Book Terms for Newbies | The Secret Language of the Online Book World

Welcome Book Lovers & Bookworms!

If you’d prefer to listen to this review, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I thought this would be a fun episode to make. If you’re new to the online book community or thinking about joining, there is a whole bookish language that is spoken. It almost feels like a coded vocabulary that’s only used by members of a secret society. Being a newbie myself, I had no idea about this secret language when I joined. I’ve definitely felt lost and confused when coming across these strange terms and not knowing what they mean. 

But, as I’ve immersed myself into this community and have been part of it now for a couple of months, I’m getting the hang of this exclusive terminology. And it does feel exclusive to this group of people because I don’t hear anyone outside of the group using these terms or speaking this way. However, I am still learning as I continue this journey through the online book world, and I probably don’t know everything yet. I still have to look up words or terms here and there, but I feel pretty confident that I know most of the common terms used. 

Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to put a list together of bookish terms to assist others that may also be new or who are considering joining this engaging, nerdy, reading-loving world.

Social Book Communities

Before we dive in, I just wanted to share the three big social media book communities in case anyone wanted to join those:

  • On YouTube, it’s called BookTube
  • On TikTok, it’s called BookTok
  • On Instagram, it’s called Bookstagram

Bookstagram is where I’ve chosen to set up shop. So if you’re on Instagram, I’d love for you to follow me.  I don’t post only about books, but it is heavily focused on reading and books. I also love to dabble in Canva and make fun graphics and scenes.

So basically, on all these platforms, you’ll find exclusively book-related content – from gorgeous pictures of books to book reviews to book rants to book challenges, book clubs, read-a-thons, and more. If you can think of it relating to books or reading, then you’ll probably find it there. 

For me personally, since joining Bookstagram my growth has been slow, but I think that’s more of an algorithm thing, but the community seems really nice and supportive. I know some communities out on the internet can be nasty and cruel to each other, but so far, it seems pretty positive. I get good vibes from people. I read comments on posts, and I’ve never read a nasty comment or an argument break out between people.

It also seems to be mostly women. So if you’re looking for more digital female friends that also love books and some of your same interests, this is a great resource for you. 

Okay, so here is the glossary of book terms in alphabetical order:

Glossary of Book Terms

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy (also known as a galley): Reads can receive a free book from a publisher before the book is published. Usually, it’s not finished yet, but it’s almost complete, so you can expect typos, some plot elements to change, and a lack of binding or formatting. Basically, it’s a book still in the works, but they want to get early reviews and hype around it. When there’s a lot of buzz surrounding an anticipated release, it helps with the launch and makes for stronger sales of the book in the beginning and over its lifetime. 

Usually, they are given to professional reviewers and book bloggers or book influencers on social media (the three I just mentioned). If you’re interested in becoming an early book reviewer, you’ll have to show proof that you are, in fact, a book reviewer and apply through certain websites. You can’t always pick the book you want to review, so it may not be in the genre you typically read, so some reviewers have to power their way through the book. And sometimes, there are deadlines to meet for the review, so you may not be able to take your time reading them. Or if a publishing company reaches out to the reviewer, which does happen, you may have to follow their guidelines when writing your review. But in the end, you get free books and get to read them before everyone else. So if you like to review books on your own website or Amazon or GoodReads or social media, then this may be of interest to you.


Auto-Buy Author: An author that you absolutely love that you’ll automatically buy whatever they write, no matter what it is. 

Backlist: Previous books that are written by an author. I’ve seen many BookTubers talk about a current read from an author that they really like and want to read their backlist. So it’s just going back and reading older books from that same author.

Binge-Reading: Reading a lot of books in a certain period of time. This can be a variety of books (different genres and authors), or all the books in a specific series, or books all by the same author. Some people binge-read for 24 hours, 48 hours, or over weeks. These are hardcore bookworms. 

Book Hangover: When you finish an amazing book, and you’re completely obsessed with it and can’t stop thinking or talking about it. 

