Book-related videos you should watch

Just the other day, I watched my colleague Ron Charles’s latest video, “Sh*t Book Reviewers Say.” If you haven’t seen it, you need to do so right away. It’s both wildly funny and painfully accurate.

In essence, the video depicts Ron, in various “guises,” enunciating one debased reviewer’s cliché after another. “Luminous” is perhaps the best known, but there are scores of others. I may be misremembering but I do think he missed one of my favorites: Whenever people confess their sins or addictions, reviewers describe the author or the book as “brave.” E.g. “This is not just a moving book, it’s a brave book and one with an important message for young people everywhere.” I just made that up, but it could be slotted into any number of reviews. “Brave”— it’s not just for soldiers anymore.

Though I don’t watch many online videos, I strongly recommend three from Tartarus Press in England. (Search under Tartarus Press, then follow the video links.) Each little film is simplicity itself: A book collector sits in his library and talks about the books on his shelves and the pleasure they have brought him.

Because each of the people featured speaks beautifully and because it’s always fun to learn about other people’s collections, I’ve watched the videos several times. The first one focuses on Ray Russell, author, editor and publisher of Tartarus Press, which specializes in weird and supernatural fiction. The second is devoted to Mark Valentine, author, critic and editor of Wormwood, an excellent scholarly journal devoted to supernatural and decadent literature (chiefly from the late 19th through the early 20th century). The third zeroes in on Reggie Oliver, author, actor, artist and biographer (of his aunt Stella Gibbons).

In the films, all three discuss their favorite authors (e.g., Arthur Machen, Sylvia Townsend-Warner), turn the pages of some favorite volumes, and generally convey the kind of warmth and geniality suggested by the word “bookman.” Let me stress, too, that Russell, Valentine and Oliver are all superb writers, among the leading practitioners of classic supernatural fiction. Check out not just the books they own, but the books they’ve written.

Do other members of the Reading Room know about online videos — from Youtube or Vimeo or elsewhere — that they might recommend to the rest of us? These might be conversations with authors, or recorded lectures, or features like Ron’s or the films from Tartarus Press. Please share some of your discoveries, won’t you?

— Michael Dirda

Read what others are saying