Quarantine and social distancing began with seemingly endless options of shows and movies to watch on streaming services. Many people found themselves with time to finish that one show they had been working through for ages or devouring the movie everyone had recommended. But months later, entertainment options are looking less promising. People are spending more time scrolling through Netflix, hoping for something exciting to pop up instead of actually watching something. This is where BookTube comes into play.
YouTube has a plethora of creators to follow; however, with tiresome drama and cancel culture, even popular YouTubers are failing viewers. It certainly is time for some new content, and BookTube is my answer to this dilemma.
YouTube for Book Enthusiasts
BookTube, at its very core, is a community of YouTubers and viewers who love to read. As may be expected, a quintessential BookTube-style video is the classic book review. Yet, this creative group has gone far beyond just creating reviews.
Other common videos include bookshelf tours, book hauls (where BookTubers share new books they have purchased or borrowed from the library), discussions and group reads. Other popular videos are book tags, which feature various questions about books and readings based on a theme.
This passionate community of thousands of creators began around 2010 and has since developed its own conventions and traditions. It even has its own language — phrases like TBR, wrap-up, DNF and reading slump all reference an aspect of reading. In true word lover fashion, some BookTubers have made guides explaining these terms, which are helpful for the BookTube newbie.
This may seem like a very niche corner of YouTube, one that perhaps has few creators or viewers. Yet, it has grown to be a large community. The BookTuber with the most viewers boasts over 410,000 subscribers.
The publishing industry utilizes BookTubers as essential components of marketing campaigns. Michelle Obama even partnered with BookTubers to create a series of videos promoting her recent book, “Becoming.”
This is not your average wine-and-cheese, twice-a-week book club. BookTube not only holds entertainment value, but it also has undeniable power in the literary world.
Anyone who enjoys reading at all should watch BookTube videos. At the very least, these creators will direct you to fantastic books you might not have heard about otherwise. Beyond that, BookTube delivers engaging and thoughtful content that will get you thinking.
Like an informal book club, these videos will give you more insight into your favorite books. The lives of the books you read will be extended — no longer ending with the last page, but continuing on with the conversations BookTube encourages you to engage in.
Finding the BookTubers who suit your favorite genre is a personal journey that will happen naturally as you start to become involved in the community. Below are a few creators to get you started.
With her first video dating back to 2012, Ariel Bisset is a BookTube veteran; however, this does not mean her videos are dated. Bisset delivers thoughtful and creative videos, many of which explore ideas with an analytical eye usually used for essays.
I, as well as Bisset’s 197,000 followers, can attest to the fact that her essay-level analyses are anything but boring. A great example of her look into niche themes can be found in her video “Would George Orwell have listened to Lorde?”
Two of my favorite videos of hers are mini-documentaries. The first takes viewers into the world of an Indie Bookstore. The second, “#poetry,” explores Instagram poetry and was part of her master’s thesis.
Of course, you can’t talk about Ariel Bissett without mentioning the Reading Rush, the largest online readathon — a week of online group reading. Every July, Bissett organizes challenges and events that make the Reading Rush a beloved event that transcends BookTube. Overall, Bissett’s creativity and unique point of view are not to be missed.
Bowties and Books
No one makes me as excited to read as Jesse from Bowties and Books. Their energy is absolutely infectious, and they never fail to convince me to read the books they discuss.
Jesse provides many recommendations for books by all different types of people. They have dedicated their channel to elevating diverse voices and often discuss the importance of diversifying the content one consumes. Within the past month, they have shared videos recommending books with queer as well as Black queer characters and authors.
Jesse also hosts multiple readathons focused on representation and diversity, such as the Blackathon. Since subscribing to their channel, I have read about and learned from a variety of different voices, and the way that I choose what to read has been forever changed.
A great place to start with this channel is Jesse’s “BEST books of 2019.” This video will have you adding many books to your to-be-read pile — or TBR, to use BookTube lingo.
For those who especially enjoy the genres fantasy and historical fiction, Peruse Project is a channel to watch. Regan, the reader behind this channel, is another classic BookTuber whose videos go back to 2013. Needless to say, she has built up a lot of material for viewers to consume.
Regan consistently uploads to-be-read videos and monthly wrap-ups of what she has read, along with her thoughts on these books. She also frequently posts reading vlogs where she updates viewers on the books she’s reading over the course of a few days. Although that may sound strange, her bubbly and happy personality is always fun to watch, and these videos give viewers a look into living in New York City, an added bonus.
To get an idea of her reading taste, viewers should start with her video that ranks every fantasy book she has read. Who knows, even if you usually avoid fantasy, Regan may convince you to try it out.
Ben from Benreadsbooks runs the youngest channel on this list, yet this is not evident from watching his videos. His thoughtful content has already garnered him almost 2,000 subscribers. As he explains at the start of every video, Ben primarily reads science fiction and fantasy, along with a little literary fiction. He has reviews and tags discussing these books.
Personally, I most enjoy his videos that focus on writing; Ben is a science fiction and fantasy writer and is passionate about sharing his writing tips online. In his new series, Writing Wednesdays, he delves into craft and technique, such as finding your writing voice.
These videos can be interesting even for those who do not write, as they provide insight into how the books we enjoy are created. Ben consistently posts multiple times a week and can always be relied on for engaging content.
Overall, BookTube has not only provided me with more entertainment when Netflix is looking a little sparse, but it has also introduced me to a community of curious and inventive creators with a passion for reading that matches my own.
If you are a reader, you will find your reading enriched by this community. You will find your to-be-read pile growing astronomically and your excitement and understanding of the books you read deepening.
Perhaps you will even find yourself setting up a camera to talk about your pile of tomes.