Six Picks: Debut Novels

There’s nothing like a debut novel—it’s your introduction to a brand-new author that is just emerging onto the publishing scene. And oftentimes, these first works are so stunningly well-written, it shocks us that they haven’t penned ten bestsellers already. These novels—all published in the last year—cover a wide variety of topics, but they’re all skillfully written and they leaving us wondering when their respective sophomore novels will come out.

Which novels by first-time authors have you enjoyed? Which ones should we add to our TBR piles? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • I just finished a gorgeous first novel, The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb. She has published short fiction before but not a novel. This is a stunning fantasy that is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” but is definitely NOT a Disney-type story with a Disney ending.

  • Lorie

    Read and loved both The Nest and Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. Also recently read and loved Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser.

  • lovinlarge49

    I so want to read The Chilbury Ladies Choir. I have seen many giveaways with this book but have yet to win.

  • Sara Chamberlin

    The Nest is one of my favorite books of the past few years–a wonderful take on family. I kept hoping throughout that it would hold up, and it did–right to the very last word.

  • Sally Strong

    One of my recent favorite debut novels is The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. It’s the story of three women whose lives intersect during WWII. It’s based on real unsung women who change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.

  • maureen

    The Laura’s, chilbury ladies choir, little French bistro, long black veil, the typist and the farmhouse by tiffany turner

  • RoRo Kaye

    I so want to read THE LILAC GIRLS I enjoy reading novels about WWII- I respect the people that lived through that awful time period- , also want to read THE NEST.

  • Ilene H.

    Live and Let Die a novel by Bianca Sloane, I really enjoyed it.

  • P.A. Jaroma

    Finding Claire Fletcher by Lisa Regan. Also Allen Eskens’first book, the Life we bury

  • Pam

    Lincoln in the Bardo. A bit of a cheat but technically is Saunders first novel. I also liked The Nix, The Nest and Homegoing

  • Maureen Lipsky

    Y/a book The Hate you give by Angie Thomas

    • Carol Lieto

      I just read this all night long. It is amazing.

  • Honeybrown1976

    Definitely The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I did enjoy A Study in Charlotte as well.

  • schnauzermommy

    Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

  • Robin Blake

    I really enjoyed My Father and Atticus Finch : A Lawyer’s Fight for Justice in 1930 by joseph Beck. A real take on the character if I ever saw one!

  • Catbee

    The Night Circus!

    • Beth Perry

      I also loved The Night Circus! Waiting for news of new book by author or movie adaptation of novel.

      • Sandy

        I couldn’t put this book down. Loved it

  • BamaNancy

    “For Best and Worst” by Marie Nicole Harper

  • check out Wilmington, NC author Taylor Brown’s 2015 debut novel “Fallen Land”, beautiful, haunting, riveting.

  • Gussie Lewis

    Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer pubs in April, 2017. A HS Senior loses her mother unexpectedly. She writes letters to her and leaves them at her grave. A young man doing community service mowing the cemetery grass reads one of the letters. He writes a reply that she finds. She is outraged that anyone would read her letter and reply. As the novel unfolds we find out what happened and how they both come to terms with their grief.

  • Nancy Hall

    The 2016 Pulitzer was won for a debut novel, The Sympathizer. I just read it and loved it. It’s about a post-war Vietnamese communist sympathizer, who infiltrates a group of South Vietnamese loyalists, living in the U.S., who want to retake Vietnam from the communists. It’s thoughtful and suspenseful.

  • Donna Young Whitley

    The Fire by Night, Teresa Mesineo. Historical fiction about 2 US Army nurses in WWII. Painstakingly researched, beautifully written. It will break your heart while at the same give you unlimited hope.

  • Liza Grigoropoulos

    The Life We Bury by Allen Eskins is great! A college student befriends a dying man in a nursing home, finds out he was imprisoned for 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit, but also didn’t fight the conviction. Why?

    • Rose Ann Morrison

      This is an awesome read!

  • cordelia724

    Study in Charlotte interesting take on Holmes and Watson.
    The Nest is good study of a dysfunctional family. Did not really like any of the characters, but kept me reading.
    Lilac Girls really upsetting!

    • Rose Ann Morrison

      I didn’t like any of them either but still liked the book. Strange.

  • Blue G

    Fat Man and Little Boy by Mike Meginnis (2014, Black Balloon Publishing). Hard to categorize Fat Man and Little Boy. The title will immediately give away something to those who grew up with the rise of nuclear power and are familiar with WWII history (fat man and little boy being the names given to the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan). In this debut novel, the bombs rise from the ashes of the devastation they cause as, well, a fat man and a little boy, literally. Haunted by memories of who they were, hunted by elusive people who have motives that seem unclear to them, the two “brothers” journey across Europe and USA, learning to be human and understanding the consequences of their existence. In a way, the book is about second chances, but in a very unlikely fashion. It is also about destiny, fate, and choices we make and the consequences of others’ choices we must endure. At times absurd, at times rather touching, it is a fascinating, engrossing, well written debut.

  • joyce tener

    The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan

  • Jacquie Knight Chestnutt

    I find this ironic that the list is given in video format.

    • Cynthia

      I think it is a great way to do book talks. There are book trailers, as well.

    • Anne T

      Should have captions.

      • Betonce M Stein

        there ARE captions

  • If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio is another that I was amazed was a debut novel. So compelling!

  • Wanda Cotter

    Loved The Nest! It reminded me of a Jane Smiley novel.

  • Sandra J. Gustafson

    The Dry by Jane Harper. This is a lame looking link, but it works.
    I loved this book! I’ve suggested it to all my reader friends.

