“I saw it on BookTok” is a phrase I have often found myself saying recently, when asked where I discovered the books on my shelf. I am sure many people with the app (TikTok) can relate. A sub-community on TikTok, (BookTok) focuses on creators reviewing and discussing books and literature in an interactive way through the app. Popular BookTok books have amassed a cult following, as the community grows every day, and more and more books are recommended. Chloe Berry turned her passion for BookTok into much more, with her popular Instagram book club account @booktokbookclub, run by thirteen BookTok fanatics. I sat down with Chloe to hear about her experience as a BookToker and what it means to be an avid reader.
First things first, tell me about your own personal relationship with reading! How and when did you get into reading, and when did you know it was more than a hobby, that it was something you actually wanted to be involved with and spread the word about?
This is a pretty layered question for me. My reading journey has started and stopped, like many readers. I remember loving Daisy Meadows fairy books in early Primary School, then I moved on to the classic ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ as I got older. However, it wasn’t until high school that I found my true passion for it. I read the ‘Hush Hush’ series by Becca Fitzpatrick at around 12. It’s a YA fantasy novel that was definitely on the older spectrum of YA. I was so obsessed (I still am).
However, I was guilty of only re-reading the same series over and over, never reading new novels. I think going through the throws of high school drove me to find comfort in only a handful of books. I’ll admit I dropped off from reading in years 11 and 12 (as many do) and only really picked it back up after landing on BookTok. Now I have read so much (80 books last year) and spent so much money, (oops). BookTok and reading are what got me my job at a bookshop, and it has led me to my degree choice. I would say reading is the centre of my whole life.
Your very popular book on Instagram and TikTok, with over 10k followers, is run by a small community of BookTokers! Take me back to when you all met, and how the @booktokbookclub came about? What brought you all together? What did you envision for your page and how did you go about making that vision a reality? What sort of content do you post on your page?
I love answering this question! It’s a bit of a long story but basically, I made a TikTok video which happened to show up on the For You Page of a lot of other Australian BookTok viewers. From there, Lauren commented about living near me, and then we just created this thread of conversation between so many people. I messaged all the girls separately and from there we decided to make a group chat on Instagram. A few of us learnt we lived quite close to each other so Haley, Lauren, Sam and myself met up at Haley’s house; I think it was barely a week after we had first spoken online. I’ll never forget us all using apple maps and getting lost on the way to her house!
At that first meetup where we munched on platters and cheese, we decided on a whim that we would all read the same book. Lauren chose ‘Verity’ by Colleen Hoover (an insane book by the way). Then we thought, why don’t we start a book club and do an Instagram! I messaged the original group chat that had about 20 people in it, and about 12 of us agreed to do it. From there we just decided to wing it. Between the 13 of us, there are so many genres and books that we love, I love to think that we represent as many genres on my page. Our followers know not to be shocked if we post poetry one day and horror the next. Every day we come up with new ideas and visions, it’s always changing and can be difficult at times, but it is so rewarding.
Each of the members of @booktokbookclub has their loves and hates when it comes to reading. What do you think the advantages (and maybe disadvantages?) are of having a group of book lovers sharing one account?
There are so many advantages and a few disadvantages. The advantage is that we always have an absolute plethora of book knowledge at hand. Whatever book you want to read, or have thoughts about, there is a high chance someone in the Book Club can talk to you about it. Most of us have differing views on books. Some books I love, others hate and vice versa. It’s important to remember this when you visit our page, that’s why we tag our names on our reviews! For example, I usually enjoy the same books as Mady, Haley and Lauren. So, I usually take their reviews more into consideration than others! But even then, sometimes I will find I didn’t love the book they recommended. There has been some tension here and there regarding this, but we always remember that it’s just fun and ultimately, it’s fiction (well, mostly). It is so rewarding and wholesome to be in constant contact with people who love the same things as you.
You have a pretty massive following! What do you think drew all these book lovers to your page? Does it have a lot to do with your aesthetic, the consistency of your posts, or the wide range of genres you review? What’s the secret?!
I think most of our members will agree that our consistency is the key to our success so far. Also, the wide range of genres we review helps. When you’re running an account on your own, it can be hard to find the time to post. But with 2 + people on the account every day, we can ensure we can post on the grid and interact with the stories. We love to ask questions or put up polls on our stories. This keeps our engagement up, and we also get to see who our most loyal followers are and build relationships with them. It’s taken a year, but we’ve finally pinpointed our aesthetic. From the beginning, I wanted the page to be themed pastel and lighter, as most book pages have darker and woody themes. We change the colour theme monthly or seasonally but always stick to a pastel theme. We use the same filter on all our photos, add in graphics for substance, and bam! You’ve got a perfect feed.
Looking at your page, it’s clear you and your team love feminine stories, written by female authors, particularly fantasy and genre fiction. What do you love about stories that show this feminine power, maybe even feminine rage? Do you think there is a stereotype placed on fantasy written by female authors, and how do you feel knowing you are promoting something that can be so influential in women’s lives?
We do statistically enjoy feminine stories. I can attribute two theories to this. 1: We all met on BookTok, we were all on a certain side of it that recommended certain genres. However, say, for example, Tamika and Haley may not read contemporary romance at the rate that I do, or I read thrillers and horrors at the rate Tamika does. There is so much more to what we read that our followers might not see regularly! We have a huge thriller following, thanks to the work of some of our resident thriller lovers! And 2, we decided in the beginning that no book or genre was too taboo for us. We aim to be a safe space where you can aim to find almost anything reviewed. Whether it’s non-fiction, poetry or ‘spicy’ fantasy, it’s on our page. We want to remove the stigma that many readers and writers have that is often associated with ‘feminine’ or ‘spicy’ stories. But it does not mean we critique them any less than any other genre. I can very much enjoy a book but still recognise its flaws. For us, it’s not about perfection, but enjoyability. We’re here to recommend books to everyday people, well-read or not.
