Last week I woke up from an afternoon nap only to notice the Booker shortlist had been announced and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was on the shortlist. I couldn’t help feeling a personal sense of accomplishment and glee. I was so thrilled, in fact, that I tweeted the good news to the world immediately.

The reason I feel such a sense of ownership isn’t because I know Yanagihara or any of her friends. Nor even that I was her editor or writing confidante or person who came up with the idea for her (absolutely stunning) novel. No, but I was the person who posted to Facebook several months ago: “If you buy ANY book because I tell you to, let this year’s be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.” I went on to rave about the book so much that three people commented to say they had just purchased the Kindle edition.

Another friend and I kept up a long book club over texts as he read the book and messaged me his opinion. In a way, I felt almost like I had brought her into notice in my own small way, even though Yanagihara was doing just fine without me, with a thriving literary career and rave reviews in the New Yorker.

I had come across her book as a throwaway comment on a book blog I read, and had downloaded it for myself without really knowing much about it – like that person who hears the new hit song months before you have and is unbearably smug once it becomes a success. I’m so rooting for A Little Life to win, I don’t even know if I’ll read all the other books. (I probably will though and compare them unfavourably to her.)

I say all this not to show off about myself as a book trend predictor (although, let’s be honest, I totally am) but to point out how increasingly we’re all using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as book recommendation engines, stumbling across authors we may never have noticed before.

Facebook for books. No, really!

A week ago, there was a poetry tag going across Facebook, where you had to post four poems in four days. I discovered through my friends feeds, poems I had never known of before, shining through the clutter of the main page with its “So-and-So is doing this!” and “Photos of Blah-Blah’s new baby!” I devoured each friend’s poetry, noticed with interest that one of the poems I had posted found its way back on a friend-once-removed’s challenge as well, and hop skipped and jumped through the tags to see what everyone had chosen. For the selection revealed so much about the poster, it was almost intimate. One friend was sad, one was in a flippant mood, one was thoughtful.

It’s not the first time books and Facebook have overlapped. I remember a few years ago, a tag called “Ten Books That Have Stayed With You.” I saw loads of Harry Potter, loads of Agatha Christie, but beyond that something sweeter, a line straight into my non-reading friends' hearts. With readers, it’s easy enough to understand them, you both probably think in terms of a grand hall with a parquet dance floor, or travel across early America on a train, or are a turn-of-the-century London prostitute. You breathe, you exist, you learn to live from books, those are your earliest boyfriends, some of your sexiest girlfriends, those are the people you adventure with and through whose eyes you see the world.

One reader to another, you know this about each other as soon as you step into their home and catch sight of their well stocked and loved bookshelf, or hear them mention someone who sits on your bedside table with equal intimacy. Non-readers though are a strange and varied beast,  you’re not sure what to make of people who don’t even need a bookshelf, who don’t know the names of even the Greatest People In The Whole World. That’s why a tag like that opens their hearts to you, you think, “I never knew that about my friend. Oh, is that the book he chose? I wonder what he thought of it.”

Instagram for books. No, really!

While Twitter is not a great place for book reviews and recommendations,  I find Instagram to be my port in the storm. We can’t always wait for Facebook tags, and my Goodreads account is woefully uncurated, full of people reading the most opposing things, I can’t trust most of them, because I have foolishly added everyone who ever added me, and now it’s a mess. (I should burn it down and start from scratch.) But on Instagram, I found the #bookstagram tag and it is gold. Paired with #nowreading, you find gorgeously photographed books with more often than not, a little review in the caption. It helps you find new books and also figure out book trends (here’s a trend: people reading YA literature tend to photograph their books more than the grown ups.)

Another place hashtags work to a great advantage is Facebook, oddly enough. I never paid much attention to Facebook’s hashtag project, it seemed a strange copycat thing, but putting #nowreading into the search box pulled out friends’ photographs for me: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, The Lovers Dictionary by David Leviathan, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and more prosaically, Yoga For Life. There’s so much to be discovered just from your friends. There’s no excuse not to read more. People moaning about social media being all about the mundane, look, it has the ability to rise above all that.

Meanwhile, you have got to read A Little Life.