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!
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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?”
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.”