Do You Know These Popular Reading Slang Terms?

When the internet and e-readers first became widely available, many people worried loudly that it would spell the end of books. But we have adapted, and now people are picking up books (or swiping through tablets) more than ever. At one point during the coronavirus pandemic, around 20 percent of the world’s population was living under some form of lockdown. Understandably, reading (along with sourdough bread baking and YouTube workout routines) has become a go-to hobby for folks stuck at home.

As reading becomes a growing trend in the social media era (and one we firmly support), new tech-savvy slang has popped up to reflect all of the ways people talk about what they are reading and writing, both during the public health crisis and beyond. And we’ve picked up on some of the slang avid readers and casual critics alike are using. Take a look.

WATCH: Words That The Internet Has Changed


During a time when going shopping has become more difficult for many, some have chosen to stock up on necessities like toilet paper and dried beans. Others have stocked up on books to read during social isolation: hence the #CoronavirusReadingStack.

The hashtag was started by Australian writer Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) who tweeted the hashtag the first time on March 16. The hashtag was a riff on his usual seasonal posts of reading stacks (e.g., #WinterReadingStack).

The hashtag #CoronavirusReadingStack went viral. People participated in the trend by posting a picture of the stack of books they were intending to read now that socializing was no longer an option. Or, at least, socializing in person—which is where our next term comes in …

(self-)isolation book club

Before the big Rona hit, book clubs were already becoming more popular. There was the classic favorite, Oprah’s Book Club. But more celebrities jumped on the book club bandwagon in recent years, most notably Reese Witherspoon and Emma Watson. That’s not to mention the traditional small coffee-klatsch-style book club, which brings a group of friends together to talk about a book. There have also been silent book clubs, where people gather together to read, well, silently.

As a result of social distancing, traditional and celebrity book clubs have pivoted to so-called isolation book clubs, sometimes referred to as self-isolation book clubs. The term was first used on Twitter by English “book blogger,” Dot (@dotscribbles), on March 12. In the days following, others began using the term themselves to talk about either changing an existing book club to an isolation book club or starting a new book club while distancing.

The name isolation book club is a little misleading. It doesn’t mean that you talk about a book all on your lonesome. Instead, isolation book clubs meet using video chat services to discuss the book—or just hang out. It’s not quite as satisfying as meeting in person, but the isolation book club is a safe way to chat about a book you loved (or hated).


If you’re looking for the next book to read or want to follow what your favorite contemporary writers (particularly genre writers) are up to, you might want to check out bookstagram. Bookstagram (a combination of books and Instagram) is a niche of the image- and video-based social media network that focuses on—what else?—all things books. Top bookstagram accounts feature images of bookstores, cozy places to curl up with a good book, or notable excerpts, among other things.

The hashtag #bookstagram is used on posts to indicate that they are part of this niche of the social media universe. Bookstagram is also closely related to its YouTube equivalent, BookTube. So, if you’re looking to geek out about all things literary on social media with fellow fans, you’ve got plenty of options.


If you do decide to dive into the literary social media universe, or nearly any fandom generally, one word you might see come up a lot is shipping.

A shipper is someone who roots for a romantic relationship between two fictional characters, such as in a television show, movie, or book. The word shipper itself, which was coined around 1995, is short for relationshipper. According to popular legend, the first relationshippers were fans of the classic television show The X-Files, who wanted the leads, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, to be in a romantic relationship.

The verb form of shipper is to ship, meaning “to want two fictional characters to get together romantically.” For example, my best friend ships Hermione and Ginny, because she thinks they are the smartest characters in the Harry Potter series.

Speaking of shippers, sometimes these fans take the characters into their own hands by writing …

Is that pairing you ship fictional, or fictitious? Find out the difference here!

slash fiction

Fan fiction (or fanfic) is the term used to refer to any writing that uses existing fictional characters or worlds. For instance, a story about Spock from Star Trek living in today’s world while working as a computer programmer would be an example of fan fiction. There are many different kinds of fan fiction, but the one particularly popular with many shippers is called slash fiction.

