A joy of my writing life is the opportunity to read books before they come out into the world. The advent of bookstagram means that many readers know about “advance reading copies” or ARCs—which we usually see as much as six months before a pub date, or the practice of sending some readers an early copy in the weeks right before publication—but in case you don’t, I’ll lay it out for you—especially because it’s a glorious way my own reading life has come full circle.
Let me drag you back in time to ‘90’s Manhattan. At the time, there were two Barnes and Nobles bookstores within a few blocks of one another. Both felt huge, with multiple floors, dense shelves…I can’t tell you how magical they were to me. (This was also before Barnes and Noble took on its full identity as evil corporate bookseller…hahahaha how little we knew.
The store on lower 6th Avenue had a basement that sold used books, and I discovered that “used” meant a lot of things, and often—especially if you hit the store on the day a favorite author was published—it meant a brand spanking new hardback book, often with folded paper inside—the PR copy sent with the book to… who? At the time, I didn’t know. Now I know these are the early copies given to possible reviewers, authors who wrote blurbs for the book or authors who might say nice things about it somewhere (where I do now know, as this predates social media, too). Occasionally a book marked “Advance Review Copy Not for Resale” would slip through, and that was even more exciting. It felt like I was breaking all the rules.
Now that I’m on the inside of all of this action, I can imagine what was happening: broke authors living in tiny Chelsea apartments, hauling boxes of books they’d been given to the bookstore and selling them for credit so that I could pounce on them with glee and take them home and devour them. The fact that I get those early copies myself now never stops being fun. What I REALLY like is to have an advance of something highly desirable and take it on a trip. (Yes, I’ll be the one reading the new Ali Hazelwood—that isn’t coming out until June—by the pool in the Bahamas over Spring Break).
Hey, simple pleasures. But you’re here for the book recs! These are both books I got an early look at and had to save up to tell you about, which is why the long intro. The ONLY disadvantage of this whole system is that it’s ages before I can talk about things I’ve loved.
SO with no further ado:
I… do not know how to describe this. I highly encourage you to just pick it up and roll with it. Many, many unexpected things will happen. It’s kind of a much less violent bookish version of an early Tarantino film. Not really. But a little. The whole “wait, how did we get here?” vibe is entirely present. But maybe blend in some Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine and then slapstick the whole thing up just a touch with some Where’d You Go Bernadette? You know, download a free chapter. If you want to keep going, press buy and you’ll be glad you did.
I’m pushing this on my friends who loved Writers and Lovers, although there’s more plot and slightly less angst. If you happen to have read Ada Calhoun’s Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father and Me, then this will give you some of that flavor as well. Writerly entre-familial struggles galore. I blurbed this (“A thoroughly modern story of family mistakes and redemption that I couldn’t put down.” —KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times bestselling author… blah blah) but I’m not sure why I was the pick here—it’s got a more sophisticated vibe than I think my books have had. Oh, I know—grab this when you’re done with Pineapple Street and you’ll be right in the same neighborhood.
Other notes: finished To Swoon and To Spar, by Martha Waters, wholeheartedly enjoyed. Still reading Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A-Z of Literary Persuasion, by Louise Willder. Just loved a thriller—more on that next week, probably. Just started a rom-com, not far enough in to say anything at all. About to dive into Saving Time by Jenny Odell—oh, and I am pretty excited about VenCo by Cherie Dimaline too, so those are some highlights of ye olde #tbr.
Whatcha looking forward to or loving out there? I always want to know.
You’re probably already subscribed to #AmReading —but if not, join in here! Always free.
Both covers you posted intrigued me! I started a thriller, Not So Perfect Strangers by L.S. Stratton (aka Shelly Stratton, whose novel She Wears the Mask I found fascinating and twisty in unexpected ways). And I just bought One’s Company by Ashley Hutson, because it caught my eye at a bookstore and the Three’s Company plotline was too weird not to want to know more.
Eons ago, I attended a literary festival and got an ARC of what was a little-known book at the time - Twilight. Needless to say, that put me ahead of the curve on that one. While YA is not my typical genre, nor are vampires, but it was perfect to read when I had scarlet fever. Yes, it's true, in the early 2000s I had the illness we were all trained to fear from books like the Little House series and others. Clearly I survived (and scarlet fever is not much of a threat in the age of antibiotics).