Reading is trending, and that’s a good thing

By Rachel Hackam

The summer before second grade, I caught the reading bug. With the help of the pandemic and online bookish content, many others have since caught it, too. Social media platforms like Youtube and Tiktok have romanticized reading, making the hobby trendy and changing young peoples’ perceptions of literature. 

Online book content provides individuals opportunities to develop their own reading preferences and to open their mind to literature. I discovered an intense passion for reading on an annual beach trip with my parents, starting with the Rainbow Magic Book series, soon devouring John Green’s novels, later venturing into adult fiction, and occasionally dipping into romances or classics.

While I have loved to read for years, some people have picked up the habit more recently.  According to a January 2022 article in Publishers Weekly, book sales rose almost 9% from 2020 to 2021. The increase in sales lines up with the growing popularity of Booktok—a section of TikTok dedicated to literature-focused creators. 

Booktok’s influence spread rapidly, influencing established brands like Barnes & Noble to implement sections dedicated to books recommended frequently on the platform. These books are often fast paced and easily digestible, with loveable characters and a dash of romance. Madeline Miller’s “Song of Achilles” and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” are some examples of books that gained popularity online.

Creators share books they’d sell their soul to be able to read for the first time again, generating international discourse about novels. Beautiful quotes and polarizing opinions fill the comment section beneath a video raving about “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt, while other creators rank Emily Henry’s three novels, enraging those who disagree.

The discourse online assists young readers as they begin to form their own opinions surrounding books. After seeing someone eloquently describe what they like about a book, a young reader may begin to think critically about their current and past reads, building upon the framework and structure of others’ opinions.

While people may initially choose a certain book to follow a trend, enjoying that first book is a gateway to reading as a hobby. TikTok recommendations segue into browsing a bookstore or perusing a library’s shelves. 

Booktok became so popular that it traveled towards more mainstream TikTok content, supported by influencers with larger followings. On April 25, 2021, Emma Chamberlain posted a video on her YouTube channel titled “Reading Makes You Hot,” where she shared her newfound love and appreciation for reading. In the video, she explains that reading gives her a way to decompress, separate from her phone and social media. In following videos, Chamberlain continued to promote reading as a hobby, joining the community of creators known for their reading-based content. 

Like Booktok, Youtube’s Booktube provides a community for literature-focused creators. Creators on both platforms recommend a diverse range of books, allowing new readers to find something they’ll enjoy. Viewers and creators alike share the common interest of reading, sparking a connection and building trust between the audience and creator.

Booktuber Jack Edwards created a series called “celebrity book club” where he reads celebrity book recommendations and judges their reading taste while expanding his own. Edwards has read books recommended by Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, and Olivia Rodrigo. He also joined “Supermodel Book Clubs” and read books recommended by Emily Ratajkowski, Kaia Gerber, and Camille Rowe. 

This type of content makes reading more intriguing as pop culture icons engage in the hobby. When idolized individuals like supermodels read, their large following often mimics their actions, hoping to become more like the person they’ve placed up on a pedestal. By intertwining reading with other popular topics and connecting it to well-known individuals, Booktok and Booktube creators make reading more relevant to audiences everywhere. 

Similarly, on her channel “Uncarley,” Carley Thorne read and psychoanalyzed three books recommended by a celebrity. After reading Lorde’s favorite books, Thorne said she developed a better understanding of why Lorde takes breaks from social media and the inspiration behind her music.  

The discourse online recommends a diverse range of genres and even influenced me to step outside my comfort zone. Over the last year I’ve alternated between Joan Didion’s collections of essays and lighthearted romance. Between Sally Rooney’s character-driven narratives and plot-focused thrillers. I’ve realized I appreciate stunning prose and character-focused narratives more than a busy plot, but books with a captivating plot, strong characters, and gorgeous writing will always hold a place in my heart. The last few months of exploring stories outside my comfort zone transported me back to that summer over 12 years ago when I first discovered my love for words. 

Bookish content online exposes everyone to new sides of reading. When something like reading becomes trendy, it might lead someone who once viewed reading as “nerdy” to pick up a book.  The niche reading communities on platforms like Tiktok and Youtube help people find new books both inside and out of their comfort zones. Romance lovers can easily find creators discussing their favorite tropes and literary fiction fans can find as many new recommendations as they want. Booktok gets people excited about reading, reigniting old passions for literature and sparking new ones, and improving reading’s reputation. These new and existing loves for books and reading not only increase readership of popular books but also boost sales for lesser known books. Online discourse surrounding reading makes literature more accessible, rewriting the narrative surrounding what it takes to be a reader.