The name sounds a little bit like it would describe a horror genre. But slash fiction is fan fiction written by folks shipping same-sex relationships between fictional characters. Since the early 1970s, the stories were titled with a forward slash between the names of the two characters (e.g., Harry/Ron would be a story about Harry and Ron). While initially slash fiction was focused on a same-sex relationship between two male characters, today slash fiction incorporates queer relationships of all types.

These stories are romantic in nature, if not outright erotic. Which brings us to another growing literary trend during the pandemic …

Want to know how else to use that slash? Find out here!


Literotica is a trademark held by Sunlane Media for the website, which features erotic literature. Though trademarked, this term is often used generically to refer to any type of porn in written form. started in 1998 and continues to be a popular free written-porn site to this day. The term literotica is a portmanteau of literature and erotica.

It’s important to note that this word is highly specific to the community of those who write short stories with original characters. There are other distinct words for those who write erotic stories involving fictional characters, and while the two communities can overlap, they have their own specific terminology.


Speaking of specific terminology, bookstagram and other literary communities on social media have dozens of their own acronyms. One of the most common of these acronyms is CR. CR stands for “currently reading.” The acronym is typically used to caption an image of the book or books that one is currently working their way through. It’s also often used when talking more generally on social media across platforms—whether on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter—to signal what you’re reading.

It’s a handy way to shorthand the expression, “I am currently reading …,” which takes up an awful lot of characters in a space where those are limited!

The acronym CR, like the #CoronavirusReadingStack, is part of a larger trend on literary social media of showing off what you have read, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan on reading next. Our next term is also part of this trend …


If you want to share with the world the books you’re planning on reading, or have recently read, or just generally want to show off your book collection, instead of a selfie, why not take a shelfie?

A shelfie is a picture of a bookshelf or a stack of books taken by its owner and posted online. The word shelfie is a combination of shelf, as in bookshelf, and selfie, a picture you take of yourself. The word began to be used in the fall of 2013, apparently sparked by an Australian television broadcast campaign to encourage reading.

While shelfies are typically of bookshelves, people occasionally also use shelfie to describe photos they’ve taken of shelves more generally, such as an artful display on a mantel.

credibility bookcase

Not everyone is thrilled about the confluence of literary signaling and social media, particularly as people spend more time interacting online due to social distancing measures.

One such person is Amanda Hess, a writer for The New York Times, who noted a growing trend in the May 4, 2020 piece “The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory.” In the piece, Hess notes that there is an urge among some people to have an attractively literary background for the video conferencing they have to do from home.

The books one reads—and shows off—are a signifier. Do you prefer thrillers or history? Fiction or nonfiction? Bestsellers or obscure German Romantic novels? All of these things suggest something about how credible, or intelligent, you are. It would be hard to take a scientist seriously, for example, if they had Science for Dummies on the bookshelf behind them.

It’s not clear if the term credibility bookcase will stick around long-term, but it’s worth noting that the Twitter account tracking celebrity bookcases, @BCredibility, has over 75,000 followers and counting.


The literary world didn’t just adapt to the social media revolution by incorporating hashtags and shelfies. Writers themselves have adapted to the new media available. Personalities like Carolyn Calloway have made a name for themselves on Instagram writing long, literary-adjacent, self-reflective captions. Others have experimented with Twitter, with its character limits and threads of tweets. This has been dubbed Twitterature, a combination of Twitter and literature.

The earliest use of the word Twitterature on Twitter is credited to user @rockmother on March 19, 2007. However, it wasn’t until later that fall that the word was applied to the kind of experimental fiction and literary writing that it now represents. In 2009, the word was popularized by Emmet Rensin and Alexander Aciman’s book Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter.

As social media—and the changing world—continues to impact the way we write, read, and talk about books, new words (also known as neologisms) will be created to talk about it. These terms are only just the beginning.

Interested in more slang? Have you heard or seen these slang terms coined because of COVID-19?

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