What Role Reviews:

Rebellion, Rarity, and Reading Local

By Liz Merton


Sage’s piece last week on “discovering” and loving books before they “become cool” got me thinking about reviews. Here we are at Read Local® offering our opinions on the books we find and fall in love with. But what role do reviews play if we are all searching for the undiscovered gem? Do reviews inherently sully the process?




With the limits of time and money, however, reviews represent a means to conserve resources. At Read Local®, we spend a lot of time digging up potential books to review, reading (and not always finishing!) books (some turn out to be complete duds), and comparing what we read to the popular works available to determine a lesser-known work’s possible contribution to the scene. We generally don’t make anything off our efforts. (As the note in this website’s footer indicates, we will make money off Stoneman House books, but they are a new press and their first releases aren’t due out till later this summer.) We also spend quite a bit of money buying the books we read. Some we’ve found at used-book sales . . . and, from time to time, we’ve lucked out discovering a winner for a buck. Quite often, though, the books we want haven’t had the distribution that would mean they would end up on a used-book rack or at a library sale. A great majority we dig up on Amazon, with Kindle Direct Publishing giving very small presses and independent authors a voice. (Yes, we have mixed feelings about Amazon, but it has provided an outlet for artists that might otherwise struggle to have their words read. You can read more of my Amazon thoughts here.) We also scour the websites of small presses.


By curating a Read Local® list, we aim to save you time and money . . . and we also hope to fuel your own independent digging into, well, independent literature. So while advocating a path away from “critical acclaim,” we hope not to create simply a parallel form of acclaim (one that merely wears different clothes). We want to encourage a sort of literary self-sufficiency, where readers embrace and enjoy the (dare I say it?) “rugged individualism” of hiking up uncharted book mountains and finding at a bend in the path their next favorite read, a read unknown by anyone in New York or at a major magazine or on Buzzfeed.


P.S. If you’ve got a winner, drop us a note with details. We always enjoy hearing about independent-press wins, lesser-known gems, and “no-hit wonders,” and if we hear of a fit, we’ll check it out and post it here.

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 readlocalbooks@hotmail.com. 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.

(We also love innovative art and photography. Just sayin'.)

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