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BookTok TBR Lists: How Long is Too Long?

We all have books sitting at home, waiting to be read! But why are we buying books and not reading them? Is BookTok to blame?

Dark academia studying
Image: Jelena 990/Shutterstock

Who doesn’t love to cozy up with a new book? When it comes to book shopping, we are absolutely spoilt for choice! It can be overwhelming to try and choose just one book to read at a time, and that’s where ‘To Be Read Lists’ come in handy.

But is BookTok taking them to the extreme? Are bookshelves sagging with the weight of unread books in the name of a TBR List?

Everyone is guilty of having a book on the shelf that they’ve never picked up. However, that one book can turn into five, which can then turn into ten and maybe even fifteen! Rather than pacing ourselves, readers are buying books at a faster pace than they can read them.

Publishers are steadily releasing books at a rate that rivals content creators. There are special editions, limited editions, and signed copies of almost every book. This creates more business for the publishers; of course, readers want the special edition of their favorite book! But this also means that we have multiple copies of the same book at home, just packaged in different ways.

Are special editions that special?

Everyone loves a nice edition of their favorite book, and it’s a fantastic gift. But while they used to be rare, there are now entire sections of bookshops devoted to specially bound books. Can every book published get a special edition? Does this take away from what a special edition truly is?

Dark bookshelf with old, bound books. Many Booktok creators pride themselves on their overflowing bookshelves.
Shutterstock: Reinhold Leitner

BookTok has readers showing off their latest editions…sitting on the shelf alongside other editions of the same book. There is a growing trend in showing which books people have bought alongside the ones they’ve actually read. While BookTok is a fantastic way of discovering new reads and finding a reading community, is it speeding up the consumerism of books?

BookTok Books: Is the Excitement Deserved?

With the popularity of BookTok, if one book starts trending, it can fly off of the shelves. When Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper became particularly popular, I struggled to track down a copy! This means that readers are buying books when they’re popular and prominent in online trends. When the excitement online dies down, will they really read them?

Most, if not all, of the books that I’ve read because of BookTok, have ended up being fantastic! I love to revisit my Heartstopper graphic novels. The recent Netflix production shows that BookTok was on the ball when it started trending.

BookTok content creators have an incredibly impressive reading speed, with videos about new books coming out at a startling pace. It seems as though on every social media platform, there is always a new ‘It Book’ that absolutely everybody needs to read.

Of course, we all appreciate these videos. They are an easy way of finding a new read, and with the rigorous pace of online trends, these content creators are doing their best to stay afloat. However, there are avid internet users who take this ‘need to read mentality’ to heart and immediately buy the books mentioned. Sometimes, regardless of whether or not they have other books to read!

This means that the constant flow of BookTok videos is not completely responsible for our consumerism. Instead, we need to take a step back and consider the book before buying it. Not just consider whether or not we’ll enjoy it, but if we are already reading a book, have books at home, or already have access to a copy.

What can we do differently?

BookTok is an absolutely fantastic resource, and if you want to find out more about it, check out this article! It gives us a view into what the world is reading, and it helps us to connect with others. But, like every area of the internet, we need to be careful. It is becoming increasingly easy to get swept away in internet trends, and the growing number of unread books in people’s houses shows this.

Almost every day, I find a book on BookTok that I love to read, but I always remind myself that the book will still be there the next day. It’s important that we pace ourselves and really enjoy what we are reading rather than try to keep up with the internet. Everyone reads at their own pace.

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