The 10 best books of the year, according to BookTok

From 'Fourth Wing' to 'Happy Place.'
By Christianna Silva and Elena Cavender  on 
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Screenshots of three TikToks promoting three of the year's best books.
Credit: TikTok / anotating8 / gillianerin / smallcasualbooktok

2023 has been...weird. Join Mashable as we look back at everything that's delighted, amazed, or just confused us in 2023.

In 2023, BookTok once again dominated the literary world.

While it might be surprising for some if there's one thing TikTok does it's read. The community reads so much that it impacts bookish culture at large, from curated display tables to bestseller lists. For the bibliophiles online, this year held new romantic obsessions, the latest Emily Henry release, and several beloved adaptations.

Here are some of BookTok's favorites of the year. If you missed out on your reading goals this year, these are some great titles to add to your TBR lists in 2024.

The Guest by Emma Cline

It's the novel that consumed BookTok — and most other spaces from libraries to beaches — this summer and rightly so. Alex, a beautiful, young grifter, gets kicked out of her wealthy lover's coastal home in the final days of summer. She schemes to reconcile with him at his annual Labor Day party, but in order to do so Alex must figure out how to remain in the moneyed town for the next five days. The story blankets the reader in unease, the tension never breaking not even in its final moments. And it's that troubling ending that really got TikTok talking as it allowed creators to get into one of their favorite hobbies: theorizing. — Elena Cavender, Culture Reporter

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail wanted to be a scribe (because we love a main character who reads), but she's forced by her mother, the commanding general of Navarre, to become a dragon rider (sexy and cool). Fourth Wing is the kind of book TikTok was made to read. It's the first book in the Empyrean series, an enemy-to-lovers adult fantasy novel featuring dragons (hot), mommy issues (hot), and some extremely high stakes (hot). The second book in the series, Iron Flame, also came out this year but TikTok and I agree that it's a lot more difficult to get through than the first book. It has encouraged thousands of TikTok creators to post fanart, theories, and fancasts. This book is a very fun read. — Christianna Silva, Senior Culture Reporter

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R. F. Kuang

Babel was published in 2022, but it made its big splash on TikTok this year. It follows Robin Swift, a sweet, intelligent boy who was orphaned by cholera in Canton in 1828 and brought to live with a very weird dude, Professor Lovell. Swift goes to Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation, also known as Babel, where he studies Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese. The book tackles British imperialism, racism, power, imperial expansion, and a shadowy secret society. Unlike a lot of other books on this list, TikTokkers didn't do many fancasts or create much fanart about Babel; instead, creators used this book to talk about the main tenets of the text: racism, colonialism, and language. — C.S.

Happy Place by Emily Henry

Emily Henry Hive rose in full force this summer with the release of her fourth (!) romance novel in the past three years. Beloved for adorable, yet relatable protagonists and subtle Taylor Swift references, Henry's books quickly became a mainstay on BookTok. She manages to appeal to both romance lovers and skeptics with her inventive use of tired tropes and elevated prose. In Happy Place, Henry takes a stab at both exes to lovers and fake relationships when Harriet is forced to keep up appearances with her ex, Wyn, on the annual trip to their college friends' Maine cottage. It's her least classically romantic novel yet, which caused a divide on TikTok — but that doesn't mean people (me) didn't love it. — E.C.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This book was published in 2020, but was making the rounds on TikTok this year due to reasons unknown to me. Sometimes, TikTok can just be like that. Set in 1950s Mexico City, this book reads like a noir film in which a young socialite, Noemí Taboada, receives a very spooky letter from her cousin Catalina, who just married a (shocker!) white guy, and is begging for her cousin's help. Taboada goes to her cousins' aide and finds that something very weird is going on in that house. TikTok reviews of this book call it a "fever dream," and the discourse tackles a bit of the racism in the novel. Meanwhile, other creators just go the classic route of creating aesthetics based on the book and fancasts. — C.S.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

If you told me last year that a book about video game creators that everyone on TikTok liked would make me cry, I'd call you a liar. But then I read Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and, my God, y'all, it is so good. The book follows Sam Masur and Sadie Green, two video game developers who love each other — but never cross into lover territory — as they create an exceptional game, Ichigo. Zevin does this phenomenal job of painting the reality of what it is to be a (excuse me) messy person. TikTok creators gave us reviews, they gave us aesthetics, and they gave us emotional vulnerability about that NPC chapter. TikTok loved this book, and so did I. — C.S.

Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

Yes, there are two books by R. F. Kuang on this list. TikTok has been obsessed with Kuang since her first book, The Poppy War, was published to much acclaim in 2018. Yellowface, published in 2023, follows Juniper Hayward (a white woman) as she, well, steals a novel from her dead friend, Athena Liu (an Asian American woman), and publishes it under the name Juniper Song. TikTok gave us reviews, synopsis, memes, and observations about the racism in the book that mirrors the racism in the publishing industry today. — C.S.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue came out back in 2019, and its cult following led to the release of a film this year. He was a prince, and he was the president's son, can I make it any more obvious? OK to make it more obvious, Prince Henry of Wales and First Son of the United States, Alex Claremont Diaz, fall for each other in this delightful, unserious romance novel. TikTok returned to the novel in anticipation of the film, which includes some memorable characters that didn't make the adaptation like Alex's older sister June Claremont-Diaz and Henry's mother Queen Mary. The entire third act of the movie differs from the novel, so there's still lots to get out of the novel if you've already seen the movie and want more romance. — E.C.

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

All About Love is nearly 25 years old but still hits as if it was published today. It's a short, 11-chapter-long book in which the theorist and social critic presents a new approach to self-love without narcissism and lays out the roles love and loss play in gender, race, capitalism, romance, and more. It's having a moment on TikTok, and for good reason: All About Love should be considered required reading for everyone. If you've seen it online this year, you've likely seen influencers reading their favorite excerpts from the book or trying to convince you to read it yourself. — C.S.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

A large majority of users on TikTok are between the ages of 18 and 34, so this memoir — a funny memoir about friendships, work, love and loss in your 20s — had some significant staying power on BookTok. Alderton's memoir is known on TikTok as a book to help people who are feeling lost in their 20s, and tackles your first big heartbreak, moving in (and out) with your best friends, experiencing death and loss, and more. Everything I Know About Love was originally published in 2018, and had a TV adaptation last year. TikTok served up get-ready-with-me's, so many excerpts, and a few reviews.— C.S.

Topics Books TikTok

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Christianna Silva
Senior Culture Reporter

Christianna Silva is a Senior Culture Reporter at Mashable. They write about tech and digital culture, with a focus on Facebook and Instagram. Before joining Mashable, they worked as an editor at NPR and MTV News, a reporter at Teen Vogue and VICE News, and as a stablehand at a mini-horse farm. You can follow them on Twitter @christianna_j.

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Elena Cavender

Elena is a tech reporter and the resident Gen Z expert at Mashable. She covers TikTok and digital trends. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in American History. Email her at [email protected] or follow her @ecaviar_.

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