by Michelle Z.
If you, like me, are a woman anywhere between 15 and 35 on TikTok, you’ve probably been targeted with the “Hot Girl BookTok” videos. This is the Sally Rooney, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Glossier Balm Dot Com crowd. You’ll recognize them carrying a tote bag and wearing Mejuri earrings, sipping a lavender oat milk latte. Ask them what they’re reading and invariably it’ll be some form of a depressed 20-something woman contemplating life, love, and sex.
Hitting a little too close to home? Already exhausted your list of Joan Didion and Kathy Acker titles? Here are some 2022 titles that are sure to make an appearance on Hot Girl BookTok.
Vladimir – Julia May Jonas
Pub date: February 1, 2022
Cover hotness: 5/10. It’s a man. A hot man, but still a man.
Book hotness: 6/10. There’s some female gaze ogling, which is fun, but the intellectualizing of sexual politics makes it more thinky than feely.
Sharp-witted and darkly funny, Vladimir reads like if Emma Cline wrote Trust Exercise. The protagonist is a 58-year-old professor at a small liberal arts college who has to deal with the fallout of her husband getting #MeToo-ed, while also harboring a crush on a newcomer at the school named – you guessed it – Vladimir. But don’t be fooled by the cover; this is more brainy than sexy, and even the sexy parts are tinged with nuanced observations of sexual politics and desire. Lily King (Writers & Lovers, Euphoria) says it’s “a thrilling debut—smart, sharp, and über provocative. I devoured it with fascination and awe.”
A Very Nice Girl – Imogen Crimp
Pub date: February 8, 2022
Cover hotness: 7/10. Legs! Women’s legs! (But in a SFW way.)
Book hotness: 8/10. The older-man-younger-woman trope + intensity of the artistic competition at the opera house make this book prettttty steamy.
If you liked Luster but wished it was lighter in tone, this might be the book for you. There’s all the same drama of the older-man-younger-woman relationship and struggling artist plotlines, but the protagonist is an opera singer at the London Conservatory fighting to compete at the same level as her wealthier classmates. Class commentary, dry humor, clingy friends – all the hallmarks of a Hot Girl book. Meg Mason (Sorrow and Bliss) calls it: “Tender, devastating, witty. And deeply true. Sweetbitter meets Normal People.”
Pure Colour – Sheila Heti
Pub date: February 15, 2022
Cover hotness: 10/10. The ultimate Hot Girl form: a misshapen blob in a vibrant shade of grass green.
Book hotness: 8/10. Meditations on life and love and art? Definitely hot. Minus two points for talking about the death of a father, which we can all respectfully agree is not hot.
Sheila Heti is the Sally Rooney for girls whose Taylor Swift is Fiona Apple. (If that made your head spin, I’m sorry – but it makes sense!) This pick is a little more experimental than Hot Girl BookTok tends to lean, but Heti’s writing is so addictive that I don’t think it even matters. At one point a character turns into a leaf that also houses the soul of her dead father, and it’s not even weird – in fact, it’s kind of beautiful. If you don’t listen to me, listen to indie rock musician & resident Hot Girl Lucy Dacus on her Goodreads review: “I have pestered many people into reading How Should A Person Be? and Motherhood, and I’m about to be so annoying about this one as well.”
Out There – Kate Folk
Pub date: March 29, 2022
Cover hotness: 2/10. I love this book but the cover feels like a tech conference presentation on UX design.
Book hotness: 5/10. The stories are more creepy and sad than sexy, even during the sex scenes – which makes it perfect for the jaded, cynical Hot Girls out there.
This debut collection of short stories is perfect for fans of Carmen Maria Machado and Black Mirror, in that they’re all about being human in the worst ways. Inside you’ll find sentient & sinister houses, Tinder bots come to life, morbidly dissatisfied wives, the last woman on earth (and still dealing with misogyny), a sleepwalking boyfriend who brings increasingly weirder things back to bed, sadomasochistic family gatherings, and oh god so much more. I love love loved every story in this collection, and so did Kelly Link (Get In Trouble): “An assortment of stories so sharp and ingenious you may cut yourself on them while reading… Goes onto my shelf of favorite collections.”
