Five books worth the hype

Have you gotten caught up in the booktok or booktuber worlds?

Do you wonder which books are really worth the hype from the book influencers?

I’ve gotten back into reading a lot in the past few years. I’ve always loved reading, but haven’t always made it a priority. And I have to admit that book influencers have definitely helped me fall back in love with reading.

I love that so many people are reading more and starting conversations about books. I love how much more mainstream reading has become and that people are able to craft careers around talking about books. I think it’s a lovely gift that social media has given us.

But that being said, there are a lot of books that get hyped up but may not live up to the hype, or may not be our personal taste.

I’ve put together some of the big books that I believe are genuinely worth the hype.

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

Five books worth the booktok hype

Here’s a list of five books from booktok that I believe are worth the hype.

  1. Babel by R.F. Kuang
  2. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin\
  3. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  4. Upstream by Mary Oliver
  5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve order them from newest to oldest by publication date.

Babel (2022)

by R.F. Kuang

  • Year Published: 2022
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, fantasy, historical, literary, challenging, dark, emotional, medium-paced
  • Talks about the difficulties and nuances of translating literature

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel. The tower and its students are the world’s center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver-working—the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars—has made the British unparalleled in power, as the arcane craft serves the Empire’s quest for colonization.

For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide . . .

Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence?

Links:

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (2022)

by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Year Published: 2022
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, literary, emotional, reflective, sad, medium-paced
  • Important to note, there have been some criticisms of how the author portrays a physical disability and uses it during the story.

In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Links:

Piranesi (2020)

by Susanna Clarke

  • Year Published: 2020
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, literary, adventurous, mysterious, reflective, medium-paced
  • Winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

Links:

Upstream (2016)

by Mary Oliver

  • Year Published: 2016
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, essays, literary, nature, inspiring, reflective, relaxing, slow-paced

Comprising a selection of essays, Upstream finds beloved poet Mary Oliver reflecting on her astonishment and admiration for the natural world and the craft of writing.

As she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, finding solace and safety within the woods, and the joyful and rhythmic beating of wings, Oliver intimately shares with her readers her quiet discoveries, boundless curiosity, and exuberance for the grandeur of our world.

This radiant collection of her work, with some pieces published here for the first time, reaffirms Oliver as a passionate and prolific observer whose thoughtful meditations on spiders, writing a poem, blue fin tuna, and Ralph Waldo Emerson inspire us all to discover wonder and awe in life’s smallest corners.

Links:

The Song of Achilles (2011)

by Madeline Miller

  • Year Published: 2011
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, lgbtqia+, literary, adventurous, emotional, sad, medium-paced
  • Winner of the 2012 Orange Prize (now The Women’s Prize for Fiction)

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which booktok/booktube books you think are worth the hype. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of the book?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Why make anything if you don’t believe it could be great?

Excerpt from Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from the book Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.

When we first meet Ichigo in a cutscene at the beginning of Ichigo: A Child of the Sea, they—for Sadie and Sam conceived of Ichigo as having no gender—are a small child who knows few words and cannot read. Ichigo is sitting on the beach, by their parents’ modest seaside house, in what looks like a remote fishing village. They have a shiny black bowl haircut of the kind that an Asian child of any gender might have, and they are wearing only their favorite sports jersey (number 15), which goes to their knees like a dress, and wooden flip-flops. Ichigo is playing with a small bucket and a shovel when the tsunami hits.

Ichigo is swept out to sea, and that is where the game begins. With a limited vocabulary, their only tools that bucket and shovel, Ichigo must find their way home.

A bromide about the creative process is that an artist’s first idea is usually the best one. Ichigo was not Sam and Sadie’s first idea. It was, perhaps, their thousandth.

Herein, the difficulty. Sam and Sadie both knew what they liked in a game, and they could easily tell a good game from a bad game. For Sadie, that knowledge was not necessarily helpful. Her time with Dov and her years studying games in general had made her critical of everything. She could tell you exactly what was wrong with any game, but she didn’t necessarily know how to make a great game herself. There is a time for any fledgling artist where one’s taste exceeds one’s abilities. The only way to get through this period is to make things anyway. And it is possible that, without Sam (or someone like him) pushing her through this period, Sadie might not have become the game designer she became. She might not have become a designer at all.

