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Book sales tick-tock up thanks to the net’s ‘literary nerds’

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Book sales tick-tock up thanks to the net’s ‘literary nerds’

Teens on BookTok are taking reads viral and have pushed site views up from 5.8-billion last year to 39.2-billion now

Sunday Times books editor
BookTok is described as a place where people can discuss their favourite books through video reviews, memes and recommendations.
YOUTH POWER BookTok is described as a place where people can discuss their favourite books through video reviews, memes and recommendations.
Image: 123RF/mrkornflakes

I wrote a column about BookTok more or less a year ago. In it I discussed how it was a growing trend among teens and was driving sales of books to such an extent that even US bookstore chain Barnes & Noble set up BookTok display tables of viral titles. Last year this time the TikTok subsite reported about 5.8-billion views. That’s now grown to a massive 39.2-billion. I’m not good at maths, so I’m not going to even attempt to work out the percentage growth, but I would say it’s a helluva lot.

It’s been hailed as the sanctuary for literary nerds on the net. The place where people can discuss favourite reads through video reviews, memes and recommendations without fear of trolls saying it’s not literary enough or it’s just chicklit, or just being mean about the reviewer.

Think 'Hunger Games' meets 'Harry Potter'.
Think 'Hunger Games' meets 'Harry Potter'.
Image: Supplied

Chicklit: a word about which I am in two minds. Even now, years after it was coined, the debate about it continues. It still exists in our bookasphere. I heard it from a number of people this week, mostly when discussing the second season of Bridgerton on Netflix. I want to embrace it fully, take it on as a word of pride, and hope it’s not discouraging people from buying these books. But it’s still used dismissively by those wanting “real books, like those written by Booker prize-winners”. It’s about time us Gen Xers and Boomers unashamedly embraced the genres we love, encouraged ourselves to read wider and not be dismissive of any type of book. 

Millennials and Gen Zees have managed to do this quite successfully on BookTok. They unashamedly feature themselves reading romance novels, historical fantasy adventures, melodramatic young adult fiction ... The only thing they call out is the lack of wider representation of minority groups in books. 

Verity has been hailed by reviewers on BookTok.
Verity has been hailed by reviewers on BookTok.
Image: Supplied

There is no skaam. They have hashtags and lists galore that profess their love for a book. One is #books that had me sobbing, screaming with tears in my room for days and left my heart broken, while another reads #books I would sell my soul to read again.

So what are the BookTok reads to look out for? One is The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake. Our reviewer, Tiah Beautement, says it’s “urban-scifi-fantasy-academy-X-Men novel”. It’s about a secret society of magical academicians who are caretakers of The Library of Alexandra, a place of sacred knowledge. Each decade six magicians are selected for initiation and will be the chosen ones ... if they survive. Like Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.

One tokker wrote, while sipping tea emotionally during a video review, that the book consumed her.

Verity by Colleen Hoover has been hailed by a reviewers on the site as “the first book that has left me emotionally empty ... 5/5”, while staring at the book with the melancholy Passenger’s Let Her Go playing in the background. 

Colleen Hoover's 'Reminders of Him' has also taken BookTok by storm.
Colleen Hoover's 'Reminders of Him' has also taken BookTok by storm.
Image: Supplied

The novel is about struggling writer Lowen, who accepts the job to complete the remaining books of best-selling author Verity Crawford, who is unable to finish them. Lowen uncovers an unfinished biography of Verity’s that contains quite a few surprising admissions. Lowen is also falling in love with Verity’s husband Jeremy. Messy. 

There are many BookTok discussions about whether one is #teamletters or #teammanuscript. I guess the only way to find out is to read it.

Hoover’s latest book, Reminders of Him, has also taken BookTok by storm. One reviewer said: “Finished 2 days ago. It’s my favourite book now. It’s so sad I was crying the whole time.” Another made a sentimental video with images of couples embracing, women crying, while Coldplay’s Paradise is playing. I wanted to cry and I have not even read the book. I want to now though, especially after reading the blurb: “After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out. The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter.”

I’ll have to read it before I choose which sad song to use when I post a video of myself gazing sorrowfully at the book.

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