The best debut novels - the greatest first books of all time

Fantastic first books, revealed.

The best debut novels - the greatest first books of all time

We all have favourite authors. Writers that release a new book and we immediately go and grab it from the store – or even have it pre-ordered. But although there's something exciting about discovering new books from great writers (or devouring their whole back catalogue if they're no longer around to write anything new), we believe there's nothing more delightful than reaching back through time and reading the first book they ever wrote.

In this list we've selected more than 30 of the best debut novels written by a wide selection of names, including literary greats you know and love to modern authors that absolutely need to be on your TBR pile if they aren't already.

Maybe you'll find your new favourite book, or maybe you'll find it fascinating to chart the journey authors embarked upon from their debut to the present day.

Best debut novels

Best debut novels

1 . The Hobbit - J.R.R Tolkien (1937)

"In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit." The words that kickstarted one of the biggest fantasy book and, in turn, movie franchises of all time. Despite the book's popularity, paper rationing brought on by wartime conditions and not ending until 1949 meant that the book was often unavailable during this period. Subsequent editions in English were published in 1951, 1966, 1978 and 1995, however, and it's been translated into over forty languages. Tolkein even designed the original book's dust cover (pictured). Props.

Best debut novels

2 . To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee (1960)

Imagine having just one book published, it winning the Pulitzer-Prize before being voted "Best Novel of the Century" in 1991 a poll by the Library Journal. You might be tempted to call it a day there. With the exception of a few short essays, Harper did just that. And fair play to her.

Best debut novels

3 . One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey (1962)

Kesey's devastating debut novel was born of his experiences working on CIA-funded drug trials. While a student at Stanford, he volunteered as a medical guinea pig in the secret service's study into the effects of psychoactive drugs. This experience altered Kesey, personally and professionally and, while working as an orderly at the psychiatric ward of the local veterans hospital, he began to have hallucinations about an Indian sweeping the floors. When chatting with them Kesey did not believe that the patients at the hospital were insane, rather that society had pushed them out because they did not fit the conventional ideas of how people were supposed to behave. All this prompted him to write the spectacular One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which was an instant hit and spawned the Oscar-winning film.

Best debut novels

4 . Frankenstein - Mary Shelley (1818)

In 1816, Shelley spent a summer with Lord Byron. Sitting around a log fire Byron proposed that they "each write a ghost story". Unable to sleep, Shelley got to it: “I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together," she recalled. "I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world." She began writing what she assumed would be a short story, but became her first novel, Frankenstein regarded as one of the first genuine science fiction novels it still speaks to – and spooks - readers nearly 200 years on.

Best debut novels

5 . Catch-22 - Joseph Heller (1961)

In 1953 Heller thought of the first line, "It was love at first sight." and within a week, he had finished the first chapter, and sent it to his agent. He did no more writing for the next year, as he planned the rest of the story. When it was one-third finished his agent sent it to publishers who purchased it and gave him $750, promising him another $750 when the full manuscript was delivered. Heller missed his deadline by almost five years but, after eight years of thought, delivered the most significant work of postwar protest literature in the history of mankind and changed the English lexicon forever. Worth the wait.

Best debut novels

6 . The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson (2005)

When published posthumously Brooding Scandi-noir genius Larsson’s psychological thriller caused a global sensation. Shortly before his death in 2004, he submitted the third volume in his "Millennium trilogy" to his publisher, but not a single book had been printed. Today more than 63 million copies of the trilogy have been sold with Dragon Tattoo being our pick of the bunch.

Best debut novels

7 . Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison (1952)

Immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Ellison's audacious and brutal Invisible Man changed the shape of American literature by tackling bigotry, head on. Bottom line? If you're human, and chances are you are, you need to read this at some stage in your life.

Best debut novels

8 . The Catcher In The Rye - J. D. Salinger (1951)

J. D. Salinger's coming-of-age tale captured the very essence of disenchanted youth. Around 250,000 copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books. It was included on Time 's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Need we say more?

Best debut novels

9 . The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks (1984)

A 1997 poll of over 25,000 readers listed The Wasp Factory as one of the top 100 books of the 20th century, while The Times called Banks "The most imaginative novelist of his generation" and the FT described the novel as "A gothic horror story of quite exceptional quality... Quite impossible to put down." This book will live with you long after you're done, but it's wide berth territory for animal lovers.

Best debut novels

10 . A Study In Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)

Conan Doyle introduced us to Holmes and Watson in November 1887, but the story, and its main characters, attracted little public interest when it first appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual. Only 11 complete copies are known to exist, in fact. Despite the slow uptake it was a classic mystery tale which went on to spawn 56 short stories featuring Holmes, and three more full-length novels in the original canon.

Best debut novels

11 . The Time Machine - H.G. Wells (1895)

You've got to doff your cap to a man who is generally credited with the popularisation of the concept of time travel. The Time Machine was an instant success and Wells went on to produce a series of science fiction novels which pioneered our ideas of the future. None would top his debut success, however.

Best debut novels

12 . Carrie - Stephen King (1974)

Stephen King's books have sold more than 350 million copies. He has published fifty-five novels and has written nearly two hundred short stories and it all started - at least in getting published terms - with Carrie. It was written in two weeks on a portable typewriter (the same one on which he wrote Misery) that belonged to his wife. It began as a short story, but King tossed the first three pages of his work in the garbage. His wife fished the pages out and encouraged him to finish it. King eventually quit his teaching job after receiving the publishing payment for Carrie but the hardback sold a mere 13,000 copies. The paperback, released a year later? Sold over 1 million in its first year.

Best debut novels

13 . The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz - L. Frank Baum (1900)

L Frank Baum failed as an actor, failed as a salesman, failed as a chicken breeder then started writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Smart move. Full distribution of Oz occurred in September 1900 and by October, the first edition of 10,000 had already sold out and the second edition of 15,000 copies was nearly depleted. By 1938, over one million copies of the book had been printed. Less than two decades later, in 1956, the sales of his novel grew to 3 million copies in print. Nice work if you can write it.

Best debut novels

14 . Trainspotting - Irvine Welsh (1993)

Rumour has it Welsh wrote Trainspotting in the breaks while writing his thesis at Heriot-Watt University's Library. The book prompted The Sunday Times to call Welsh "the best thing that has happened to British writing for decades" and he continues to be just that.

Best debut novels

15 . The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (2003)

Hosseini almost never finished the novel. He started by writing a short story in 1999 then, in his words: "The short story sat around for two years. Then I went back to it in March 2001. My wife had dug it up. I found her reading it, and she was kind of crying, and she said, "This is really a nice short story. She gave it to my father-in-law, and he loved it. He said, "I wish it had been longer." So then I said maybe there's something in the story that's really touching people. Maybe I should think about going back to it and see if there's a book in it."

There was. The novel sold more than 4 million copies in three years.

Best debut novels

16 . The Picture Of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

In the preface to his debut and only novel Wilde writes: "To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim." Odd then that the book boasts very obvious echoes of Wilde's own life. Perhaps that's why there was no second novel. Still, the one he did write remains enduringly popular and William Butler described it as "a wonderful book."

Best debut novels

17 . A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man - James Joyce (1916)

In 1998, the Modern Library named A Portrait third on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century (Joyce topped the very same list with Ulysses while The Great Gatsby came second). In 1917 H. G. Wells wrote that "one believes in [Joyce's fictional alter ego] Stephen Dedalus as one believes in few characters in fiction." With W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound also championing the work, it clearly carries serious literary clout.

Best debut novels

18 . Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone - J.K.Rowling (1997)

In 1990 Rowling wanted to move with her boyfriend to a flat in Manchester and in her words, "One weekend after flat hunting, I took the train back to London on my own and the idea for Harry Potter fell into my head... A scrawny, little, black-haired, bespectacled boy became more and more of a wizard to me... I began to write Philosopher's Stone that very evening. Although, the first couple of pages look nothing like the finished product." Then Rowling's mother died and, to cope with her pain, Rowling transferred her own anguish to the orphan Harry. Rowling spent six years working on the novel after which critics compared her to Jane Austen, Roald Dahl and even to the Ancient Greek story-teller Homer.

Best debut novels

19 . The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time - Mark Haddon (2003)

It won a raft of awards including, rather delightfully, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize after it was published simultaneously in separate editions for adults and children. However, it was perhaps what it didn't win that caused the biggest stir. The Curious Incident was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and "many observers were surprised that it did not advance to the shortlist." said John Carey, chairman of the Booker panel of judges. "We have several clashes of opinion among the judges but I found Haddon's book about a boy with Asperger's syndrome breathtaking."

Best debut novels

20 . Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë (1847)

Charlotte's first manuscript, The Professor, did not secure a publisher, although she was heartened by an encouraging response from Smith, Elder & Co., who expressed an interest in any longer works she might wish to send. Charlotte responded by finishing and sending a second manuscript in August 1847. Six weeks later Jane Eyre: An Autobiography was published and it revolutionised the art of fiction. Since then Brontë has been called the 'first historian of the private consciousness'. Exploring themes of classism, sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism, there's a lot going on in Jane Eyre, but never at the expense of enjoyment.

