Tell Us Your TikTok Aesthetic And We’ll Tell You Your Perfect Summer Read

·10-min read

Welcome to Hot Book Summer. From books about queer joy to snappy page turners you can read in a weekend, true crime books without the violence against women to Unbothered's picks of the best books written by Black women now, R29 has got your summer reading list sorted.

For so-called geriatric millennials and even for some zillennials, TikTok’s ever-growing list of 'cores' can be a tad overwhelming. While you might have caught on to cottagecore pretty fast, the number of emerging aesthetics on the app multiplies by the day. The good news is that each new trend gives users a better chance of finding their own little corner of content to enjoy. But while so many cores relate to fashion and makeup trends, the groups also suggest lifestyle based things too, including what to read.

Crossing over with the BookTok space, there are plenty of users who mix their outward aesthetic with their literary likes. Whether it's TikTokers recommending the best reads for the angel core crew or the top novels for e-girls, there are plenty of teens taking their signature subcultures into the literary world. However, if you feel a little too old to be diving into YA fiction this summer, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve compiled a list of core-related books that reach beyond the Gen Z demographic.

For users looking for staycation reads, the highly-specified collectives stand as an easy jumping-off point for finding your new novel. From romantic tales set in the countryside to thrillers set in the future, take a look through the slideshow ahead to discover the perfect summer book to match your newfound aesthetic.

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<strong><a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@cosyfaerie/video/6897397855544282369?_d=d9510bce88cimg&language=en&sec_uid=MS4wLjABAAAADrRCaV7lLetQComTDociGNMeftI8cSXSd0wMgkrg-6KfldumJaDNOrR6BgzbzkHN&share_author_id=6795636828735521797&u_code=d9510cj7am7k0k&utm_campaign=client_share&app=musically&utm_medium=ios&user_id=6754510805893415941&tt_from=copy&utm_source=copy&source=h5_m&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Dark Academia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Dark Academia </a></strong><br><br>As it says on the tin, <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/dark-academia-aesthetic-tiktok-trend" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Dark Academia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Dark Academia</a> is known as a moody aesthetic. Championing knowledge and education above all else, the subculture lives for classic literature, elite universities, black coffee and leather-bound sketchbooks. Though it might be summer outside, the Dark Academica core want nothing more than to hide away in a dusty library, expanding their minds and escaping into a good book.
Dark Academia

As it says on the tin, Dark Academia is known as a moody aesthetic. Championing knowledge and education above all else, the subculture lives for classic literature, elite universities, black coffee and leather-bound sketchbooks. Though it might be summer outside, the Dark Academica core want nothing more than to hide away in a dusty library, expanding their minds and escaping into a good book.
We all know that boarding schools are inherently creepy, which is exactly why they're the perfect setting for dark tales of female rebellion. <br><br>In <em>Madam</em>, we meet 26-year-old Rose Christie, a classics teacher who joins the faculty at Caldonbrae Hall. Once the ancestral home of a Scottish lord, the castle is now a school for girls with a worrying emphasis on excellence. Unfamiliar with the world of the elite, Rose struggles to integrate but soon begins to win the students favour with historical literature about powerful women. However, when Rose discovers the dark truths that have been festering at Caldonbrae Hall, she has to find a way to help her class of students escape the murky fate that awaits them.<br><br><strong>Phoebe Wynne</strong> Madam, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/madam-9781529408768/9781529408720" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
We all know that boarding schools are inherently creepy, which is exactly why they're the perfect setting for dark tales of female rebellion.

In Madam, we meet 26-year-old Rose Christie, a classics teacher who joins the faculty at Caldonbrae Hall. Once the ancestral home of a Scottish lord, the castle is now a school for girls with a worrying emphasis on excellence. Unfamiliar with the world of the elite, Rose struggles to integrate but soon begins to win the students favour with historical literature about powerful women. However, when Rose discovers the dark truths that have been festering at Caldonbrae Hall, she has to find a way to help her class of students escape the murky fate that awaits them.

