If you’ve been inside a book store lately, you might have noticed a brand-new section labeled “#BookTok” right up front and center.
The phenomenon of BookTok is a coupling of the words “book” and “TikTok,” the latter being the most downloaded app in 2021, according to Forbes. The app specializes in comedy, dance, and more recently, book-related videos.
On the app, the BookTok community has become a refuge for book lovers. In various videos, bibliophiles share their recommendations, reviews, discussions, and jokes about the novels they’re currently reading or that they’ve loved in the past. There are even specific sections of the community for things like LGBTQ+ authors, or books written by people of color.
BookTok isn’t just a safe place for readers online — it’s now a marketing tool used by booksellers and publishing companies to improve their profits. Since BookTok became popular, in-store displays have only grown.
Several books, new and old, have benefitted from what’s been dubbed the “BookTok effect.” WHNT compiled a list of the most popular books that have become “overnight hits” thanks to the help of the BookTok community.
‘Red, White & Royal Blue’
- Who wrote it? Casey McQuiston, a Louisiana native specializing in novels set in the recently expanding “new adult” genre. “Red, White and Royal Blue” is their first novel.
- When did it come out? May 14, 2019
- What genre is it? New adult, romance, LGBTQ+
McQuiston’s debut novel “Red, White and Royal Blue” centers on Alex Claremont-Diaz, the high-strung, and fictional, First Son of the United States, and his budding relationship with Henry, a British prince.
McQuiston said the idea for the novel came about during the 2016 presidential election.
“Red, White and Royal Blue” is currently in development as a movie. Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine have been cast in the lead roles, and Oscar-nominated actress Uma Thurman will portray Alex’s mother, President Ellen Claremont.
- Who wrote it? Yaa Gyasi, a native Ghanaian raised in Huntsville. This is her second novel.
- When did it come out? September 1, 2020
- What genre is it? Contemporary fiction
Yaa Gyasi, who was raised in Huntsville after her family emigrated from Ghana, burst onto the literary scene in 2016 with her debut novel “Homegoing.” Her follow-up, “Transcendent Kingdom,” received just as much praise.
The novel follows 28-year-old Gifty, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, and her Ghanaian-American mother who suffers from depression. The book made the shortlist for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, and the longlists for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Prix Médicis étranger.
‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’
- Who wrote it? V.E. Schwab, an American writer best known for novel “Vicious,” and the “Shades of Magic” series. She also publishes children’s and young adult fiction under the name Victoria Schwab.
- When did it come out? October 6, 2020
- What genre is it? Fantasy, historical fiction
Schwab’s most famous novel follows the titular character, Addie LaRue, a French woman living in the 1700s who makes a bargain with the devil to live forever. However, there are consequences to the deal. LaRue is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
The novel earned a spot on The New York Times Best Seller List for 37 weeks. A film adaptation of the novel is reported to be in the works.
- Who wrote it? Madeline Miller, a former Latin and Greek teacher turned fully-fledged novelist.
- When did it come out? April 10, 2018
- What genre is it? Fantasy
This 2018 novel follows a familiar story from an entirely new perspective.
Typically, the story of Homer’s Odyssey is told from the point of view of the Greek hero Odysseus. In Miller’s tale, the story is told from the eyes of the witch, Circe. The novel not only delves into her origin story as an enchantress, but also chronicles her encounters with Medea, the Minotaur, Jason, and ultimately, her romance with Odysseus himself — who gives her a son named Telemachus.
The novel, much like Miller’s “A Song of Achilles,” was lauded by critics. It was nominated for Best Fantasy Novel at the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2018, and shortlisted for the Women’s Prize in Fiction the following year.
‘The Paris Apartment’
- Who wrote it? British author Lucy Foley, best known for her historical fiction and mystery novels.
- When did it come out? February 22, 2022
- What genre is it? Mystery, thriller
Foley, best known for “The Guest List,” also beloved on BookTok, churned out another New York Times bestseller earlier this year with “The Paris Apartment.”
The book follows Jess, a broken woman looking for a fresh start. She travels to Paris to visit her half-brother, Ben — though when she arrives, he is gone. As Jess looks for Ben, she uncovers secrets about his Parisian life, his neighbors, and her past.
‘A Little Life’
- Who wrote it? Hanya Yanagihara, the editor-in-chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine and author of some of the most prolific novels this century.
- When did it come out? March 10, 2015
- What genre is it? Fiction, contemporary fiction, LGBTQ+
“The People in the Trees” might be her debut novel, but “A Little Life” is the piece of work that made Hanya Yanagihara both a household name and a bestselling author.
The 2015 novel is split into seven sections with four narrators: Jude, Willem, J.B., and Malcolm. However, throughout the story, the book shifts toward Jude, his interactions with other characters, and the other narrators’ experiences with him.
The novel touches on several deep subjects, including male relationships, trauma, disability, and suicide.
“A Little Life” won the Kirkus Prize in Fiction in 2015 and was shortlisted for several other honors. Three years ago, it made the list of The Guardian’s best books of the 21st century.
‘The Silent Patient’
- Who wrote it? Alex Michaelides, a British-Cypriot author who burst onto the literary scene with this novel.
- When did it come out? February 5, 2019
- What genre is it? Psychological thriller
The novel, an instant bestseller for Michaelides, is narrated by an English therapist named Theo Faber, who is working with a patient who falls mute after murdering her husband.
“The Silent Patient” won the Goodreads Choice Award in 2019 for the mystery and thriller category and sold more than 1 million copies. In its first week, it debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
- Who wrote it? Colleen Hoover, a Texas native specializing in romance and young adult fiction.
