Following on from My 2020 Best Books post, I’ll share with you my top five BookTubers, plus two book podcasts this year and why I can’t stop watching and listening to them.
2020 is the year I discovered the ‘genre’ of BookTube. I know I know, I’m very late to this community. BookTubers had a big influence on my reading this year: I got to know many new books and new authors, not just the newly published ones, but also the long-forgotten and long-dead ones; I learnt many ‘schools’ of reading approaches – reading quickly or reading slowly, reading hot off the press or reading the ‘classics’, reading women authors or men, reading white authors or non-white authors, reading ‘seasonally’, reading all the works by one author, reading whatever you like (that in the end is my approach); I got into reading trends and got out of them. I travelled through time periods and across literary landscapes and by the end of the year I came out a better reader than at the beginning. Thanks to my various guides in the BookTube and podcast world!
The ones below I’m especially grateful for. In no particular order:
Jessie from Sunbeamsjess is the first BookTuber I subscribed to on YouTube. Jessie’s channel has beauty and fashion content as well as vlogs. I specifically watch her monthly book wrap-ups. When I first found her channel, I went all the way back to June 2016. She’s the person who introduced me to the world of contemporary fiction, including Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany, N. K. Jemisin, Jane Smiley, Jeff VanderMeer, Toni Morrison, Marlon James, Alice Munro, Deborah Levy and many more. I have dipped my toes in the works of quite a few of them. She particularly won my heart because she enjoyed the Chinese sci-fi trilogy The Three Body Problem which is my favourite sci-fi story. I don’t think I ever heard other BookTubers talk about Three-Bodies. I think the image and audio quality of her videos are one of the best.
Jen Campbell is a professional writer and she reviews books for radios and newspapers so her voice has an ‘authoritative’ feel to it. Her videos have no rambling, just the right amount of information. Be it book reviews or book hauls, they’re always neat and satisfying. Her interaction with her community is the best among all the ones I follow. She regularly asks people to send specific book recommendation requests and she recommends books for each person in videos (which inspired my Christmas shopping this year). The scope of her knowledge of books is staggering. I like watching her sorting out her bookcases too. Best of all, she’s from the North East!
Benjamin McEvoy from Hardcore Literature: one day earlier this year I finished reading a whole shortlist and was fed up reading newly published and hyped up books (and wondered what’s so good about any of them). I wondered what English Literature students read and googled something to the effect. And up popped Ben’s blog post called ‘How to Get an Oxford University English Literature Education for Free’. He has done the degree (not for free unfortunately) and has some wisdom to share. So firstly I’d like to thank him for the blog post. That threw a bright spark to my ‘reading Oxford’ project and it’s still burning.
Secondly I would like to thank Ben for convincing me that it’s OK to read slowly and it’s better to read slowly. He compared reading a good book to tasting a piece of Kobe (pronounced Ko-bay, not Ko-bee) beef. An appreciative person would taste it slowly because it would be a total waste if he just wolfed it down and moved on. I totally understand and agree, especially because of the vivid memory where I had to share a pricey plate of Kobe beef with my husband in a rainy street in Kobe, and the amount of beef we got was not enough to fill the gaps between my teeth (that’s a Chinese saying). I’m taking Ben’s advice literally and spending weeks reading Middlemarch and I enjoy it the better no doubt.
Thirdly, thanks for loving Shakespeare so much. Your passion is my only motivation to keep going with him at the moment.
Leena from Leena Norms is the most original BookTuber I’ve met. I haven’t seen anyone else talking about books wrapped in a duvet or dressed up with her skirt on the shoulders before. She also did a video on the ‘history of fringe’ while cutting her own one on camera, and another giving advice on fashion where her reason for favouring a faux leather top is that ‘it wipes clean if you drop food on it, just like a bib’. You just have to check her out. Obviously it goes without saying that I love her passion and knowledge for books. In terms of creativity in filming and post production, her videos are one of the best. I have a vague feeling she’s from the North too?
Katie from Books and Things: I started watching her only recently, mostly because of the list of Victorian literature in my ‘Reading Oxford’ project. Her channel is mainly focused on them. I found her videos on ‘where to start with’ such and such Victorian authors helpful and I admit I edited my Oxford reading list accordingly. I also love the videos where she talks about one author’s books and ranks them from her least to most favourite. For example I bought Nocturnes straight after watching the video on Kazuo Ishiguro. I love BookTubers who intrigue me and move me to try books. My husband doesn’t love them as much for sure.
Backlisted & Slightly Foxed are two podcasts that I listen to every episode. They mostly talk about authors that are long dead and many of them I’ve never heard of. Most of the hosts are a couple of decades older than the BookTubers mentioned above. They certainly give very different perspectives.
Who do you watch and listen to? I’d love to get to know more BookTubers and podcasts!
P.S The feature photo was me doing a book recommendation in 2018 at Word Alive (a Christian conference). Good memory!