YouTube for the literary lover

YouTube is a strange and wonderful place where anybody can find a YouTube channel on any topic imaginable: makeup, video games, funny animals, pranks, conspiracy theories—anything. The YouTube world has come a long way since its early rickrolling days—it’s become a community that has built entertainment giants with millions of followers among the likes of Ryan Higa, PewDiePie, and Lilly Singh.
It’s also a place where old-fashioned passions and new innovations collide, and with that in mind, I personally believe the literature-loving side of YouTube is one of YouTube’s unsung triumphs. Book lovers, rejoice—there are YouTubers out there who make your beloved books come alive in unexpectedly awesome ways!

These channels aren’t just book rave and review channels—these are channels that take literary culture and works and spin them into beautiful, insightful, riveting, and hilarious interpretations of everything from the plot and characters of books to even the strange lives of classic authors themselves.

Take a short break from your beloved paperbacks, and step into the wonderful, fantastical world of literary YouTube with these three channel recommendations.

Shipwrecked Comedy

Shipwrecked, according to their YouTube bio, is “here to fulfill all your historical literary comedy webseries needs.” And Sean and Sinead Persaud, the sibling force behind the channel, accomplish just that in pleasantly unexpected ways.

Imagine the shenanigans that would ensue if Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, and Charlotte Brontë had a dinner party together—and someone got murdered. Imagine Poe simply trying to live his life as a lovably awkward, mustachioed, raven-obsessed shut-in poet with a crush on the girl next door, documenting it all through his video diary. Imagine hearing Bertha from Jane Eyre sing about life in an attic to the tune of Tangled’s “When Will My Life Begin.”

Shipwrecked brings literature to life with comedy and flair you never knew you needed. Shipwrecked is fun bookworm fanservice at its best, poking fun at English nerds who—let’s be honest here—often take themselves too seriously.

The Candle Wasters

For those with more dramatic tastes in books, the Candle Wasters, a fiercely feminist New Zealand-based independent creative collective, create web series interpretations of Shakespearean works with unique interpretations that break the mould. Their web series, such as Bright Summer Night, a show loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, intentionally puts LGBTQ+ characters at the forefront of the story.

Other Candle Wasters web series that garnered faithful followings were Nothing Much To Do (based on Much Ado About Nothing) and Lovely Little Losers (based on Love’s Labour Lost). Through vlog-style storytelling, these web series offer a charming, more modern take on Shakespeare drama and comedy that stands apart from, and even above modern movie interpretations of Shakespeare.

Yulin Kuang

Saving the best for last, I cannot rave enough about Yulin Kuang’s work. Kuang is an independent filmmaker who produced content for Shipwrecked’s channel, and then diverged to create her own work. Kuang’s sense of film aesthetic is beautiful and colourful, as seen from much of the short films she created, like Cecilia, a short film showcasing friendship and fashion.

But one of the highlights of her channel is her series I Didn’t Write This. It’s in this web series that Kuang’s love of literature and film gorgeously come together as visual interpretations of story passages and famous poems. My personal favourite is the spectacularly vivid episode on the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. Kuang also often works with other artists, such as dancers and actors, to produce her work, giving them another venue to showcase their talent.

These channels are but a small taste of the literary world of YouTube.

From modern-day vlog-style interpretations of Pride and Prejudice to educational English-class videos narrated by a gangster, just like YouTube at large, literary YouTube has something for all book lovers.

So before you get back to your paper pages, go look for your literary YouTube niche, and enjoy all that YouTube has to offer.

– Photo by Angela Tilley