Here's a list of five "booktok" books every college student should read at least once.
Booktok, a side of TikTok coined in August 2020, focuses on books, book recommendations and a cultivated community of readers. It's where I found these specific titles — and most of my 60 other reads this year.
"Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
In this coming-of-age story, Aristotle and Dante are two young Hispanic boys in Texas who become friends. Later, they learn there might be more than just friendship between them. For some kids, coming out to their parents and the world as part of the LGBTQIA+ community can be scary, but this book exemplifies a reality of what it can be like – how cruel people can be to others that are different from them, but also how to cope with that reality.
"The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo, a notorious actress from the '50s, is ready to tell her life story and the mysteries of her seven husbands to a young journalist, Monique. Monique is surprised and horrified by the truth Evelyn reveals, and stunned by the secret love story that unfolds. Evelyn experiences a lot during her life, including abuse from her husband, sexual harassment from people in her industry and the death of many loved ones. The book also depicts what it was like to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community in the '50s and '60s and shows significant historical moments such as the Stonewall riots.
"Where The Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens
In the present, a murderer is on the loose. In the past, the story's protagonist, Kya, was abandoned by everyone to fend for herself in the marshes of North Carolina: She is made fun of, harassed and looked down upon by her peers because of this abandonment. This book gives insight into how important social class was in the '50s and accurately touches upon issues of racism in the South at the time.
"Again, But Better" by Christine Riccio
Protagonist Shane gets the opportunity to travel to London for a study abroad program and escape the life her parents set for her. (Her parents want her to be a doctor, but she wants to write.) She's faced with the conflict of choosing the love of her family or the love of her career. I found it so inspiring when she finally gets to make her own choices, and I think a lot of people can learn from her. Just know, you will want to travel abroad ASAP.
"All The Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven
Violet and Finch are navigating tragedies in their lives and struggling to get by. When they are forced to do a school project together things start to get better... or so they think. This book paints a very accurate picture of mental illness and how it can affect someone. On the brighter side, it follows the journey of someone coping with death and learning to live life again. (Check trigger warnings before reading this book.)
Most of these books can be found online at Barnes and Nobel or Amazon, or in local bookshops, such as Odd Bird Books. If you don’t want to buy them, visit our library. (You can also request some books to be transferred to the library if they aren't there already.) If you like these book or want some more recommendations, check out Booktok.