I spent my teenage years well entrenched in the culture of BookTube (don’t come at me for how young that might make me sound).
If you’re unfamiliar with it, BookTube is a community on YouTube exclusively about books. People discuss books they’ve read, books they want to read, books that are about to come out – there were entire trends around what people are reading and when they’re reading it.
This was BookTube in a nutshell:
And it was glorious. These were my people. This was the place where I was understood.
I’d drool over beautiful hardback versions of my favourite books, I’d know every YA book coming out next month and be beyond excited about them, I’d make summer and winter reading lists along with my favourite BookTubers. I even went to three different bookstores one lunchtime, trying to get my friend and myself the last book in a series we were both obsessed with. Because, as people in the BookTube world know, you do become obsessed. You live for books.
And I’ll say it again: reading back then – being immersed in a world where other people were also passionate about books and reading – was truly glorious. My soul had found its place, and my heart felt like it shone.
BookTube made my soul truly happy
It’s difficult to explain as well, because it sounds bizarre to say you can feel so much passion and excitement about books, but I really did. The sheer joy I got from buying new books, from counting down the days until a new one launched, from arranging my bookshelf over and over so my collection would be displayed in all its glory – I could have stared at that thing all day. (And of course, getting lost in actually reading books.)
And the challenges! There would be reading challenges – trying to either read a certain number of books within a given timeframe or only reading books that met a certain criteria (eg, books that have a colour in their title). There was buddy-reading, where you and someone else would read the same book and fangirl over it, like a book group. Plus the occasional marathon (usually during the summer), where you’d do nothing but read for days at a time.
BookTube was interactive. It had its own key moments and big events, and that only served to keep the excitement flowing.
I even went to one of the first ever YALCs (Young Adult Literature Convention), which is essentially a giant place where authors give talks about writing and sign their books, publishing houses set up stalls to sell the latest books, and there’d be little interactive workshops and activities you could take part in throughout the day (fun fact, I performed in my first poetry slam at a YALC).
You can just imagine teenage me’s excitement about this. I got the train into London with my friend, along with an efficiently packed itinerary I’d written out of all the talks I wanted to go to between all the signing times of authors I wanted to meet.
I bought 22 books that day, and you bet I carried them all the way through London like they were the most precious things I owned (and not a tower of 22 incredibly heavy stacks of paper).
Real life comes knocking
But then… life came calling. And I finished growing up. There was no room for BookTube anymore.
As an adult, you can’t spend your days watching people talk about the latest book releases or fangirl-ing over the latest love triangle (or maybe you can? Or should?). You don’t have time to rearrange your bookshelf, or the luxury of being able to buy multiple copies of the same book just because you need the new editions to match.
Something reminded me of my BookTube chapter recently – of all the passion and joy – and I was hit with a sudden, overwhelming rush of nostalgia for those days. Back then, my heart and soul truly belonged to books, and I miss that. I still read, obviously, but it’s not the same. I read when I can fit it in, and there’s no excited discussions with anyone about the latest book trends. I don’t know what anyone else is reading, there’s no excitement to finish a book so I can have my own opinions on what everyone else is talking about. I can barely keep up with knowing what new releases are coming out anymore. I certainly don’t know the trends.
And this makes me really sad. As a fiction writer myself, I should be more involved in this world still. But why is it all the stuff that makes us really passionate is left to our teenage-years? Why do we seem to grow out of these things?
Fun is for life, not just for growing up
I know, I don’t have as much time to spend on all the things that light my soul on fire anymore, but we should. Adults have to deal with all the difficult parts of life, so why shouldn’t we also get the best parts too? Surely that’s the reward? Why do we get so busy with other stuff that we forget the things we’re doing all that other stuff for?!
I may wander back into the world of BookTube, just as an experiment to prove my point. I don’t even know if any of my old BookTubers are still going, or it’s even the same, and maybe I’ll be the oldest person by a decade.
But our favourite things shouldn’t be stuff we “grow out of”. We should be able to keep our important passions even as we find new ones. On that note, I may even start my own little corner of BookTube (a non-video variety) right here on this blog. I’ll keep you posted…
In the meantime, let me know if you remember BookTube and/or if you’re still involved – I’d love to chat with you about it!