Phoebe Wynne Madam, $, available at bookshop.org
For lovers of Greek mythology, <em>The Maidens </em>stands as a tale of modern murders with an ancient classic twist. Following ex-Cambridge University student Mariana on her quest to find a killer, she soon becomes suspicious of a charming Greek tragedy professor named Edward Fosca. Adored by a secret society of female students (aka 'The Maidens'), Mariana is convinced that the professor must be responsible for the death of a young member. Though he has a reliable alibi, his strange interest in the tale of Persephone and her journey to the underworld makes him seem the most obvious suspect. With Mariana’s career as a therapist hanging in the balance, pursuing the case could ruin the life she worked so hard to build.<br><br><strong>Alex Michaelides</strong> The Maidens, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-maidens-the-new-thriller-from-the-author-of-the-global-bestselling-debut-the-silent-patient/9781409181668" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
For lovers of Greek mythology, The Maidens stands as a tale of modern murders with an ancient classic twist. Following ex-Cambridge University student Mariana on her quest to find a killer, she soon becomes suspicious of a charming Greek tragedy professor named Edward Fosca. Adored by a secret society of female students (aka 'The Maidens'), Mariana is convinced that the professor must be responsible for the death of a young member. Though he has a reliable alibi, his strange interest in the tale of Persephone and her journey to the underworld makes him seem the most obvious suspect. With Mariana’s career as a therapist hanging in the balance, pursuing the case could ruin the life she worked so hard to build.

Alex Michaelides The Maidens, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong><a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@voxaphrodite/video/6797440509263514886?lang=en&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Cottagecore" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Cottagecore</a></strong><br><br>Perhaps the most famous of the internet aesthetics, Cottagecore has made a name for itself as one of the most romantic subcultures. Based on rural lifestyle, the aesthetic is all about hosting decadent picnics in fields full of flowers and knitting blankets in front of a roaring fireplace<em>. </em>Cottagecore is cosy, woodsy and oftentimes nostalgic, combining a love of simpler times with an escapist dreamworld.
Cottagecore

Perhaps the most famous of the internet aesthetics, Cottagecore has made a name for itself as one of the most romantic subcultures. Based on rural lifestyle, the aesthetic is all about hosting decadent picnics in fields full of flowers and knitting blankets in front of a roaring fireplace. Cottagecore is cosy, woodsy and oftentimes nostalgic, combining a love of simpler times with an escapist dreamworld.
While the front cover of this book might look like something you’d find in a retirement home, the content is cottagecore in a nutshell. <br><br>Set in 1906, the story follows Lady “Libby” Sinclair as she flees to the Isles of Scilly for the summer to avoid the judgment of her high society peers. As a lover of the natural world, Libby hopes to spend the summer exploring the landscape with her microscope. However, once she arrives, she learns that the woman named Beth who previously occupied the holiday cottage has vanished without a trace. Teaming up with Beth’s brother to help solve the mystery, the pair search the islands in hope of finding answers, local legends and a whole lot of love along the way. <br><br><strong>Roseanna M White</strong> The Nature of a Lady, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-nature-of-a-lady/9780764237188" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
While the front cover of this book might look like something you’d find in a retirement home, the content is cottagecore in a nutshell.

Set in 1906, the story follows Lady “Libby” Sinclair as she flees to the Isles of Scilly for the summer to avoid the judgment of her high society peers. As a lover of the natural world, Libby hopes to spend the summer exploring the landscape with her microscope. However, once she arrives, she learns that the woman named Beth who previously occupied the holiday cottage has vanished without a trace. Teaming up with Beth’s brother to help solve the mystery, the pair search the islands in hope of finding answers, local legends and a whole lot of love along the way.

