Dakota Warren is an Australian author, poet, and YouTuber, known for her bookish content. She has 70.8k followers on Instagram and 91.3k subscribers on YouTube. In less than a year, she has already accumulated over 1 million views with her most popular video titled 10 *actually good* classic literature books for *actual* beginners garnering over 351k views in 9 months.
She started her YouTube channel during the pandemic. The influence of the pandemic on her content, she recalls “was the catalyst for my content even existing in the first place. I’ve always been quite vocal about my obsessions with literature and language which just so happened to come to light when everyone was scrolling their phones in lockdown, desperately looking for ways to distract themselves or chase the insatiable pursuit to better themselves. Luckily for me, the things I rave about — reading and writing — filled both of those voids. I quickly gathered a small cult following hanging on from one book recommendation to the next, so the progression into YouTube seemed to flow quite organically.”
Known for being the Internet’s dark-academia-Pinterest-board brought to life, her authenticity in the realm of BookTube is welcomed and appreciated. A comment on her latest YouTube upload states:
"I make sure to watch your videos because this seems like one of the very few channels out there that actually understands literature. So many people approach reading like its a television show or a meal and don't reflect on any of the abstract concepts or hidden messages. Anytime I feel discouraged I watch one of your videos and I immediately feel like picking up reading again, so thank you."
As a self-proclaimed lover of words, she describes BookTube as “wholesome, predictable, and imperative”. Despite reading plenty, her career as a public reviewer of books and a writer has led her to genres and books that she would not have gravitated toward; “I’m really grateful for my career pulling me out of this box and motivating me to read incredible works from all kinds of genres and parts of the world that I can proudly showcase and cultivate a love for, even if I do inevitably resort back to my personal taste.”
As a content creator, the mercurial changes in her work are highly related to the events of her life.
“The content strictly about literature was during the thick of the harsh lockdown imposed on Melbourne, Australia. All I could do was read and write, so naturally, it’s what I spoke about. Life has since changed a fair bit, for example, my big move to London, so naturally, my content followed me during this process. The content I create will always be indicative of what I’m doing and where I’m at. I went about this intentionally so as to avoid myself and the content I produce being ‘boxed in’ to one genre, regardless of it being a genre I live and breathe. Fluidity [in content] is key."
Her approach to the books she raves about on her channel are those that she believes are “underrated masterpieces”. She elaborates, “I tend to veer away from the books that steer into the overhyped BookTube category because there is an abundance of other creators covering those”, however, a thing she would change is that she wished “classics were celebrated more in the BookTube community rather than trending contemporary works, which myself and a number of other creators aim to shed light on”.
When asked if there are popular books that are worthy of the hype, she says “The Song of Achilles is a genuinely beautiful book that I believe will forever be regarded very highly. It took me an entire year to get to reading the book simply because it was so overhyped and I worried my high expectations would shadow it. It pays homage to Homer’s Iliad brilliantly.
I also adore the hyped books in the classics community simply because I adore all classics. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a big one here and I will stand by that until the day I die.”
Gen-Z’s obsession with boxing objects reminiscent of one aesthetic, known as “cores”, began from the fashion side of social media but has expanded to the BookTok and Bookstagram circles. These niches are similar to the various genres of literature, though the books in these ‘cores’ can transcend the traditional categorization of genres. The ‘Sad Girl’ trope is an example of this.
According to i-D Magazine, the ‘Sad Girl’ began as the manifestation of teen angst but has now taken an evolved form. It is now a sentient cultural movement. The quintessential Sad Girls of Literature are Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, and Virginia Woolf as they wrote works that go against the reductive narratives but gave way to a deeper understanding of the female psyche that does have an element of sadness in them.
Contemporaries, like Ottessa Moshfegh, demonstrate this as her work goes against the archetypes of a female protagonist by showcasing the messiness and chaos that exists in the minds of women everywhere. Warren states that “it’s gained a notable cult following as of recent because we’re at a stage in ‘online feminism’ where being fundamentally feral is celebrated”.