  • Teri Robbins

    I recently read The Wiregrass by Pam Webber (2015). Webber is a nationally certified Nurse Practitioner, has written several college-level textbooks & professional research papers. This is her first novel!

    Set in the late 1960s, The Wiregrass is a new take on a coming of age story. Cousins, following their years-long tradition, meet for the summer at their Aunt, Uncle & Grandparents homes in the Deep South. Expecting this summer to be the same carefree, tradition-filled time as past summers the “Cussin’s” are becoming aware of changes in the town & in themselves, are coming to see others’ personal relationships as deeper and more nuanced than ever before, and realize just how much they love each other as they’re accidentally pulled into a frightening criminal situation.

    EXCELLENT READ. I enjoyed reading a novel set in a time & place that was so relatable to my own growing up.

  • michelle sullivan

    If you like reading about older heroes and heroines along with humor read Geriatric Rebels by Roseanne Dowell

  • Barbara Shine

    First, the correction, which should not be necessary: It’s “. . . a brand-new author WHO is just emerging . . ..” not “that is.” How many animals or inanimate objects could be described as authors. Authors are people, so the descriptor is “who.” Pardon me for being passionate about grammar and usage.

    • Michal Nortness

      good for you, Barbara! If any sites ought to be equally passionate about grammar and usage – it’s ones like this one! Thanks!

    • Lisa Thomason

      One of my pet peeves. I do medical transcription, and doctors rarely realize say this properly.

    • Betonce M Stein

      gee, thanks, because the rest of us are illiterate

    • Todd Van Dell

      My comment on grammar is regarding the following:

      “last year—cover a wide variety of topics, but they’re all skillfully written and they leaving us wondering when their”

      That should either be “they’re leaving us wondering” or “they leave us wondering.”

      Thought that needed mentioning also.

      Sorry for the Grammar Police nitpick.

  • VTChick

    The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

  • Karen Holstein

    Loved “A Study in Charlotte”

  • Kirsten McCann

    All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

  • creamcheese68

    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

    • Rose Ann Morrison

      Read this. Way different reading experience.

  • Loved The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir!

  • Cate West

    Very favorite first novel has to be The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I knew nothing about it when I bought it. I was enthralled.

    • Sandy

      I LOVE this book, too! I read it about once a year.

  • Cheryl Zabrocki Archer

    “Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent has stuck with me for weeks. I prefer a dark, emotional story to a happy go lucky one and this is so well written and I ended up caring so much for the main character that the next book I read is a blank to me. Based on a true event back in the 1880’s, Iceland, of the last woman executed for a murder, it has me waiting, and wanting, for more from this writer.

    • Rose Ann Morrison

      Now I want to read it

      • ConstanceEve

        So do I!

  • Bruce
  • Joyce Halvorsen

    I would appreciate a crawler of what they are saying on the video. I love books, but I am very hard of hearing and cannot hear the audio part of this discussion. Please change this so all your followers can enjoy your discussions. Thank you Joyce

    • Susan Daniel

      I need captions also! Cannot turn on sound late a night and wake my husband. I would MUCH prefer text…

    • Eileen Cahoon

      I too have the same problem!!! Why can’t they close caption the ‘trailer”.

    • We heard you and we’ve added captions to all our new videos! Thanks for the feedback.

    • Betonce M Stein

      i have Asperger’s Syndrome, and many sounds are very jarring to me, so the first thing i do when I start a video is look for the CC icon. These videos are set up for closed caption. enjoy 🙂

  • Pam Forrest Spann

    My favorite first novels have been The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi (2012) and I have loved all 23 that have followed. Another favorite is The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, 2013. I am ready for her sophomore.

  • Lisa West

    Agree that video should have captions and/or transcript in article.

  • Lynne H McKnight

    The Nest! Loved it. Was hesitant to start it, but once I did, enjoyed the characters and plot. I do recommend this book – good read.

  • @susandaniel:disqus, @disqus_RVrKT3TCdq:disqus – we heard you and we’ve added captions to all our new videos! Thanks for the feedback.

  • Linda Huson

    I say I discovered The Nest. Well, let me say I read it when it first came out – and then awhile later, it started showing up as being “the book to read”…. I liked it more than I thought I would – and I have it here for a re-read.

  • Lisa Thomason

    Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris.

  • Rebecca_Lea

    My pick is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

  • Betonce M Stein

    I LOVE these young women !!! Normally I listen to videos with the sound off and rely on captions, which there ARE…but I have been watching for a long time only with captions, but these woman seemed SO genuine, that I tried with the sound ON. They are great. I am a subscriber.. and I absolutely love them !

  • Michael Gorecki

    If two men recommended books that were all by male authors,they’d be called sexist.
    This is a joke.Believe it or not,men can write for all readers.

  • Lynn Hester

    Lily and the Steven Rowley

  • Lynn Hester

    The Bear and the Nightingale…

  • Lynn Hester

    Debut authors are my favorite!!

  • Lynn Hester

    The Keeper of Lost Things!

  • Melissa

    I wasn’t a fan of A Study in Charlotte. I loved the premise, and I actually liked the characters quite a bit, but then I didn’t at all enjoy what the author had them do, if that makes sense. Also, the mystery was all over the place: I didn’t sense any direction to it, and it was maddeningly drawn out, with no perceptible progress for more than three quarters of the book. And I never like a mystery that gets solved by a giant info-dump at the end, even though that is the Sherlock Holmes way (figure it out all on your own and then patronizingly explain it to those less perceptive than yourself). Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it—because I’m not fond of that aspect of the Holmes legacy.

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