Roseanna M White The Nature of a Lady, $, available at bookshop.org
Though cottagecore books should arguably include a cottage, this period piece feels like it fits within the <em>Little Women</em>-style Americana aesthetic. <br><br>Set in Charleston, South Carolina in 1929, the story follows a water colourist named Eliza who falls in love with the man who is hired to forge (gasp!) her paintings. Unfortunately, the pair are majorly judged for their romantic feelings due to an ongoing interfamily feud over a piece of missing jewellery. <br><br>Fast forward to modern-day and the heirloom silver is discovered by a young woman when she inherits a house, meaning case closed, right? But when a property developer threatens to take the home and its assets from the young woman, the story begins to connect to the past.<br><br><strong>Ashley Clark</strong> Paint and Nectar, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/paint-and-nectar/9780764237614" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Though cottagecore books should arguably include a cottage, this period piece feels like it fits within the Little Women-style Americana aesthetic.

Set in Charleston, South Carolina in 1929, the story follows a water colourist named Eliza who falls in love with the man who is hired to forge (gasp!) her paintings. Unfortunately, the pair are majorly judged for their romantic feelings due to an ongoing interfamily feud over a piece of missing jewellery.

Fast forward to modern-day and the heirloom silver is discovered by a young woman when she inherits a house, meaning case closed, right? But when a property developer threatens to take the home and its assets from the young woman, the story begins to connect to the past.

Ashley Clark Paint and Nectar, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong><a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@pinterest.fashion._/video/6967042066195057926?lang=en&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Coconut Girl" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Coconut Girl</a></strong><br><br>The newest member of TikTok's aesthetic gang is the Coconut Girl. Described as a lover of 00s nostalgia and relaxed surfer style, the core is beach culture bottled. She lives for beaded bracelets and likely has a tattoo of an ethereal looking <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/blonde-hair-blue-color-transformation-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:mermaid" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">mermaid</a>. Sitting somewhat adjacent to the VSCO subculture, Coconut Girl's book taste matches her endless summer vibes.
Coconut Girl

The newest member of TikTok's aesthetic gang is the Coconut Girl. Described as a lover of 00s nostalgia and relaxed surfer style, the core is beach culture bottled. She lives for beaded bracelets and likely has a tattoo of an ethereal looking mermaid. Sitting somewhat adjacent to the VSCO subculture, Coconut Girl's book taste matches her endless summer vibes.
At a time when our summer plans mostly involve things close to home, this story set on an imaginary Caribbean island is the perfect escapist read. <br><br>Set in 1976, the story takes place in a tiny village on the isle of Black Conch. David, a fisherman sits singing on the shore but his heavenly singing voice attracts the attention of someone he never expected. Bubbling up from the ocean’s surface comes Aycayia, a young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid forever. Having swum the local seas for many years, Aycayia and David begin an unlikely friendship. For those in search of a modern-day <em>Splash</em>, this story of man-meets-mermaid ticks all the right boxes.<br><br><strong>Monique Roffey</strong> The Mermaid of Black Conch, $, available at <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mermaid-Black-Conch-Winner-Costa/dp/1529115493/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Amazon" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Amazon</a>
At a time when our summer plans mostly involve things close to home, this story set on an imaginary Caribbean island is the perfect escapist read.

Set in 1976, the story takes place in a tiny village on the isle of Black Conch. David, a fisherman sits singing on the shore but his heavenly singing voice attracts the attention of someone he never expected. Bubbling up from the ocean’s surface comes Aycayia, a young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid forever. Having swum the local seas for many years, Aycayia and David begin an unlikely friendship. For those in search of a modern-day Splash, this story of man-meets-mermaid ticks all the right boxes.

