Exeter, Devon UK • Feb 24, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Arts & Lit BookTok: In defence of book influencers

BookTok: In defence of book influencers

Ellie McHale argues in defence of BookTok, its current and how it's grown in popularity.
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Image: Corydoctorow, via Flickr

Anyone who enjoys reading will probably have already landed on BookTok- the corner of TikTok dedicated to reviewing and recommending popular books and new releases. It finds its roots in BookTube but offers a more quickly and easily digestible snapshot of a story, due to the 60-second time limit feature imposed on many accounts. Yet many critics argue that BookTok recommendations have become a bit too ‘sameish’; they retort that every week a new ‘fluffy’ rom-com becomes all the rage, with the romance genre overwhelming the platform entirely. They look down on hype about ‘cutesy’ romance novels, favouring genres with more ‘substance’ or ‘grit’. Here’s my issue with this characterisation of BookTok.  

It doesn’t matter what you’re reading as long as you are reading

Firstly, I resent the narrative that reading romance isn’t really reading; the idea that romance is lesser than other forms of fiction is deeply patriarchal, given the assumption that this genre is enjoyed mainly by women. Most of us engage in reading as a light-hearted hobby, a way to wind down at the end of the day and escape into a world which doesn’t contain the same stresses as our own. Yet we also look for hints of ourselves in the characters which we embody throughout reading- romance offers this perfect bridge between fiction and reality, all tied together with a happy ending which promises hope and comfort. There is nothing embarrassing about enjoying romance, and I don’t think critics would have the same venom for BookTok if the most popular genre were historic fiction or sci-fi, for instance. It shouldn’t matter what you’re reading, as long as you are reading. What other people choose to read in their spare time is really, nothing to do with you.  

BookTok is literally designed to adapt itself to fit your personal reading interests, so use this to your advantage

Secondly, BookTok works on an extremely fine-tuned algorithm; the ‘For You’ page is designed by personal viewing and engagement habits and is generally freakily accurate in selecting recommendations. Due to this, it is almost impossible for one singular book to ‘take over’ BookTok in the way critics argue; something may pop up frequently on your personal ‘For You’ page, but other avid readers may never have even heard of it. I’m personally on the thriller and fantasy-romance spectrum of BookTok- these are the genres I tend to read, thus I engage the most with this content. So it’s not surprising that my ‘For You’ page shows more thriller and fantasy-romance recommendations than anything else. If romance isn’t your thing, don’t like or comment on videos about the latest romance release. There’s even an ‘I’m not interested’ feature if the content really irks you. BookTok is literally designed to adapt itself to fit your personal reading interests, so use this to your advantage.  

I end with my one gripe about BookTok- the glorification of the over-consumption of books. Many creators showcase their perfectly colour-coordinated collections of hundreds of books, which they themselves admit they will never get around to reading all of. Others share their reading goals of upwards of 100 books a year, alongside tips of how to ‘read quickly to read more’. This spoils the fun slightly; you don’t need to fly through 5 books a week or own a personal mini-library in order to be a ‘reader’. Books are expensive, and time to read is often short. ‘Skim reading’ to get through a book in less than three hours ruins the immersive enjoyment and might lead to missing key details. Ultimately, whether you read one book a year or 100, if reading is something you enjoy, you are a reader. And if you’re a reader, BookTok could be a great place to find your next obsession.  

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