I have always been a book nerd for as long as I can remember. In fact, I used to work at a bookstore for three years right after finishing high school and before I started university majoring in, you may have guessed it, English literature. Because I am ancient, this was at a time when fantasy was still seen as a somewhat silly genre, and I used to get concerned side-glances from my fellow bookstore employees when I enthusiastically shared my current reading lists. While they were reading fancy German authors who won some even fancier award, I was gushing over Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (I believe she has been cancelled by now, sadly, but let’s not speak of it here … ).
Back then I would have given both of my kidneys and a chunk of my liver to connect with like-minded book nerds who didn’t take themselves and their reading tastes too seriously. At least in Germany in the late ’90s and early 2000s, literature was seen as something very different from, you know, entertaining genre fiction. Fantasy, sci-fi, or romance novels were frowned upon as silly. Actually, even today many people who are avid readers still tend to be a bit snobbish about what they read. However, there is a growing number of Millennial and Gen Z creators on YouTube and TikTok who are not only unapologetically open about their love of books featuring fantastic worlds and action-filled plots, they are also incredibly successful in their content creation niche.
Back then I would have given a chunk of my liver to connect with like-minded book nerds who didn’t take themselves and their reading tastes too seriously.
Let me introduce you to BookTube and BookTok, the quirky, fun, refreshingly filter-free and highly self-deprecating community of book lovers that shares anything related to reading and book collecting on their social media channels. Most content creators in the book niche are young, from diverse backgrounds, and always hungry for new reading material. They frown at the idea of using an E-reader or a library book, as curating your own book shelfie is part of the persona. The reading tastes of these creators vary greatly, including fan fictions or self-published stories from online platforms such as Wattpad or AO3, short for “Archive of Our Own.” Most of them tend to gravitate towards genre fiction aimed at young adults/teens or so-called “new adults,” with the target audience in their late teens/early 20s. And, well, most of them also seem to be pretty, ahem, spicy.
Now, this might just be due to the algorithm figuring out personal preference—and I realize I may have exposed myself here by mentioning this—but there definitely seems to be a much more ravenous hunger for smutty, spicy reading recommendations on BookTok compared to BookTube. Most BookTokers seem to prefer spicy romance fantasy, predominantly, but not exclusively, young adult novels.
The reigning queen of this particular genre—sexy, romantic stories set in an epic fantasy world—is author Sarah J. Maas. Her debut series Throne of Glass featured a badass teenage girl assassin and a complex mix of romance, court intrigue, a love triangle that, I believe, turned into a love quadrangle at some point, and all sorts of “enemies to lovers” shenanigans. Throne of Glass was followed by an even bigger smash hit, the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, lovingly referred to as ACOTAR by book lovers. With the spice levels raised considerably in this series featuring inhumanly beautiful male, winged fairies, it was probably inevitable that BookTube and BookTok would eat it up with gusto. There is a whole sub-genre of only ACOTAR-related TikTok content out there, from cosplays to POV-style skits to speculations about casting choices for the upcoming TV adaptation.
BookTube and BookTok are such entertaining places to visit, and I think younger me would have loved to do videos about her favorite books or interacting with and duetting other people’s videos. There is something so wonderful about sharing the ultimate introvert hobby and discovering a whole group of very cool, open-minded, and happily dorky book lovers who are just as excited about reading and obsessing over books as you are.
There is something so wonderful about discovering a group of cool, open-minded, and happily dorky book lovers who are just as excited about obsessing over books as you are.
If you want to join in on the fun, here are five BookTubers and BookTokers to follow!
Read with Cindy
This was my first introduction to BookTube, after reading the first volume of the ACOTAR series and being deeply confused about what the heck I just experienced. Cindy’s irreverent review video of this book, in which she refers to “fairy d**k” in the first few minutes without even batting an eyelid, made me laugh so hard that I nearly choked on my green tea.
Cindy has a very acerbic, dry sense of humor and doesn’t shy away from a multitude of cuss words, so she may not be for everyone and is definitely NSFW. But if you don’t mind the occasional talk about fantasy creatures’ genitals and a brutally honest opinion on pretty much everything, you will find Cindy’s videos to be a breath of fresh air and truly laugh-out-loud funny. I also love her thoughts on the concerning lack of diversity in most fantasy books and her book recommendations particularly from Asian authors.
Jesse the Reader
One of the few male creators in a mostly female-dominated niche, Jesse’s perspective on books is a welcome addition to BookTube. This book lover has been on YouTube since 2012, so he was one of the first creators in the book niche. His videos do have that nostalgic style to them that made first generation YouTube so comforting: quick cuts and mostly no frills direct eye contact with the camera. Come to think of it, most BookTube content is filmed with that fuss-free atmosphere of a good friend just chatting away about their current favorite reads.
Apart from the standard book reviews, reading progress overviews, and bookshelf tours, Jesse’s genuine love not just for the stories contained in the books but the books themselves also is a constant theme in many of his videos. Especially the cover art and overall quality of the books is often brought up in unboxing or book haul videos: the feel of the pages, the way a full boxed set of an epic fantasy series fits neatly into a shelf as one unit, and the potentially puzzling cover art choices. My former bookseller self highly approves!
This is a relatively small BookTube channel, which charmed me thanks to Starlah’s adorable and super charismatic presence. Smaller creators are always a breath of fresh air, since they don’t feel as pressured to create a certain type or style of video—they haven’t fully branded themselves yet, I would say. Starlah’s favorite genre is fantasy, and she tends to read lesser-discussed books with strong female protagonists and plenty of diversity.
Romance isn’t a big interest cluster of this channel, which I think is a nice change from 90 percent of the book content out there. So, if romance and explicit scenes aren’t your cup of tea and you are looking for more obscure, unique book content in the fantasy and young/new adult niche with predominantly POC protagonists, this is a good source for recommendations.
I love to see so much Muslima representation in the BookTok niche; it is a true joy for me whenever these lovely, funny, and very witty girls turn up on my FYP. Ayman loves a good romance book and is a huge fan of the Shadow and Bone series, which I fully understand especially after watching the Netflix show with its breathtakingly attractive and wonderfully diverse cast.
@aymansbooksi can’t wait! it’s by joan he btw! ##yabooks ##theonesweremeanttofind ##bookrec♬ why’d you only call me when you’re high (violin) – Joel Sunny
She mainly produces funny skits about her daily life as a reading enthusiast and her struggle with being a good Muslim girl that likes that spicy enemies-to-lovers plot. You also get to see a lot of shopping trips to the bookstore, potentially fueling your own addiction, so be warned about that! And of course, popular memes and duets with other creators on the platform are also part of the fun.
If it is spice you’re after, then Meemoreads on TikTok is your go-to address! Not only does she almost exclusively discuss mildly spicy to full-on smutty fantasy books and series, she also very handily provides a “spice rating,” helping those of us who are looking for, shall we say, full marks here. Listen, no judgment from me in this regard—the pandemic has been long, and we are all touch-starved and in need of pure escapism at this point!
@meemoreads4/5 ⭐️’s; do not regret reading ##kathrynmoon ##reverseharem ##spicyfantasy ##spicyfantasybooks ##adultbooktok ##spicyromance♬ original sound – Janessa (she/her)
This BookTok channel is also great if you are looking for “similar to” style recommendations—for instance, how about “Khal Drogo inspired” books? Or “books like ACOTAR but with a less annoying heroine”? Personally, I was thankful for that last one, and if you are wondering, the book series to look for is The Bridge Kingdom. You’re welcome!