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Best of BookTok 2022

By Kobo • December 28, 2022Recommended Reading

2022 was the year TikTok’s ability to drive interest in books finally caught fire. Here are some of the books that set BookTok ablaze.

There are a few qualities that run through the books that caught on with BookTok in 2022. With few exceptions, these are love stories. Some are fairly straightforward stories of romantic love between two people, and others are about love between families—but big feelings of desire and belonging are strung throughout. Many involve elements of magic, often set in a “dark academia” kind of atmosphere. Finally, and not surprisingly given the demographic most likely to consult TikTok for book recommendations, the books frequently feature protagonists who are either adolescents or young adults confronting the challenge of taking the next big step in their lives.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

This high school coming-of-age drama became a Netflix series this year, and viewers who couldn’t get enough of Charlie and Nick’s love story turned to Alice Oseman’s books to find out what the screen adaptation skipped—and what happens next.

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It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover

In the last few years Colleen Hoover has emerged as a genre-spanning juggernaut, and the book that made her a must-read was 2016’s It Ends With Us. When it turned out that in fact that was not the end, and the sequel It Starts With Us would arrive, re-telling the story from another character’s perspective, it became an inescapable BookTok phenomenon.

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The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

In this dark academia sensation the world’s greatest secret society admits just six new recruits every ten years, choosing from among the world’s elite magicians. Membership is a guarantee of power and privilege, and some magicians will do literally anything to get in.

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Now a decade old, this is arguably the novel that touched off the trend of retellings of Greek and Roman classical literature. But scholarship and literary ambition aren’t why Madeline Miller’s book lit up Booktok: it’s also a ripping good page-turner with action, romance, and intrigue.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

The genre doesn’t have a name yet, but “love stories with sad endings” is definitely a thing and it’s all over Booktok. This novel by YA author Adam Silvera blends elements of speculative fiction (the characters’ Death-Cast app has informed them that today’s their day) with a romance that aches like only teenage love can.

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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

How did a nearly 30-year-old novel end up riding a social media wave in 2022? Maybe because the story of the serial suicides of the beautiful Lisbon sisters is a surreal and unforgettable story that might just go on to be rediscovered by every generation of adolescents for as long as people read books.

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The Poppy War by R. F Kuang

No doubt the popularity of dark academia and R.F. Kuang’s latest hit Babel has something to do with BookTok turning its obsessive gaze to the eponymous trilogy the author launched with this book. It’s a sprawling work of historical speculative fiction that takes place in twentieth century China, where the Keju, a test designed to uncover the most talented youth in the Empire, brings attention to a family that might have preferred to stay in the shadows.

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

BookTok could not resist this magical story about a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, and the devoted administrator of an orphanage who will go to any length to protect the children in his care, even if some bureaucrat suspects they might be capable of bringing an end to the world.

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The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Across his fiction and non-fiction, Matt Haig’s books are emotionally aware and intelligent and are perfect for finding new readers by word of mouth, so it’s unsurprising that his fantastical novel The Midnight Library caught a BookTok wave. It’s the story of a woman facing a challenge: to explore the forking timelines of The Midnight Library to learn what else she might have been and done and maybe work out the most perfect version of her life. But the Midnight Library won’t stay open forever...

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

When poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel came out in 2019 it was an instant bestseller among readers who admired its finely-wrought prose and emotional depth. The novel is a love letter from a son to his illiterate mother that explores a variety of themes—gorgeously.

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Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis was a recent breakout hit that introduced readers to her “STEMinist" rom-com genre, where there’s more science going on than just the chemistry between the two protagonists. In this book an opportunity for scientist Bee Königswasser to work on an exciting project for NASA comes with a catch: pair up with her archenemy, the insufferable Levi Ward. It’s an enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy precision-engineered to please.

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I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

It’s rare for a non-fiction book to break through on BookTok, but when it happens it’s often a true story that readers were dying to hear. In this case, it’s the story of child TV star Jennette McCurdy, who gives us a shockingly frank picture of her extremely difficult life during the peak of her fame in the TV shows iCarly and Sam & Cat. As the title suggests, it’s McCurdy’s mother who causes the star the most pain, criticizing her appearance, controlling her finances, and leaving her no private space—not even when showering. Readers were stunned both by the revelations of abuse and also McCurdy’s self-awareness and resilience in the aftermath.

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