Buy local? Read local!

By Hannah Mason, Assistant Editor

It’s a pretty safe bet that if you pick up a book that’s landed on the New York Times bestseller list that it’s going to be a pretty good read. Today that list only makes up a small fraction of the books that are out on the market on any given week.

As much as we as readers may enjoy keeping up with the latest and most talked-about bestsellers, it’s also important that we show our community support in buying and reading books by local authors from our area.

We’re always told about how important it is to support local businesses by purchasing locally made products, but that community attitude ought to carry over into the business of books as well.

Many authors live and work closer to us than we think and they look for support from local schools, libraries, and bookstores back home to get their names and books out there.

Recently, I had the chance to see a little bit of this myself as I attended a young adult author festival at a local library in central Ohio.

There were twelve authors at the festival, all from Ohio, and most of them were first-time authors.

They were all excited to talk about and to promote their books to prospective readers from the community, as well as to give writing and publishing tips to aspiring writers.

The experience impressed upon me the importance of supporting these up-and-coming local writers. Of course, the books we enjoy the most are the ones we are able to connect with; the ones we can relate to.

It’s easy to connect with the bestseller of the moment.

They’re called “best” for a reason. A couple clicks of a mouse can connect you to a whole world of people talking about that book, and many of today’s bestsellers come with a sticker on the front reminding you that they are “now a major motion picture” which comes with its own community of fans.

What about all those other hundreds of thousands of books lining both the real and virtual shelves of libraries, bookstores, and online booksellers? How does a reader connect with them?

One way is by connecting directly to the author. This is why writers are looking for support from their own communities.

It can be a pivotal moment for a reader to discover a writer who went to their high school or grew up in their hometown.

First-time writers require these kinds of connections to help get their names and books out there, so it’s important for us as readers to actively seek out up-and-coming and local authors to get behind and to recommend.

At West Liberty, it’s easy for us to relate to the coal mining District 12 in the ever-popular “The Hunger Games,” but there are a lot of other books out there featuring our Ohio Valley hometowns that we can relate to as well.

Just ask Cheryl Harshman, WLU Elbin Library Director. She’ll give you whole lists of outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction written by authors who know and love the West Virginia hills just as much as we do.

She recommends starting with some earlier works for background and then reading through to some modern-day novels.

Harshman says, “Anyone from this area will be able to appreciate the works of writers such as Davis Grubb, Geoff Fuller, and Jayne Anne Phillips.”

Davis Grubb wrote about Moundsville, West Virginia, and his two novels, “The Fool’s Parade” and “The Night of the Hunter,” have been made into movies.

More recently, Morgantown writer Jayne Anne Phillips has become a “huge, important American novelist,” with her latest crime novel, “The Quiet Dell,” out now.

“Geoff Fuller has documented the details in a West Virginia murder case that has made many headlines recently in his nonfiction book, “The Murder of Skylar Neese: The Truth Behind the Headlines,” Harshman commented.

Readers can also connect with books they don’t know much about by linking them together with genres and well-known books and authors they do know and like.

For example, I would recommend first-time author Emery Lord from Pickerington, Ohio if you’re a fan of young adult romance. Read the works of Sarah Dessen, andEdith Pattou if you’re into fantasy and fairy tales.

Later on this fall semester, we’ll all have a chance to connect directly with some of these regional authors, as our own Elbin Library travels down the hill to the Ohio County Library in Wheeling for their first ever regional book festival on November 8th.

The libraries will be hosting a free community event where booklovers can meet a lineup of regional authors, buy their books, and attend workshops for topics ranging from getting published to creating a graphic novel.

If you’re a book lover, spend a little time in these last few weeks of summer looking into events and authors near your hometown, and check out your local library as a great resource for finding out about writers in your area.

You never know, you might just discover the next bestseller.