BookTok influences book choices and reignites passions

Mackenzie Sullivan, Life & Arts General Reporter

Lizzy Smith never expected to emerge from quarantine as a BookTok sensation. When UT shut down due to COVID-19 last spring, Smith started her TikTok account @literaturewithlizzy and quickly discovered a life-changing community scrolling through brief video book suggestions. 

Now, she boasts a strong 176.5k following. 

“It was entirely unintentional,” the 2020 alumna said. “For a lot of people, (TikTok) was just a stress reliever and a way for us to have a creative outlet during this time when we were all stuck inside and away from our friends.”

Dubbed BookTok, this TikTok subcategory serves as a virtual community forum for readers to recommend and discuss books. For creators and viewers at UT, BookTok offers genre and series suggestions that greatly impact their reading choices.

BookTok’s fixation on literary tropes plays a significant role in the books she reads and recommends to others, Smith said.

“They can be as general as ‘enemies-to-lovers’ or ‘friends-to-lovers,’ and as specific as, ‘cursed princess meets a king and they become allies, and then they try and kill each other,” Smith said.

Because BookTok started for many like Smith as a casual creative outlet, the community’s influence and growing popularity sparked surprise.

“You would get those videos that blow up and (books) are just instant bestsellers,” Smith said. “(‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,’) for example, has been on the New York Times bestselling list for weeks and weeks.”

Though she loved reading when she was a kid, advertising sophomore Hannah Schinzing said she fell out of the habit. During quarantine however, BookTok reignited her long lost love of reading. 

“I didn’t really know where to start,” Schinzing said. “The recommendations helped me figure out what I like to read.”

Schinzing said BookTok benefits readers and authors alike, allowing readers to discover new books and providing authors with a platform to share their work.

“(BookTok has) made it easier and more accessible for authors and readers to find new books that they normally wouldn’t pick up,” Schinzing said. “So, it’s a really good opportunity for up-and-coming authors to push out their books.”

Sophia Judice, communications and leadership freshman, said she inadvertently became a BookTok creator after already having a small platform on the app.

“I started posting about books a little bit,” Judice said. “I saw those videos were gaining traction and getting attention. Eventually, I was getting BookTok videos on my for you page and meeting other TikTokers who make videos about books.”

Judice said she often makes videos recommending books with certain popular BookTok tropes, such as “enemies-to-lovers” or “right person, wrong time.”

“If someone resonates with a trope like that, then they’re just going to look for things that fit that desire,” Judice said. “I do the same thing.”

As BookTok continues rising in popularity, Judice said she enjoys helping other readers find books they’ll love. 

“More people are getting involved in it, and more people are reading,” Judice said. “It’s cool because people come up to me and they’ll be like, ‘I love your recommendations. I’m reading this book that you recommended,’ or ‘You got me back into reading,’ and that’s really cool.”