My/Your Favorite Books:

Open-Mic Nights, Cult Classics, and the Personalization of Loving Something Before It Becomes Cool

By Sage Webb


Last week, Liz posted about a birding book and how sometimes the big presses do just get the worms. Her review got me thinking, especially because I’ve grown a bit weary of seeing mostly *crawdads and normal people* on what feels like “every” book platform and in every bookstore. In no way do I want to denigrate what Delia Owens and Sally Rooney have achieved. Truly: go them!


But I remember being a stupid kid sleeping on couches in Irvine, California, in the ’90s and having a buddy rave about how he’d seen Gwen Stefani and No Doubt playing locally “before they got big.” This guy also bragged about how he’d liked Dave Matthews before anyone knew who Dave Matthews was.


For me, finding that “underground” book that rings true in all the right places has the same sort of effect. As someone lucky enough to live near a great listening room (Galveston’s Old Quarter Acoustic Café), I get to enjoy hearing Texas (and beyond) singer-songwriters share unique, moving, authentic material. (History buffs, take a listen to George Ensle’s “Christmas Truce of 1914.”) The Old Quarter also offers vibrant open-mic nights, with local musicians baring their souls in an intimate, supportive environment of fans who seek out the opportunity to enjoy the esoteric. Regardless of what’s on the playbill, a night at the Old Quarter provides a complete experience: maybe a dinner with friends on the sea wall, a stroll down the old Strand, sitting and chatting in the café with a Topo Chico before the show, a companionable performance with solid music that no one can call canned, and the obligatory after-show walk to discuss lyrics, melody, and the meaning of eternity. “Discovering” that other-side-of-the-bestseller-list gem offers me the same thrill.


When I find a gorgeous, under-recognized book (perhaps with an interesting story behind it), I feel like I’m somehow in on a secret. The book becomes a little more “mine” because I share knowledge of it with fewer fans. The accident of discovery personalizes the work for me. And when I fall in love this way, I (is it paradoxical?) feel compelled to tell other biblio-fans about this thing “I” found. With a smaller following, the book takes on the feel of a cult classic, with we as its loyal supporters forming an “in crowd” around it. I suppose in some ways that’s why I do Read Local® and why I can’t wait to read a San Antonio author’s debut novel that is sitting in my P.O. box right now.   

Read Local, L.L.C., is a small (we hope to grow!) community of book lovers. We review books published by independent/university/small presses and post our reviews and thoughts in an effort to raise awareness of independent-press books. The Read Local, L.L.C., entity is owned by the parent company of Stoneman House Press, L.L.C., and that publisher's work appears on this website (we make money when Stoneman House sells books), but not everyone who writes content for us or participates in our community works for Stoneman House. Aside from Stoneman House, we also have relationships (personal and/or professional) with some of the authors whose books appear here. Some (like Sage Webb) write reviews for us and help lead us (and they make money when their books sell). We note when we have a relationship with a book, publisher, or author. Otherwise, we do not have relationships with the authors and publishers listed here. They appear here only because we liked their books and we like reviewing books. (We will be as transparent as possible when we post here about things in which we have a financial stake. Not just because of regulations like those in Part 255 of Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, but because we really are here just to have some literary fun.) If you are an author or publisher of a book that appears here, feel free to reach out to us! We'd love to hear from you. We are at And if you are an author or publisher and you would like us to remove your book from our site, just let us know. We are here to serve the literary community. If you have questions, reach out.

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