Books That Social Media Made Us Read
By Amy Wright, Ana Matute, Zoe Doyle and Sarah Lundy
The rise of social media has highlighted the influence and importance of consumers to book trends. As a result, publishers have increasingly turned to social media to promote their books and keep on top of trends. In this issue, we decided to look at the books that the likes of TikTok and Instagram have persuaded us to read, borrow or purchase.
Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
"A girl comes of age against the knife."
Inspired by the life of her own mother, Tiffany McDaniel weaves a lyrical coming-of-age story set in the foothills of the Appalachians. The sixth of eight siblings, Betty Carpenter is born to a Cherokee father and white mother in 1954. Raised in poverty and violence in rural Ohio, she finds comfort in the rolling foothills around her and her father’s powerful storytelling. It is here she discovers the power of writing and recounts the brutal history of her family’s past and the hardships of growing up. It took one glowing review on Bookstagram to convince me to buy my own copy, and subsequent reviews have affirmed my decision. Betty is a difficult novel that tackles challenging themes including racism, abuse and trauma, but it promises to be worth the heartbreak.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
First published in 2014, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart has been highly recommended across Instagram and quickly became popular on TikTok. A psychological thriller for young adults, the haunting story of Cadence and her cousins is told through a unique writing style comprised of the protagonist’s thoughts. Whilst there are differing opinions on the predictability of the ending, the twist at the end certainly leaves a lot to talk about. This is perhaps why it has become such a popular book across social media, and you may feel compelled to read it again in order to fully unravel the plot. The popularity of this novel is not likely to fade any time soon, though, as its prequel, Family of Liars, will be published later this year.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
One book that interested me the most last year after consistently dominating my TikTok feed was My Year of Rest and Relaxation because I wondered what was behind the title and why it was everywhere. Published in 2018, the novel is about a young woman who narrates how she decided to sleep for a year by sedating herself in a kind of comic and bitter way. Through her stream of consciousness whilst awake, she shows how existing had become unbearable, and why trying to stop thinking for a year will be what allows her to “reappear in some new form.” Moshfegh’s fictional character is determined that, by using her thoughts, she can prove that the consistent overwhelming nature of daily life can be cured with rest and relaxation. The tone is alike to that of young Ruben Darío, who writes in detail about being in a crystal tower without living his own time, and it is this focus that deems this book a must-read for so many readers at present.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Believe it or not, this sensational book was first published in 2011. You would be forgiven for thinking it’s only a few years old because of the incredible second wind this book has had thanks, in large part, to TikTok. From people publicly posting themselves crying to fan art, The Song of Achilles has seen unprecedented viral success that is impossible to resist if you haven’t already read it.
Madeline Miller’s retelling of the siege of Troy, from the perspective of Patroclus, a companion of Achilles, is utterly heart-breaking and tender. Achilles is not shown as the celebrated hero we often imagine him to be as his flaws are revealed through the eyes of his lover. Patroclus’ poetic love and devotion in the face of these flaws is one of the reasons the book is so beautiful. Get the tissues at the ready.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Although Gyasi’s recent novel Transcendent Kingdom has been making the rounds on social media, her debut novel also deserves a spot on this list. It is a multi-generational saga that explores the lasting wounds inflicted by slavery. Effia and Esi, two half-sisters, are born in different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married to an Englishman while Esi is captured and imprisoned in the dungeons beneath Effia’s house, ready to be sold into the slave trade in America. The novel follows the trajectory of the sister’s descendants through seven generations – one family through warfare in Ghana and the other to the plantations of the South – all the way to the present. Another heartbreaking novel on the list, but one that tells an important story about loss, family and the forces, often beyond our control, that shape our history.