Let’s get lit(erature)!
It’s 2022, and reading has officially become hot again. Main characters are mysteriously flicking through their paperbacks on the train, Colleen Hoover has dominated the shelves of Whitcoulls, and the TikTok dances on our For You pages have been replaced by aesthetic book hauls. For anyone that survived the early 2010s YA Fiction era, this reading renaissance is eerily familiar and nostalgic, and we’re absolutely here for it.
However, instead of spending your entire paycheck at Unity Books, or scouring the internet for free botched PDFs to see what the fuss is all about, we’ve read BookTok’s top recommendations so you don’t have to!
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Nancy: Believe me, I was desperate to become a Sally Rooney girlie. When I first read the book, it was drizzling outside. The sky was a misty Earl Grey, I had Phoebe Bridgers playing softly in the background, and even a candle burning for extra ambience. I was fully ready to be immersed in the delicate melancholy and wistful romance of the Sally Rooney-verse. But, the one-dimensional characters of Marianne and Connell did not deliver. Normally, I go feral for plotless novels, but the painfully boring and pretentious protagonists had me in absolute agony, and practically begging for the book to be over. 2/5 GoodReads rating.
Gabbie: I’m not gonna lie, I like it. I’m a diehard romantic, but then again, I also hated it. Like just get together, goddamn it. It was nice to see how much they loved each other but fear just got in the way—struck a chord with me, I guess. Very Wattpad for its lack of quotation marks and its smut. Lotsa smut, but not hating.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Nancy: If you froth over heinously unlikeable, unhinged, and chaotic women protagonists, this is a must-read. While the novel is intentionally plotless, largely revolving around the unnamed main character’s mission to ‘hibernate’ for a year, the gritty nastiness and drugged haze of the protagonist will have you frantically turning the pages. Don’t be surprised if you also find absolutely cackling at Moshfegh’s deliciously absurd and dark humour.
Refreshingly, the author provides an accurate depiction of depression, refusing to shy away from the debilitating lethargy, apathy, and hopelessness that can come with being depressed as shit. She raises hard-hitting philosophical questions, including whether suffering is ever escapable, and whether we can ever find meaning in an abyss of meaninglessness. It’s bizarre, beautiful, and above all, brilliant.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Nancy: As BookTok’s golden child, this novel implanted ridiculously high expectations in my head. Is it good enough to be a literary classic? Definitely not. But, is it an easy and light read, perfect for getting you out of that reading slump? You bet. This doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly overhyped. I’m still baffled as to how this got 4.5 stars on GoodReads, despite the lazy writing (in places), and the weird journalist side-plot that contributed absolutely nothing to the storyline. But, sometimes all you want is a fun breezy read, and not for your brain cells to be thought-provoked. This book will do just that.
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Nancy: This novel is the OG The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It’s got the same melodrama, glitz, and glamour of 1950s Hollywood, and ensemble of predictable characters. But, hot take: it might be slightly better. Maybe it’s because it was published in the 1960s (and considered highly scandalous and edgy at the time) that makes it ever more gripping and trashy. Maybe it’s because I was waiting for the motherfucker Lyon Burke to die a horrible painful death the entire book. Either way, this soap opera of a novel continues to be a pop culture classic.
The Secret History by Donna Tart
Arela: If High School me had read this cursed text, social nightmare fuel, I would’ve been so insufferable. Absolutely no mates behaviour. This book is probably the most pretentious, litwanky, fake-deep text I have ever read. And I fucking ate it up. I would be lying if I said that I couldn’t help myself from romanticising this book even at its grimmest moments. It’s that damn compelling. This was the birth of dark academia after all, and Ms Tart’s mind was so ready for the edgy TikTok teens decades later. Even after reading about doing coke behind Burger Kings, murder, and the hints of sibling incest and cannibalism, it somehow felt fantastical because the writing was so compelling. The characters are so enigmatic and charming I felt myself being drawn deeper into their little circle of charismatic scholars. What can I say? The academic in me yearned to be part of their little club. Until it didn’t (because they, ya know, were actually god awful people). Definitely not a good read for anyone who suffers from delusions of grandeur, but actually just sits alone in lectures.
Nancy: The Secret History is a straight-up mind-fuck. It’s a complete and utter trainwreck from the start to the finish. One moment the characters will have you hurling in disgust, the next you’ll find yourself wishing you were part of their little Greek scholar gang. While this novel is on the chunkier side, Ms Tart’s insanely descriptive and enthralling writing style will have you cruising along. But, be warned, you’ll probably be obsessed over this book for days, and/or develop a serious superiority complex.