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BookTok Made Reading Cool Again. Has It Also Made It Less Fun?

It’s complicated being a literary girl in the TikTok era.

by Ryanne Probst

Today’s readers aren’t the same ones who made up the millennial Tumblr and fanfic eras of the decades prior, who quietly tended to their passions behind anonymous usernames and solo trips to Borders (RIP). On BookTok, readers declare their love of books with their full chests, bonding over their favorite viral reads, spicy scenes, and swoon-worthy characters.

The hottest thing you can be right now is an avid reader, as evidenced by BookTok’s 34 million posts and the meteoric rise of authors like Colleen Hoover and Sarah J. Maas, whose novels have taken off in large part due to their online virality.

But three of Gen Z’s hottest BookTok creators — 25-year-old New York Times bestselling author of Immortal Longings Chloe Gong, 26-year-old content creator and book publicist at Tor Publishing Giselle Gonzalez, and 22-year-old content creator Mika Auguste — tell Elite Daily their feelings are complicated. While TikTok has ushered in a new demographic of extremely online readers, its algorithm infamously prioritizes content with shock value, meaning some of the more nuanced conversations about books are getting lost.

At Its Best, BookTok Feels Like A Big Internet Book Club

In the days before BookTok, all three creators were chronically online, but their Internet communities felt niche enough that content would eventually run dry. That might be why they felt so drawn to the early days of the platform. Here was a place where the conversation never ended and where the content was seemingly endless.

Gong, whose debut novel, These Violent Delights, blew up on BookTok in 2020, felt an earnestness from the community that she wasn’t expecting. “TikTok is very much a place to gather and talk compassionately about something,” she says.


TikTok made reading accessible in ways that previous platforms simply didn’t. “You don’t have to be an expert anymore,” Auguste says, recalling the days of Tumblr, when having extensive and niche knowledge determined your follower count. “[Now] anyone can go viral at any moment.” She notes that the BookTok community has brought Black and brown creators into the mainstream. “I grew up just reading about white stories,” she says. “I kind of had to insert myself into that and pretend I was reading about a Black girl, and now, we have stories that I can actually see myself in.”

It’s also normalized thirsting on main. Finding people who match your (book) freak is not only easy to do but also highly encouraged. Straight dudes are proudly and loudly discussing romance novels with their followers. Subgenres like SmutTok have taken off to the point that bookstores began erecting whole displays to capitalize on these trends.

“I think it’s amazing that reading has become so popular,” Auguste says. “But because of TikTok and trends, I worry it’s a bit more about reading for the sake of the performance.”

For Some, It’s Made Reading Feel “Overwhelming”

People may want to feel in on the secret, but they don’t want to feel influenced. “If there’s one thing Gen Z craves, it’s authenticity,” Gong says. “They can smell an ad from a mile away.” That’s always been TikTok’s strength as a platform: ditching the curated feel that plagued its predecessors, like the long-form written content of Gen X’s book blogs and the static, one-dimensional look of millennial Instagram.

But lately, Gong, Gonzalez, and Auguste are pulling back from BookTok for that exact reason. Because BookTok welcomes everyone — and everything — into the fold, they’re starting to feel like the space is focused more on views and follower gains than intimate discussions about books. Gong calls it a “gamified” version of reading. “There’s no denying the dopamine hit of people liking your stuff.”


“It can feel overwhelming to keep up with,” Gonzalez says. “I want to make sure I’m posting stuff I actually like.” That can be hard to do when TikTok moves at lightspeed and when hopping on what’s popular is the best way to get more eyes on your content. Auguste remembers watching one BookTok video where a girl pulled out a vibrator halfway through her review. “No shade, but I’ve noticed people prefer posting for the shock value of things in order to get views instead of reading to have fun,” she says.

Gong agrees loud, in-your-face content is what gets the algorithm moving, even if not every book’s vibe matches that description. “There are some books that aren’t TikTok-able,” she says. “There are quiet books, books that are more nuanced that actually can’t be summed up in 60 seconds. What happens then?”

While BookTok has made reading more accessible, its oversaturation has the creators worried that the joy of reading is getting lost in what’s trendy.

When Your TBR Pile Feels Like Work, It’s Time To Go Back To Basics

The idea that less is more might feel unfathomable, especially considering the maximalist mindset TikTok perpetuates. But maybe being more intentional on BookTok is the path forward, for creators and consumers alike.

Auguste is hoping to recapture the magic she built on longer-form sites like YouTube, which she says have always been ripe for deeper connections with her audience. She wants to slow down her content and dig into the details of the books she talks about.


Gonzalez is leaning into more lifestyle content in addition to her bookish updates. “I think for Gen Z, they want to see all the cool, interesting things about you,” she says. So now she’s the New York girl and the travel girl in addition to the book girl. “[@HopelessBookLover] is my online persona, but it’s also my real life persona. I want them to know the whole person.”

Gong is working to make her content more book-forward, trends notwithstanding: Easter eggs, exclusive content, and behind-the-scenes details. She doesn’t just want to sell her books to readers; she wants to create additional worlds for them. She remembers following authors on Twitter when she was a kid. “I got really excited about seeing these glimpses into their worlds,” Gong says. “I want my readers to feel that, too.”

For her, it’s less about reaching the biggest audience possible and more about having fun: “Social media should just be a place for us to talk about what we love.”