Imagine your favorite place to curl up with a book. What does it feel like? Comfortable and inviting, right? It’s probably full of pillows, cozy blankets, and maybe even a cup of tea. Now take that feeling, and put it online.
I don’t even remember how I first discovered Bookstagram, the community of book-loving users on Instagram who regularly share their recent reads and literary passions with thousands of followers, but I'm so grateful that I did. I created my account this past summer, choosing the name Book Blessings, thinking it sounded cute and literary. I searched through hashtags like #IGReads and #Bookstagram to find other users whose photos I enjoyed. I posted my first photo, a shot of my bookshelf, and tagged it #Shelfie.
I shortly discovered that the community was much more than just accounts sharing photos of books they enjoy. There are users who have tens of thousands of followers who represent brands and Etsy shops that sell a variety of literary merchandise like candles, bookmarks, and literary subscription boxes. The community is made up of book lovers of all ages, genders, sexualities, and ethnicities. I have made friends in the Bookstagram community in countries as far as the Philippines, Afghanistan, France, and Brazil.
The community prides itself on being accepting to all users—big accounts will regularly acknowledge smaller ones in “shout-out sessions,” as well as in conversations via Instagram’s DM system. The community is full of giveaways, Q&A tags, and daily challenges that encourage group participation. Users curate their feeds by posting photos with a similar aesthetic vibe—be it color, subject matter, shot framing, or filter—and often take their photos using high-quality cameras (though many large accounts still boast that their photos are all shot on their phones). The community is essentially a fandom of readers—Sign me the frick up, was my first thought when I discovered it.
Through Instagram Stories, users announce new content and post videos of themselves unboxing “bookmail,” books and literary merch they’ve ordered online. If you thought a beauty haul was satisfying, wait until you watch a book haul. The crackling paper, the rustling pages, the comforting lighting of a bedroom miles away—it's heaven.
The community also comes together when there are author controversies, discussing everything from book cover announcements to representation of POC and the LGBTQI+ community in new releases. Recently author Sarah J. Maas, of the popular series Throne of Glass, has been under fire for lack of POC representation in her novels and use of POC characters to further the plots of white characters. I saw probably 20 or so posts discussing this, with productive and progressive conversations taking place in the comments section. In the film community, we often see problematic authors and directors glorified regardless of their actions (see: current Academy Award nominations). In the book community, users care about the representation and diversity of their novels, and actively denounce novels and books that don’t offer fair portrayals of race. I even discovered that one of my favorite young adult novels, Eleanor & Park, had some issues in terms of race that I didn’t notice while reading.
I have been a part of the community for around six months now, and I have already had some incredible conversations and made interesting friends around the world. The community is warm, welcoming, and a place for positivity. You won’t find rude or negative comments on the posts of Bookstagrammers. The atmosphere is kind and fun—it’s essentially a bunch of book nerds (myself included) fangirling about books.
Bookstagram has become an online safe haven for me. When political or personal stress starts taking over, I know that I can login to my book account and see gorgeous photos and hear about what people are doing all over the world. The positive global community is something that makes Bookstagram very unique. I can log in at any time of day (or night) and know that someone will be awake and there will be book unboxings or book-themed candle reviews that I can flick through on Instagram Stories.
During times like these, it’s especially important that we make time to understand those around us. Bookstagram is a place where all people are welcome and supported. People talk openly not only about their recent reads, but about their mental health issues, life experiences, and academic struggles. It’s an escapist community constructed by fiction and fantasy lovers. We’ve built our own world, our own escape, based on the books we love that get us through it all. But rather than isolating ourselves, we’ve reached out to others. The Bookstagram community is growing together. Neil Gaiman said that “a book is a dream you hold in your hand,” and the Bookstagram community is just that. It’s shared loves, laughs, dreams, and struggles, all set in a digital landscape. The pretty pictures don't hurt either.