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BookTok. A curious corner of TikTok. A space of creativity, pleasure and procrastination. Where readers share, dissect and annotate their favourite reads.

When BookTok took over the reading world, people were quick to call it a short-lived trend – a hobby to pass the time while all of us were bored in lockdown. We’ve seen and heard countless takes: from TikTok heroically saving our bookstores, to BookTok reads violently killing literature. And now we see opinions calling it shallow, purely for aesthetics, and only catering to Gen Zs wanting spicy fantasy or escapist romance. (Shout out Murder Uncorked). 

An open conversation on what makes literature popular has been a long time coming – certainly way before TikTok. From Julia Stiles reading an insanely large copy of The Bell Jar to Twilight fans fighting over whether you should be team Edward or team Jacob, people have been crying out for a fun and random way to talk about books. And when a book is perceived as popular, there’s always going to be a crowd it doesn’t please, telling you not to bother before you’ve even cracked the spine.

The beauty of BookTok is that readers just want to have fun. No one’s looking to reinvent the canon. These readers just know what they want. They aren’t seeking approval, they don’t care what’s Booker-Prize shortlisted. And they aren’t apologising for what they like.

And ‘what they like’ is changeable AF. Take AustenTok, a wonderful corner of TikTok dedicated to Jane Austen that’s racked up almost 30 million tags. It is of course peppered with a Gen Z touch (the smash or pass videos on the Austen men are a personal favourite of ours). We see readers engaging in classics in an accessible way. And the result? Bookstores have hit the nail on the bookmark, and are leaning into the fresh wave of love.

BookTok is a literary rave where Jane Austen dances next to Colleen Hoover. Where A Court of Thorns and Roses brushes up against Crime and Punishment. A place where you can change your mind, and enjoy literature with all the variation that it brings. And isn’t that how we all live our own stories? We don’t exist in top-ten, must-read lists. We jump from one page to another.

Look past the judgment, and create a story that you would want to read.

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"Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all."

― Philip Pullman
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You may have come across Pandora Sykes' writing in publications such as The Sunday Times, Grazia and GQ, or read her book, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right. Perhaps you've also listened to her newest podcast, Book Chat with Bobby Palmer, where they discuss a book each month. As she launches her reading newsletter, Books & Bits, which curates secondhand finds and little life-enhancers from small businesses, we revisit Pandora's conversation with Sonder & Tell. In the interview, she discusses the essayists she admires, tips for overcoming writer's block, and the books she loves.
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Milwaukee Public Library is one brand (a public brand may we add) which has jumped on the BookTok trolley and created an unapologetic, curious TikTok page – finding its own little corner… LibraryTok. But its socials aren’t just to scroll through. This is a great example of building a brand around bookishness and genuine, inclusive community (come on, where else would you see a grandma go to read manga or viral dance to Mariah Carey?). And beneath it all, a message for a cause: go and support your local library. 

Pick your top reads of last year. Start mapping out the conversations between them.

How and why are they similar? What unifies their story and what compelled you to read them?

Hit reply to submit your prompt


Read, Scroll, Listen
Come for a chat with Pandora Sykes and Bobby Palmer.
How to tell whether to stick or pivot when your business is facing adversity.
The reading renaissance is upon us. Or at least on TikTok.
Dissecting the workings of the betterment industry with Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg.
Snapchat embraces ChatGPT and launches its own friendly version, My AI.
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Sonder & Tell · Sonder & Tell, Unit 28 · 40 Bowling Green Lane · London, EC1R 0NE · United Kingdom