“There’s really a BookTok account for everyone”: A Look at TikTok’s Book Community with Creator Megan Sleath

Ellie Tucker

Recently, GQ published a provocative article denouncing Booktok as a ‘shallow’ and superficial community. Author Barry Pierce found the platform to be, “more about a lifestyle aesthetic than actual reading.” I sat down with UK-based creator Megan Sleath (@readwithmeg) – a true BookTok insider boasting an impressive 23.6k followers – to learn more about the platform and whether these increasingly common assumptions about BookTok are true.

For Meg, a 19-year-old history student who founded her account in lockdown, BookTok is “an online community of a bunch of different people from all over the world who are very much just connected by reading”.  

After finishing her A-Levels, Meg tells me she started BookTok on a whim: “I was a bit bored”. Like many, Meg got back into reading over lockdown and simply “stumbled” across BookTok: “I wanted to talk to people about reading and about books because I like sharing my interests”. 

Remarkably, after only being on BookTok for a week, one of Meg’s videos went viral. “It was absolutely not intentional”, she tells me, “I went book shopping in London and I made a TikTok about it. I didn’t think twice […] I posted it, put my phone away and went into the theatre. […] I came back and it was at about 8000 views. And it kind of just kept going.” 

The rapid and rather accidental growth Meg experienced feels less possible now as the platform becomes increasingly over-saturated with creators.  “It’s much more important to have a bit of a niche,” Meg explains. For her, this has meant centering her content around Sapphic, fantasy and dark academic books. 

One common accusation of BookTok found in GQ’s article is that, “the same twenty books [are] flaunted again and again.” Apart from smacking of snobbish readerly elitism, Pierce’s comment is simply not true according to Meg, who assures me, “there’s really a BookTok account for everyone […] it’s such a diverse community when you know what you’re looking for”. She finds comments like Pierce’s extremely diminishing and promises that, “if you take five minutes to delve a little bit deeper and look at a wider range of creators, a wider range of videos, you’ll see that it’s really not the case.”

As her online following grows, Meg has found more opportunities coming her way. Aside from invitations to book launches or film premiers, Meg has started to receive around ten books a month from publishers. Still, Meg continues to stay true to her reading tastes: “I’m not going to read a new trending book just because it’s the new trending book […] if I did, that would feel like I was lying”. She explains that while there is sometimes a sense of obligation to be positive when she’s been sent a book, she always stays honest: “If I don’t like a book, I’ll say that.” 

After initial trepidation, Meg embraced her sudden follower influx and has continued to successfully grow her platform and community. While talking with her, Meg’s great and genuine passion for reading shone through, making clear that there is nothing performative about her platform. In contradiction to Pierce’s cutting comments about BookTok’s “uncanny falseness” and “showy nothingness”, the community Meg describes showcases a sincere, ardent and infectious love for literature.

Categories: Uncategorized