“Physical books and libraries are becoming increasingly popular among gen Z, with many finding reading to be an attractive and appealing activity.”
They have killed skinny jeans and continue to shame millennials for having side partings in their hair. They think using the crying tears emoji to express laughter is embarrassing. But now comes a surprising gen Z plot twist. One habit that those born between 1997 and 2012 are keen to endorse is reading – and it’s physical books rather than digital that they are thumbing.
This week, 22-year-old Kaia Gerber, a model, started her own book club called Library Science. Gerber, who is featured on the cover of British Vogue with her supermodel mother Cindy Crawford this month, created the club as a way to share books, showcase emerging writers, and have discussions with artists she admires. She hopes to bring together a community of people who share her passion for literature.
“Books have been my greatest love,” she expressed. “Reading is incredibly alluring.”
Gerber is not the only one. In the UK, a record-breaking 669 million physical books were sold last year. According to research from Nielsen BookData, print books are the preferred choice for gen Z, making up 80% of their purchases from November 2021 to 2022. Libraries have also seen an increase in gen Z visitors who prefer their quiet atmosphere over noisy coffee shops. In-person visits to UK libraries have risen by 71%.
The BookTok charts, a section of TikTok where passionate readers share book suggestions, often feature popular fantasy and romance books by authors like Colleen Hoover. However, the younger generation, known as gen Z, are also exploring a wide variety of genres in their reading choices.
“The world of books for Generation Z is extensive,” states Hali Brown, one of the 28-year-old creators of Books on the Bedside, a well-known TikTok page focused on the reading preferences of this age group. Brown adds, “There is a high level of admiration for literary works, memoirs, translated fiction, and classic literature in particular.”
Gerber’s first literary guest was the Iranian-American writer Kaveh Akbar, who joined the model on a video call to discuss his debut novel, Martyr! On the Library Science site, a curated collection of recommended reads include Joan Didion and Jia Tolentino.
According to Brown, there is a subculture among Gen Z book enthusiasts known as “hot girl books” or “sad girl books.” These types of books typically fall into the genres of literary fiction and memoir and center around themes of girlhood or womanhood.
Kendall Jenner, a 28-year-old model, gained attention as the leading figure of the recently formed “Lit Girls’ Club” after being photographed on a yacht in 2019 near the French Riviera. In the photo, she can be seen reading Tonight I’m Someone Else, a book of essays by Chelsea Hodson reflecting on the dehumanization and commercialization of the human body. Jenner’s personal copy was adorned with green Post-it notes.
She was captured by a pool in southern France, reading Darcie Wilder’s book Literally Show Me a Healthy Person, which delves into the subjects of grief and anxiety. She was also seen with Miranda July’s collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You. After the photos were released, both Hodson’s and Wilder’s books quickly sold out on Amazon within one day.
According to Abigail Bergstrom, an author and literary agent, there is a growing trend towards seeking escapism through speculative fiction, romance, and fantasy. However, it would be incorrect to generalize and assume that all members of Generation Z are only interested in lighter reading material. In fact, due to the overwhelming amount of information and distractions in the digital world, this generation is also expecting a higher level of quality and credibility from writers who specialize in specific subjects.
The genre of “sad girl” is not restricted to only moody women. Singer Harry Styles has been seen with a book by Didion, while actors Timothée Chalamet (28) and Jacob Elordi (26) have been given the nickname “Brontë Bros” for their reading habits. Chalamet has mentioned Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment as one of his favorite books, and last October, Elordi was spotted carrying a copy of Prima Facie, a novel inspired by Suzie Miller’s play about sexual assault and the justice system.
Following the release of Jenner and Elordi’s photos, there was a widespread discussion online suggesting that we had transitioned into a time of insincere reading. Additionally, social media accounts frequently mock readers of books from the independent publishing company Fitzcarraldo Editions, which are recognized for their uniform Yves Klein-blue covers.
Brown expresses her distaste for this form of communication. She believes that if individuals have a shared interest in reading, they should not be discouraged because of their appearance or popularity on the internet. Book clubs suggest that these are books they would like to delve into with a group of similar-minded individuals, which is always beneficial. If it encourages more people to read, then it is a positive thing.
Literary merchandise approved by Generation Z.
“Get your hands on the trendy T-shirt featuring Kaia Gerber, available at McNally Jackson Books for £28.56. Show off your love for books and add a stylish touch to your outfit by carrying one with you. Shop now at https://www.bonfire.com/if-you-love-me-navy/.”
Baseball cap, £27, The Paris Review https://store.theparisreview.org/collections/accessories/products/baseball-cap-in-forest-green. The model and author Emily Ratajkowski has endorsed this hat from the legendary literary magazine.
A tote bag from Minor Canon, featuring a print of Renata Adler’s “Speedboat” novel, costs £19. This tote bag is similar to the popular canvas carrier from Daunt Books, but with a gen Z twist as it showcases works from renowned deceased authors. You can purchase this tote bag on Minor Canon’s website.