BookTok to Book Club: How Social Media Influenced My Reading This Year
Growing up, I was an avid reader. My mom often had to come check on me multiple times after I went to bed to make sure that I wasn’t huddled under my covers with a flashlight and a book, reading late into the night. However, last year, with the stress of my junior year filling up my days during 2020, I did not spend as much time reading as I would have liked. So, as the clock struck midnight welcoming in 2021, I decided my new year’s resolution would be to read more books. I wanted to immerse myself back into the hobby that I loved so much as a child.
I found most of my book recommendations through TikTok, a social media platform that started to rise in popularity during the months that we were quarantined at home. Since I liked a lot of book-related videos on the app, the app noticed the trend and fed more and more onto my For You Page, the main page of TikTok that shows videos specifically “for you.” The great thing about TikTok is that it caters to exactly what you like to see on the app, so your For You Page is unique to your tastes.
Mac Bechtol, a rising Episcopal senior who frequently uses TikTok, says that “with the way TikTok’s algorithm works, you get a lot of videos with similar genres of books, so it really caters to what you enjoy reading.” For me, when I liked these reading-related videos, my For You Page placed me on a side of TikTok known as BookTok, which is centered around popular books, reviews, and authors. My “to be read” list started to get a little too long, so I decided to create a book club with some friends from school - Lexie Leitner, Ana Sofia Miro, Gracie Malone, Lucy Haire, Nylah Ali, Mia Masterson, Lucia Valderrabano, Erin Walsh, Natalie King, and Grace Perrin - to make a schedule of books to read and discuss. We created a group chat on Snapchat and decided to choose one book each month.
We looked to BookTok for ideas of books to read and we all worked together to find good books for each month of the year. Though the school year was picking up when we started the book club in March, spring break was a great opportunity to take time for reading. Soon after starting the book club, I went on a spring-break trip to Florida with my friends. We would all lay out on the beach and read The Song of Achilles, our first book-club pick, talking about it in between tanning sessions.
The Song of Achilles has been very popular on TikTok, which is what inspired us to read it. Gracie Malone said, “I didn’t think it would be as good as everyone on TikTok was making it out to be, but it was one of the best books [I’ve] ever read.”
Having a community both online and in person that loves to read has helped fuel my love of books even more, and I am glad that I ended up on BookTok. Most of the books we have found for our book club were found through BookTok, and I will share our reads below.
Our March Book
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011, Fantasy, Mythology) is a mythology retelling of the story of Achilles. Action-packed and fast paced, it is a heart-wrenching story that will have you on the edge of your seat. This book was definitely a great one to start off for us, because it was loved by everyone in our book club.
Our April Book
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab (2020, Fantasy, Historical Fiction) is a fantasy novel where the main character, Addie, makes a deal to become immortal, but in turn no one will ever remember her. As she walks through history, she deals with the repercussions of being practically invisible, while trying to avoid the dark god that made it all possible. This book was beautifully written, and though it wasn’t my personal favorite, some members of the book club fell in love with it.
After taking a break in May for the hectic end of our junior year, we decided to revive our book club for the summer. Currently, our June book is The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a book that I’d never heard of but was recommended by one of the members of our book club, Lucy Haire.
Our June Book
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992, Contemporary, Mystery) is a novel about students at an elite private college acting as unofficial detectives for a murder that happened on campus. Mysterious and dark, this book delves into how death can affect a community.
Our “To Be Read” List Includes:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014, Fiction, Contemporary) is a contemporary fiction story about a Chinese American family dealing with the loss of their daughter. This novel is a mysterious family drama with a haunting plot.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2017, Historical Fiction, Romance) is a historical fiction story about a fictional movie star named Evelyn Hugo. This novel follows Evelyn’s shocking tell-all to an unknown pop culture magazine reporter, sparking her big break.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014, Historical Fiction, World War II) is a historical fiction novel set during World War II that follows two young teens, Werner and Marie-Laure. Marie-Laure flees Paris with her father during the Nazi occupation, while Werner is orphaned in a small mining town in Germany. Their two paths cross in shocking ways as they attempt to survive the war.
In the middle of a crazy junior year, picking up a good book was just what I needed to relax and enjoy something that brought me back to my childhood. I am glad I was able to bond with friends I didn’t see much over quarantine and even during this odd school year. BookTok reminded me of my love of reading and made me realize how many of my peers shared the same adoration for books.
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