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BookTok Alternatives

Bookworms far and wide, sit back and relax as Jasmine Oke gives you 12 deliciously curated book recommendations!


We’ve all been there, endlessly scrolling and screenshotting the odd book featured on social media, only for said book to get lost in the deep abyss that is the iPhone camera roll. However, a few may slip through the cracks, and a few of the books listed on the following pages may be ones you’ve actually put down your phone and read before. But what I propose to you is not the flurry of books that have been endlessly circling the internet since the emergence of that virus, which shall not be named (no, I don’t mean TikTok). Instead, what I offer are the lesser known siblings of said books. Some you may have heard of, but most of them, hopefully you won’t have (or at least you haven’t gotten around to reading them), and I hope this acts as the final push for you to finally pick them up and devour them whole. Happy reading, may you love these even half as much as I do! 




Romance


BookTok recommendation: Emily Henry’s Beach Read 

Grapey recommendation: Lily King’s Writers & Lovers


Key themes: family drama, the summertime, new territory, and writers looking for love.


“I don’t write because I think I have something to say. I write because if I don’t, everything feels even worse.”



The ‘Unhinged’ Woman


BookTok recommendation: Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation 

Grapey recommendation: Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays


Key themes: woman in crisis, loss, desire for nothingness, aging.


“She could remember it all but none of it seemed to come to anything. She had a sense the dream had ended and she had slept on.”


Hollywood Biography


BookTok recommendation: Patti Smith’s Just Kids

Grapey recommendation: Eve Babitz’s Slow Days, Fast Company


Key themes: Hollywood, 1960s-70s, fame, party culture.


“I did not become famous but I got near enough to smell the stench of success. It smelt like burnt cloth and rancid gardenias, and I realized that the truly awful thing about success is that it's held up all those years as the thing that would make everything all right. And the only thing that makes things even slightly bearable is a friend who knows what you're talking about.”



Historical Fiction


BookTok recommendation: Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles

Grapey recommendation: Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall


Key themes: Tudor England, Henry VIII, Cromwell, politics, scandal.


“It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.”



An Ode to the Natural World


BookTok recommendation: Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdad’s Sing

Grapey recommendation: Mary Oliver’s Upstream


Key themes: nature, literature, self-discovery, the unknown.


“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.”


Horror/Mystery


BookTok recommendation: Chelsea G Summer’s A Certain Hunger

Grapey recommendation: Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch


Key themes: motherhood, sacrifice, metamorphosis, feminism, magical realism.


“How many generations of women had delayed their greatness only to have time extinguish it completely? How many women had run out of time while the men didn’t know what to do with theirs? And what a mean trick to call such things holy or selfless. How evil to praise women for giving up each and every dream.”



Poetry


BookTok recommendation: Rupi Kaur’s milk and honey

Grapey recommendation: Anne Carson’s Glass, Irony and God


Key themes: personal history, Greek legend, searching, mercy, the feminine.


“You remember too much,

my mother said to me recently.

Why hold onto all that? And I said,

Where can I put it down?”



Nonfiction


BookTok recommendation: Bessel Van Der Folk’s The Body Keeps the Score

Grapey recommendation: Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House


Key themes: trauma, psychological abuse, queer relationships, popular culture.


“A reminder to remember: just because the sharpness of the sadness has faded does not mean that it was not, once, terrible. It means only that time and space, creatures of infinite girth and tenderness, have stepped between the two of you, and they are keeping you safe as they were once unable to.”



Science Fiction


BookTok recommendation: Max Gladstone’s This is How You Lose the Time War

Grapey recommendation: Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon


Key themes: intelligence, metamorphosis, human nature, disability.


“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”



Queer


BookTok recommendation: Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End

Grapey recommendation: Richard Siken’s Crush


Key themes: yearning, panic, obsession, confession, eroticism.


“A man takes his sadness down to the river and throws it in the river

                    but then he’s still left

with the river. A man takes his sadness and throws it away

                                                                        but then he’s still left with his hands.”



Translated Fiction


BookTok recommendation: Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood

Grapey recommendation: Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star


Key themes: despair, cultural reflection, storytelling, eccentric narration.


“Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?”


Parent/Child Relationships


BookTok recommendation: Jennette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mother Died

Grapey recommendation: Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking


Key themes: grief, loss, family, marriage, parenthood, introspection.


“We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”


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