Another popular genre on the literary side of social media is romance, with authors such as Colleen Hoover being one of the most popular authors mentioned on BookTok. When asked about the pressure to talk about specific books, she replied that:
“I receive hundreds of requests weekly for very particular kinds of videos or very particular kinds of books and whilst I love and adore and am ineffably grateful for each and every person who watches my videos and is interested in hearing my opinion on matters important to them, I find solace in remaining authentic and organic in my content by honouring my own literary proclivities. There has certainly been and will always be times in which I do engage with requests for certain genres, tropes, or books.”
For example, her recent video was about the romance genre, which is not her favourite. The topic was dealt with in a way that is true to herself but covered a lot of surface area in terms of its popularity in the BookTube world.
[The ‘sad girl trope’ has] gained a notable cult following as of recent because we’re at a stage in ‘online feminism’ where being fundamentally feral is celebrated.
“Existing as a writer and a reader in the age of the internet influences [my reading habits] greatly. Trends are commodities and writers are hyper-aware of this. Readers are also generally aware of this, but they eat it up regardless. Trends — whether it be style, culture or literary tropes — must be either embodied flawlessly or rejected entirely in order to gain recognition. It’s sad, but it exists, and I think it’s healthier to acknowledge it rather than will it away by ignoring it.
I explore new tropes so I can review a wider array of books for my audience, especially literature from all over the world. I learned quickly how important it is to read and discuss works from a wide array of cultures. Apart from that, I know what I like and I know what I don’t like and I know what I’d never reach for if I were still only reading for myself.”
The spotlight on her has grown with the release of her book On Sun Swallowing. Published in late 2021, it is a compilation of five years’ worth of poetry, prose, and journal extracts. The illustrations were done by Lydia Stone and curated photography was done by Francesca McConnell, Caroline Dare, Leche de Arte, and Clara Slewa. It is described as a book that “explores shadowy emotion, at times in a whisper, at times in a scream. Think cheap cigarettes, even cheaper wine, and an oath to reach hell by midnight and be home in time for work in the morning.”
The book cover is one that echoes the name Dakota Warren perfectly; It is perfectly ambiguous, dark, and mysterious. She states that the process of designing the cover was a lengthy process of trial and error.
“[The cover] emulates a journal, chaotic, raw and real. The handwriting is my own handwriting scanned from the journal entries that inspired many of the pieces within the book. The stitched and torn image adds to the coordinated chaos of the collage effect. The neat title contrasts these, a divine contradiction, which essentially sums up the entire contents of the book. A contradiction, an anomaly, an enigma”.
Her experience of publishing the book was described as “symbolic”. In one of her posts on her blog, Memoirs Of A Nowhere Girl, she elaborates on her experiences with impostor syndrome. She describes it as “a weighted brick on my chest and tastes eerily like second-hand cigar smoke. It tends to stick around like that, like bees stick to honey”.
The release of her book and the success it has garnered have magnified those feelings.
“Are my words even worth publishing quickly morphed into is my success post-publishing indicative of talent, privilege, or chance? Sure, I work damn hard, and sure, I have been obsessed with attaining the dream that is now my reality since I was a little girl, and sure, I would not have published my work from such a young age if I did not believe it to be publishable. Imposter syndrome cannot be justified, but my brain will attempt to justify it from every angle so as to not be wrong — or worse, right."
Hence, the process of being a published her work for the first time was “at times it was a dream, at times it was a nightmare, but it was always surreal and fascinating. I was beyond blessed with a super collaborative experience for my first publishing gig and I’m really grateful for everything I can take from that experience.
I wrote many words, my lovely editors helped refine them, and Pure Nowhere [her publisher] turned them into a dream come true with my chaotic guidance. I really struggle to let go of control, but Pure made that experience as comforting as it possibly could be for a slightly insane Virgo publishing her first book”. Her social media presence has impacted the approach she has when releasing her writing:
“It’s now more so a matter of being more selective with what I post. If I write something very personal or potentially triggering to a wide audience, it’ll stay in my personal drafts. For me, writing will always first and foremost remain a form of catharsis, a purging, a purification.”
Warren’s individuality is what makes her a force of nature to be reckoned with in the field of BookTube. Her first published book already has 4.51 stars on Goodreads with 428 ratings and 124 reviews. This is just the beginning as she will soar in the future (with a Nabokov to keep her company).
Find Dakota Warren here:
Purchase On Sun Swallowing: https://www.purenowhere.com/shipping-redirection