Monique Roffey The Mermaid of Black Conch, $, available at Amazon
If anyone is reading the beach book of the summer, it's Coconut Girl. Straight from the author of <em>Daisy Jones & The Six</em>, <em>Malibu Rising</em> tells the tale of one woman's notorious end of the season party. Set in 1983, the story follows surfer and supermodel Nina Riva and her siblings, as they navigate life as children of a famous singer. Having just left her tennis pro husband, Nina is dreading the annual end of summer soiree, but so are other family members who have secrets of their own. As the tension builds, the party begins to lose control, resulting in a disastrous fire. But with the Malibu elite to impress, the Rivas have to try and keep things under control. <br><br><strong>Taylor Jenkins Reid</strong> Malibu Rising, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/malibu-rising-the-new-novel-from-the-bestselling-author-of-daisy-jones-the-six/9781786331526" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
If anyone is reading the beach book of the summer, it's Coconut Girl. Straight from the author of Daisy Jones & The Six, Malibu Rising tells the tale of one woman's notorious end of the season party. Set in 1983, the story follows surfer and supermodel Nina Riva and her siblings, as they navigate life as children of a famous singer. Having just left her tennis pro husband, Nina is dreading the annual end of summer soiree, but so are other family members who have secrets of their own. As the tension builds, the party begins to lose control, resulting in a disastrous fire. But with the Malibu elite to impress, the Rivas have to try and keep things under control.

Taylor Jenkins Reid Malibu Rising, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong><a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@demi.potemans/video/6947325672759069957?lang=en&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Fantasy Core" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Fantasy Core</a></strong><br><br>Though similar in style to Cottagecore, the Fantasy aesthetic makes its mark as the most magical of the subcultures. Combining a love of classic fairytale narratives and faraway worlds, those who find solace in this core love anything to do with mystic rivers, cursed castles and people with secret powers. However, the aesthetic also includes dystopian worlds, with some preferring the stories of far off futures and technologically advanced societies.
Fantasy Core

Though similar in style to Cottagecore, the Fantasy aesthetic makes its mark as the most magical of the subcultures. Combining a love of classic fairytale narratives and faraway worlds, those who find solace in this core love anything to do with mystic rivers, cursed castles and people with secret powers. However, the aesthetic also includes dystopian worlds, with some preferring the stories of far off futures and technologically advanced societies.
While the title of this novel might feel a bit on the nose, trust us when we say this story goes far beyond the origins of <em>Little Red Riding Hood.</em> As the second-born daughter in her kingdom, Red has spent her entire life knowing she would be sacrificed to the wolf in the woods. While the firstborn daughter adopts the throne, the second must face a gruesome fate in order to bring back the spirit of an ancient god. Living with concealed powers that she can't control, Red believes that sacrificing herself is the right thing to do. But when she finds out the local wolf is in fact a human man, it's up to her to learn how to use her magic and take control of her own life.<br><br><strong>Hannah Whitten</strong> For the Wolf, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/for-the-wolf/9780356516363" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
While the title of this novel might feel a bit on the nose, trust us when we say this story goes far beyond the origins of Little Red Riding Hood. As the second-born daughter in her kingdom, Red has spent her entire life knowing she would be sacrificed to the wolf in the woods. While the firstborn daughter adopts the throne, the second must face a gruesome fate in order to bring back the spirit of an ancient god. Living with concealed powers that she can't control, Red believes that sacrificing herself is the right thing to do. But when she finds out the local wolf is in fact a human man, it's up to her to learn how to use her magic and take control of her own life.