Book Haul: When a reader buys a large quantity of books at once. You’ll see a ton of book haul videos on BookTube. They are very popular videos because people LOVE to hear about a list of books in one sitting. There are also book unhauls, which is where a reader will get rid of books they own. So they will go through their list before donating them or giving to others, or whatever they do with their books.

Book Tags: A book challenge that you complete or a set of questions that you answer, and then tag your friends and others to complete it after you. You’ll see book tags all over social media posts, usually with specific hashtags being used. You’ll also see book tags done in videos on BookTube and stories or reels on Instagram and TikTok. 

So a few examples would be: 

  • Never Have I Ever…
  • Would You Rather…
  • #comforttag – things that make you feel cozy and comforted – books, movies, music, food, etc. 
  • #top3challenge – top 3 books, authors, movies, TV series
  • #spillthetea – T – a book that taught you something, E – a book that you didn’t want to end, and A – an author you can’t get enough of

Buddy Reads: This is when you decide to read a book with a “buddy” or “buddies.” It can be just one other person or a small group of people. This can help keep you accountable for reading the book, and you can have fun reading the same book with your friend and talk about it when you’re done or as you go along. Usually, you set a schedule or deadline on when to finish the book so that it’s done over a specific period of time.

CR (Current Read): The book that you are currently reading.

CW (Content Warning): Some books have content that may be sensitive or disturbing to readers so they may have a content warning. 

DNF (Did Not Finish): A book that you didn’t complete for whatever reason, and you do not plan ever to go back and finish it. You may as well give it away because you want nothing to do with it.

I’ve seen some videos on this concept because there are mixed feelings about it. Some readers feel bad just stopping and shelving a book they don’t like. Others feel obligated always to finish books. I’m not sure what my stance is on this topic at the moment, but I am thinking about it and may record a future episode on it.

Fan Fiction: When a fan of a book writes their own story or book about characters from another book. Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. 

Fandom: A group of people who all love the same book, author, movie, TV series, or any form of entertainment. There’s even a website called where fans can go to talk about their favorite universes. People even make wiki pages for these universes. It can get pretty serious, like sports. 

FF (Female-Female couple): A relationship between 2 women.

FMC: Female Main Character

GR (GoodReads): This is THE main website for the book community. You’ll find millions of people here and loads of book reviews. They can be very helpful to read when you’re considering what to read next. There are also groups you can join, similar to Facebook Groups. They have book news and interviews. You can ask authors questions. Every year they do an annual reading challenge that you can join. You can create bookshelves of various books. You can also create tags to use. You can also keep tracking of what you’re reading, mark what you have read, mark what you want to read. Follow other readers, reviewers, and even authors. There is so much to it, and it’s just a lot of fun. 

Personally, I love this website. They also have an app that you can download on your phone. It’s so addicting, though. They have recommended book lists, and I just get sucked into reading about other books. My reading list is just ever-growing. I’ve also joined the 2023 Reading Challenge, where you decide how many books you’ll read for the year. I’ve chosen 50 books to read.

So if you want to follow me on GR and see what I’m reading, you can follow me.

HEA (Happily Ever After): A book ending in happily ever after.

Insta-Love: When two characters fall in love quickly, 

KU: Kindle Unlimited

MMC: Male Main Character

MM (Male-Male couple): A relationship between 2 men.

Mass Market Paperback: These are paperbacks that are smaller in size, typically 4×7, and usually produced with cheaper paper. The text may be smaller and usually thicker than trade paperbacks, which are paperbacks released the same size as the hardcover books. I actually just learned what this is. I thought a paperback was a paperback, but there are differences. 

OTP (One True Pairing): When readers “ship” characters together. Their ideal couple that they want to see together. There is also NOTP, which stands for Not One True Pairing, which is the opposite. You do not want to see these characters together at all. 

POC (Person of Color): This can refer to a main character, an important side character, or even the author, but they are a person of color. 

POV (Point Of View): Where the perspective is coming from. It can be a single person or multiple people. Usually in first or third person and past or present tense.

