Fans of YouTube phenomenon Tyler Oakley may feel as though they already know this smart, hilarious, and forthright star personally. But in his new book, Binge, Oakley opens up to readers, sharing stories about love, relationships, and other personal subjects he has rarely discussed until now. In this guest post, Oakley shares some of his favorite authors with us—writers whose wit, grit, and courage to share their own experiences have inspired him to dig deep.
While writing my new book, Binge, I realized that what I most love to write are the things I most love to read. You are what you eat, and you write what you read.
I love the concept of oversharing. When I read a Chelsea Handler book, I love knowing that nobody in her life is safe from being exposed. Whether it’s her best friends, family, or hookups over the years, everyone gets a moment on blast—but the biggest target of all will always be herself. She never comes out looking better than her counterparts, and I admire that. It’s easy and even fun to expose your friends, it’s much harder to do it to yourself. Chelsea is great at it, and My Horizontal Life is an incredible example. Between graphic sex stories and adventures with friends, I feel like I’m getting the inside scoop from a bestie anyone would wish to have. Having usually reserved all my juicy morning-after stories for gay brunch in West Hollywood, I became ready to finally share them with my audience, and Handler’s candidness showed me how to do it.
Life is not always happy-go-lucky, and some of my favorite books from Augusten Burroughs look at the darker sides of growing up. To really know love and happiness, you need something with which to compare them, and when I read Dry or A Wolf at the Table, I’m shaken to the core and forced to face my own demons. While I was writing, a friend of mine asked if I left blood in the pages—if my book Binge would be more than a Draw My Life-style narrative of how I got into the YouTube scene, which is something viewers might reasonably expect from a YouTube personality. The answer is yes, I absolutely left blood on the pages. Sharing the worst days of my life may help readers in the same way reading Burroughs’s Dry helped me—to feel less alone. Some of these stories have been kept secret all my life—not even my best friends and family know the truth (until now).
As a YouTuber, there are certain things I’ve always considered sacred—love most of all. I rarely discuss relationships in videos, although they’re at the top of every request I get from viewers. Love feels personal, and when someone shares the complete truth of one of their love stories, I feel privileged to be allowed a peek into that keyhole. Every time I read I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, I feel grateful and understood. Even though it’s a love story between a drag queen and a meth-addicted hooker (and I am neither of those things…yet!), I relate to it. It’s raw, honest, and touches on the fears and insecurities that every relationship must endure. While writing Binge, I decided to share the story of my own first real love, and I hope readers can feel understood, too.
My favorite authors, like my favorite YouTubers, are storytellers. Someone who can take something trivial and tell it in a captivating way will always keep me coming back for more, especially if their voice shines through. David Sedaris is the absolute best at this. His voice, both literal and written, is crystal clear, and his stories, even on subjects so small that the average person might overlook them, are always memorable and hilarious. My life has largely been about immediately oversharing on the Internet, but as soon as I began to write my book, my impulse to turn on the camera switched to picking up a pen. I’ve saved my absolute best stories—happy and sad, embarrassing and encouraging—for Binge. I hope even people who have never seen a YouTube video will be able to hear my voice through my own storytelling, and that it will offer them something meaningful and memorable.
Binge is available in stores now!
Photo Credit: Rae Marshall Photography