You’d have to be living under a rock these days to have not heard of TikTok, a social media app that exploded in popularity during the early days of the pandemic. Once thought to be for teens and early 20-somethings, the platform has expanded to include niches for people of all ages and interests (there’s a huge #PlantTok community, for example).
One of the largest and most fascinating (at least to this writer) is #BookTok, which has changed the publishing landscape over the course of the past two years and given a slew of backlist books new life. The following ten books truly exemplify the power of that community to push year- (sometimes decades-) old books onto bestseller lists (one book on the list is literally almost 100 years old!).
Cain’s Jawbone by Edward Powys Mathers
If we’re going to talk about BookTok’s power to move backlist, what better example than this murder mystery puzzle book, which was first released in 1934 (as promised, almost 100 years old) and deliberately published with its pages in the wrong order.
Thanks to a few very viral TikTok videos, featuring readers attempting to rearrange its pages into their correct order and thus solve the puzzle (once called the hardest word puzzle ever published), this nearly ninety-year-old book recently sold out everywhere.
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
Another example of the stunning power of the BookTok community: The Atlas Six
was originally self-published via Kindle Digital Publishing by Blake in 2020, but quickly went viral on TikTok.
Now, the book is being rereleased on March 1st by Tor Publishing with a new cover, new edit, and additional content, and has been optioned by Amazon Studios to be developed into a series. A sequel is also in the works.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
Glasgow’s stunning, haunting debut was a New York Times
Bestseller upon its release back in 2016, and thanks to BookTok, it’s found a new life… and a home on the NYT
paperback list for the past five months.
Girl in Pieces is a book that is as timeless as it is important, and it’s thanks to BookTok that readers who are struggling are finding the book now.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Adam Silvera’s moving novel, about two boys who meet and fall in love after discovering they will both die at the end of the day, was fairly popular when it came out in 2017, but BookTok’s love of it has taken that popularity to a whole new level.
The book is steadily resting at #1 on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller list and it’s in development at HBO as a miniseries. Fans of the book will be thrilled to learn that Silvera has been contracted to write a prequel, set to release later this year.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Are you interested in being emotionally destroyed? A simple search of TikTok will pull up numerous videos of readers bawling after finishing the book, and countless others proclaiming that they’ll never read it for fear of not being able to handle the emotional repercussions.
First released in 2015, A Little Life has found… well, a new life due to its popularity on BookTok, and readers have been eagerly awaiting Yanagihara’s next book, which was released in January of this year.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles
isn’t the only Miller book that’s extremely popular on BookTok (her second novel, Circe
, has also found new fans on the platform), but given this title was initially released in 2011, we’d say it best exemplifies the power of BookTok to bring new readers to an author’s backlist.
A quick search of the title pulls up an innumerable number of videos on TikTok of readers screaming, crying, and throwing up (as the saying goes) after reading the book.
The Heartstopper series by Alice Osman
A four-book series of graphic novels that began as a web comic, then was self-published in print, then picked up by Big 5 publisher Hachette, Alice Osman’s Heartstopper
series has always been a bit of an internet sensation, but has found an even bigger audience via BookTok.
It was announced last year that Netflix is adapting the LGBTQ coming-of-age story for the small screen.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Lockhart’s brilliant, lyrical 2014 young-adult thriller found a solid readership upon its release but has become a true sensation over the course of the past two years thanks to BookTok.
Similar to the Adam Silvera novel that appears earlier on this list, it was announced recently that E. Lockhart has been working on a prequel, which is expected this May.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Tropes are incredibly popular on BookTok, and none so much as enemies to lovers. As we mentioned in a previous article, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
is one of the original examples of that trope, and thanks to BookTok’s interest in it, sales of the novel have soared.
It’s currently ranked at spot 162 on Barnes and Noble’s sales list—-pretty solid for a book first published in 1813.
Colleen Hoover’s Entire Catalog (It Ends With Us, Ugly Love, Verity)
Considering three of the top five spots on the New York Times
bestseller list are taken up by author Colleen Hoover, we couldn’t choose just one of her books here. Not only have her books found new life on the platform, but Hoover herself has become a bona fide TikTok star, posting videos not only of her books, but of her life.
As of this writing, she has over 660K followers (she’s funny as hell, trust us). It was recently announced that due to its popularity on TikTok, Hoover is now writing a sequel to 2016’s It Ends With Us, entitled It Starts With Us.
Support local bookshops by buying your BookTok faves at Bookshop.org.
Liz Lawson is the author of “The Lucky Ones, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020, and the upcoming YA mystery The Agathas, which she co-wrote with NYT Bestselling author Kathleen Glasgow. She lives outside of Washington DC with her family and two bratty cats.