Thank you, TikTok algorithm!
I’ll admit: I spend so much time on TikTok, my For You page is formidably knowledgeable about my tastes, political beliefs, and favourite music genre. Sometimes, I think the algorithm can read my mind. I’m so convinced of its accuracy that when a book review appears on my feed, I know I must read it. Call me susceptible to influence, but I have come across some of my favourite stories this way.
Without further delay, here are my reviews of #BookTok favourites:
Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
The sequel to the beloved short stories Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before Your Memory Fades is a sweet and comforting collection of stories. This book gets bonus points from me since the youngest daughter is in a respected leadership role. While I love the setting and family dynamic, you can tell it is a translation. The stories lack a sense of urgency for my taste, but that’s also part of its charm.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
If you like this book, I recommend The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
One of my all-time favourite books. I am a firm believer that you can never be too old for fantasy, and Six of Crows affirms this belief. If you are anything like me, the setting of a story is as important as the plot, and this duology checks both those boxes. This riveting adventure is set in the fictional city Ketterdam (picture Amsterdam in the Industrial period). Bardugo narrates a daring heist undertaken by an unlikely crew of talented outcasts.
I admire Bardugo for her ability to create complex characters with otherworldly problems, all with wit and compassion that can be found in everyday life. This novel combines history and fantasy with action and characters that will stay with you long after the last page. Luckily, there’s also a Netflix TV show and season two is coming to Netflix soon.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
If you liked this book, I recommend Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
(TW: drug use, depression, eating disorder)
This book has been discussed endlessly on TikTok (and previously by the Fulcrum) and crowned as a member of “the red flag library.” Basically, users believe if they see someone owns this book, you’d better run the other way. Apart from the stigmatization of depression this comment holds, I can understand its underlying message.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation follows a young woman who should be happy. She has a good job and an apartment that is paid for in Manhattan. However, she is deeply unsatisfied with her life. She resolves to sleep for a year with the help of a cocktail of medications provided by her comically terrible psychologist. This novel is so compelling since it is told in a stream of consciousness. You could read it in one sitting. Plus, the protagonist is very relatable for tired people — arguably our entire generation.
The difference between the protagonist and us is that she can afford not to work for a year and shrugs off all responsibility. So, while it is a compelling and relatable story, I give it two out of five stars due to its romanticization of drug abuse and privileged protagonist.
My rating: 2/5 stars.
If you liked this book, I recommend Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones & the Six by the TikTok famous Taylor Jenkins Reid satisfies my obsession with musical documentaries. This novel is unique, since it narrates the trial and tribulations of Daisy and her band in the form of interviews.
With a definite flare of Fleetwood Mac-style drama, Jenkins Reid comments on love, friendship and success. My controversial opinion is that I much prefer this book to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I wish I could listen to music, and thankfully an upcoming Amazon Prime adaptation could make that dream a reality on March 3.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
If you like this book, I recommend The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
In Olivie Blake’s The Atlas Six, an elite magical society called the Alexandrian Society is tasked with research and preservation of knowledge. The students recruited for a prestigious Society fellowship soon realize that not all of them can stay, and someone must die. While I love the premise of the story and the characters, I feel like there is a missed opportunity due to the slow development and alternation point-of-view chapter. Good thing there’s a sequel. Granted, I much prefer Blake’s new book, Alone with You in the Ether.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
If you liked this book, I recommend Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
(TW: domestic violence)
Set in the North Carolina marsh, Where the Crawdads Sing recounts the story of Kya, a girl abandoned by her family and left with her abusive father, who finds joy in the nature surrounding her. Later in life, she is accused of murdering one of the town boys — mostly because many people in the town are apprehensive of the “Marsh Girl.”
While I appreciate the setting of the novel and share Kya’s love for nature and painting, I have to question the author’s past. I was not aware of any controversy until the press for the movie, which included the casting of Daisy Edgar Jones and a song from Taylor Swift. The TikTok algorithm struck again to show me only the news I would enjoy.
Delia and her husband Mark worked as conservationists in Zambia. In 1996, an ABC film crew was making a documentary about the Owens’ work and caught a suspected poacher on camera being shot repeatedly by a person who is suspected to be Delila’s stepson.
Clearly, this is deeply disturbing for several reasons. Overall, Delia’s work as a conservationist, also the instance of shooting a ‘potential poacher,’ signifies a “militant, white savior-minded approach to policing Zambian wildlife preserves.” As a lover of nature and mystery novels, I loved this book. However, I have to condemn Delia’s history and, by extension, her work.
My rating: 2/5 stars.
If you liked this book, I recommend Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell