Artist Profile: Sally Thames on Reading, BookTube and Content Creation | Arts


Sally Thames is a YouTuber who makes videos about books and the different lenses through which they can be read. She produces a range of content, including videos that show her reading books inspired by specific time periods or the literary tastes of fictional characters. Uniting music and pop culture with her passion for reading, Sally Thames brings a unique perspective to the community of “BookTube,” or YouTubers who create book-related content.

Thames has been part of the BookTube community since 2011 as a viewer, getting most of her book recommendations from the videos she’s watched. Although Thames had already attempted to start a channel during his college years, his educational commitments prevented his online career from taking off. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Thames’ work and school time came to an abrupt end, giving him time to work on a personal project: his new YouTube channel.

“I just decided to start the channel and have a place to talk about the books I was reading; I was doing it mostly for myself and my family,” Thames said in an interview with The Harvard Crimson.

As a viewer, Sally Thames admired other creators’ ability to read books through a specific lens and ensured she was able to bring a unique perspective to the community through her videos. Citing Jack Edwards and UncarleyAs inspiration for Thames’ videos, Thames hopes to provide context by reading and discussing books centered on various time periods, music albums and fictional characters.

“I think it’s a really interesting way to read and I love being able to see how people extrapolate on the characters and show they love,” Thames said.

Conversation and connection are some of Thames’ favorite things about his channel and the large BookTube community. She wants YouTube to allow more than just subscriber comments to foster those interactions.

Among the growing community of readers on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, Sally Thames feels most at home on YouTube. She loves reading book reviews on Instagram and looking at titles on other people’s shelves, but for Thames, YouTube provides the space, length and format to discuss books in an imperfect way. On YouTube, there’s no pressure to create an eloquent masterpiece of a caption that sums up all of his thoughts on a book.

The influence of social media, especially TikTok, is definitely felt by Thames, whether it’s constantly hearing what his friends are reading or finding “as seen on TikTok” sections in bookstores. However, popular books on TikTok don’t always match Thames’ tastes, and she doesn’t understand how anyone can fall in love with a book after watching such a short video.

“I’m always convinced to go buy a book when I hear someone talking about it, in a way that hasn’t been the norm on BookTok,” Thames said.

While Thames is a huge Bookstagram and BookTok fan as an observer and content consumer, she feels most comfortable communicating her own thoughts to an audience on YouTube.

Balancing her personal passions with the preferences of her viewers has always been a point of consideration for Thames as she makes money from her channel. She finds her videos work best when she is excited about what she does and prioritizes developing her content, confident that her audience will love her as much as she does.

“I try to only make videos that I really want to make because reading starts to become a chore and if someone doesn’t like it they can go watch someone else,” she said.

As an overworked former student who fell in love with reading again, Thames anxiously watched the growing pressure among the reading community to read a certain number of books each year or share statistics about their reading habits.

“There’s such pressure that comes with BookTube and BookTok, especially when people talk about their reading stats. I feel like it’s a competition, and to me it’s a completely backwards way of looking at reading,” the YouTuber said.

Thames advises people who want to read more but find it difficult to change their mindset about reading. Thinking of reading as a form of self-care as opposed to just another thing to check off a list can make it more enjoyable and less of a hassle.

As a member of BookTube, Thames witnessed disparities in levels of success between white creators and creators of color. While in recent years, she has crossed paths with many color designers such as WithCindy, elliasand fictional fates are growing in views, the most popular designers are still predominantly white. As an avid classics reader, Thames also reviews the authors she reads for her videos and does her best to balance specific “must read” lists (such as Read as Jess from Gilmore Girls) with his desire to read differently.

As a white creator, Thames explained that while she can’t talk about the experiences of creators of color within BookTube, she can be intentional about the voices she reads.

As for the future of his channel, Thames hopes to expand to Patreon and Discord to facilitate more interactions within his community of viewers and establish an additional means of earning income from his content.

“I’m starting a Patreon and hope that even with a little extra financial boost, I can make more videos with the same quality,” Thames shared.

A longtime member of BookTube who recently launched her own fast-growing channel, Sally Thames brings a unique perspective that reinvents the way her viewers interpret contemporary and classic fiction. Thames’ content has quickly become a staple of the readership community on YouTube. As his vision evolves and changes, Thames is sure to bring his passion for reading and connecting with others to his future endeavors, on YouTube and beyond.

—Editor Anna Moiseieva can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @AMoiseyeva

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Jenny T. Curlee