Best debut novels

21 . Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk (1996)

We the love story behind the conception of Palahniuk's ground-breaking debut novel. When he attempted to publish Invisible Monsters, publishers rejected it for its disturbing content. So he wrote Fight Club in an attempt to disturb the publisher even more for rejecting him. Publisher loved it, career exploded.

Best debut novels

22 . Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe (1719)

The book was published on 25 April 1719. Before the end of the year, this first volume had run through four editions.

By the end of the 19th century, no book in the history of Western literature had more editions, spin-offs and translations (even into languages such as Inuktitut, Coptic and Maltese) than Robinson Crusoe, with more than 700 alternative versions. Well played, Daniel. Well played.

Best debut novels

23 . The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens (1836)

Dickens announced his outrageous talent with this genuinely funny, not just laughing because we're supposed to, set of comic episodes that befall ‘gentleman of leisure’ Samuel Pickwick, Esq. The book became the first real publishing phenomenon, with bootleg copies, theatrical performances, joke books, and other merchandise surrounding it.

Best debut novels

24 . Sense And Sensibility - Jane Austen (1811)

In 1811, the Military Library publishing house in London accepted the manuscript for publication, in three volumes. Austen paid for the book to be published and paid the publisher a commission on sales. The cost of publication was more than a third of Austen's annual household income! She made a profit of £140 (almost £8,000 in 2014 money) on the first edition, which sold all 750 printed copies by July 1813.

Best debut novels

25 . The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (1963)

It's hard to judge the brilliance of Sylvia Plath's shocking, realistic, and deeply emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity without factoring in her tragic suicide just one month after it was published, in the UK. Perhaps we shouldn't have to. A truly haunting classic.

Best debut novels

26 . Other Voices, Other Rooms - Truman Capote (1948)

Both Capote's first published novel and semi-autobiographical it's a powerhouse of a piece due to its erotically charged photograph of the author, risque content, and the fact that it debuted at number 9 on the New York Times Best Seller list, where it remained for nine weeks. Brilliant.

Best debut novels

27 . The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison (1970)

Written while Toni Morrison was teaching at Howard University and raising her two sons on her own, it's about a year in the life of a young black girl who develops an inferiority complex due to her eye color and skin appearance. "I imagine if our greatest American novelist William Faulkner were alive today," reviewed The Washington Post "He would herald Toni Morrison's emergence as a kindred spirit... Discovering a writer like Toni Morrison is the rarest of pleasures."

Best debut novels

28 . Less Than Zero - Brett Easton Ellis (1985)

In the words of the author himself Less Than Zero "[isn't a] perfect book by any means... [But] it was pretty good writing for someone who was 19." Nineteen! We can't argue with that. Plus the novel was almost universally praised by critics and sold well, shifting 50,000 copies in its first year.

Best debut novels

29 . Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak (1957)

Due to its independent minded stance on the October Revolution, Doctor Zhivago was refused publication in the Soviet Union so Pasternak sent several copies of the manuscript in Russian to friends in the West. In 1957, Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli arranged for the novel to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published an Italian translation. So great was the demand for Doctor Zhivago that Feltrinelli was able to license translation rights into 18 different languages. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year, an event which humiliated the Communist Party.

Best debut novels

30 . Last Night in Montreal - Emily St. John Mandel (2009)

Emily St. John Mandel has become known for her most recent books, including Station Eleven and Sea of Tranquility, but her first book is well worth a read as well. Last Night in Montreal is a tense and thought-provoking book about Lilia, who can't remember her childhood and is haunted by a mysterious shadow. The less said about the plot the better, but even though this was St John Mandel's first book, it's beautifully written with wonderful character development. Like her later books, it's almost impossible to put this one down.

Best debut novels

31 . The Secret History - Donna Tartt (1992)

Published in September 1992, The Secret History is the epitome of the "dark academia" book trend. It's set in New England and follows the story of a very closely knit group of students who are enrolled at a small and elite liberal arts college in Vermont called Hampden College (although it's based on Bennington College, which Tartt attended). It's an inverted detective story that explores how the death of a student has rippling consequences even years later.

Best debut novels

32 . Adam Bede - George Eliot (1859)

Immediately recognised as a significant literary work Charles Dickens, no less, lavished it with praise: "The whole country life that the story is set in, is so real, and so droll and genuine, and yet so selected and polished by art, that I cannot praise it enough." No point in us trying, then.

  • Interested in military history? Take a look at our guide to the best war novels : 30 greatest war novels of all time
  • Want a conversation starter? The coolest books of all time will help


15 Things You Probably Don't Know About Catcher In The Rye

15 Things You Probably Don't Know About Catcher In The Rye

Banned books list: books so controversial they were banned

Banned books list: books so controversial they were banned

Spotify users just got a massive audio upgrade

Spotify users just got a massive audio upgrade

Related reviews and shortlists.

The best short books under 100 pages and quick to read

The best short books under 100 pages and quick to read

The best subscription boxes for the ultimate recurring gifts

The best subscription boxes for the ultimate recurring gifts

The best comedy audiobooks: fantastic funny stories to listen to

The best comedy audiobooks: fantastic funny stories to listen to

The best audiobooks in 2023: great reads to listen to today

The best audiobooks in 2023: great reads to listen to today

Classic books to read before you die: bucket list novels

Classic books to read before you die: bucket list novels

34 of literature's greatest opening paragraphs

34 of literature's greatest opening paragraphs

Authors & Events


Great Picture Books To Capture the Spirit of St. Patrick’s Day

  • New & Noteworthy
  • Bestsellers
  • Popular Series
  • The Must-Read Books of 2023
  • Popular Books in Spanish
  • Coming Soon
  • Literary Fiction
  • Mystery & Thriller
  • Science Fiction
  • Spanish Language Fiction
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Spanish Language Nonfiction
  • Dark Star Trilogy
  • Ramses the Damned
  • Penguin Classics
  • Award Winners
  • The Parenting Book Guide
  • Books to Read Before Bed
  • Books for Middle Graders
  • Trending Series
  • Magic Tree House
  • The Last Kids on Earth
  • Planet Omar
  • Beloved Characters
  • The World of Eric Carle
  • Llama Llama
  • Junie B. Jones
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Board Books
  • Picture Books
  • Guided Reading Levels
  • Middle Grade
  • Activity Books
  • Trending This Week
  • Top Must-Read Romances
  • Page-Turning Series To Start Now
  • Books to Cope With Anxiety
  • Short Reads
  • Anti-Racist Resources
  • Staff Picks
  • Memoir & Fiction
  • Features & Interviews
  • Emma Brodie Interview
  • James Ellroy Interview
  • Nicola Yoon Interview
  • Qian Julie Wang Interview
  • Deepak Chopra Essay
  • How Can I Get Published?
  • For Book Clubs
  • Reese's Book Club
  • Oprah’s Book Club
  • happy place " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: Happy Place
  • the last white man " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: The Last White Man
  • Authors & Events >
  • Our Authors
  • Michelle Obama
  • Zadie Smith
  • Emily Henry
  • Amor Towles
  • Colson Whitehead
  • In Their Own Words
  • Qian Julie Wang
  • Patrick Radden Keefe
  • Phoebe Robinson
  • Emma Brodie
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Laura Hankin
  • Recommendations >
  • 21 Books To Help You Learn Something New
  • The Books That Inspired "Saltburn"
  • Insightful Therapy Books To Read This Year
  • Historical Fiction With Female Protagonists
  • Best Thrillers of All Time
  • Manga and Graphic Novels
  • happy place " data-category="recommendations" data-location="header">Start Reading Happy Place
  • How to Make Reading a Habit with James Clear
  • Why Reading Is Good for Your Health
  • 10 Facts About Taylor Swift
  • New Releases
  • Memoirs Read by the Author
  • Our Most Soothing Narrators
  • Press Play for Inspiration
  • Audiobooks You Just Can't Pause
  • Listen With the Whole Family

Penguin Random House

Debut Novels by Authors You’ll Love

by Maria Couto

Writing a novel is no easy feat. But sometimes you find a debut novel that feels as if the author is a seasoned pro. With elegant prose and unique plot lines, these authors have the ability to transport you to new worlds with characters that stay with you long after you’ve finished the last page. Plus, as an added bonus, when you find an exceptional debut novelist, you feel as if you’ve discovered their immense talents, which connects you to them as they publish more and more books. Enjoy these 10 debut novels by authors we know you’ll love and find out just how good they are at first impressions.

Late Bloomers Book Cover Picture

Late Bloomers

By deepa varadarajan, paperback $18.00, buy from other retailers:.

Sea Change Book Cover Picture

by Gina Chung

Paperback $17.00.

Your Driver Is Waiting Book Cover Picture

Your Driver Is Waiting

By priya guns.

Brother & Sister Enter the Forest Book Cover Picture

Brother & Sister Enter the Forest

By richard mirabella, hardcover $27.00.

Chain Gang All Stars Book Cover Picture

Chain Gang All Stars

By nana kwame adjei-brenyah.

