BookTok praises few books, proves dangerous for most authors

The+large+community+of+TikTok+that+discusses+and+recommends+books+is+commonly+called+%E2%80%9CBookTok.%E2%80%9D+The+hashtag+%E2%80%9C%23BookTok%E2%80%9D+has+over+93+billion+views+across+the+app.

Graphic by Alex Gaines ’25

The large community of TikTok that discusses and recommends books is commonly called “BookTok.” The hashtag “#BookTok” has over 93 billion views across the app.

In English class earlier this year, my teacher asked that we all bring in as an independent reading book to read during our free time in class. The next day, when he asked us all to share which books we had brought in, I was shocked to see that six kids had brought in the exact same book: “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.” What were the chances? Well, considering the current environment on the book side of TikTok, commonly called “BookTok,” the chances were surprisingly high.

When it comes to TikTok, things become trendy super quickly and circulate throughout the app so that the most popular videos will appear on millions of For You Pages and cause specific items to have insane boosts in sales, such as clothing items, tourist attractions, snacks and – most notably – books. Just one viral video of a person being shocked at a plot twist in a book can cause insane levels of popularity across the app for that book. Specifically since trends can emerge from a book’s features. 

For example, Hanya Yanagihara’s 814-page novel “A Little Life,” which contains extremely triggering topics, has become trendy because of the amount of videos of people recording themselves crying at the book’s disturbing ending. TikTok’s algorithm means that certain specific books get huge levels of popularity if they’re circulated enough through the app. The most commonly viral books that I’ve seen are from two authors: Taylor Jenkins Reid and Colleen Hoover.

To understand the full power of TikTok’s viral algorithm, just look at the bookselling charts: One of Colleen Hoover’s books, “It Ends With Us,” was released in 2016. Now, it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for 76 straight weeks. One of the most liked TikToks about the book has 31.5 million views and 5.6 million likes. Similarly, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” has been on the bestseller list for 90 weeks even though it was released 5 years ago.While these incredible levels of popularity may seem exciting for the book industry, BookTok’s process overshadows a majority of authors. While most of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s book are extremely well written and interesting, Colleen Hoover’s romance novels contain some really triggering topics, such as rape and sexual abuse. A majority of these popular TikTok books are romances, and the common books on the app don’t contain much variety overall. 

…TikTok is now reducing its users’ to-be-read lists to just a couple popular books from a couple authors that pull all the success and earnings away from other authors and people in the book industry that work just as hard.”

— Alex Gaines ’25

There are so many other authors writing all sorts of interesting books with diverse topics, and TikTok is now reducing its users’ to-be-read lists to just a couple popular books from a couple authors that pull all the success and earnings away from other authors and people in the book industry that work just as hard.

It’s essential for BookTok viewers to understand that these promoted authors are not the only authors in existence, which you assume would be obvious, but these popular authors are viewed and posted about so much that it narrows down the entire book industry to a couple very specific genres of books.

However, if anything good has come from BookTok, it’s that teens reading for pleasure has surged, at least from what I’ve seen around Staples. I personally wasn’t reading at all in 2020, but when I saw a video about “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” I was immediately interested, and reading that book rekindled an interest for me reading, which has been a great hobby for me and my mental health.

TikTok is romanticizing reading again because of the platform’s ability to make communities where people can share experiences and thoughts, and BookTok is a great example of how the app can boost any product’s sales, starting with just one viral video. However, readers should continue to appreciate and try reading books that aren’t just the main couple promoted on TikTok and explore different genres. TikTok encouraging more people to read is great, but the authors writing about other things than what only TikTok likes are only hurt by the whole situation.