikTok bring back reading?

Josh Kotler
A table with featured books and a #BookTok sign at Barnes & Noble, featuring books that are popular within book-focused communities on TikTok. Photo by Josh Kotler / Mass Media Staff

Many young people view reading as a chore, something you have to do to be smarter. While there are some who enjoy reading, most don’t have the time or energy to do so. When the pandemic came, there was time to relax and savor the little things, like nature, cooking and reading. Also with the pandemic came the rise of the ultra-popular app, TikTok.

The social media app began as a platform for kids and teenagers to post funny videos, similar to Vine. Soon everyone hopped on the trend and made videos for their own interests. The few teen readers left began creating and posting videos about their favorite books and soon, reading was back in style. People who hadn’t picked up a book since childhood saw these videos showing books in a fresh light and went to their local bookstore for themselves. Book sales in young adult fiction actually rose 21.4 percent in 2021 (1). Eventually, BookTok had its essential books that were must reads for every person new to the niche, including “It Ends with Us.”

Author Colleen Hoover released “It Ends with Us” in 2016 and it peaked in sales in the first month with 21,000 copies sold. Since that initial month, sales plummeted. In November 2020, she heard from her publisher there was a random peak in sales and by the summer of 2021, weekly sales averaged around 17,000 copies per week (2). In 2021 alone, she sold 308,000 copies of the book.

All of this is because of BookTok, with the hashtag #ItEndsWithUs having close to 450 million views and videos are still posted under the hashtag to this day. All it takes is one user to share their love of a book for the whole internet to fall in love with it as well. TikTok became the marketing tool that no one ever saw coming.

Book-related social media trends have been around for a while, like Booktube and Bookstagram, but nothing has had as much impact as BookTok. Numerous other books went from the back-shelves to bestsellers, in what is known as the BookTok Effect, including “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid and “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller. Having read all three books myself, I am astonished these books did not receive the proper recognition in the first place.

BookTok also has a few beloved influencers who promote their favorites every day. Publishing companies will even pay these creators to promote their books, hoping they will also reach the Bestseller’s List. These influencers have the skill of grabbing the attention of young audiences with just one quote and a sad audio.

A common trend that often attracts many new readers is posting about “book quotes that made me believe in love” or “book quotes that made me sob uncontrollably,” while the comments add their favorite quotes that fit the topic. Another popular trend is pairing a popular book with a popular song with the same message. I have found many books to read just based on those videos alone.

Most novels enjoyed by these young readers are heartfelt, emotional, and relatable—specifically the young adult romance and contemporary genres—but young adult fantasy is also a big seller. Even major book retailers, like Barnes & Noble, have jumped aboard by creating a section specifically for books popular on BookTok.

Are you interested in picking up one of these popular books? Well, here are some of BookTok’s favorites:

“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart

A mystery about a sick girl and her family’s summers on an island off the coast of Massachusetts.

“They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera

A tragic LGBTQ+ love story where the main characters find they have one day left to live.

“The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black

A fantastical love story following a human girl and her mortal enemy, a faerie prince.

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V. E. Schwab
The tale of a young woman who makes a deal with the devil, granting her immortality but at a grave price.

About the Contributors
Rena Weafer, Arts Editor
Josh Kotler, Photographer