Vagabonds! Book Cover Picture

by Eloghosa Osunde

Sorry, Bro Book Cover Picture

by Taleen Voskuni

A Flaw in the Design Book Cover Picture

A Flaw in the Design

By nathan oates.

The Skin and Its Girl Book Cover Picture

The Skin and Its Girl

By sarah cypher, preorder from:.

The Things We Do to Our Friends Book Cover Picture

The Things We Do to Our Friends

By heather darwent.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Tumblr

More to Explore

Visit other sites in the Penguin Random House Network

Raise kids who love to read

Today's Top Books

Want to know what people are actually reading right now?

An online magazine for today’s home cook

Just for joining you’ll get personalized recommendations on your dashboard daily and features only for members.

author's debut books

100 Must-Read Debut Novels

' src=

Liberty Hardy

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

View All posts by Liberty Hardy

This post about debut novels is sponsored by The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

author's debut books

If you’ve written a novel, you have a debut novel. Every novelist has one. There are more debut novels than any other types of novel – second, third, etc. (Although it is tied with last novels.) In fact, there are so many debut novels, we here at Book Riot had assumed that one of us had already done this list because it’s such an easy one.

We hadn’t.

So here it is! I’m so glad I got to do this. Making one of these lists is an epic nerdpurr. There’s a TON of great books here, and would be handy to use for #2 on the Read Harder challenge .  A few of the books listed are not the author’s debut book, simply their debut in that format. To make the list, I went with the first debuts that popped into my head (except Catcher in the Rye – sorry but I hate that book, don’t @ me.) Also, I excluded the science fiction and fantasy debuts I already included on this list .

Tell us about your favorite debut novels in the comments below!

things fall apart

What are your favorite debut novels? Check out all of our must-read lists here . 

You Might Also Like

1980s Sci-Fi Books That Aged Badly (And 4 Still Worth Reading)

25 Books by Debut Authors to Read in 2024


Is there anything more fun than discovering a brand new author? To help you discover your next favorite, here are 25 debut novels from across a variety of genres coming out in 2024.

author's debut books

Spitting Gold by Carmella Lowkis

Estranged sisters agree to one last con in 19th century Paris. Posing as mediums, they plan to swindle a family of aristocrats—until strange events lead them to believe they’ve awoken a malicious spirit.

author's debut books

You Know What You Did by K. T. Nguyen

This twisty thriller follows a first-generation Vietnamese American artist who, in the wake of her mother’s sudden death, winds up the prime suspect in an investigation after an art patron disappears.

author's debut books

The Truth According to Ember by Danica Nava

In this Indigenous romantic comedy, a small lie on Ember’s resume grows into a major problem as she starts to fall in love with her coworker Danuwoa and must decide if and when to come clean.

author's debut books

The Stars Too Fondly by Emily Hamilton

After accidentally stealing a spaceship, Cleo ends up in the far reaches of space, guided by a hologram of Billie, the ship’s missing captain. Readers looking for a sapphic space odyssey should prepare for take off.

author's debut books

The Poisons We Drink by Bethany Baptiste

Venus Stoneheart learns the true extent of corruption in Washington, D.C. in this YA fantasy, where she must grapple with her need for revenge on her mother’s killer and the dark magic rising within her.

author's debut books

Zero Stars, Do Not Recommend by MJ Wassmer

Dan Foster’s relaxing island vacation is ruined when the sun explodes. Talk about bad luck. As guest allegiances split by class, he must decide if he’s going to save himself or help his fellow vacationers survive.

author's debut books

Cold to the Touch by Kerri Hakoda

Homicide detective DeHavilland Beans is on the hunt for a serial killer in this Alaska-set thriller. After a string of local women are killed, Beans and the FBI are in a race against the clock to find a murderer before they strike again.

author's debut books

The Lady He Lost by Faye Delacour

In this historical romance, a woman opening a ladies’ gambling club finds help from an unlikely source: the man who broke her heart years ago and has suddenly returned to London after he was believed to be dead.

author's debut books

Road to Ruin by Hana Lee

Perfect for readers who enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road , this fantasy debut is set in a climate-ravaged wasteland and follows a magebike courier on a mission to help a princess escape her family.

author's debut books

The Lamplighter by Crystal J. Bell

This young adult novel transports readers to a 19th century whaling village. A thick fog covers the streets each night and as people begin disappearing, fear and tensions start to heighten.

author's debut books

The Waves Take You Home by María Alejandra Barrios Vélez

After the death of her grandmother, Violeta Sanoguera is left in charge of her family’s struggling restaurant. As she leaves New York for Colombia, she considers the dreams she had for herself and the ones her family has for her.

author's debut books

When She Was Me by Marlee Bush

When a teenage neighbor goes missing, it brings back terrible memories that twins Cassie and Lenora have fought to forget. Readers will uncover what happened in their past and who is responsible for the present-day disappearance.

author's debut books

The Emperor and the Endless Palace by Justinian Huang

Looking for queer romantasy? Check out Justinian Huang’s debut, which follows two men across centuries as they are reborn over and over only to find each other in every lifetime.

author's debut books

The Wings Upon Her Back by Samantha Mills

Set in a science fiction world where five sects each serve a god, this novel follows Zemolai, an enforcer with mechanized wings, who is cast out by her people and has her eyes opened to the reality of her world.

author's debut books

Blood at the Root by LaDarrion Williams

In this YA contemporary fantasy, a teenage boy who has hidden his magical abilities for years learns of an HBCU that teaches magical students and enters a world of danger, enchantment, and ancient evils.

author's debut books

Masquerade by O.O. Sangoyomi

Set in a reimagined 15th century West Africa and drawing inspiration from the Persephone myth, this fantasy novel explores one woman’s fight for freedom after she’s married to a warrior king.

author's debut books

Medusa of the Roses by Navid Sinaki

Navid Sinaki brings together mythology, noir, and explorations of gender identity in this novel following Anjir and Zal, who are planning to leave Iran to be together when Zal suddenly disappears.

author's debut books

How to End a Love Story by Yulin Kuang

Screenwriter and director Yulin Kuang makes her publishing debut with a romance featuring two characters linked by a terrible tragedy and drawn together by an attraction they can’t ignore.

author's debut books

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

In this near-future novel that blends thrills, comedy, and romance, an unnamed narrator is tasked with monitoring a man transported from 1845 to her timeline as part of a government project to explore the effects of time travel.

author's debut books

Just Another Epic Love Poem by Parisa Akhbari

Best friends Mitra and Bea have shared a notebook since they were 13—writing stanzas back and forth about their lives and families. Mitra shares every secret there except one: She’s in love with Bea.

author's debut books

A Sign of Her Own by Sarah Marsh

Sarah Marsh drew inspiration from real deaf students who worked with Alexander Graham Bell for this historical fiction novel about Ellen Lark, a former student of Bell’s who knows the truth behind his patent of the telephone.

author's debut books

Such a Bad Influence by Olivia Muenter

Hazel Davis avoids the spotlight after growing up as one of the stars of her family’s YouTube channel. But when her sister, a popular lifestyle influencer, vanishes, Hazel is willing to do anything to find her.

author's debut books

Here for the Wrong Reasons by Annabel Paulsen and Lydia Wang

Krystin and Lauren join the reality tv dating show Hopelessly Devoted as contestants vying for the heart of an eligible bachelor. But in the show’s most shocking twist yet, as the weeks go by, they end up falling for each other.

author's debut books

Skater Boy by Anthony Nerada

In this queer YA novel, Wes, a failing senior who prefers skateboarding and photography to turning in homework, falls hard for a ballet dancer. As they grow closer, Wes starts to reevaluate the other relationships in his life.

author's debut books

The Spice Gate by Prashanth Srivatsa

Kick off your summer by traveling to a fantasy world where eight kingdoms are connected by the Spice Gates. Follow Amir through the gates to meet assassins, Gods, and danger that threatens the world he knows.

Which of these books is on the top of your TBR?

