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The Silent Book Review

Finding your next read can feel like a daunting task. Fortunately, social media is full of book reviews, some of which don’t even need words!

A woman recording a video of herself reviewing a book.
Shutterstock/DC Studio

Finding your next book to read can feel like a monumental task; with so many options out there, it’s impossible to know where to start.

Scouring the shelves of bookshops and libraries is one of my favorite ways to find a new book. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, then you can take to the internet. Social media has become a prime place for people to share their opinions, interests, and recommendations.

Reading this book will change your life

While BookTok is a great way to find your next read, it can also be overwhelming. Just by opening TikTok, you can see that vast amounts of books are trending with influencers singing their praises. This, of course, is a good thing! It’s important that we promote reading and literature, especially with the internet and social media growing in popularity amongst the younger generations.

Cartoon image of a woman reading a book.
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Vectorium)

However, whenever I have decided to pick up a book that I saw on BookTok because of its glowing reviews and the promise that it will ‘change my life,’ I more often than not end up disappointed. But this is not to say that I didn’t like the book! Not every book will change my life. It’s ok for a book to just be good and enjoyable. By saying that a book will ‘change my life’, it gives me unreasonable expectations and doesn’t tell me much about the book itself. Everyone has different tastes, and ‘this book will change your life’ is too broad a phrase.

Recommending books to others

It can be incredibly hard to say that something is objectively good. This becomes especially complicated when based on people’s likes and interests. One of my all-time favorite books is ‘The Secret History.’ I think that Donna Tart is a fantastic writer, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it. However, I know that some of my friends may not find a book like ‘The Secret History’ interesting, instead preferring Romance, Fantasy or Sci-Fi.

When I recommend books to people, I try to avoid phrases such as ‘it will change your life’ or ‘it’s a must read.’ I prefer to give a blurb-like summary and tell them what I enjoyed about it. I think that this is better than heavily persuasive language. Book reviews tend to develop a very specific vocabulary that is used in relation to vastly different books. Book lovers can struggle to make an assessment of the book in question. This can then create problems for readers who enjoy specific genres.

Silent reviews

Recently, I’ve spotted more and more BookTokers creating video content with no audio at all. The creators aren’t even speaking, let alone playing music in the background. Instead, they are holding up their books one by one and letting their expressions and gestures do all the talking.

By engaging with the Silent Review trend, content creators are able to escape the monotony of the ‘For You Page’ by avoiding trending audios. This then means that the creators are attempting to review their recent reads through how they convey their emotions.

These videos create a much more unique way of reviewing a book. Content creators have to think about new ways to lay out their videos. It is important that they engage their viewers but still get their point across. However, there is one question begging to be asked: if the trend continues to grow, will it then add to the monotony of a social media platform powered by creators joining in on trends?

The language of BookTok

Through these videos, we avoid the unique persuasive language that BookTok seems to be creating. Through this language, lists of books are made that everyone is expected to read. The ‘must-read books’. The Silent Reviews are commenting on the same trending books, just in a way we haven’t seen before. Without the ‘BookTok language’ we have to interpret what exactly the creator is trying to tell us.

The videos themselves become a two-way thing. I have a habit of taking screenshots of books that I spot in videos online. I find myself doing this solely based on the review rather than my own thoughts on the potential plot, tropes, and author. When I later revisit these screenshots, I have no recollection of what the book is about. Upon my own research, I sometimes discover that I’m not actually that interested.

Rather than fall into the trap that the language of BookTok can be, Silent Reviews invites us to think a little more about the information we are being given and the method it is being presented.

Having a bit of fun

To wrap it all up, I can’t be the only one to have thought that a Silent Review is a completely ridiculous idea! But this is exactly how they are effective.

Seeing a content creator post a video in which they walk away from the camera or cover their face over a book is absolute nonsense. This doesn’t mean that it’s stupid or silly, though; all it is is a bit of fun. BookTok has been surrounded with a lot of debate and discourse over certain books, whether or not BookTok actually helps the publishing industry, and young teenagers reading books that are not appropriate for their age.

Serious debates can happen over what is the ‘higher form of literature’. Those who read the classics may hold themselves in a higher regard than people who read playful Rom-Coms when in truth, it’s not that serious. If you like to read, then the most important thing is that you read what you like. The Silent Review helps to take away from this seriousness. If you’d like to know more about BookTok or simply the online reading community, check out this article here.

The Silent Review creates a break within Social Media where we’re not hearing the same snippet of a song or the same phrases. But it’s still the same books, the same information just in a different way. Will we eventually reach a point where the trend is overused? The answer is uncertain, but there are only so many times we can watch the same videos pushed by a trend.

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