The Notting Hill Bookshop has always been a popular spot with tourists and fans since it became the key location in the 1999 rom-com Notting Hill. I would know, as my family owns it.
A local bookshop with a global appeal, people have been making the journey across the world to see the famous location — and even propose marriage among the stacks of books — in the London store since my family took over the business from the previous owners following the film’s release. But neither Julia Roberts nor Hugh Grant could have predicted that beyond the film, the bookstore is seeing a new lease with a younger generation, all thanks to TikTok.
TikTok has helped to revitalize reading and bring it back into fashion. BookTok, the name given to the community of readers and booklovers on the platform, is inspiring people to read and engage with books in new ways. According to Circana BookScan, sales of adult fiction books were up 4.2% in the six months of 2023 — stating that books that went viral on TikTok contributed to this growth spike. According to a May 2023 survey of U.S. and Canadian TikTok users between the ages of 18 and 45, 48% of U.S. respondents say they read more because of the influence of BookTok. For Canadian respondents, that number was 53%.
BookScan analyst Kristen McLean told Publishers Weekly that “BookTok is really, really important for book discovery.” This pertains to new genres as well. TikTok has even created its own genre of fiction that’s become popular. Romantasy, which is a blend of romance and fantasy novels, is a BookTok mainstay. The hashtag #romantasy has over 739 million views as of Tuesday afternoon.
Across my family’s business, we’re seeing a direct impact of BookTok on sales of books among young people in the store. There’s been an increased demand for romantasy books, and offerings from fan-favorite authors like Dolly Alderton and Colleen Hoover are flying off the shelves. Magical realism has also risen in popularity, and young people are coming into the shop requesting their favorite authors or books they’ve seen on the social media platform.
There’s also more of a community and dialogue around reading than ever before. We regularly speak with our audience online about what books they’re reading and what’s on their to-be-read (TBR) pile, so we can meet their needs.
Say what you like about TikTok, but my family owns the Notting Hill Bookshop (yes, the one from the film) and the surge in young people buying books in the last year because of booktok has been wonderful to see. It's making reading cool again & I will always love the app for that
— Angelica Malin (@jellymalin) January 9, 2024
Also big on TikTok is nostalgia for the '90s. Blame the cost-of-living crisis, mass layoffs and dating app burnout, but increasingly young people seem to want to retreat into something a bit more analog. We’re seeing that firsthand in the renewed love for the film Notting Hill itself, as a younger generation discovers it for the first time, as well as in the types of books young people are picking up in the store. Novels like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, which came out in 1992, are having a second wind thanks to people discovering them on TikTok. A community of booklovers sharing their picks provides authors a second chance to find a new audience with their work.
But how long can the BookTok craze last? McLean told Publisher’s Weekly that “sales couldn’t continue to increase at the rate they had when the platform started to become a major discovery engine in 2020.”
At the Notting Hill Bookshop, we’re celebrating our readers from TikTok and finding new ways to appeal to them. BookTok shoppers tend to know what they’re looking for and spend less time browsing, so we make it easy for them to find the viral books and authors. We even have a special shelf dedicated to ‘TikTok Reads,’ so shoppers can find popular books within the BookTok community.
As a result, young adult fiction has never been more popular in the store and we can really see how books are helping young people navigate new-world challenges in a healthy, supported way.
Literary types might say it makes the store generic in our reading tastes, but the fact that BookTok is encouraging younger people to pick up a physical book (maybe even for the first time) over indulging in screen time is a great thing. The more we can support them to fall in love with reading, the better.