The Effects of Booklists on Reading Choices

By Neha, Grade 9

A very popular way of marketing books and boosting new authors into the mainstream audience is through the method of book lists. The term “book list” is very broad, but essentially, a book list is usually a selection of a few books that share a common positive trait. These lists are then shared all over social media and the internet to encourage people to read and buy those books. We can see book lists as a form of advertisement rising in popularity, through a couple different mediums. One of these mediums is bestseller lists. In bestseller lists, the common trait that each book shares is its popularity, and in turn the book gains even more popularity, gaining it a spot even higher on the bestseller list, creating a positive feedback loop of the same books and authors gaining recognition over and over. Some of the most popular bestseller lists include the New York Times Bestselling list, Publishers weekly, the Washington Post Bestsellers, and Amazon Best Sellers. 

Another way in which people are creating digital book lists is via Tiktok and other similar video platforms. Literary communities have started to blossom on these platforms, and these communities on tiktok are often referred to as part of the “booktok” community. On booktok, creators have started showing off their book collections, and recommending books based whatever criteria or theme resonates with them. A major reason that I’m a fan of booktok is that it is completely free and accessible to utilize. There is no limit to the number of videos and recommendations a creator can post, and there is nothing stopping me from being able to access their posts, whereas with bestseller lists such as the New York Times list, authors have to sell a certain amount of copies in order to gain recognition on the list, and there are is a very limited number of available slots. (For example, according to The Hustle, the New York Times bestsellers list has about 6240 slots, meaning that authors have about a 0.00208% of gaining recognition on the list.) 

As you may have concluded by now, booktok is also a positive feedback loop. As more authors make their way onto booktok recommendation lists, other creators will jump on the bandwagon, buy their books, and promote them even more. One should also keep in mind that popular books are going to be paid more attention by the public. When advertising a book that is already popular, you can connect with audiences that have already read it, as well as people who have heard about it and are interested in reading it one day. When promoting new authors, there is more of a risk of people not finding the video relatable or interesting, leading to less views. But even though it is certainly easier to just follow the general majority, there are still frequent cycles of different books that get representation, and there are also new authors who become relevant at a decently fast frequency. 

Seeing that books have become increasingly common in the media, people who see big names like the New York Times or booktok influencers promoting reading with book recommendations would be keen to follow and see what all the excitement and passion is about. I know that I personally have definitely bought books because of booktok and ended up loving them. In this manner, booktok has definitely influenced the books people have been picking up. Without booklists like the ones on tiktok, I probably would just be picking out my books based on what my friends were reading and what their recommendations are, and then I wouldn’t end up developing my own taste. One could argue that by picking reads based on booktok, you’re not developing your own taste either, but I think that with a lot of exposure to the many diverse perspectives on booktok, one can mix and match the ideas that resonate with them, which means that their taste is more individual than just emulating a select few people around you. 

Personally, book influencers have led me into discovering some of my favorite books, such as The Summer I Turned Pretty. The Summer I Turned Pretty probably wouldn’t have been a book I would choose to pick up, if it weren't for book influencers on the internet. Since booktok is one of my primary sources of book recommendations, the internet was what introduced me to this series. Aside from the internet, my friends were my other source of books. And since none of my friends are into the genres of teen fiction and summer romance, they probably wouldn’t have read or liked The Summer I Turned Pretty. If I hadn’t had resources such as booktok, my taste in literature may have developed into being direct copies of my friends’. But today, because of these online booklists, I find myself diverging in taste from the people around me, which I think is healthy. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty

Looking at the status quo, it is very evident that the opinions of strangers on the internet can shape us more than we think. Sometimes influencers can manipulate our actions negatively, but I don’t think that the booktok community is like that at all. The next time you’re looking for a book recommendation, I’d encourage you to try to stay away from your friends this time, and try to explore new books through these kinds of digital booklists.