Terminal Boredom – Izumi Suzuki
Pub date: April 20, 2021
Cover hotness: 9/10. Suzuki herself serves as the model for the cover – major Hot Girl vibes.
Book hotness: 7/10, because every Hot Girl wants to date sexy extraterrestrial beings.
“There is something wrong with our present society, and I can’t stand SF written by people who don’t understand that.” So spoke Izumi Suzuki, who wrote the stories of Terminal Boredom in the late 1970s before her death in 1986; this is the first English translation of her work. A novelist and actor, she broke into the “boys club” of the sci fi scene at a time when gender politics were (and still are) tricky to traverse in Japan. And despite the presence of aliens and interplanetary travel, the stories of Terminal Boredom are rooted in the reality of stark gender divides, murky sexual relationships, and mental health. Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic) calls it “a historical capsule and an interesting mirror to the American science fiction of the [1970s].”
Acts of Service – Lillian Fishman
Pub date: May 3, 2022
Cover hotness: 10/10. SPICY.
Book hotness: 10/10. SPICYYYYYY.
This one might be my top pick for Hot Girl Book of the year. A queer woman in Brooklyn posts her nudes online, leading her to meet a woman named Olivia – and through Olivia, a man called Nathan. The three enter into a messy, whirlwind relationship that tests all the boundaries of coercion and consent. It’s in these murky grey areas that Lillian Fishman’s writing thrives, asking readers: How much of sex is said out loud, and what does it mean when it’s not? Raven Leilani (Luster) raves: “Acts of Service doesn’t kiss you first, it gets right to it—depicting the liquid frequencies of need and power with a thoughtful, savage eye.”
Cult Classic – Sloane Crosley
Pub date: June 7, 2022
Cover hotness: 6/10 for the sexy font and Chinatown lanterns.
Book hotness: 6/10 because exes are both sexy and unsexy.
Taking cues from the misanthropic cynicism of Halle Butler and Ottessa Moshfegh, Sloane Crosley’s novel considers every serial dater’s worst nightmare: What if you kept running into your exes? Like, to the point that it can’t possibly be a coincidence? This is the book for the girls who can’t stop swiping on Tinder even though they hate it. The jaded millennial workaholics who are all too familiar with weeknight happy hours. The ones who still stalk their ex on Instagram every few months (okay, weeks). Elif Batuman (The Idiot) calls it “the witty, improbably propulsive rom-com you didn’t know you were waiting for.”
Bad Thoughts – Nada Alic
Pub date: July 12, 2022
Cover hotness: 9/10. I’m a slut for some ambient moody ellipses.
Book hotness: 5/10. Like Out There, these stories are for the irreverent, cynical Hot Girls.
The women in Nada Alic’s debut collection of short stories are reality TV contestants, jaded girlfriends, East-meets-West hippies, immigrant daughters, bad sisters, and more of the lost and lonely variety. You don’t really like any of these people, but that’s beside the point: they’re funny in a sad relatable way, like when a character admits they fart sometimes out of nervousness or fear. T. Kira Madden (Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls) says this book is “lit up with the perception, wit, and cunning of Miranda July and Sally Rooney.” (Everyone’s favorite Hot Girl authors!)
All This Could Be Different – Sarah Thankam Mathews
Pub date: August 2, 2022
Cover hotness: 8/10. Diversity? Super hot.
Book hotness: 10/10. I wasn’t expecting it, but this is one steaaaamy WLW book. (Also, immigrant perspectives on late-stage capitalism? HOT!)
I’ve been looking for this book for a long time: a sensual, sharp, modern bildungsroman that actually captures the spirit of the Asian American immigrant experience. It’s frank. It’s funny. It’s honest without being trauma porny. It has texting that doesn’t try too hard to be “relatable” but definitely sounds like how I text my millennial/Gen Z cusp friends. And it’s super gay! Susan Choi (Trust Exercise) says: “Some books are merely luminous—this one is iridescent: with joy and pain, isolation and communion, solemnity and irreverent humor.”