Debut Novels – 5 Stunning Debut Novels To Add To Your To-Read Pile

A writer’s debut is her crucial first chance to introduce her style and themes to a potential readership — a task that undoubtedly results in absurd amounts of pressure. (A lukewarm review of David Foster Wallace’s debut led to several agonizing days holed up in his bedroom.) A critical flop may not be given a second chance — although, thankfully, new, worthy attention is being paid to sophomore releases.


Below are five debut novels (or, more accurately, five debut novels and one note-worthy short story collection) that promise exciting careers for their authors:

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith
Few historical novelists are better armed against these pitfalls than Katy Simpson Smith, who has a PhD in history, an MFA, and, now, a debut novel set in Revolutionary-era North Carolina. Never dry, dense, or false to the spirit of the history, Smith’s narrative flawlessly blends the beauty and idealism of American independence with the hypocrisy and devastation that lay beneath it.
Read the full review here.
California by Edan Lepucki
While Lepucki’s story has all of the conventions of a literary dystopian novel — stripping society of its norms, she exposes our detrimental underlying tendencies — she does more than examine how social groups form and disintegrate. She instead turns a critical eye to interpersonal relationships.
Read the full review here.
Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter
Regardless of how you feel about Hunter’s trendy stylistic choices, they inarguably suit the story she’s sharing, a story that hits a note that’s been missing from the chorus of existing feminist literature. Perry and Baby Girl aren’t striving to battle social norms — they’re just fighting to make it through each day.
Read the full review here.
The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol
The book is a collection of short stories, and covers a broad range of topics, from religion to the collapse of Communism. The one topic that most of the stories deal with in some capacity is the intimate human relationship, both familial and non. Antopol manages to capture these bonds in extremely heart wrenching ways.
The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec
Revered internationally within his field by the age of 25, Gödel devoted little thought to metaphorical or romantic interpretations of his work, and instead channeled his energies to topping his early achievements, eventually applying formal logic to philosophy and theistic pursuits. But anyone interested in the mathematician knows that story, which is why Grannec’s novel, which navigates Gödel’s life through the eyes of his wife and eventual caretaker, is a fascinating read.
Read the full review here.

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