Sadie knew she didn’t want to make a shooter, though, again, that was what tended to be popular. (She would never want to make a shooter—she, Dov’s student to her core, found them disgusting, immoral, and the disease of an immature society; Sam, for his part, enjoyed shooters.) And, in a summer, with only a team of two, there were limitations to what she felt they could accomplish. They weren’t trying to go for consoles, and they didn’t have the resources to make a fully 3D action game like an N64-era Zelda or a Mario anyway. The game would be for PC, and it would be 2D or 2½D, if she could swing it. For a long time, that was the extent of what she knew about their game.

In the weeks leading up to the end of the school year, Sadie and Sam brainstormed a long list of ideas on a whiteboard that Sam had stolen from the Science Center. Even with his bad foot, Sam was an accomplished thief, and he enjoyed a petty theft from time to time. He had walked into the Science Center for a goodbye meeting with Larsson. On the way out, he had seen the whiteboard unattended in a hallway, and he rolled it right out of the building, and then kept rolling it—across Harvard Yard, waving at a tour of prospective students as he passed, through Harvard Square, straight down Kennedy Street, and right up into the elevator of their building. The key to being a good thief, Sam always felt, was utter brazenness. Later in the week, he stole a pack of multicolor dry-erase markers from the Harvard Coop. He slipped them into the enormous pocket of the enormous coat that Marx had given him, and he walked right out the door.

For a long time, nothing they wrote on the whiteboard felt essential to them. They might have never made a game before. Their office might be in Sam’s rich roommate’s apartment, but they were young enough to believe that whatever they made, it could very well become a classic. As Sam often said to Sadie, “Why make anything if you don’t believe it could be great?”

It is worth noting that greatness for Sam and Sadie meant different things. To oversimplify: For Sam, greatness meant popular. For Sadie, art.

By May, with Sam’s purloined dry-erase markers already squeaky and parched, Sadie was worried that they would never settle on an idea, and that they’d run out of time to make the game. From her point of view, they were already on an incredibly, indeed impossibly, tight schedule.

They stood in front of the whiteboard, which was covered with their rainbow of brainstorms. “There’s something here, I know it,” Sam said.

“What if there’s not?” Sadie said.

“Then we’ll come up with something else,” Sam said. He grinned at Sadie.

“You have no right to be this happy,” Sadie said.

While Sadie experienced this period of indecision as stressful, Sam didn’t feel that way at all. The best part of this moment, he thought, is that everything is still possible. But then, Sam could feel that way. Sam was a decent artist and he would come to be a decent programmer and level designer, but remember, he had never made a single game before. It was Sadie who knew what it took to make a game—even a bad game—and it was Sadie who would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to the programming, the engine building, and everything else.

Sam was not a physically affectionate person—something to do with having been touched too much during his years in the hospital. But he took Sadie’s shoulders in his hands—she was a full inch taller than him—and he looked into her eyes. “Sadie,” he said. “Do you know why I want to make a game?”

“Of course. Because you foolishly think it will make you rich and famous.”

“No. It’s very simple. I want to make something that will make people happy.”

“That seems trite,” Sadie remarked.

“I don’t think it is. Do you remember when we were kids, and how much fun it used to be to spend the whole afternoon in some game world?”

“Of course,” Sadie said.

“Sometimes, I would be in so much pain. The only thing that kept me from wanting to die was the fact that I could leave my body and be in a body that worked perfectly for a while—better than perfectly, actually—with a set of problems that were not my own.”

“You couldn’t land at the top of a pole, but Mario could.”

“Exactly. I could save the princess, even when I could barely get out of bed. So, I do want to be rich and famous. I am, as you know, a bottomless pit of ambition and need. But I also want make something sweet. Something kids like us would have wanted to play to forget their troubles for a while.”

Sadie was moved by Sam’s words—in the years she had known him, he so rarely mentioned his own pain. “Okay,” she said. “Okay.”

“Good,” Sam said, as if they had settled something. “We should leave for the theater now.”

They were taking the night off to go see Marx in a student production of Twelfth Night at the mainstage of the American Repertory Theater. It was something of a big deal to be cast in the mainstage show. Since Marx was lending them the apartment for the summer, Sam had thought it would be a good idea for both of them to go.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – Summary

In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Copyright © 2022 by Gabrielle Zevin.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.