According to NPD Bookscan, in 2021, 825 million copies of print books were purchased, the most in any year since 2004 when the company started keeping track. Thanks again to NPD Bookscan, we also know that book sales were up 9% over 2021 (67 million more copies sold than 2020, 125 million more copies sold than 2019). Two possible reasons why? First, the Covid-19 pandemic. People stayed home, and while a lot of people binged EVERYTHING on Netflix, many more binged on books. Second, TIKTOK. Seriously. Social media, especially TikTok, is thought to be responsible for such an increase in people buying and reading more books. Go to your local bookstore. There’s a very good chance they’ll have a section dedicated to “Popular on TikTok”. And it’s not just new titles. Once one book becomes popular, that lucky author’s entire back catalog suddenly becomes a hot commodity. So let’s talk about some of the strong women you can currently find both on #booktok and in our library.
In France of 1714, there aren’t a lot of options for young women. It’s pretty much get married and get out of your parents’ house (and off their bankroll). Addie LaRue is 23 years old, which is actually pretty old to be engaged for the first time. But this isn’t because she has been picky about waiting for Mr. Right. It’s because she didn’t want to marry at all. She dreamed of a life in Paris, she dreamed of freedom to live as she chooses. Instead, she finds herself about to marry a man she does not love. Much older than her, he already has children and will no doubt expect more. Estelle, a local village woman who believes in the old gods, encourages Addie to pray to those old gods for salvation but warns her, “Never pray to the gods that answer after dark”. Finally, desperate as she is on the way to her early evening wedding, she reaches out into the darkness…and someone (something?) answers. A deal is struck, with Addie asking for “…time without limit…freedom without rule”. She gets exactly that, but with a twist she never expected. She can now live forever, with only herself to answer to, but no one will ever remember she existed. If she meets someone more than once, for them it’s as if they are meeting for the first time. Addie remembers everyone and everything, but no one remembers her. Until…New York City, 2014. A tiny used bookstore. A man named Henry. Three simple words – “I remember you.” Who is Henry and why does he not forget Addie? Will Luc, the old god that granted her desperate wish, allow her to enjoy this unexpected joy? This was an exciting read that left me wondering what deal I would make with the old gods, and how could it backfire on me?
Oh the questions this book sparked! Emira Tucker, a young African American woman, works PT as a babysitter for Alix Chamberlain, a successful white woman. One night, Emira gets an unexpected late night request to babysit two-year-old Briar for just a little bit while Alix and her husband deal with an incident involving a rock and their front window. Emira takes the toddler to one of her favorite places, the gourmet market down the street. But everything goes horribly wrong when another shopper, a white woman, accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar. Security is involved, cellphone footage is filmed, and everything is only resolved when Emira calls Briar’s white father who quickly comes to the store to clear everything up. Alix is mortified at Emira’s experience and privately vows to make her life better, giving her gifts, a more better pay, and even her friendship (SO GENEROUS!). But to Emira, Alix is just her boss. Everything begins to spiral out of control when the cellphone footage of her store encounter (which only existed in Emira’s email) unexpectedly surfaces and goes viral. Emira didn’t leak it, so who did? And why? This is a fantastic novel that turns into a thriller, examining race relations and personal accountability. Pick up Such a Fun Age today!
Meet Nora Seed. She just killed herself. Almost. Having decided that her life does not matter to anyone, she makes the drastic decision to take too many pills and leave this mortal coil. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up in a library. The biggest library she’s ever seen. And there’s the beloved librarian from her childhood. Now imagine her even greater surprise when she discovers that this entire library is devoted to … her. To her life, or better stated, to her lives. To all the lives she could have lived had she made different decisions. And we’re not only talking about giant “should I get married or not” type of decisions. She learns that even simple ones like “I should buy the blue toothbrush” seriously impacted the life she ultimately could have led. Mrs. Elm, the librarian, explains how each book represents one of the lives Nora didn’t choose. All Nora needs to do is open a book and she immediately begins living that life right at the age she is now. If that’s the right life for her, she stays. If not, she wakes back up in the library. But she can’t just keep trying on lives forever. Eventually, she’ll have to make a choice: to live one of those lives, or to allow all of them to end. The Midnight Library will have you thinking about those paths you didn’t choose and the lives they could have led you to.
Finally, in a great example of the power of TikTok, there is Circe, a book which was published in 2018, but which found itself selling out in bookstores last year around the country thanks to its popularity on the app. An adaptation of multiple Greek myths, especially The Odyssey, this story is told from the perspective of the witch Circe. She interacts with such figures as the Minotaur, Hermes, Jason and Medea, and ultimately becomes romantically involved with Odysseus and also his son Telemachus. Madeline Miller, the author of Circe, was widely praised for her feminist take on the Greek myths, especially as the book was published during the rise of the Me Too movement.
Circe, daughter of a god and a nymph, feels out of place in the world of the immortals. She turns to mortals for companionship, and in doing so finds that she does possess power. Zeus, threatened by a powerful woman, responds by banishing her to a deserted island, where she only becomes more powerful. But even as her power grows, so too does danger for a woman such as Circe. Ultimately, she must decide whether she belongs with the gods, or with the mortals. This is an unforgettable tale of a woman who refuses to minimize her strength and power in a man’s world.
So, have you read of these books because you saw it on TikTok? Did you read something else? Let us know in the comments!