This page contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through those links (at no additional cost to you)..

author's debut books

Stuff Your Shelves

A collage of the covers included in this article

April’s Most-Anticipated Books

A woman in historical dress holding up a lantern to read a book

20 Historical Fiction Novels to Read in 2024

A collage of the covers included in this article

March’s Most-Anticipated Books

A Black woman lying down smiling at an e-reader in her hands

25 Must-Read Books by Black Authors for Your 2024 TBR

An open book beside a plate of pastries, a coffee, and purple flowers

30 Spring Books to Have on Your Radar

A woman smiling as she writes in a notebook

February’s Most-Anticipated Books

A collage of the covers included in this article

January’s Most-Anticipated Books

An open book on a table beside a candle and mug of tea

The Best Books the NetGalley Team Read in 2023

A peron reaching for a book from a shelf hung on the wall

The NetGalley Team’s Most-Anticipated Books of 2024

' src=

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Please enter an answer in digits: 19 + ten =

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for book recs, interviews, and favorites from our editor.

author's debut books

50 of the Greatest Debut Novels Since 1950

For a reader, there’s something magical about picking up a first novel — that promise of discovery, the possibility of finding a new writer whose work you can love for years to come, the likelihood of semi-autobiography for you to mull over. The debut is even more important for the writer — after all, you only get one first impression. Luckily, there are a lot of fantastic first impressions to be had. In fact, the year’s best might have been published just this month. After the jump, check out some of the greatest first novels written since 1950 — some that sparked great careers, some that are still the writers’ best work, and some that remain free-standing (but hopefully not for long!). Don’t see your favorite debut here? Add it to the list in the comments.

author's debut books

The Last Samurai , Helen DeWitt (2000)

Helen DeWitt is a genius. So, for that matter, are her characters: the resilient, frustrated Sibylla and her four-year-old son Ludo, who learns new languages like other children learn new words, and by 11 has a practical, dry outlook on life that balances his almost absurdist quest to find his father. DeWitt has estimated that she attempted some hundred novels before she wrote this one. If that’s true, boy was it worth it: formally innovative, delicious to read and full of knowledge, books rarely get better than this.

author's debut books

Geek Love , Katherine Dunn (1989)

Dunn’s one and only novel is a cult classic — and a classic about a cult. A cult based around a basically insane Machiavellian circus attraction with flippers for limbs, whose hunchback sister is in love with him. And that’s really just scratching the surface of this book, which is possibly the most beautifully disturbing novel about family ever written. Now if only someone would convince Dunn to give us more, more, more.

author's debut books

The Bell Jar , Sylvia Plath (1963)

Another first and only, Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel of a young woman’s descent into mental illness is devastating and, for a certain kind of reader (and not just the kind you’re thinking of), irrevocably life-changing.

author's debut books

The Secret History , Donna Tartt (1992)

No offense to Tartt’s recent Pulitzer Prize, but her debut novel is still my vote for the best thing she’s ever written — and well, one of the best things anybody’s ever written. Six classics majors with money, eccentricities and more secrets than you can shake a stick at draw blood in the woods. Madness ensues.

author's debut books

The Catcher in the Rye , J.D. Salinger (1951)

Still one of the most convincing novels about loss, teenage isolation, and the basic phoniness of the world.

author's debut books

The Virgin Suicides , Jeffrey Eugenides (1993)

Here’s another debut that I’d count the author’s best so far (though I’d happily entertain an argument for Middlesex ). It’s just that here Eugenides evokes the feeling of teenage obsession so vividly, builds a thrumming magical world so completely, destroys your heart so strangely. A book that can’t be ignored.

author's debut books

The Mezzanine , Nicholson Baker (1988)

How ballsy is it to have your first novel span nothing more than a trip up an escalator? But of course, it covers more than that. This digressive, footnote-riddled, list-filled novel represents a whole mind, a whole life, all the dribs and drabs and narratives and memories and thoughts that we carry with us on every escalator ride (and every step) we ever take.

author's debut books

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao , Junot Díaz (2007)

Half comedy, half tragedy, all delicious, complex storytelling and a titular character that’s hard to forget.

author's debut books

The Recognitions , William Gaddis (1955)

A behemoth of a masterpiece that started out as a parody of Faust and ended up a brilliant meditation on New York, art and the tenuous nature of authenticity.

author's debut books

Neuromancer , William Gibson (1984)

The first novel to win all three major American science fiction awards — the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Philip K. Dick award — and also the novel that put cyberpunk (not to mention the word “cyberspace”) on the map. It no longer reads quite as radically as it once did, but it’s still a damn good novel.

author's debut books

Lucky Jim , Kingsley Amis (1954)

Hilarious, yes, but also a dry knife taken to the human (and academic) condition — and with a happy ending, no less! What more could you ask for?

author's debut books

The Bluest Eye , Toni Morrison (1970)

A difficult, ambitious first novel that tackles jealousy, race, child abuse, and incest, among other things. As electric as her later work, if perhaps rawer. Of the novel, she said, “I felt compelled to write this mostly because in the 1960s, black male authors published powerful, aggressive, revolutionary fiction or nonfiction, and they had positive racially uplifting rhetoric with them that were stimulating and I thought they would skip over something and thought no one would remember that it wasn’t always beautiful, how hurtful racism is. I wrote The Bluest Eye because someone would actually be apologetic about the fact that their skin was so dark and how when I was a kid, we called each other names but we didn’t think it was serious, that you could take it in, so the book was about taking it in, before we all decide that we are all beautiful, and have always been beautiful; I wanted to speak on the behalf of those who didn’t catch that right away. I was deeply concerned about the feelings of being ugly.”

author's debut books

Speedboat , Renata Adler (1976)

It’s clear to anyone who reads this space that I’m obsessed with this novel, so I’ll just say this: sentence by sentence, it’s a delight, a thrill, a deep cut, a revelation. Yes, even now. Check it out.

author's debut books

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit , Jeanette Winterson (1985)

Winterson’s striking semi-autobiographical first novel is a coming-of-age and a coming-out story, centering on a good Christian girl who decides she’s not quite like the rest of the flock. Witty and tender and sharp as they come.

author's debut books

Lord of the Flies , William Golding (1954)

The dystopian novel about youths turning savage and killing each other that started it all.

author's debut books

To Kill a Mockingbird , Harper Lee (1960)

Not only one of the most impressive debuts, but incessantly cited as one of the best novels ever written. Also notable for being the most notorious one hit wonder in literature.

author's debut books

Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World , Donald Antrim (1993)

Antrim’s first novel, a semi-surrealist, super cerebral and epidemically underrated masterpiece about a suburban town’s descent into mysticism, warfare, and mystic warfare, also happens to be on my own personal list of the greatest books ever written. His other books are pretty okay, too.

author's debut books

We the Animals , Justin Torres (2011)

Every gorgeous sentence in this slim coming-of-age novel sears and shrieks and loop-de-loops with unbridled beauty. Can’t wait for his next one.

author's debut books

Wise Blood , Flannery O’Connor (1952)

Count on O’Connor to give us a brutal, knife-edged novel about religion that also manages to be funny as hell. Not that hell is funny. No, ma’am.

author's debut books

White Teeth , Zadie Smith (2000)

Somehow it’s surprising that Zadie Smith’s first novel was only in 2000 — in a way, it seems like she’s always been with us, but this is still, to my mind, the best thing she’s ever written.

author's debut books

Lanark: A Life in Four Books , Alasdair Gray (1981)

It took Gray some thirty years to write this novel, which still gets far less attention than it deserves, particularly in America. Half bildungsroman, half surrealist dreamscape, with illustrations by Gray himself.

author's debut books

V. , Thomas Pynchon (1963)

Pynchon was a bizarro genius right from the start.

author's debut books

Bastard Out of Carolina , Dorothy Allison (1992)

Another semi-autobiographical first novel, sure — but unlike anything you’ve ever read before. A terrifying novel of abuse and legitimization told in perfect prose.

author's debut books

The Known World , Edward P. Jones (2003)

Jones’s first novel is a blockbuster historical novel set in a fictional county in antebellum Virginia and focusing on the life of a mixed-race slaveholder. It’s one of the most decorated books on this list, with a Pulitzer, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, not to mention a National Book Award nod.

author's debut books

The Wasp Factory , Iain Banks (1984)

One the most effective and horrifying journeys into the mind of a madman ever committed to paper.

author's debut books

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , Hunter S. Thompson (1971)

Probably stands as the most convincing drugscape/dreamscape of the modern era. Plus, it’s a hell of a good time.

author's debut books

The Tin Drum , Günter Grass (1959)

Oskar Matzerath is one of the strangest and greatest unreliable narrators in literature: possibly insane, possibly a genius, definitely a person with a Peter Pan complex and a scream that can be used as a weapon. A classic.

author's debut books

Housekeeping , Marilynne Robinson (1980)

Robinson is a living treasure, and there’s no choosing between her novels, each of them flat-out gorgeous. This one follows three generations of women as they try to keep everything in order — both literally and spiritually.

author's debut books

Revolutionary Road , Richard Yates (1961)

Oof. Yates’s debut is a tragic and deeply upsetting novel about the downward spiral of an American couple. Kurt Vonnegut called it “ The Great Gatsby of [his] time.” Of the novel, Yates himself wrote, “I think I meant it more as an indictment of American life in the 1950s. Because during the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs — a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price.”

author's debut books

Things Fall Apart , Chinua Achebe (1958)

This classic novel of colonialism, tradition and African culture and identity is taught in every high school for a reason.

author's debut books

Go Tell It on the Mountain , James Baldwin (1953)

The legendary James Baldwin’s first novel is a semi-autobiographical examination of the effects and role of the Christian Church in the African American community in America in the 1950s. Filled with spiritual insight and humanity and sharp observations about the world, it remains a captivating read today.

author's debut books

The Edible Woman , Margaret Atwood (1969)

Trust Margaret Atwood to break onto the scene with a novel about metaphorical cannibalism — that is, a woman who begins to identify with food so much that she can’t eat anything. A work engaged with dissociation and gender, it is only the first in Atwood’s long line of great novels.

author's debut books

Doctor Zhivago , Boris Pasternak (1957)