A segment of your page is dedicated to *spicy* books, which I am obsessed with! To the BookTok community, smutty books are a staple, but do you think outside the community there is a stigma around spicy books? How are you and your team going about breaking that stigma?
Yes! I guess this can tie into my response to the previous question. What we have learnt, is that ‘spicy’ books have the largest readership. We see the most interaction and following from our spicy recs. I truly think it is the silent majority. I would say it’s silent because of the stigma, but I am seeing this stigma get more and more removed. The stigma is supported by the fact that especially as women, we are taught to not embrace our sexuality in a loud way, to keep those books to themselves. But the sheer number of spicy romance fans is just a testament that it’s a very common genre in big demand. Sex exists, books with sex exist and people love these books, to us it is no different from enjoying the fantasy genre as escapism. We have members who don’t read spice at all and others who almost exclusively read it, both are readers no matter what.
People are less afraid to voice their opinions on Tik Tok and Instagram about spicy books or ask for recommendations. As an account though, we do try to set some boundaries. If several members are uncomfortable with a certain thing, we discuss it. We are hyper-aware of the followers we get from other genres, and also, the age of our followers. We want to make sure we don’t make anyone uncomfortable, but we also want to make it a safe space! It can be hard to balance.
Generally, people who love books as much as you try their hand at writing. Are you or any of your team members writers? Do you think the books you read translate into your writing craft? What author inspires you the most to write?
I love the quote ‘all writers read, but not all readers write’. This is so true. I’m sure all of us in the book club, at some point, have tried our hand at writing. But as for regular writing, I can name a few. Lauren, our member with over 100k following on Wattpad, writes frequently. She is self-publishing her first print novel ‘Meant To Be’ in mid-2022 (keep an eye out). Haley is a fantastic fantasy writer, and I love writing true crime surprisingly. I have always been a massive true crime content consumer for years, but only started reading it a year or so ago, and I haven’t turned back!
As for inspiration, Haley is inspired by Brandon Sanderson and his masterful fantasy writing skills. For true-crime writing, I turn towards Michelle Mcnamara, John Douglas and Mark Olshaker for inspiration. A recent fantasy piece I wrote was written after I read ‘A River Enchanted’ by Becca Ross; a beautiful, lyrical piece of writing. As for Lauren, she credits every indie romance author out there as the people who gave her the passion and confidence to write and publish.
A lot of the time, young people might read a couple of books for senior English class and never pick one up after high school. How do you suggest people like this get back into reading? When it comes down to it, what do you love most about reading and why should others read?
Ugh, this is such a struggle. I fell into this. As a creative writing major, you would think it would be easy for me to read my prescribed readings of poems and such. But because it isn’t my choice, I struggle. I think the more you force someone to read something, the more negative their relationship with reading becomes. I have customers come into the bookshop who are in their 20s, 30s or 40s who admit they have not read since being forced to in high school. Of course, as a reader, this is upsetting to hear. There are so many great books, they’re missing out on, right? But they need to be shown. I ask them what their favourite movies are then go from there, offering them many recommendations so they don’t feel pressured. Reading is all about choice. If you’re struggling to get back into reading, ask, what is my favourite movie? Ask a friend or family member who reads for some recommendations. Go into a bookstore and ask for some (I swear it’s the best part of the job!).
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into BookTok, whether that’s starting their own book club Instagram or TikTok, or just getting involved in the community?
My advice would be just to start! Don’t focus on followers or any of that, focus on the friendships you build and connections you make. The more authentic the post, the better they do, so just focus on bringing your own uniqueness to the table. It can be quite daunting to put yourself out there online, but it can be so rewarding. Post what feels right to you.
Finally, I want to know all your recs!
Golly, there are so many. I go to, ultimate favourite book recommendations are:
– The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (historical fiction but make it old Hollywood. Glitz, glamour, sex and rock ‘n’ roll)
– The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (fantasy, set on Earth, historical to modern, lyrical; a journey)
– Throne of Glass series (particularly the 5th, 6th, 8th books, amazing plot and character development, finishing it will make you feel empty)
– The Kiss Quotient (contemporary rom-com, autism representation, amazing)
– The Love Hypothesis (contemporary rom-com, men and women in academia, witty, hilarious)
– The Final Girl Support Group (my first and only horror so far, suspenseful, plot twisty, original)
– Hush, Hush (YA top tier, incredible, suspenseful)
My TBR is massive, anything you see on TikTok is on there. Any rom-com with a cartoon cover is on there. My comfort books are ‘Empire of Storms’ and ‘Hush, Hush’.
Now that we’ve heard a few recs, where can we go for more, and how can people get involved in your page?
@Booktokbookclub on Instagram!
Although there are 13 of us that run the account, we consider all our followers ‘members’. We have monthly books picked by admins and a Goodreads account where we can all discuss them! Our DMs are always open to chat! We love connecting with our followers, especially when they’re freaking out over a book we’ve recommended!
@chloeraebooks on Instagram and TikTok for my account. You can find all our book club admins on our page as well!
You’ve made me want to start my own book club! I can’t wait for our readers to have a look at your page and be immersed in the undoubtedly addictive books you recommend. I didn’t think my TBR could get any longer, but I think I’m going to have to add a book or two onto it. Thank you so much, Chloe, you’ve been a treat and so interesting to chat with, I can’t wait to see where your platform takes you!
Hope is an aspiring writer who loves to explore what it means to be human and experiment with new formats and genres. She’s currently working on a collection of short stories about growing up as a female in a man’s world.