Illustration of a helmet, constellation, and wolf depicting the covers of three hyped BookTok books

BookTok Breakdown: An Honest Review of TikTok’s Favorite Reads

Are the book recommendations on the app any good? Or is everything overhyped?

As bookworms share their favorite novels on TikTok, it’s easy to spot trends in content creators’ lists of “all-time favorites.” To avid reading enthusiasts, it’s enticing to hear every other BookToker rave about the same few books.

Right now, “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller, “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas and “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab are the internet’s most talked about books. TikTok creators love them; so much so that many proclaim they would “sell their soul” to read them again for the first time. As a result of this hype, “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,” “The Song of Achilles,” “A Court of Thorns and Roses” and other BookTok stars now hold seats of honor in bookstores, basking in the glory of their specially designed “TikTok Favorites” displays.

But do these books live up to their praise? Here’s what you need to know about BookTok’s bestsellers.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” — Madeline Miller

Legend and rhythmic prose meld together as one in Madeline Miller’s exquisite adaptation of the Iliad, “The Song of Achilles.” Following Achilles and his closest friend and confidant Patroclus from boyhood, Miller shows us what myths are made of. Behind every celebrated hero, there is something raw and fragile, and within every great saga, there are thousands of smaller, more intimate moments of fear, adoration, shame, tenderness, sacrifice and glory.

Patroclus and Achilles meet as children and are opposites in almost every way. Achilles exudes divinity and is revered accordingly. Patroclus is a castaway and treated with apathy and disregard. The pair could have gone a lifetime without rhyme or reason to cross paths and yet, fate intervened and brought them together.

Behind closed doors and in distant lands, Miller invites us to see who Patroclus and Achilles truly are. Despite being men of myth and legend, the duo are so much more than their greatest successes and pitfalls. They celebrate birthdays, enjoy mundane conversations, sit under the sun and savor its warmth on their skin, and spend years relishing each other’s simple company.

With detail, authenticity and sincerity, “The Song of Achilles” breathes life into Homer’s classic mythology. Miller’s book is clean and honest.

Yet, despite this revitalization of ancient lore, Miller’s novel does fall short of its BookTok hype in one critical way: It’s not as heart-wrenching nor as psychologically dynamic as TikTok implies, saving all of its tearjerker moments for the very end of the story.

“The Song of Achilles” is certainly a worthy read. It’s personal, pure and poetic. Miller writes with skillful ease that makes reading her work effortless and enjoyable. Likewise, the melodic cadence of “The Song of Achilles” makes the novel undeniably pleasant and entertaining; just don’t expect any major twists or turns until the end of the book, especially if you’ve already read the Iliad.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

“I love you,’ he whispered, and kissed my brow. ‘Thorns and all.’” – Sarah J. Maas

Feyre was 8 years old when she lost her mother, 12 when her family lost their fortune, and 14 when she started hunting to support her disabled father and prim older sisters. Living in a mystical realm co-occupied by humans and faeries, who were rumored to murder their non-magical counterparts for sport, Feyre learned to harbor her anger, move agilely and think quickly on her feet.

“A Court of Thorns and Roses,” the first book of Sarah J. Maas’ award-winning fantasy series, follows Feyre as she is taken captive by a beast as punishment for her killing of a mysterious wolf in the forest. Soon after, everything the young human knows about her world is turned upside-down. In living with the faerie beast, Tamlin, Feyre uncovers the history of her land, the darkness that looms over it and the true nature of the hearts and minds of the fae.

Fast-paced and passionate, Maas’ novel takes a steamy twist on the fairytales we grew up with as children, repacking them and making them perfect for her adult audience.

Some readers call “A Court of Thorns and Roses” a guilty pleasure read. At times, the story is predictable and cliché, with its exuberant displays of desire and exaggerated reactions to plot points. Yet, there is something strangely comforting in the hyperbolic and unrealistic nature of Maas’ fantasy novel.

The beauty of the novel’s fairytale realm is unparalleled and the tension between characters is fierce and explosive. Unapologetically lustful, Maas’ bestseller is the perfect indulgence for a relaxing night in.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?” – V.E. Schwab

With elegantly fluid writing and a magical precision for language, Schwab tells the tale of the passionate and independent Addie LaRue, who, in a moment of haste and desperation, makes a deal with the darkness. Trading her name, identity and ability to leave a mark on the world for immortality and freedom, Addie lives a life of anonymity and fleeting pleasure. That is until, after centuries of being invisible, she meets someone who remembers her.

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” is gorgeously written and delves into the psychology of human nature and what makes a life worth living. Like tales of folklore, the story of Addie LaRue moves like a song. Her life: made up of beautiful moments characterized by art, romance and pure wonder, ebbing and flowing alongside times of immense grief, hardship and horror.

Although critics of Schwab’s bestselling novel contend that Addie’s story lacks plot and movement, the reality of the tale is quite the opposite. Addie’s journey certainly does not always move forward but she is moving nonetheless.

Lonely and without a clear trajectory, the novel’s namesake often makes critical errors. Addie is in uncharted territory and moves through the world unapologetically. She is an amalgamation of everything she has lived and seen, revealing the truth about humankind: We are contradictory, primal and hopelessly romantic beings.

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” deserves all of its TikTok fame and more. The standalone narrative is exceptionally and frighteningly real despite its genre and demands introspection from all who venture to read it.

Concluding Thoughts

BookTok’s favorite reads are not just trendy. They are top-tier books written by incredibly talented authors and are uniquely enjoyable, whether it be for their poetic simplicity, eloquent writing style or overall wistful nature.

For those who are new to TikTok, “The Song of Achilles,” “A Court of Thorns and Roses” and “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” would all make for a great first dip into the world of BookTok. Other highly rated TikTok books include “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid and “They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera.

BookTok is a community of people who care deeply about reading and take great pleasure in sharing that love with both those who share their passion and those looking for a casual, leisurely novel. Although there can be some suspicious overlap in BookToker’s “all-time favorites” lists, this is generally because the books are just that good. When you break it down, BookTok books really are the best of the best.

Lauren Koop, London School of Economics - Peking University

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Lauren Koop

London School of Economics - Peking University
International Affairs

Hello all! My name is Lauren and I am a first year grad student at PKU. My interests include: books, art, culture, world happenings, lifestyle and language. So excited to share my writing with y’all!

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