Credit to Solen Feyissa via Flickr licensed under CC 2.0

A beginner’s guide to Booktok

By Ruby Nicholl

Ruby breaks down the essential features of the burgeoning trend.

From showing breakdancing videos to breaking news, TikTok is so multi-faceted that it can be used and enjoyed by everyone. Avid users of the platform will probably know about the “sides” of TikTok you can find yourself on (or what comes up on your ‘for you’ page). As students, it’s likely that we’ll have stumbled across BookTok.

I first got into BookTok around a year ago. I was in a downward spiral: I had just decided to drop out of a law degree and had travelled back home to figure out what to do with my life. When I first discovered BookTok, I purchased the books it recommended faster than I could read them. While this led to a considerably long to be read (TBR) pile, I used the books as an outlet to let my imagination run wild, and escape from the stress of completely changing my life plans. A year later, I was starting a degree in English literature (I guess the universe has a plan for everyone). 

My BookTok education started in the same way as many others: the classics. Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, are probably some of the first books you will come across if you just randomly type “booktok” into the search bar. While these are excellent, well-written stories, they are not for everyone: some people don’t like romance novels, and We Were Liars is a young adult fiction book which not all ages will necessarily appreciate. Luckily, the breadth of people on TikTok means that there exists a much wider variety of book recommendations.

In order to navigate BookTok, you must first decide what your niche is. While this can sound daunting if you haven’t read for a while, if you think of a TV show you’ve watched (such as Outer Banks) or a game you’ve played, that’s a great place to start. If you type in “books like outer banks” into the search bar, you’ll get a multitude of books with the same setting and similar characters to ones you already know and love. My personal recommendation for this one is We Were Liars.

It may take some trial and error, because books are subjective. But if you were a fan of the book, in your next search type in “books like we were liars”. Eventually you’ll end up on a side of BookTok that is specifically tailored to you, and you shouldn’t have to search anything anymore, because the technology automatically curates content that comes up on your ‘for you’ page.

The power is now in your hands: get on the app, go and buy a book, and see where it takes you.


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