The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

‘BookTok’ online community provides literary exposure

Ivy Rose Ball
The social media platform TikTok is emerging as a method to promote and review literary works.

“That was what I’d always loved about reading, what had driven me to write in the first place. That feeling that a new world was being spun like a spiderweb around you and you couldn’t move until the whole thing had revealed itself to you,” reads Emily Henry’s “Beach Read,” one of many books that have seen much success due to their popularity on BookTok, a community within social media platform TikTok. 

TikTok has risen to immense popularity with over 150 million monthly users as of February 2023. TikTok is a place that allows its users to create and share short videos and viewers receive content catered to their preferences. While TikTok has received criticism for promoting negative lifestyles, the BookTok community is considered by many to be an enriching element of the platform.

BookTok is a community of creators and viewers on TikTok who enjoy reading. It promotes new and seasoned authors, a wide variety of books and is constantly exposing people to literature. According to WordsRated, BookTok also contributed to the sale of about 20 million books in 2021.

Its presence on such a large platform produces varied perspectives and experiences for its main audience of college-aged students. Students at Mississippi State University have experienced some positives and negatives associated with the online community.

Jillian Maxwell, a junior animal and dairy science major from Memphis, Tennessee, sees BookTok as a positive influence.

“Honestly, I feel like it’s done a good job at just getting people into reading in general. There definitely could be like a push for different genres. Especially TikTok being like short videos that like to catch people’s attention it definitely draws people in,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell also recognizes one of the major concerns within BookTok of promoting “watered-down” books.

“In some ways, I feel like it’s taking away just because a lot of the books I feel like don’t have deeper meanings. It’s very surface-level books, which is fine, but at what point are we just pushing out like quick novels, instead of actual literary works,” Maxwell said.

Kenzie McAlister, a junior agribusiness major from Glencoe, Oklahoma, shares this same concern with this growing community and the lack of promoting true literature.

“I think it’s doing its job but I don’t think it’s reached its full potential of showcasing books that are, I guess, classics in a sense. I feel like we should be including the books that don’t have smut in them or you know some various genres. I feel like BookTok is literally just romance,” McAlister said.

Another concern that has emerged with BookTok is the promotion of said romance novels that Gen Z labels as “spicy” or “smut.” Many of these novels contain sexually explicit content which are being promoted to even young audiences on TikTok. McAlister believes that this is something that might need to be addressed.

“That’s a whole other issue I don’t like is like all these middle schoolers are walking around with porn. Like my mother bought ‘Icebreaker’ for my 13-year-old sister because it has a cartoon cover,” McAlister said.

Despite concerns over BookTok and the content it may promote, many people believe it to have a positive influence. Meg Marquardt, an MSU English professor, has found herself involved with this community and has noticed the positives that potentially outweigh the negatives.

“I would say on the whole I would say it’s good. It’s getting people to read, It’s getting people to read broadly especially in terms of writers of different genders, different races, different sexual orientations. I really think it’s bringing traditionally under-read and under-publicized authors onto a new platform and a wider platform so I think that part is amazing,” Marquardt said. 

Marquardt believes that the “watered-down” or more simple books are not a true concern when BookTok is bringing people into a new way of reading and engaging with the hobby and others.

“You’re put into the conversation in really meaningful ways. Your own joy of reading is really celebrated. Sure, is it the most rigorous academic way to talk about reading? No, but again not everything has to be that way. Everyone starts in different spaces and love of reading is the first and most important space. Yeah, we can get to the critical thinking later but you have to love it first,” Marquardt said. 

As TikTok continues to increase in popularity, BookTok’s expanding community will continue to expose people to the literary world.

About the Contributor
Grace Sullivan
Grace Sullivan, Staff Writer
Grace Sullivan is a senior communication major. Grace is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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