My Love-Hate Relationship with BookTok￼
This Valentine’s Day, I suggest buying yourself a little something to let you know that you love you. After all, there’s no one who knows you better than yourself! This year, I’m going to gift myself a new book—specifically, some romance. On my quest to find a good romance read, I’ve turned to a certain subcommunity on a certain social media app. I’ve turned to BookTok.
For those who are unfamiliar, BookTok is a sect of TikTok where creators share book suggestions based on particular genres and moods. The content ranges from “Books that will have you sobbing your heart out at 2 a.m.” to “Books that changed my perspective on life” to “Books I’d sell my soul to read for the first time again.”
I found one author who featured in almost every video: HRH Colleen Hoover, Duchess of BookTok. Since 2012, she’s produced 24 books and six series. Hoover’s ability to create dramatic characters, captivating scenes, and a gripping plot—all while including her fair share of spicy dialogue and passionate love scenes—pulls her readers in so deeply that many finish her novels in one sitting. I will confess: I did stay up until 2 a.m. reading It Ends With Us (2022), and I finished Verity (2018) in less than 48 hours.
It’s true that Hoover is an accomplished and talented writer. However, BookTok has placed her 24 novels on too high of a pedestal while pushing other lesser-known authors out of focus. Hoover found her fame in 2020, when everyone had time to breeze through books. The demand for her books grew so strong that it seems like she started to write purely for the TikTok audience. Hoover’s intended messages about female empowerment— some of her female characters triumphing over domestic abuse, childhood trauma, and child custody ordeals—have been obscured by the viral spiciness and salaciousness.
Verity and It Starts With Us are incredibly different novels in quality, and I’d argue the reason for this shift is BookTok. Verity has a constantly turning plot that takes completely unexpected routes. It’s also a book within a book, highlighting a creative and challenging writing method mastered by Hoover. It Starts With Us, written at the height of Hoover’s fame, has an incredibly predictable plot in comparison. The dialogue is incredibly cringeworthy and highly unrealistic. You can’t underestimate the effect of BookTok in contributing to these differences. The social media community and readers are now a vital part of her process; as she said in an interview with The New York Times, “The readers are controlling what is selling right now.”
After my metaphorical breakup with Hoover, I turned back to BookTok to find some new authors. If you’re looking to play the audience to someone else’s fictitious love story this Valentine’s Day, these are some great options.
At first, the lack of quotation marks in Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Conversations with Friends will confuse you. But I implore you to keep reading, because you need to find out how Marianne and Connell (NP) and Francis and Nick (CWF) end up. (They can be problematic, but you’ll secretly root for them.) Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy is a quick read, but will pull your heartstrings in every direction as you question if Belly really ends up with the right Fisher brother. Madeline Miller is beautifully descriptive and poetic in The Song of Achilles and Circe, both historical fantasy books, which serve as perfect palette cleansers among all the romances. Josie Silver and Jojo Moyes are masters of writing books you’ll need to see adapted into a movie. Both One Day in December and The Last Letter from Your Lover include multiple narrators and different timelines while blending mystery and romance to create page-turning stories. Tessa Bailey is a craftsman of perfect rapport between characters combined with a tasteful level of spice in It Happened One Summer. Julia Quinn is the queen of period-piece writing, and I suggest reading at least the first two Bridgerton novels if you don’t have the patience for all eight novels plus some prequel and sequel series she reported are coming soon.
Tik-Talking About Books
How “BookTok” Made Reading Cool Again
The power of TikTok has no bounds. Over the past year, TikTok users have created their own book club, full of recommendations and excerpts all to entice viewers to read their own favorite books. The hashtag #booktok has over 73.9 billion views, with that number rising by the second. However, with millions of users all trying to get people to read their favorite books at the moment, it can become a bit overwhelming. There are thrillers, romance, and even thriller romances. So here are the top three most popular books on “BookTok.” Are they worth it? That’s for you to read and decide.
- Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Following a rock band in the 70’s, Daisy Jones and the Six departs from the classic writing style found in novels and opts for an interview-style switching between the characters, almost written like a documentary. Daisy is an enigmatic protagonist with a one-in-a-million talent for songwriting and music, but an affliction for the party lifestyle of the 70’s. Daisy’s antics are balanced with the leading man of the band, Billy Dune. Billy is an aspiring family man and recovering drug addict who wants to provide a stable life for his wife and daughter. This book is a fresh take on a classic story that will transport you and have you smiling and even singing along.
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
If you want a book that will make you cry for 700 pages, A Little Life sure will. The story follows a group of friends through their lives over the years. The relationships of this group are tested and strained through each person’s struggles with addiction, childhood trauma, chronic disabilities, and more. This book is extremely dense and there is no reprieve so read at your own discretion.
- It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover is the most popular author on BookTok at the moment, which was catapulted through the success of this book. It Ends with Us follows the main character Lily as she falls in love with successful neurosurgeon Ryle. Yet, Lily can’t forget about her first love, Atlas. The relationship between Lily and Ryle quickly turns toxic, and we follow Lily trying to break the generational abuse cycle started by her parents. This book will be lingering in your mind long after you have finished.
Old Songs Find New Life on TikTok
Old Songs Find New Life on TikTok
How the App Celebrates Multiple Generations of Music
Olivia Riportella ’25
TikTok, one of the world’s most popular social media apps, has proven to be more than just a platform for dancing and silly skits. It has evolved into a bridge between generations, connecting them through music that holds meaning in both the past and the present. Many classic hits, along with lesser-known songs from past eras, have recently been revitalized by young people on the app. Indeed, this new generation of TikTokers is taking these songs to new heights of popularity.
One such song that has found new life on TikTok is “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).” The 1970 tune from one-hit-wonder Edison Lighthouse was an unlikely pick to resurface 52 years later, but has exploded across the app. To embody the “Rosemary aesthetic,” TikTok users have used the song to post clips of themselves over its opening lyrics, “She ain’t got no money/Her clothes are kinda funny/Her hair is kinda wild and free/Oh but love grows where my Rosemary goes…” As a result of this trend, the old-school pop song saw an astounding growth of 1,490 percent in streams in the 10-day period between Dec. 25, 2021 and Jan. 3. “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” even broke into Spotify’s U.S. top 200 Chart, sitting just outside of the top 100.
Another classic 70s track that has found new life thanks to TikTok is the iconic hit “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. When TikTok user “Dogg Face,” whose real name is Nathan Apocada, stole everyone’s hearts with a clip of him skateboarding while holding a bottle of cranberry juice and singing along to “Dreams,” the tune was brought back to life. A whole new generation became enamored with the sweet melody of Stevie Nicks’ soothing serenade. After Apocada’s clip went viral, the song returned to number two on the Rolling Stone 100 chart, reentering commercial charts for the first time in over 40 years. Apocada even received a shoutout from Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood themselves after the reemergence of their hit song prompted the superstars to create their own TikTok accounts.
A more recent “throwback” that has caught the attention of TikTok users is sister band Aly & AJ’s “Potential Breakup Song.” This 2007 single from the duo, whose full names are Alyson and Amanda Michalka, made an exciting return to popularity due to its angsty teen breakup lyrics that resonated with Gen Z-ers. Clips of young people lip-syncing to the song went viral across the app, bringing about an epic comeback for the Michalka sisters. There was such a resurgence in “Potential Breakup Song” across TikTok that the artists were prompted to re-record the single a decade later—this time, featuring explicit lyrics. One year after their return to the spotlight, the duo dropped their first album in 14 years.
TikTok has proven to have the uncanny ability to launch songs new and old into the stratosphere. The app’s unique power, combined with Gen Z’s fascination with bygone eras and the proliferation of streaming services in the music industry, makes it possible for even just a song clip to go viral and bring the entire tune to unprecedented popularity.