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

Sally Thames poses in front of her bookshelf.
Sally Thames poses in front of her bookshelf. By Courtesy of Sally Thames
By Anna Moiseieva, Crimson Staff Writer

Sally Thames is a YouTuber who makes videos discussing books and the various lenses through which they can be read. She produces a range of content, including videos which 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, sourcing most of her book recommendations from the videos she watched. Though Thames attempted to start a channel previously during her time in college, educational commitments prevented her online career from taking off. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Thames’ job and time in school came to an abrupt end, giving her time to work on a personal project: her new YouTube channel.

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

As a viewer, Sally Thames admired the ability of other creators to read books through a specific lens and made sure that she was able to bring a unique perspective to the community through her videos. Citing Jack Edwards and Uncarley’s videos as inspiration, Thames hopes to bring context by reading and discussing books centered around various time periods, music albums, and fictional characters.

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

Conversation and connection are some of Thames’ favorite things about her channel and the greater BookTube community. She wishes that YouTube allowed for more than just subscriber comments to foster those interactions.

Within the growing reading community across social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, Sally Thames feels most at home on YouTube. She loves reading Instagram reviews of books and looking at the titles on others’ shelves, but for Thames, YouTube provides the space, length, and format to discuss books imperfectly. On YouTube, there’s no pressure to create an eloquent masterpiece of a caption that summarizes all of her thoughts on a book.

The influence of social media, specifically TikTok, is definitely felt by Thames, from constantly hearing about what her friends are reading to finding “as seen on TikTok” sections in bookstores. Popular books on TikTok don’t always align with Thames’ taste, however, 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 somebody gushing about it, in a way that hasn’t been the standard on BookTok,”said Thames.

While Thames is a big fan of Bookstagram and BookTok as an observer and consumer of content, 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 since she does make money from her channel. She finds that her videos do best when she is excited about what she’s making and prioritizes enjoying the development of her content, trusting that her audience will love it just as much as she does.

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

As a former overworked college student who has fallen in love again with reading, Thames has watched anxiously as pressure builds among the reading community to read a certain number of books each year or share statistics about one’s reading habits.

“There’s such a pressure that comes along with BookTube and BookTok especially when people talk about their reading statistics. It feels like it's a competition, and to me that’s a completely backwards way to look at reading,” said the YouTuber.

Thames advises people who want to read more but are struggling to do so to change their mindset about reading. Viewing reading as a form of self-care as opposed to just another thing to check off a list can make it feel more enjoyable and less like a hassle.

In her time as a member of BookTube, Thames has witnessed disparities in the levels of success between white creators and creators of color. While in recent years, she’s seen many creators of color like WithCindy, ellias, and fictionalfates grow in views, the most popular creators are still predominantly white. As an avid reader of classics, Thames also scrutinizes the authors that she reads for her videos and does her best to balance specific “To Be Read” lists (such as Reading like Jess from Gilmore Girls) with her desire to read diversely.

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

Looking ahead to the future of her channel, Thames hopes to expand to Patreon and Discord to facilitate more interactions within her community of viewers and establish an additional way to make an income from her content.

“I’m starting a Patreon and hopefully even with just a little extra financial boost I’ll be able to make more videos with the same quality,” Thames shared.

A long-time member of BookTube who recently started her own fast-growing channel, Sally Thames brings a unique perspective that reimagines how her viewers interpret contemporary and classical fiction. Thames’ content has quickly become a staple within the reading community on YouTube. As her vision evolves and changes, Thames will be sure to carry her passion for reading and connecting with others into her future endeavors, on YouTube and beyond.

—Staff writer Anna Moiseieva can be reached at anna.moiseieva@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AMoiseieva

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