Often cited as one of the best novels of all time, never mind this debut business: a complex love story set during the Russian Revolution, with all the attendant themes of alienation and identity you’d expect from such a thing.

author's debut books

Invisible Man , Ralph Ellison (1952)

A now-classic and routinely life-changing examination of African American life in America in the first half of the 20th century, as much social and political commentary as compelling novel, which won the National Book Award in 1953.

author's debut books

The Joy Luck Club , Amy Tan (1989)

A book shaped like a game of mahjong, about a group of Chinese immigrant women in San Francisco playing mahjong together and telling the stories of themselves and their American-born daughters. A beauty.

author's debut books

Leaving the Atocha Station , Ben Lerner (2011)

The best, smartest novel about an American writer adrift in a foreign country to have appeared in recent memory.

author's debut books

The Name of the Rose , Umberto Eco (1980)

A postmodern murder mystery, written by a semiotician and set in an Italian Benedictine monastery that features a maze-like library! I mean, really.

author's debut books

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell , Susanna Clarke (2004)

Clarke’s behemoth of a debut is an alternative history of 19th century England that charts the lives of two magicians — finding the faerie way, fighting Napoleon, arguing with each other and hiding books. It’s ambitious delight, and worth every moment.

author's debut books

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest , Ken Kesey (1962)

Kesey’s classic investigation of manhood and madness will never quite leave your head, no matter how many shock treatments you have.

author's debut books

Love Medicine , Louise Erdrich (1984)

Erdrich’s debut, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year of its publication, tells the stories of a handful of Chippewa Indians living on a reservation in North Dakota. Multi-faced and mythic, this is a beautiful novel.

author's debut books

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , Douglas Adams (1979)

One of the funniest and most widely beloved science fiction novels of all time, based off Adams’ radio program of the same name. How beloved, you ask? I will only say this: I have personally been to three Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy -themed Bar Mitzvahs.

author's debut books

Catch-22 , Joseph Heller (1961)

Perhaps the best-ever satirical war novel.

author's debut books

The Bonfire of the Vanities , Tom Wolfe (1987)

A novel about greed, politics and power in 1980s New York from a revolutionary journalist. A classic.

author's debut books

Carrie , Stephen King (1974)

Only the beginning of King’s relentless career, but already about as twisted as they get.

author's debut books

The God of Small Things , Arundhati Roy (1997)

Roy’s gorgeous, lyrical heartbreaker, which won the Booker in its year of publication, weaves a temporal tapestry of a pair of twins in India suffering love, betrayal, storytelling and the struggles of the forbidden.

author's debut books

Casino Royale , Ian Fleming (1953)

Not only was James Bond Fleming’s first idea for a protagonist, he wrote this novel in two months. The results? Not too shabby.

author's debut books

In the Woods , Tana French (2007)

The book that brought a million haters of thrillers and mystery novels over to the dark side.

author's debut books

The Tiger’s Wife , Téa Obreht (2011)

A stunner of a first novel, vibrant and bold and deeply satisfying, especially when you consider that Obreht was only 25 at the time she wrote it.

author's debut books

The Namesake , Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)

Everything Lahiri writes is amazing, and her first novel is no different — a gorgeous examination of the lives of immigrant and first-generation Indians in America.

author's debut books

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing , Eimear McBride (2014)

Last but not least, the book that is shaping up to be the year’s most talked-about debut: the fragmented, ferocious first novel by Irish writer Eimear McBride. Prepare to have your brain blown out.

  • Craft and Criticism
  • Fiction and Poetry
  • News and Culture
  • Lit Hub Radio
  • Reading Lists

author's debut books

  • Literary Criticism
  • Craft and Advice
  • In Conversation
  • On Translation
  • Short Story
  • From the Novel
  • Bookstores and Libraries
  • Film and TV
  • Art and Photography
  • Freeman’s
  • The Virtual Book Channel
  • Behind the Mic
  • Beyond the Page
  • The Cosmic Library
  • The Critic and Her Publics
  • Emergence Magazine
  • Fiction/Non/Fiction
  • First Draft: A Dialogue on Writing
  • Future Fables
  • The History of Literature
  • I’m a Writer But
  • Just the Right Book
  • Lit Century
  • The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
  • New Books Network
  • Tor Presents: Voyage Into Genre
  • Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast
  • Write-minded
  • The Best of the Decade
  • Best Reviewed Books
  • BookMarks Daily Giveaway
  • The Daily Thrill
  • CrimeReads Daily Giveaway

author's debut books

10 Debut Novels That Are Also Their Authors’ Masterpieces

Happy birthday, madame bovary.

One hundred and sixty years ago today, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary was published for the first time as a single volume—it had been serialized the year before in La Revue de Paris from October through December—and it quickly became a bestseller. Obscenity trials will do that for you! Also luminous, genre-creating novels, of course. I suppose. Though Flaubert would go on to write several more books, including the well-regarded  Sentimental Education , he would never top his initial effort— Madame Bovary is universally acknowledged as Flaubert’s masterpiece, and indeed as one of the greatest novels ever written. Which I probably don’t have to tell you is some feat for a debut novelist. To celebrate the birthday of this seminal novel, I’ve put together a list of debut novels that also happen to be their author’s masterpieces—or at least are often considered to be such. NB: a writer must have published more than one book to be on this list—a one-hit-wonder is no doubt also a debut, but it doesn’t exactly suit the spirit of the list (same goes for writers who technically published more than one book, but maybe shouldn’t have—like Harper Lee). It will also skew historical, because lots of stellar young writers still have their masterpieces in them—or so we hope.

author's debut books

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Roundly considered Flaubert’s masterpiece, as well as a masterpiece of realist fiction in general. But it wasn’t as though Flaubert wrote it completely from the (writerly) womb. As Benjamin Lytal noted in The New Yorker , he first completed a play entitled The Temptation of St. Anthony —which his friends promptly urged him to burn. It was, of course, eventually published after decades of work—and still, no one remembers it. Who could be expected to, what with Emma Bovary’s color-shifting eyes winking balefully from the other end of the shelf?

author's debut books

Donna Tartt, The Secret History

It’s true: Donna Tartt has lots of writing years left. But though I fully expect she’ll put out another bestseller every decade until she dies (one can’t hope for her immortality; it’s tempting, but knowing her, she’d end up a Tithonian cicada, and I wouldn’t wish her such an ignoble fate), it will be tough to topple The Secret History —which by the way, she published before she was 30—as her masterpiece (and my own personal forever favorite novel, if that counts for anything). On the other hand, my mother prefers  The Little Friend . So I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

author's debut books

Richard Wright, Native Son

Native Son  was Wright’s second book, published after  Uncle Tom’s Children , a collection of novellas, but the story of Bigger Thomas was his first proper novel and is still his most famous work. As far as the term “masterpiece” goes, that should be self explanatory, but when James Baldwin writes “No American Negro exists who does not have his private Bigger Thomas living in his skull”—well then you kind of know.

author's debut books

Renata Adler, Speedboat

This is something of a cheat, because it’s such a cult classic and because Adler published only two novels—she’s equally, if not more, significant for her nonfiction and criticism. But whatever, because I love this novel, and despite the fact that Adler supposedly prefers Pitch Dark ,  Speedboat  is both a masterpiece and hers— ask anyone .

Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

McCullers was only 23 when her debut novel was published in 1940, and it was a sensational bestseller that year—since then, it’s been a major touchstone of Southern Gothic literature. To be quite fair, some cite  her 1946 novel  The Member of the Wedding  as her masterpiece, and others prefer Reflections in a Golden Eye , but this only goes to show how truly great she is—and, since those people are wrong, how truly great  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter  is, too.

author's debut books

Joseph Heller,  Catch-22

Imagine coining a now-ubiquitous term with your debut novel. Or hell, imagine having your debut novel be consistently listed as one of the funniest novels ever written—not to mention one of the finest literary works of the 20th century. Apparently, Heller wasn’t even trying to write a novel at the beginning—he thought of a few lines spontaneously, wrote about a third of it, and sent it off to publishers. $1,500 and some eight years later, it was a hit.

author's debut books

Chinua Achebe,  Things Fall Apart

Achebe’s  Things Fall Apart  was arguably the first African novel to enter the Western canon, and it’s still ubiquitous in high schools all across America. It’s definitely Achebe’s most famous and widely read work, and Dwight Garner has officially called it the writer’s  masterpiece  (“accessible but stinging, its layers peeling over the course of multiple readings”) so I’ll consider that case closed.

author's debut books

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Perhaps it’s because  Jane Eyre  is actually the second novel Charlotte Brontë wrote (her first attempt,  The Professor , did not secure a publisher until later), but this is one of the most assured debuts I’ve ever read—and was erotic enough to send Victorian readers into a tizzy. (Then again, what wasn’t?) Some may claim   Villette  as Brontë’s true masterpiece, but the fact that  Jane Eyre  could inspire a response novel  that is as much of a classic as the original text proves its enduring importance.

author's debut books

Günter Grass,  The Tin Drum

The Tin Drum is by far Grass’s best known work, and certainly his masterpiece—though not his only great book, as Salman Rushdie pointed out in  The New Yorker : “If Grass had never written that novel, his other books were enough to earn him the accolades I was giving him, and the fact that he had written The Tin Drum as well placed him among the immortals.” Upon its publication in English, the review in the  New York Times cited its reception in Europe as “as a great, wonderful and comic masterpiece” but doubted very much whether American readers would appreciate it—in part because “it is very German.” Well he may not be as much of a household name here as elsewhere, but we still know a masterpiece when we see it.

author's debut books

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina

An argument for writing what you know: Allison’s semi-autobiographical debut, which at least one critic called a “world-altering masterpiece,” has been an influence on countless writers since its publication in 1992. The world is better because this book is in it.

  • Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)

Emily Temple

Emily Temple

Previous article, next article, support lit hub..

Support Lit Hub

Join our community of readers.

to the Lithub Daily

Popular posts.

author's debut books

Follow us on Twitter

author's debut books

Bookselling in the 21st Century: Radical Wisdom at City Lights

  • RSS - Posts

Literary Hub

Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

How to Pitch Lit Hub

Advertisers: Contact Us

Privacy Policy

Support Lit Hub - Become A Member

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member : Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience , exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag . Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.

author's debut books

Become a member for as low as $5/month

author's debut books

Ebooks, Publishing, and Everything in Between

  • Downloads & Pricing
  • Advertising

30 World-famous Authors’ Debut Novels

  • on Nov 08, 2017
  • in Writing Tips
  • Last update: May 31st, 2023

Authors often gain fame for just one or two works written well into their careers – even if they already have an extensive collection under their belts. It’s a lucky author, indeed, who achieves fame and fortune from their first published work.

famous author's first books

Below is a list of debut works by now world-famous authors – some of which gained their authors instant fame.

1)  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

author's debut books

“ A Study in Scarlet ” (1887) – Conan Doyle apparently hated his Sherlock Holmes series, even though it earned him lasting fame. And this story, focusing on a bloodstained room in south London, features the debut of the famous sleuth.

2) Vladimir Nabokov

author's debut books

“ Poems ” (1916) – Nabokov originally started his writing in his native Russian. This collection of his poetry (in Russian) was his first published work, and which started his literary career. He achieved greater fame with his English work, especially “Lolita”.

3) Ernest Hemingway

author's debut books

“ The Torrents of Spring ” (1926) – Hemingway’s first published book was, in fact, a parody of a Chicago school of literature. In contrast to later works, which focused on war or colonial life, this work pokes fun at writers.

4) George Orwell

author's debut books

“ Burmese Days ” (1934) – Set in the country of its titular name (Burma), the novel focuses on bigotry and corruption. In line with his later, politically charged, works, Orwell’s story line features a battle of cultures and values between whites and their native “charges”.

5) Ayn Rand

author's debut books

“ We the Living ” (1936) – Based on her own life experiences, Rand’s debut novel outlines the effects of the Russian Revolution on the lives of three protagonists. Rather than focusing specifically on politics, the book looks at the effects of politics on humans.

6) JRR Tolkien

author's debut books

“ The Hobbit ” (1937) – Although it’s now achieved fame among adult readers (and viewers of the recent films), “The Hobbit” was originally a children’s book. Building on magical realism and ancient mythology, the book takes readers on a journey through middle earth.

7) Roald Dahl

author's debut books

“ The Gremlins ” (1943) – Dahl’s first children’s book (a genre he later gained fame in), his debut book was inspired by his experiences as a fighter pilot. During World War II, his fellow pilots frequently blamed airplane problems on “gremlins” – which Dahl built on for his first book.

8) Alan Paton

author's debut books

“ Cry, the Beloved Country ” (1948) – A hard read, Paton’s debut novel tackled the racism of his native South Africa and its effects on the native population. It’s a novel that deals with the persecution meted out, by the white “overlords”, on native inhabitants of countries under colonial rule.

9) J.D. Salinger

author's debut books

“ The Catcher in the Rye ” (1951) – What would now be termed a “coming of age” novel, Salinger’s debut novel is more parody than serious. Recounting a teenager’s bid for freedom from his parents, “The Catcher in the Rye” has caught readers’ imaginations since its publication.

10) Kurt Vonnegut

author's debut books

“ Player Piano ” (1952) – As with several other books of the period, Vonnegut’s debut novel features a “utopian” world ruled by technology. It also features out-of-place humans trying to break out of the world they have been forced to live in. It’s a subject found in several novels even today.

11) John Updike

author's debut books

“ The Carpentered Hen ” (1958) – Written when he was still an art student, and actually a collection of poems. Updike’s first published material take a nuanced look at every day life. As Updike said of this work, it’s “a way of dealing with the universe”.

12) Phillip Roth

author's debut books

“ Goodbye, Columbus ” (1959) – A collection of five short stories, this debut published work is a picture of every day lives of American Jews as they assimilate with their surroundings. The eponymous novella tackles issues such as classism, relationships and human interactions.

13) Margaret Atwood

author's debut books

“ The Edible Woman ” (1969) – Atwood’s first prose piece established her name as a writer to be reckoned with. Despite involvement in the feminist movement, she claims this book isn’t feminist. It’s a bizarre look into a woman’s relationship with her body and world.

14) Toni Morrison

author's debut books

“ The Bluest Eye ” (1970) – Written whilst also working as a university lecturer. Morrison’s first book centres on a young African-American girl growing up in Depression-era America. It’s deep plot tackles the racism of the period, and the protagonist’s reaction to her life experiences.

15) Stephen King

author's debut books

“ Carrie ” (1974) – Who doesn’t have time for the King of Horror? Set in the then future year of 1979, King’s first book features a protagonist with superpowers. Carrie is also bullied by her peers, causing her to use her superpowers for revenge – and with it, causes a set of disasters.

16) Ian McEwan

author's debut books

“ The Cement Garden ” (1978) – McEwan’s more famous for his later works, particularly “Atonement” and the like. But his first book, later made into a film, is a dark tale of four orphans who encase their mother’s corpse in their cellar’s cement wall. And all to avoid foster care.

17) Isabel Allende

author's debut books

“ House of Spirits ” (1982) – Allende’s highly acclaimed first novel, which also established her name in writing, is a deeply lyrical novel. It started life as a letter to her dying grandfather, becoming a historical novel. It retells the life of the Trueba family over four generations.

18) Paulo Coelho

author's debut books

“Hell Archives” (1982) – Like many authors, Coelho’s fame grew with his later books. His first published work, however, was decidely not a success.  The debut was not well received and the book failed to make any kind of impact.

19) Hilary Mantel

author's debut books

“ Every Day is Mother’s Day ” (1985) – Although Mantell’s better famed for her historical fiction (think “Wolf Hall” and “Bring up the Bodies”), her first book tackles something radically different – a psychic single-mother living a life of chaos with her mentally handicapped daughter.

20) Lionel Shriver

author's debut books

“ The Female of the Species ” (1987) – Shriver seems to love tackling dark, and sometimes socially distasteful storylines, in her books. Her first novel revolves around an anthropologist who has previously lived only for her work, before falling into an affair with her much younger assistant.

21) Haruki Murakami

author's debut books

“ Hear the Wind Sing ” (1979 – Released in English in 1987) – Murakami’s first book appeared in the famous Japanese literary magazine, Gunzo. It appeared a month later in book form, as the first installment in the “Trilogy of the Rat” series. The book is told in a first-person narrative, retelling the tale of the narrator’s friendship with a mysterious girl.

22) Nicholas Sparks

author's debut books

“ The Notebook ” (1996) – Set along the lines of a classic love-story, Sparks’ book revolves around Noah Calhoun and his search for a former flame. Bringing together themes of money, class and the chance to marry whom one chooses, “The Notebook” is a sweet account of true love.

23) Chuck Palahniuk

author's debut books

“ Fight Club ” (1996) – Palahniuk’s debut has become a cult classic, yet is probably more famous in its film version. Tackling the human beast’s grosser side and need for masculine superiority, this novel  is all about bare-knuckle fighting. It isn’t a read for the faint-hearted.

24) JK Rowling

author's debut books

“ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ” (1997) – By now, we all know the story of Rowling’s huge success with the Potter series. Needless to say, the wizarding world came back into full force in novel context with her first book. Join Harry and friends for his school adventures.

25) David Mitchell

David Mitchell first novel Ghostwritten

“ Ghostwritten ” (1999) – Mitchell’s first book is a clever weaving together of wildly different characters in one book. On the surface, it looks to be a potentially quite disparate storyline. What it does do, however, is show just how interconnected the world is.

26) Zadie Smith

author's debut books

“ White Teeth ” (2000) – Smith burst onto the literary scene in this debut novel. With a storyline revolving around the interactions of London’s varied communities, Smith’s novel is a wonderfully illustrated microcosm of interactions between wildly different people.

27) Marjane Satrapi

author's debut books

“ Persepolis ” (2000) – Satrapi’s graphic novel was a huge hit when it was first published. The Iranian novelist and illustrator’s first literary production gives a radical view of life under a religious government – and how people deal with what life deals them. Using a mixture of more pictures with less words, this is a beautifully different take on politics.

