BookTokers are completely changing publishing
These TikTok influencers have the power to shake up bestseller lists with compulsively watchable videos.
TikTok is quickly proving to be a platform with exponential potential. The app, once geared toward sharing choreographed dancing clips, has been responsible for making countless old and new songs go viral as TikTok trending sounds, from Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” to Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head On My Shoulder.” But TikTok isn’t just a boon for the music industry — or comedy, or mental health awareness, or sustainability. Books on TikTok are also being propelled to new heights, thanks to a corner of the app appropriately dubbed BookTok.
What started out as mostly teens casually dramatizing their favorite narratives or quotes from books has turned into a phenomenon over the past year. As Barnes & Noble’s director of category management recently told Publishers Weekly, BookTok is even more impactful than Bookstagram; TikTok books skyrocket in popularity and continue to sell for weeks or even months. Case in point: Colleen Hoover’s debut, It Ends With Us, which was published in August of 2016 and sold 21,000 copies after a standard release that included praise from bestselling authors and a nine-city book tour. Sales then petered out, until fall 2020, when TikTokers began posting about the book en masse; by summer 2021, It Ends With Us was selling almost as many copies each week as it did in its entire first year. The book has currently sold almost half a million copies and has been on the New York Times best sellers list for 28 weeks. Back-catalogued books like Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Adam Silvera’s They Both Die At The End have also shot to popularity thanks to BookToker recommendations.
BookTok is compulsively watchable for hungry readers craving authentic recommendations, in part because it exists outside of the machine of book publishing and the small pool of powerful people who typically decide which books get monied promotional rollouts. That pool, as with any circle of power, often lacks diversity — and BookTok helps fill the gap. “The more popular books tend to be quite straight and quite white,” 22-year-old Faith Young, who shares BookTok videos with 90,000-plus followers as @hellyeahbooks, told The Guardian. “And so I think the biggest movement within the community is being like: ‘Hey, have you never seen yourself represented? Here are books that are going to represent you.’ I’m bisexual, and when I first joined, I only ever read books about straight couples. So finding these books that I saw myself reflected in was life-changing.”
Whether you’re looking to expand your personal library or just enjoy some very niche biblio-humor, here are 11 of the best BookTok accounts to follow.
If you’re looking for academic reads to expand your horizons and solidify your status as the impressive bookworm at dinner parties, @estherhfung has you covered. She reinvigorates interest in the classic literature you might have speed-read in high school, while also drawing attention to more niche titles.
Camille Yvonne (@the.ones.about.books)
If YA, fantasy, romance, and a general joie de vivre around reading is your bag, Camille Yvonne of @the.ones.about.books is a crucial follow. They not only make witty videos, but also have a relatable touch with their recommendations about the reading experience.
Faye, also known as @literarylesbian, has cornered the BookTok market for W4W content from a diverse range of authors. Their pink hair and color-coordinated, well-stocked book shelves make for a super kawaii sapphic presentation to boot.
Selene of @moongirlreads_ features romance, thriller, and sci-fi books that are popular on BookTok, but finds quirky ways to recommend them — like when she suggests book titles based on the way certain songs make you feel.
Jaysen, who uses the handle @ezeekat, is a great person to follow if you love revenge-of-the-nerds-type content. He makes learning about new types of literature fun and encourages readers to step outside their comfort zones, diversify their bookshelves, and read as much as possible.
Ayman of @aymansbooks , who recommends popular YA and general romance books to her more than 500,000 followers, takes BookTok to endearing and comedic heights, combining bookish moments with pop culture references and making great jokes about reading. The 20-year-old’s charisma has made her BookTok famous, even among other BookTokers.
If you’re looking for reenactments of books and plenty of fantasy recommendations, look no further than @abbysbooks. She also posts lots of lighthearted content that perfectly captures the culture of being a book nerd.
Jacob Demlow (@a.veryqueerbookclub)
Jacob Demlow’s @a.veryqueerbookclub is a fantastic account to follow if you want queer reading recs. Their content is also full of pop culture nuggets that they expertly relate back to books.
Jenna of @jennaslitpicks gives practical advise on maintaining reading habits, reaching goals, and how to shop for books. She also reviews a wide range of books every week (skewing toward the fantasy genre) through funny videos that you’ll be eager to share with your fellow bibliophiles.
If you want to get TikTok book recommendations based on mood or discover titles that may have flown under the radar, Sydney of @sydneyyybean is your BookToker. She also gets into BookTok culture, giving insight into the best recommendations on the platform from a wide array of genres.
Kevin, who posts as @kevintnorman, is a queer Latinx book reviewer who sneaks in whimsical (and very funny) reading-related content amid his book reviews. His engaging videos feature LGBTQ+ books in a wide variety of genres; and he also published his first poetry collection, Shelter, this year.