7 Debut Novel Discoveries

It is thrilling when one of your favorite authors has a new book out. Right now I am biting my nails waiting to read Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and Swing Time by Zadie Smith. As I placed both books on hold, though, I realized that a few months had gone by since I had last taken a chance on a brand-new author who had just published his or her first book.

Sometimes I can get stuck in my own readerly comfort zone. Sometimes books by first-time writers fly under my radar, especially when I get busy (hello, holiday season!). But there is nothing I love better than discovering my next favorite author, so what was I waiting for? Maybe some chilly days, perfect for curling up with a book?

Well, those days are here. And here are seven terrific new debut novels worth trying, all published within the past year.
Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves; Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
1. Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves
Set in 1920s Alabama, this lyrical novel was long-listed for the Booker Prize. It tells the story of an electrician, Roscoe T. Martin, who winds up in prison after accidentally electrocuting a worker from the power company. A vivid, haunting exploration of loss and redemption.

2. Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
This slender book is part novel, part poem—and entirely original. It is a heartbreaking, transformative, and quick read. Two boys living with their father face their mother's death, alongside a strange bird named Crow who is at once an emblem of grief and a powerfully magical living creature.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi; The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The New York Times Book Review selected Homegoing as one of its 100 Notable Books of 2016, describing it as a "wonderful debut by a Ghanaian-American novelist [that] follows the shifting fortunes of the progeny of two half sisters, unknown to each other, in West Africa and America."

4. The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
This mythic family saga tracks the EncarnaciĆ³ns—Soledad, and her twins Isabel and Ulises—as they journey from Cuba to Connecticut and back again.
The Nix by Nathan Hill; After Disasters by Viet Dinh; What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
5. The Nix by Nathan Hill
Clocking in at 620 pages, this multi-faceted, digressive story of a mother and a son considers both the 1968 political protests in Chicago and the Occupy Wall Street movement. An NPR reviewer said, "It broke my heart, this book. Time after time. It made me laugh just as often. I loved it on the first page as powerfully as I did on the last."

6. After Disasters by Viet Dinh
The lives of four rescue-workers cross after a deadly earthquake in Gujarat, India. After Disasters deftly balances their own histories and longings with the urgency of the crisis they face.

7. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
This gorgeous, elliptical novel centers on the relationship between an American teacher living in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a young man he meets. It is a complex story of love—written in stunning sentences unlike any you have read before.

Have you discovered any great books by first-time authors lately? Please post your tips in the Comments section below!

—Mimi, West Windsor Branch


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