Hannah Whitten For the Wolf, $, available at bookshop.org
Now translated into English for our reading pleasure, Yan Ge’s <em>Strange Beasts Of China </em>follows the life of a cryptozoologist and her former professor as they attempt to learn more about a group of creatures. Set in the fictional city of Yong’an, here, beasts live alongside humans, sharing the good and bad of modern urban living. With some beasts artificially engineered and some that of old folklore, the two main characters set out to document each individual creature for their own interest. But while the cryptozoologist hopes to learn more about the beast's existence, it soon becomes clear that she may unravel a mystery surrounding herself too. Discussing environmentalism, our relationship with sentient beings and ancient mythology, this obscure read says a whole lot about the state of our modern world. <br><br><strong>Yan Ge</strong> Strange Beasts of China, $, available at <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strange-Beasts-China-Yan-Ge/dp/1612199097" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Amazon" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Amazon</a>
Now translated into English for our reading pleasure, Yan Ge’s Strange Beasts Of China follows the life of a cryptozoologist and her former professor as they attempt to learn more about a group of creatures. Set in the fictional city of Yong’an, here, beasts live alongside humans, sharing the good and bad of modern urban living. With some beasts artificially engineered and some that of old folklore, the two main characters set out to document each individual creature for their own interest. But while the cryptozoologist hopes to learn more about the beast's existence, it soon becomes clear that she may unravel a mystery surrounding herself too. Discussing environmentalism, our relationship with sentient beings and ancient mythology, this obscure read says a whole lot about the state of our modern world.

Yan Ge Strange Beasts of China, $, available at Amazon
<strong><a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@vivianvixiv/video/6911859385652301061?lang=en&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Gothic Core" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Gothic Core</a></strong><br><br>The older, grittier sister of Dark Academia, the gothic core loves nothing more than tales that will send a chill down your spine. While many of the most known stories involve a nod to the paranormal, there are also plenty of period pieces containing old-timey folklore, witches and mysterious murders. But while fables often make up the meat of the genre, there are also plenty of historical stories too, with many modern gothic reads taking inspiration from real-life acts of horror.
Gothic Core

The older, grittier sister of Dark Academia, the gothic core loves nothing more than tales that will send a chill down your spine. While many of the most known stories involve a nod to the paranormal, there are also plenty of period pieces containing old-timey folklore, witches and mysterious murders. But while fables often make up the meat of the genre, there are also plenty of historical stories too, with many modern gothic reads taking inspiration from real-life acts of horror.
Is there anything more gothic than the persecution of witches? We think not. Set during the plague and a hundred-year-long war, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is A Witc centres around a local widow named <br>Katherina Kepley. Somewhat of an old-timey Karen, Katherina likes to boast about her successful mathematician son and involve herself in everyone's business. However, one day Katherina is faced with a vicious rumour about herself; that she fed a witch's brew to a woman named Ursula. Threatening to ruin her life, Katherina and her son must defend her name or face execution. <br><br><strong>Rivka Galchen</strong> Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/everyone-knows-your-mother-is-a-witch/9780007548736" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Is there anything more gothic than the persecution of witches? We think not. Set during the plague and a hundred-year-long war, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is A Witc centres around a local widow named
Katherina Kepley. Somewhat of an old-timey Karen, Katherina likes to boast about her successful mathematician son and involve herself in everyone's business. However, one day Katherina is faced with a vicious rumour about herself; that she fed a witch's brew to a woman named Ursula. Threatening to ruin her life, Katherina and her son must defend her name or face execution.

Rivka Galchen Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, $, available at bookshop.org
Combining a dark, fictional world with real-life horrors, <em>Sorrowland </em>brings gothic literature into a whole new light. Telling the story of Vern and her ostracised life in the woods, her existence surrounds protecting her two young children from the outside world. But when she feels that her body is starting to change without her control, she has to go back to the religious compound she ran away from to get answers. With a terrifying history of medical experiments and genocide, Vern has to unravel the compound’s terrifying past, discovering that the nightmares are far more systematic than she ever realised. <br><br><strong>Rivers Soloman</strong> Sorrowland, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/1608506589_sorrowland/9781529118735" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Combining a dark, fictional world with real-life horrors, Sorrowland brings gothic literature into a whole new light. Telling the story of Vern and her ostracised life in the woods, her existence surrounds protecting her two young children from the outside world. But when she feels that her body is starting to change without her control, she has to go back to the religious compound she ran away from to get answers. With a terrifying history of medical experiments and genocide, Vern has to unravel the compound’s terrifying past, discovering that the nightmares are far more systematic than she ever realised.

Rivers Soloman Sorrowland, $, available at bookshop.org

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