Don’t know what to read next? Are you wandering aimlessly through Waterstones or looking for abandoned treasures in Oxfam, yet nothing catches your eye? Does it feel like you’ve read all the good stories? Known all the great characters? Flicked your way through the most exciting adventures? If you’re honest with yourself, do you suspect that you are in the denial stage of a reading slump? My dear reader, I’ve been there, and done that, too many times to count, and during that moment of desperation I found the solution by tumbling into previously dark corners of the internet.
So what would you say if I told you that you have access to endless amounts of book reviews and recommendations, just one click away? And you don’t even have to read them for that matter. When ratings in ‘Goodreads’ or the beloved ‘Book Review Blogs’, or even the temptations of Waterstones’ latest arrivals and Amazon Kindle offers are not working for you, maybe all that is needed is good visual aids to help you fish in the dark. Youtube can fill this void.
This might not come as a surprise to many. We, the generation raised in the rise of the digital era, have encountered Youtube before in one way or another. Whether in search of cheap entertainment: to watch cat, pranks and challenge videos; or maybe educational purposes: Yale, Oxford and MIT lectures; or even as a regular viewer or creator: watching those who are ‘Youtube Famous’, web series, and/or making or following a ‘vlog’; Youtube has content to cater for everyone, including book lovers.
A newly-founded community of book buyers, readers and reviewers has formed on Youtube to provide for those who are prone to be tempted into reading by the recommendation of others. This community goes by the name of Booktubia. It includes a growing number of creators that accommodate for all reading tastes, video viewing styles and age and gender groups. Many of them are based in the UK; however, there are Booktubers from around the world who also do book reviews in a variety of languages. Here are some of my favourites:
First up, we have those whose videos are mostly, or even uniquely, about books. Usually these Booktubers make their videos following the standard ‘book review’ structure; familiar to us from book reports and online blogs, with a personal twist. In her channel ‘The Readables’, Priscilla – from Canada – has months devoted to themes which are voted by her audience, in which she reads books of a particular genre, including both contemporary and classical pieces of literature. A graphic designer by profession, Priscilla manages to combine beautiful, high quality, video making with intelligent, funny and honest comments in her reviews. She provides all the publishing information for the books she reviews and includes, where possible, any relevant reviews of television/film adaptations. Priscilla reads a lot of – although not exclusively – young adult, high fantasy, adventure, horror and dystopian books. She has reviewed authors and series such as: J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Patrick Ness’ The Chaos Walking Trilogy and classics such as Orwell’s 1984, Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and most recently Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. If you’re interested in books of these genres, but you don’t necessarily like Priscilla’s style, you can also check out: ‘LittleBookOwl’ (Australia), ‘Ariel Bissett’ (Canada) and ‘BookishThoughts’ (UK) and, for those of you doing Classics, she also reviews a lot of Greek and Roman literature.
If you’re already a regular Youtube viewer and you’re looking for more variety, there are the vloggers/booktubers. Sanne, in her channel ‘booksandquills’, does many book hauls and book reviews. Her books reviews are fantastic and not as strictly structured as those of other booktubers. She clearly speaks her mind and is not afraid of disliking a popular book. With a Masters in Translation Studies under her belt she pays particular attention to phraseology in books, picking up on interesting quotes and accurate translations. She reads a lot of young adult and fantasy literature, but tends more towards romance, coming of age novels and some travel literature. Her reviews include: John Green’s The Fault in Ours Stars and Looking for Alaska (all spoiler free), Jeffrey Eugenides The Virgin Suicides, Kerouac’s On the Road, and a variety of graphic novels. If you like her, or share her reading tastes, then her friends and flatmates ‘rossiana’ (UK), and ‘kaylereads’ (USA, UK) are also worth a try.
Most of the regular book reviews on Youtube last from 3–15 minutes, and they are not always laugh-out-loud entertainment. However, if there is one booktuber/vlogger that manages to include excellent dark humour in her reviews and vlogs is ‘OpheliaDagger’/ ‘oldhotradio’. For me, she is a must-see! Chelsea is funny, snappy and sometimes a bit silly, however, she is also incredibly insightful, witty and uniquely eloquent. Her book reviews are quick but deep, while her blogs are humourous, relatable anecdotal recounts of those little everyday ‘fails’ all of us go through. Her interests range from the usual fantasy and young adult to more adult novels, philosophical and existential literature, romance, horror and dystopia. Her book reviews include: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Tree of Codes, Knut Hamsun’ Hunger, George R.R. Martin’s The Song Of Ice and Fire and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. If you’re into Chelsea’s choice of literature but don’t find her funny or simply want more book recommendations, you could check out: ‘renkellym’ (USA), ‘rinceyreads’ (Canada), ‘nerdintranslation’ (Canada) and ‘supersushipizza’ (also Canada, and they recently made a video recommending even more Booktubers).
If you’ve seen them before or have already had a look at some of the aforementioned v-loggers then you’ll realise that most of the above mentioned are female. It does seem to be the case that, so far, Booktubia is dominated by women. However, there are some excellent male Booktubers out there: Firstly, ‘HeavyShelves,’ a brilliant vibrant Irishman with a passion for writing as well as reading. He just started a couple months ago but his audience is rapidly growing thanks to his humour and intense passion for books. His video ‘Ernest Hemingway got me drunk’ is a good place to start! Also from the UK is ‘TheBoondoogle’; his videos are more in the ‘traditional’ and high quality video style of Priscilla at ‘TheReadables’. As a fervent fan of George R.R. Martin and Peter F. Hamilton, ‘PureDragon100’ (Australia) likes big books and intricate plots. Two recommendations from the USA would be ‘jessethereader’ –crazy but with really funny reactions to some books- and ‘TheBookTuber’; a dedicated young man who follows series after series of young adult literature.
In addition, you can also follow some authors through Youtube, most notably: John Green at vlogbrothers, writer of the bestselling novel The Fault in our Stars; Booktuber turned author Daniel Marks (Velveteen) at Danny Marks; Caleb J. Ross (Stranger Will) at Caleb J. Ross; and Robyn Schneider (Severed heads, Broken Hears/The Beginning of Everything) at Robyn Schneider.
To end in the Youtube style I urge you to leave comments below on whether you knew about Booktubia and if so, which are your favourite Booktubers. Hundreds were not mentioned here and many new people might be starting a Booktube channel as you read this. That is the magic of Youtube; anyone from anywhere with a camera and enough motivation can participate. So either as a viewer or creator: get out there and happy reading!