Who uses it: Publishers and booksellers
What it means: Advance Readers' Copy, an uncorrected proof of a book distributed to booksellers, reviewers and librarians before publication.
How you can use it: When you get a sneak preview.
ARCs are the major perk of bookselling, a job that is otherwise pretty thankless. Although I no longer work inside a bookstore, my newsletter-writing for The Mystery Bookstore keeps me on the distribution list for advance copies, which means that the book storage situation in my apartment will never be under control, and my to-be-read pile will never be exhausted.
A friend with a similar problem told me not long ago that he would never again read anything he hadn't sought out for himself -- but he won't be able to keep that vow, and neither can I. If someone sends me a book for free, I feel obligated at least to look at it, and usually to read the first few chapters. Thank goodness, I no longer feel compelled to finish every book I start. Most of the ARCs I get don't merit more than fifteen minutes before I decide I don't want to read any more.
I live in terror that if I stop reading the ARCs, the publishers won't send me any more -- and then I'd miss out on the early copies of books I really do want to read, which include two of the titles in What I Read This Week.
Douglas Preston, Tyrannosaur Canyon. Doug Preston is a scholar and a gentleman who writes fascinating non-fiction and great escapist fiction, both alone and with his writing partner, Lincoln Child. His latest solo effort brings back two main characters from Codex, this time on the trail of a dinosaur fossil that could change the future, as well as our ideas about the past. As good as a vacation, and a perfect gift for any teenaged boys in your household who think reading is boring.
Harlan Coben, Promise Me. Like many of Mr. Coben's fans, I have been waiting six years for a new Myron Bolitar novel, and getting an advance copy of this one was just like Christmas. This book could be called "Myron Bolitar Grows Up," and finds the sports agent facing the issues of middle age: aging parents, the marriage of an old flame, and the adolescent perils of his friends' children. If I still ran a discussion group at the store, I'd love to have a group compare and contrast this book with Laura Lippman's To The Power of Three and Rochelle Krich's ...Now You See Me, which all explore similar issues.
Denise Hamilton, Prisoner of Memory. Seventeen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I sometimes get the feeling that people think of the Soviet system as rather quaint or benign, and the Cold War as a big waste of time. Denise Hamilton's latest Eve Diamond mystery does a terrific job of showing just how brutal the old regime was, and how much it cost people who suffer its effects to this day. L.A. Times reporter Eve Diamond discovers she has a long-lost Russian cousin on the same day that the teenage son of Russian emigres is killed in Griffith Park. Her personal and professional investigations lead to more violence, and the revelation of long-kept secrets. I've been recommending Denise's books for a long time to people who want to know what "the real Los Angeles" is like, but she takes a major step forward with this book.
Promise Me and Prisoner of Memory will both be in bookstores next month. Go buy them, so Putnam and Simon & Schuster will keep sending me ARCs.