28) Helen DeWitt

author's debut books

“ The Last Samurai ” (2000) – Not to be confused with the Tom Cruise film of the same name. DeWitt’s lyrical books centres on the relationship between an intelligent single mother and her equally intelligent son. The storyline also focuses on the dysfunctional nature of using male film characters as father figures.

29) Khaled Hosseini

author's debut books

“ The Kite Runner ” (2003) – Hosseini’s debut novel is set in war-torn Afghanistan of the 1980s. It provides an alternative reading to the interaction of the country’s communities and how friendship can overcome all hardships.

30) Gene Luen Yang

author's debut books

“ American Born Chinese ” (2006) – Yang’s first literary offering, a graphic novel, deals with racism in North America head on through three short tales.  It brings together traditional stories and immigrants finding a bond between their home cultures and newly adopted countries.

author's debut books

Did you enjoy the list? Did we miss any? Let us know down below!

International Book Fairs 2019

Writing Process Explained for Non-Writers

Writers Retreats Not to Miss

' src=

Kevon Brown

Amazing! Thanks for sharing such type of amazing article. Keep sharing!

' src=

Hello Kevon, We’re glad you liked the article. Happy reading!

' src=

Thats the wrong David Mitchell.

Gracias Bob por tus comentarios. Nos alegramos de que te haya resultado útil.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Currently you have JavaScript disabled. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. Click here for instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your browser.


Kotobee is the complete end-to-end ebook solution for you and your business. Export multiple formats. Deliver securely.

Create, publish, and sell ebooks with ease

Kotobee es la solución completa de ebooks de extremo a extremo para usted y su empresa.

Cree, publique y venda libros electrónicos con facilidad

author's debut books

Recent Posts

  • Book Royalties: What They Are and How to Earn the Best Rates
  • Game-Based Learning: What It Is, and How to Apply It
  • How to Publish a Book for Free and Maximize Your Profit
  • How to Become a Best-Selling Author: 5 Secrets for Success
  • 12 of the Best Book Writing Software to Try in 2024 (Free and Paid)
  • Entries feed
  • Comments feed

The best debuts coming in 2024

Brilliant debuts to add to your reading list..

author's debut books

Hot-off-the-press new arrivals plus the debut works of some of our most esteemed literary and classic authors.

Where There Was Fire

By john manuel arias.

Book cover for Where There Was Fire

When a lucrative American banana plantation erupted in flames in 1960S Costa Rica, destroying the evidence of the crimes committed there, Teresa Cepeda Valverde’s family was changed forever. Almost three decades later, with the fire still shrouded in mystery, Teresa and her estranged daughter Lyra set out to discover what really happened that night, and understand the events that broke their family apart. A love letter to his Costa Rican heritage, John Manuel Arias’s debut novel is a story of corruption, greed, redemption and, ultimately, the family ties that bind us. 

by Kaveh Akbar

Book cover for Martyr!

With fans including Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Green to name just a few, Kaveh Akbar is a debut author everyone will be talking about in 2024. Cyrus Shams was a tiny baby when the plane his mother was travelling in was shot down over the Persian Gulf. Decades later, after growing up in the shadow of her death and looking for meaning in all the wrong places, a newly sober Cyrus sets out to learn the truth about who she was, and who he is. Humorous, profound and thrilling in equal measure, with Martyr! Kaveh Akbar proves himself as an electrifying new voice in contemporary fiction. 

How I Won a Nobel Prize

By julius taranto.

Book cover for How I Won a Nobel Prize

When Helen, a brilliant young physicist, finds herself embroiled in her advisor’s student sex scandal, she must decide whether to abandon her research or accompany him to an island research institute that offers a haven to cancelled academics. As Helen gets to know the community of disgraced researchers, she is forced to confront her idea of what progress means, and whether a person can ever be purely “good" or “bad”. Sharp, satirical and utterly unputdownable, How I Won a Nobel Prize is a debut you won’t be able to ignore this year. 

by Elizabeth O'Connor

Book cover for Whale Fall

Growing up on a remote Welsh island left reeling from The Great War, Manod dreams of a different future. So, when two anthropologists arrive on the island, she seizes her opportunity to get to the mainland and start her new life. However, as time passes and the threat of another war becomes ever more present, Manod realises that her dream may be too far out of reach. Selected by The Observer as one of their top debuts of 2024, Elizabeth O’Connor’s evocative, immersive coming-of-age tale will transport you to 1938, and a world on the edge of irrevocable change. 

Anyone's Ghost

By august thompson.

Book cover for Anyone's Ghost

When Theron, a lonely, self-conscious teen meets confident, cool, and unbelievably beautiful Jake, his life instantly turns from grey to technicolour. Realising they have the same passion for music, drugs and chasing the next high, the pair become inseparable, and Theron falls madly in love with Jake, and the idea of being Jake. As they grow up, drifting together and apart over the next two decades, Jake remains just out of reach, until the pair are torn apart for one final time. A stunning story of love, longing, and loss, Anyone’s Ghost is a debut novel you won’t be able to put down. 

Some of the best debuts of all time

The orchard keeper, by cormac mccarthy.

Book cover for The Orchard Keeper

Cormac McCarthy was one of America’s finest and most celebrated authors, with over ten books to his name across a career spanning nearly sixty years. If you’re a fan, you’ll know McCarthy wrestles with the dark aspects of America’s past and present - but have you travelled all the way back to his earliest classic? McCarthy’s first book, The Orchard Keeper , is a standalone novel, set in a small, remote community in rural Tennessee in the 1920’s. Winner of the Faulkner Foundation Award for the best first novel, this book has earned a place among literary giants. 

by Emma Donoghue

Book cover for Stir Fry

Can you honestly say you love literary fiction if you haven’t read a book by Emma Donoghue ? You’ve probably read Room , a beloved novel-turned blockbusting film, but her first novel, Stir Fry, is equally poignant, and will stay with you long after the final page. This insightful coming-of-age story explores love between women and probes feminist ideas of sisterhood. There’s nothing like reading an author's entire body of work, especially one that is so sparklingly diverse and has been adapted for the screen not once, but twice , with The Wonder out on Netflix on 16 November.

The People in the Trees

By hanya yanagihara.

Book cover for The People in the Trees

You’ve probably read or at least heard about the award-winning A Little Life , by Hanya Yanahigara. But you can’t be a true admirer if you haven’t read her first, debut novel, The People in the Trees , which marked her as a remarkable new voice in American fiction. It is 1950, when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island where he encounters a strange tribe of forest dwellers who appear to have attained a form of immortality. We know that Hanya Yanaghiara has a way with words that can puncture you emotionally, and this all began with the haunting, but bewitching, The People in the Trees .

The Pickwick Papers

By charles dickens.

Book cover for The Pickwick Papers

Charles Dickens ’ era-defining novels undoubtedly belong in a list of the best books of all time. But we’re here to talk about The Pickwick Papers , his debut novel and a comic masterpiece which first brought this iconic writer to fame. Originally published in a series of magazine instalments, in novel form it is a hefty 1,080 pages, but you’ll be acquainted with some of fiction’s most endearing and memorable characters. It’s a classic, so you’ve got to give this work of literary invention your utmost attention if you haven’t already.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

By toshikazu kawaguchi.

Book cover for Before the Coffee Gets Cold

What would you change if you could go back in time? You’d read this novel when it was a bestseller in Japan in 2015 of course. . . Before the Coffee Gets Cold is the first book in this eponymous series about a coffee shop which offers its customers the chance to travel back in time. You’ll become captivated by four heartwarming characters as you follow their wistful attempts to change their respective pasts, whether that be seeing a loved one for one last time or confronting someone who did them wrong. An incredibly moving series that you have until September 2023 to become emotionally invested in, before the fourth adventure blesses our bookshelves.

The Miniaturist

By jessie burton.

Book cover for The Miniaturist

Set in the golden city of Amsterdam, The Miniaturist is a historical novel with a strange secret at its heart. It’s 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Joannes Brant, who gifts her a cabinet-sized replica of their home. As she engages the services of a miniaturist, an elusive and enigmatic artist, his tiny creations start to mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

At the Bottom of the River

By jamaica kincaid.

Book cover for At the Bottom of the River

Jamaica Kincaid’s books are beloved for their honest exploration of colonial legacy, full of unapologetic passion and defiance. Her first work, At the Bottom of the River , is a selection of inter-connected prose poems told from the perspective of a young Afro-Caribbean girl. You’ll not forget the way Kincaid explores the nature of mother-daughter relationships, and the short prose style will leave you wanting more. We think you should get to know this unique and necessary literary voice, starting with At the Bottom of the River .

Less Than Zero

By bret easton ellis.

Book cover for Less Than Zero

Years before  American Psycho , Bret Easton Ellis shocked, stunned and disturbed with his debut, a fierce coming-of-age novel about the casual nihilism that comes with youth and money. Less Than Zero  is narrated by Clay, an eighteen-year-old student, whose story is filled with relentless drinking, wild, drug-fuelled parties and dispassionate sexual encounters. This unflinching depiction of hedonistic youth and the consequences of such moral depravity, is neither condoned or chastised by the author. Published when he was just twenty-one, this extraordinary and instantly infamous work has become a cult classic and a timeless embodiment of the zeitgeist.

