Tumblr has established itself as more than just a breeding ground for puppy GIFs and Sherlock slash fanfiction (though those two things still make up a fair amount of the site's content). If you're a book lover, you're probably already well aware of its multitudes of great bookish blogs, not to mention the long list of authors who update from Tumblr on a daily basis. Then there are the book fandoms -- oh, the book fandoms! Harry Potter, Jane Austen, Hunger Games, and J.D. Salinger are all heavily quoted and Instagrammed, but Tumblr has also given a second life to a few surprising books, some recent, some over a century old. Whether it's through role-playing communities, artfully rendered GIF sets or dreamy Spotify playlists, these books have thousands of Tumblr fans -- and yes, there is a fair amount of slash fanfics, too.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)
If The Outsiders had come out in 2014, Tumblr would have spontaneously combusted with the casting possibilities (Tom Hiddleston as Sodapop?). Instead, the book enjoys a small but loyal following who have embraced the YA classic as prime roleplay material. And with such a large cast of young delinquents, how could one resist? The book may be set in Tulsa in the 60s, but Tumblr fans put a spin on it by setting their role plays in "alternate universes" (or "AUs," as the kids are calling them these days). That is how Ponyboy and Johnny find themselves fighting off Greasers in the High School Musical universe or in the middle of Firefly's only season. The possibilities are endless, and hey, who says Johnny has to die in this version?
Gateway blogs: SocGirlGreaserBoy, TheOutsidersRPG, GreaserGirlWrites
Sideway Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar (1978)
Nostalgia for these classic kids books has always been around, but lately it has reached an all-time high when Tumblr discovered similarities between the books and Welcome To Nightvale, a popular podcast described as "NPR meets The Mothman Prophecies." Both share a penchant for the weird (teachers read students' minds with a hidden ear), the eerie (floors that exist only in alternate universes) and the just plain crazy (random cow invasions). It wasn't long before Wayside School and Night Vale crossover fics and "head canons" (elaborate scenarios created by fans and considered "canon," only to them) appeared on people's dashboards.
Gateway Blogs: WhatIsHerNameAgain, MagneticPie, TheUnfler
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)
Tartt's classical take on the murder-mystery novel has always had somewhat of a cult following, but on Tumblr, its fans have found a visual outlet. After all, with their ethereal lifestyles and penchant for poetry, the Classics gang is perfect for the website's image-heavy format. Fans pay tribute to the book primarily by handmade GIF- or image-sets, painstakingly filtered photos of cheekbone-blessed models or actors who are stand-ins for the beautiful Camilla or understatedly handsome Henry. Then there are the playlists, handcrafted especially for the eerie late night forest Bacchanalia or the dreamy winter break spent in Hampden. Fans are essentially creating the characters' imagined social media presences, one GIF at a time.
Gateway Blogs: WhereTheWildNettlesGrow, Rhllors, MythAndRists
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
Tumblr has a strange affection for cannibalism (see: "Fannibals," the large Hannibal fandom), so it's no surprise that there are several active Lord of the Flies role playing communities. Not to mention the proliferation of fanart dedicated to severed pig heads and the gang hugging it out in festive Christmas sweaters (a nice thing about Tumblr fandom is that you can imagine tragic book characters in happier situations). And as much fanart tends to do, some depicts the book's characters, primarily Ralph and Jack, shirtless and occasionally making out with each other. It's not exactly what your 7th grade English teacher had in mind, but hey, at least they're appreciating literature in their own way.
Gateway Blogs: Gilbert-Bruegel, Popsicle-Stick, Jack-LordOfTheFlies
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1862)
Yes, the star-studded 2012 movie had something to do with the book's resurgence, but if you look on Tumblr, fans aren't just reblogging photos of Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne. Instead, they're delving into the notoriously dense novel (lovingly nicknamed "The Brick" due to its size and heft) and gaining an in-depth knowledge of Parisian life in the nineteenth century. Fans will write fanfiction set in an eerily detailed Waterloo battlefield or draw fanart that depicts historically accurate cravats from the 1830's. Both the movie and the musical leave out copious details from the book, but thankfully, Tumblr appears to be the perfect platform for Hugo's overlooked segues about the Parisian sewer system.
Gateway Blogs: LesMisConfessions, IncorrectLesMisQuotes, FYeahLesMis
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (1989)
This book series' newfound popularity has largely to do with wunderkind Tavi Gevinson and her website, Rookie, both of which eagerly embraced the book's "summer witch surfer girl skater babe vibes." The 90s aesthetic is definitely a huge appeal to the Tumblr crowd, who love to quote the book's stark, dreamy prose. But the book's fandom goes beyond pictures of handwritten quotes and low-fi playlists. To love Weetzie Bat is to dress like Weetzie Bat. Scrolling through the book's tag brings up image after image of the book's fans in galaxy-print leggings, oversized, ratty cardigans, and sunglasses festooned with palm trees. Whether it's cosplay or just plain 90s nostalgia, the book definitely has spinoff potential for its own fashion line.
Gateway Blogs: PinkSurfCult, TeganLizzy, Smart-And-Trashy
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-9)
If you haven't noticed, Tumblr loves a group of young, vibrant outliers. That's how Alcott's beloved novel finds itself a favorite among the site's role-players, many of whom find their personality traits mirrored by the book's quietest, often overlooked character: Beth. As someone who prefers a life of indoor activity, Beth could be seen as the nineteenth century-equivalent of a Tumblr user (minus the scarlet fever). Then there's Jo, the Tumblr ideal, a proto-feminist writer who spurns the advances of Christian Bale -- at least, in the Winona Ryder film adaptation. Role playing gives fans a chance to explore both sides of the book nerd spectrum: the Tumblr user scrolling under the duvet and the intrepid writer saving her bratty sister from thin ice.
Gateway Blogs: LittleWomen-RP, FYeahLittleWomen, TheMarchFamilyLetters