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Video essays are pretty much the most entertaining content on YouTube. Some of them are ten minutes long, and some are hours long. But no matter the length, they grab our attention because they challenge us to look at the world we know from a new perspective. Video essays are meant to educate the viewer about a particular topic, argue a point, analyze a subject, and/or critique things. YouTube is full of video essays about movies, television, pop culture trends, fashion, and everything in between. So, are there video essays about books and literature? You bet there are.
BookTubers are out here making so much entertaining content about books, and yes, that includes video essays. Check out these eight highly entertaining video essays. Some are from BookTubers you already love, and some might be from BookTubers who are new to you (you’re welcome). Fair warning to book lovers: these video essays will make you rethink some of your favorite works of literature. You might never look at books like Twilight, The Green Mile, or, yes, even Prince Harry’s Spare the same way ever again. But get ready to get educated and have a little fun while you’re at it.
Twilight is a Psychological Thriller, Not A Love Story
Can you believe Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is almost 20 years old? Where is my eye cream? I am feeling very old. If you’re like me and read this book back when it first came out, it might be time to go back and revisit this text. The story is not what you think it is. In fact, Shanspeare argues that Twilight isn’t a love story at all. It’s more of a psychological thriller. Do you agree? Watch this video and think about it. Then, be sure to check out Shanspeare’s other video essays, including one of her most recent ones: The Feminine Rage Pipeline. Good stuff!
White Authors Don’t Define What’s Scary
Real talk: I think about this video essay all the time. And it’s definitely changed the way I read critiques about thrillers by authors of color. In this video essay, Jesse on YouTube discusses thrillers by BIPOC authors and how they’re received differently than thrillers by white authors. The video mostly draws examples from When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole, but Jesse also explains how this issue pertains to a lot of books by BIPOC authors and the way white people review them.
The Queer History of Loki (It’s Weirder Than You Think)
YouTuber Jessie Gender‘s channel includes so many great video essays, mostly focusing on science fiction, fantasy, “nerd” culture, and how this medium is confronting issues of gender and sexuality. Check out this in-depth video essay Jessie did on comic book anti-hero Loki. Loki has become a queer icon, but why is the LGBTQ+ community resonating so much with this character? Watch the video to find out! This video explores Loki’s history, from Norse mythology, to his appearance in Marvel comics, to his portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Magical Negroes of Stephen King
Princess Weekes is not the first person to point out Stephen King’s problematic depiction of BIPOC characters. But this video essay is probably the best, most thorough explanation of “the magical negro” trope and the troubling way King deploys this trope in multiple works. Disclaimer: This YouTuber wants viewers to know that she is not calling Stephen King racist, and she’s actually a huge fan of the author. This video is a great example of how you can enjoy an author’s work while still critiquing it and wanting more from the stories you read. Vampire fans, be sure to also check out her video essay Why Are There So Many Confederate Vampires?
Authors Behaving Badly Series
One of my favorite video essay series on YouTube has to be Authors Behaving Badly from Reads with Rachel. If you want to hear someone spill all of the literature tea, then you need to check out these videos. But beware: you might not be able to look at your favorite authors the same way ever again. Just take this video on Sarah J. Maas, for example, which confronts all of the author’s problematic behavior. And if you want to see Rachel take down a book bit by bit over the course of many hours (I know I did), watch her deep dive into Fourth Wing. Even if you really enjoyed Fourth Wing, it’s a fun watch.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: History of the Pale Lady
Love Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Then you have to check out CZsWorld’s series of videos looking at the history of the stories in these books. I always found the pale lady incredibly creepy, so this is a great one to start with. But the channel also has videos about the history of the Jangly Man and Harold the Scarecrow. If you’ve read the Scary Stories books, then you know these characters, and their images probably haunt your nightmares. Now learn more about where they came from.
Medusa Then and Now: A Monster’s Feminist Reclamation?
Speaking of the history of monsters, here’s one we all know and love: Medusa. In this video essay, historian and author Jean of Jean’s Thoughts breaks down the story of Medusa, why she remains a pop culture icon, and how she has changed over the past thousands of years. Jean really knows her stuff, so if you want more video essays about mythology, she’s got you covered. For instance, here’s why Hades and Persephone aren’t the cute couple you think they are. Enjoy!
The Complicated Ethics of Ghostwriters and Celebrity Books
Okay, people love to hate on ghostwriting and celebrity memoirs. Maybe especially because so many ghostwritten celebrity books have become popular best-sellers over the past few years. But why do we hate on them so much when ghostwriting has been going on since the dawn of literary time? And are these books as bad as people make them out to be? Jack Edwards breaks it all down in this video essay.
Looking for more BookTube content? Same. Always. Here are 10 thriller BookTube accounts to follow. Or you can follow these Nonfiction BookTube accounts. Want to know more about BookTube and where it’s heading? Here’s the past, present and future of BookTube, according to BookTubers. Happy watching!