- When did it come out? October 5, 2021
- What genre is it? Thriller, romance, mystery
“Verity” is something truly different than anything else Colleen Hoover has penned up until this point in her career. Instead of a straightforward romance, the 2021 hit delivers a startling mystery.
The novel follows struggling writer Lowen Ashleigh who comes across the job of a lifetime amidst financial turmoil. She is hired to finish the books of the Verity Crawford, an injured, yet successful author. Once Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, she discovers a book no one was ever meant to see that details one of the author’s darkest days.
“Verity” earned the #2 spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list, falling just short of her novel “It Ends with Us,” which found its way to No. 1.
‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’
- Who wrote it? Maryland native Taylor Jenkins Reid, who was originally set on being a cinematographer before she found her passion for writing.
- When did it come out? June 13, 2017
- What genre is it? Historical fiction
Old Hollywood has recently become a popular setting for authors, but none did it better than Taylor Jenkins Reid with “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.”
The novel follows the titular Evelyn Hugo, and, well … her seven husbands. Hugo, a fictional star of the 1950s and 1960s, gives her first interview in many years to Monique Grant, a budding journalist with an unknown connection to the Hollywood starlet.
The book was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction in 2017 and was a finalist for Book of the month’s Book of the Year award.
“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is currently in development for a film adaptation.
‘They Both Die at the End’
- Who wrote it? Adam Silvera, best known for his young adult novels that tackle LGBTQ+ themes and all find themselves with LGBTQ+ narrators.
- When did it come out? September 5, 2017
- What genre is it? Young adult, science fiction
Set in the near future where an app tells you the day you’ll die, “They Both Die at the End” follows two teenage boys named Mateo and Rufus, one of which has just been told he’ll die today.
The 384-page novel received critical acclaim and plenty of accolades when it was published in 2017. It has since benefitted from the “BookTok effect,” returning to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List in 2021 in the Young Adult Paperback category. It still holds the top spot.
“They Both Die at the End” is currently in development as a television series.
A prequel novel titled “The First to Die at the End” is slated to hit bookshelves this fall.
‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’
- Who wrote it? Sarah J. Maas, who as of 2021, has sold more than 12 million copies of her books across the world.
- When did it come out? May 5, 2015
- What genre is it? Fantasy, new adult, romance
“A Court of Thorns of Roses” — or “ACOTAR” for fans — is set in a lustrous, high fantasy world where magical beings walk the lands of Prythian. The story focuses on the journey of Feyre, a mortal who is brought into the mystical lands for murdering a faerie.
According to Maas, the series was originally her take on classic fairy tales like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Tam Lin,” though her series took on an original story.
Maas followed up her hit novel with four sequels, the most recent of which was “A Court of Silver Flames” in February 2021.
- Who wrote it? Irish author and screenwriter Sally Rooney, who also wrote “Conversations with Friends” in 2017 and “Beautiful World, Where Are You” last year.
- When did it come out? August 30, 2018
- What genre is it? Romance, contemporary fiction
Several publications ranked “Normal People,” the second novel by Irish author Sally Rooney, among the best of the decade after it debuted in 2018. Critics had similar sentiments about the show of the same name.
The novel follows the complex relationship between teenagers Connell and Marianne, who find kinship despite being on opposite sides of the popularity spectrum at school. The story is set between 2011 and 2015 in the aftermath of Ireland’s post-2008 economic crash.
“Normal People” earned the Book of the Year award at the 2019 British Book Awards.
‘The House in the Cerulean Sea’
- Who wrote it? TJ Klune, an asexual author who brings fantasy and romantic fiction stories to life with gay and LGBTQ+ characters.
- When did it come out? March 17, 2020
- What genre is it? Fantasy
In “The House in the Cerulean Sea,” Klune imagines a world where there are special social workers responsible for taking care of magical children. The novel details the story of Linus Baker, a case worker with the fictional Department in Charge of Magical Youth, who finds himself with a task he could’ve never imagined.
According to Klune, “Cerulean Sea” was partially inspired by the Sixties Scoop, an event that saw Indigenous children in Canada removed from their homes and placed with white families.
The fantasy novel won the 2020 Alex Award for Best Novel and the Adult Literature award at the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards.
‘People We Meet on Vacation’
- Who wrote it? Emily Henry, a Cincinnati native who has been featured in Buzzfeed, Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, and more
- When did it come out? May 11, 2021
- What genre is it? Romance
“People We Meet on Vacation” follows Alex and Poppy, an odd pair of opposites who have taken a week of vacation every year for the last decade. That is, until two years ago when everything got ruined.
In the aftermath, the pair agree to one more week — not just to fix their relationship but to get around the last big truth between them.
The novel received glowing reviews from The Washington Post, Associated Press and Publishers Weekly.
‘All the Light We Cannot See’
- Who wrote it? Anthony Doerr, best known for this novel and more recently “Cloud Cuckoo Land” in 2021.
- When did it come out? May 6, 2014
- What genre is it? Historical fiction
This 2014 war novel follows Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind French girl who finds a home in her uncle’s Paris residence after the city is stormed by Nazis, and Werner Pfennig, a German boy accepted into a military school due to his radio technology skills.
“All the Light” switches between the two characters’ perspectives and chronicles the events leading up to the Battle of Saint-Malo and then the battle itself.
The novel was lauded as a masterpiece, spending over 200 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and reaching over 15 million sales. It is being adapted as a television series.
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