Read-a-Thon: A reading marathon where you read certain types of books over a period of time. They can be based on themes, seasonal, genres of books. I’ve seen many BookTubers hold read-a-thons. They will create reading prompts, bingo cards, and other graphics that you can download and use. Many do these via their exclusive Patreon groups. Some read-a-thons last 24 hours, some 48 hours, and others over a week or two. For example, I’ve seen themes of Alice in Wonderland, Gilmore Girls, and Jane Austen. 

Reading (or Book) Slump: When a reader just isn’t in the mood to read or takes a short break from reading. There are many things to cure a reading slump, including re-reading a favorite book or a cozy, warm book. 

Reading Sprints: When you set a timer and read for a specific amount of time, then take a break, and then read some more. Some people will do short sprints, like 15 or 30 minutes, while others do longer, like an hour or two. I’ve seen some people use the Pomodoro technique, where you read for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, then read for another 25 minutes, then a break, and do that for a couple of hours. It helps to get through books, especially if you’re trying to reach a goal. Sometimes, you’ll see reading sprints done live or videos where you can sprint with a reader. They are also done during read-a-thons to help get through books. 

RTC (Review to Come): If a reader has read a book but has not posted their review yet, you’ll see this acronym in their social media post.

Sequel Bait: When you’re reading a book, and it’s obvious that there’s going to be a second book. It’s not a one-off story.

SE (Special Edition): Many readers buy special edition books with different covers, illustrations, etc. The hardcore collectors will collect multiple versions of one book because they want all the various editions. 

Ships (or relationships): Readers love to fantasize about certain characters becoming romantic couples. So it’s a couple that you love seeing together or want them to get together. For example, Harry Potter gets together with Hermione Granger instead of Ron Weasley. 

Spice Level: Readers talk about how explicit sexual scenes are in books. On Bookstagram, I’ve seen many reviewers use the pepper emoji from 1 to 5 to indicate the level of sexual content. Many readers say they like “clean” romance novels, meaning no sexual scenes at all, like a PG movie.

Standalones: Books that are not in a series. So you can read this one book and then the story is over; it doesn’t continue on into other books. Many readers compare standalones to series and always ask which are preferred. 

Trope: A trope is considered a common or overused theme. You can find a wide variety of tropes that authors use in their books. They can spread over multiple genres, but you can also find certain tropes that stay within one or two genres specifically, like romance. 

I’ve seen many book reviewers and BookTubers talk about tropes they like and dislike. I’ve also seen people use tropes as a way to describe what a book is about without having to write a long description. 

One example of two popular tropes found in many romance novels is friends to lovers or enemies to lovers. This is where the couple starts out as friends and grows to love each other, or starts out as “enemies” and falls in love with each other. 

Another example is the Plain Jane trope, where the girl is plain or even ugly, but the handsome guy falls for her anyway. You usually find this trope in romance, contemporary, historical, and young adult books. 

TBB (To Be Bought): So books that you have your eye on that you want to buy at some point.

TBR (To Be Read): This is probably the number one acronym that I see. SO many people talk about their TBR lists, which are the books on their to-be-read lists. You’ll see this one everywhere in book nation. Some people consider themselves mood readers, so they might not plan ahead on what they’re going to read and just pick up a book that fits their current mood. Others, like myself, plan out ahead of time what they will read or read according to a certain theme. For me, I have a spreadsheet of a list of books that I would like to read that are within a theme I set for that month, and then pick from that list. Everyone does it differently, based on preference. 

TW (Trigger Warning): Content that may be triggering in nature to an individual. Books can have trigger warnings but not content warnings because triggers can be specific to readers due to traumas or past experiences.


YA (Young Adult): Fiction books aimed at young people, ages 12 and older. Usually, they are books with characters in middle grade, high school, or college.

NA (New Adult): Fiction books aimed at young people, ages 18-29. This is actually a new genre that I hadn’t heard of. So it’s a little older than young adult, and the characters are already out of high school, so around college-age or a bit older.

Get Cozy with the Podcast

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