Obviously, a lot of people got into TikTok over the last two years. Less discussed: the rise of BookTok, the very specific corner of the app that loves extremely spicy romance novels, swoony edits featuring high-fantasy montages of palaces and ballgowns, and absolutely gigantic stacks of books—the bigger, the better.
BookTok is a world unto itself, with its own obsessions and terminology, and to spend time there is to become deeply invested, even if you haven’t actually done all the reading. Have I read the first three books in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas? No, I skipped to A Court of Silver Flames. Do I now chuckle every time I see a fan-made TikTok about what a little punk Tamlin is? Absolutely. BookTok has all the addictive power of the TikTok algorithm behind it, plus a certain gleefully over-the-top energy that is hard to beat. If you have a friend who has gotten deeply into BookTok, you probably know it, because she probably keeps sending you indecipherable TikToks full of BookTok in-jokes, and she keeps recommending books she learned about on the app. (Those Tessa Bailey books about the Bellinger sisters really are a delight, for the record.) Why don’t you get her something she’ll truly appreciate for the holidays?
It’s absolutely impossible to read if your feet are cold. It’s not impossible to scroll TikTok if your feet are cold, but it’s certainly much more pleasant to have warm toes. Hence: a very much appreciated, easy to acquire gift that can be found at any TJ Maxx in America. Or you could go a little fancier—perhaps these Bombas “gripper slippers” ($40.00) have also been following you around Instagram for months?
There’s a great WPA poster in the Library of Congress archives, made to promote reading, that urges in a message sprawling out from an open book: “The Vacation Reading Club—Join Now at Your Public Library.” It’s evocative specifically the summer read, as well as the broader pleasure of a book that really transports you. Hence my absolute delight at discovering it was available on a sweatshirt, at the site Inkwell Threads ($34.00).
One problem with getting deep into BookTok is that your own, perfectly good bookcase setup comes to seem wildly inadequate. “But you know they’re using filters, Kelly!” I tell myself; it does not assuage my lust. This is a known and common side-effect of browsing this particular tag, which creates a gift-giving opportunity for you. Now, you probably shouldn’t buy your friend a bookcase, unless you are a master carpenter and you are planning to custom-build her one. But you could give her some accessories! Everybody on BookTok (and on Bookstagram, too, for that matter) seems to have their bookcases tricked out with fairy lights and potted plants that drape gracefully over their shelves. You could grab your basic Target Christmas lights ($5.00 per string), or absolutely ball out with these curtain rain string lights from Pottery Barn ($79.00). As for plants, I recommend a pothos and direct you to a local nursery—just be careful with your selections if your friend has pets.
Is the tea-drinking reader a cliche? Yes. Is it a cliche for a reason? Also yes. Here’s a mug of Jane Austen quotes ($15.00); here’s a stoneware mug with a pocket ($34.00) so she doesn’t have to get out of her blanket and dispense of her tea bag; here’s a mug wrapped in the battered spines of Stephen King paperbacks ($17.99); here’s one with a stack of classic yellow Nancy Drew spines ($17.99). (Also, hot tip, Out of Print Clothing has apparently discontinued their retro library card mugs, so if you want one, you better get it now.) Alternatively, if you’ve heard your friend mention “the minotaur romance,” the author has an Etsy store where she sells mugs emblazoned with the Morning Glory Milking Farm logo ($12.00).
It’s hard to get your pillows straightened out just right. Either they’re too square and don’t support your whole back, or they get all squished, or you can’t wedge them behind your back quite right. Why not one of those specially designed pillows? ($39.99)
Romance is a favorite genre on BookTok, and this year romance bookstores The Ripped Bodice and Love’s Sweet Arrow are both doing holiday boxes themed around popular tropes. The Ripped Bodice packages theirs with a “Trope Tea,” so you could do the Holiday in a Cozy Cabin Gift Box ($45.00) with socks and cinnamon-bun flavored “snowed in” tea, for instance. Love’s Sweet Arrow has one for what is perhaps BookTok’s ultimate trope obsession: enemies to lovers ($25.00 to $50.00). Is it even love if you don’t hate each other’s guts first? (Yes, obviously, but it sure makes for a better narrative arc.)
Look, this may seem like a swerve. But there are so many BookTokers and Bookstagrammers with these inspirationally long, gorgeous nails, and they look so gorgeous up against a book cover. Give your friend some press-ons so she, too, can juxtapose her gorgeous nails against her latest acquisition. Here’s a wintry set from Kiss ($8.99), or maybe go with these long gray ones ($10.00) from Olive and June.
Unless your friend lives in a 2,500 square foot home, she probably doesn’t need a book cart; any job it does would probably be served just as well by a small bookcase. But they’re so cute! And they fit nicely in the nooks and crannies of smaller apartments. The Container Store has a reasonably priced one in a nice blush pink ($29.99); here’s an attractive dark blue from Target ($35.00).
Give her what she really wants: more books to add to her 6-foot-tall, dangerously teetering pile.