Sense and Sensibility

By jane austen.

Book cover for Sense and Sensibility

No one can write quite like Jane Austen. Her six novels are famous for their witty social commentary of British society in the early 19th century. Sense and Sensibility , her first novel, features two sisters of opposing temperament and their respective approaches to love. This comedy of manners is the humorous history lesson everyone needs.

Last Night in Montreal

By emily st. john mandel.

Book cover for Last Night in Montreal

If you’ve not heard of Emily St. John Mandel before, the New York Times bestselling author of Station Eleven , you have an incredible list of books to look forward to, starting with her extraordinary debut, Last Night in Montreal . Lilia has been leaving people behind her entire life, moving from city to city, abandoning lovers and friends along the way. Gorgeously written, charged with tension and foreboding, Last Night in Montreal is a novel about identity, love and amnesia, the depths and limits of family bonds and — ultimately — about the nature of obsession. 

Burial Rites

By hannah kent.

Book cover for Burial Rites

Inspired by actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving first novel that will transport you to Northern Iceland in 1829, where Agnes Magnúsdóttir is a woman condemned to death for her part in the murder of her lover. But all is not as it seems, and time is running out to uncover the truth – winter is coming, and with it is Agnes’ execution date. Hannah Kent announced her arrival into the literary space with this speculative biography and it's rare to find a debut novel as sophisticated and gripping as this one.

You may also like

It's time: these are the books you'll want to re-read now, right now, books that had us hooked from the first line, must reads: 50 best books of all time.

  • Follow Us On

Use LUCKY24 for 20% off site wide + free shipping over $45

Most Anticipated Debut Books of 2023


Please Report Your Bug Here

Josh Riedel

A college grad with the six-figure debt to prove it, Ethan Block views San Francisco as the place to be. Yet his job at hot new dating app DateDate is a far cry from what he envisioned. Instead of making the world a better place, he reviews flagged photo queues, overworked and stressed out. But that's about to change. Reeling from a breakup, Ethan decides to view his algorithmically matched soulmate on DateDate. He overrides the system and clicks on the profile. Then, he disappears. One minute, he’s in a windowless office, and the next, he’s in a field of endless grass, gasping for air. When Ethan snaps back to DateDate HQ, he’s convinced a coding issue caused the blip. Except for anyone to believe him, he’ll need evidence. As Ethan embarks on a wild goose chase, moving from dingy startup think tanks to Silicon Valley’s dominant tech conglomerate, it becomes clear that there’s more to DateDate than meets the eye. With 

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 17, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Also available from:

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Books-A-Million

Liar, Dreamer, Thief

Liar, Dreamer, Thief

by Maria Dong

Katrina Kim’s obsession with Kurt, her co-worker, is just one of her coping mechanisms from the life of a slightly unhinged, broke, woman who’s the black sheep of her family. Like her constant shape and number ritual. Or how scenes from her favorite children’s book bleed into her vision when she’s anxious or stressed. Her life crumbles when she receives a cryptic message from Kurt, implying that he’s aware of her surveillance. She accidentally becomes a witness to Kurt’s suicide but not before he tells her that his death is all her fault. Horrified, Katrina combs through the clues she’s collected about Kurt and realizes he’s been watching her just as much as she has of him. Liar, Dreamer, Thief , is an intimate portrayal of life’s complexities and a sensitive exploration of mental health.

  • Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
  • Trade Paperback

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 10, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The Writing Retreat

The Writing Retreat

Julia Bartz

Alex had given up on her dreams of becoming a published author. But she gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend an exclusive month-long writing retreat at the feminist horror writer Roza Vallo’s estate. When Alex and the other attendees arrive, Roza surprises them with a challenge that will reap the winner's huge rewards. During the retreat, they must all complete an entire novel from scratch and the best novel will receive a seven-figure publishing deal. Although seemingly impossible, Alex buckles down to write and tries to ignore strange happenings—Roza’s erratic behavior, her rival, Wren’s, mind games, and the alleged mansion’s hauntings. Then a writer vanishes during a snowstorm, and Alex must find the truth to save herself before the clock runs out.

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 21, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The Things We Do to Our Friends

The Things We Do to Our Friends

Heather Darwent

Clare arrives in Edinburgh, Scotland, the perfect destination for someone who wants to reinvent herself. There, she meets Tabitha, a beautiful, charismatic, and rich girl from her art history class. Clare becomes part of an exclusive circle and the new life she’s envisioned for herself finally seems to begin. Tabitha reveals a little project she’s working on and ropes Clare into helping her, even though it goes again everything Clare has tried to repent for. Clare slowly realizes what her new friends are capable of but too late for her to turn back.

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

by Claire Jimenez

When thirteen-year-old Ruthy disappeared after track practice without a trace, her family was left scarred and scrambling. Twelve years later, her older sister Jessica spots a woman on TV in Catfight. She calls herself Ruby but has a beauty mark under her left eye that’s instantly recognizable. Could it be Ruthy? The women in the Ramirez family, Dolores, Jessica, and Nina, go on a family trip to search for their long-lost sister. On this journey, they’ll be forced to reckon with their past and future and the bonds that hold these women together.

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 7, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The Carnivale of Curiosities

The Carnivale of Curiosities

by Amiee Gibbs

Ashe and Pretorius’ Carnivale of Curiosities is a show everyone’s trying to get a ticket for. But the real show begins behind the curtain. There are rumors of the show’s proprietor, Aurelius Ashe, is more than an average magician. For the right price, he can make any wish come true. But Ashe is tempted to refuse when Odilon Rose, one of the most notorious men in London, comes knocking on his door with a proposition regarding his young, beautiful charge, Charlotte. Rose holds a secret that threatens the security of the troupe’s most vulnerable members, and Ashe has no choice but to accept the insidious contract. The stakes grow even higher when Lucien, the Carnivale’s star attraction, finds himself drawn to Charlotte. Grave secrets and what it means to be a family come to a head in this vividly imagined spectacle.  

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 11, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The House in the Pines

The House in the Pines

During the last year of high school, Aubrey, Maya’s best friend, mysteriously dropped dead in front of Frank, an enigmatic man they’d been hanging out with all summer. Seven years later, Maya lives with her loving boyfriend in Boston and is kicking a secret addiction that’s helped her work through what happened years ago. That is until she stumbles across a recent YouTube video of a young woman who dies in a diner and sitting across none other than Frank. Maya retreats back to her Berkshires hometown to look for answers. And all roads seem to lead back to Frank’s cabin…

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 3, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The Perfect Ones

The Perfect Ones

Nicole Hackett

Instagram influencer Alabama Wood goes missing two days after arriving in Iceland for a promotional trip. With no leads, the police focus on the two influencers that were closest to Alabama on the trip: Celeste Reed, Alabama’s best friend of ten years, and Hollie Goodwin, Alabama’s idol. Celeste and Alabama have recently grown apart, and although Hollie sees to have everything, Alabama may have been the only person who suspected something was amiss. Loyalties are tested as secrets unravel to ask whether we really have control over our online image or not. 

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 2, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement. But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

Stone Cold Fox

Stone Cold Fox

Rachel Koller Croft

Like any enterprising woman, Bea knows what she’s worth and is determined to get all she deserves—it just so happens that what she deserves is to marry rich. After a lifetime of forced instruction in the art of swindling men by her mother, Bea wants nothing more than to escape her shadow, close the door on their sordid past, and disappear safely into old-money domesticity. When Bea finds her final mark in the perfectly dull blue-blooded Collin, she’s ready to deploy all her tricks one last time. The challenge isn’t getting the ring, but rather the approval of Collin’s family and everyone else in their tax bracket, particularly his childhood best friend Gale. Going toe-to-toe with Gale isn’t a threat to an expert like Bea, but what begins as an amusing cat-and-mouse game quickly develops into a dangerous chase. As the truth of Bea’s past threatens to come roaring out, she finds herself racing against the clock to pass the finish line before everything is exposed.

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 14, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall

Katie Lumsden

It's 1852 and Margaret Lennox, a young widow, attempts to escape the shadows of her past by taking a position as governess to an only child, Louis, at an isolated country house in the west of England. But Margaret soon starts to feel that something isn't quite right. There are strange figures in the dark, tensions between servants, and an abandoned east wing. Even stranger is the local gossip surrounding Mrs. Eversham, Louis's widowed mother, who is deeply distrusted in the village. Lonely and unsure whom to trust, Margaret finds distraction in a forbidden relationship with the gardener, Paul. But as Margaret's history threatens to catch up with her, it isn't long before she learns the truth behind the secrets of Hartwood Hall.

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 28, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The Golden Spoon

The Golden Spoon

Jessa Maxwell

Production for the tenth season of  Bake Week  is ready to begin at the gothic estate of host and celebrity chef Betsy Martin, and everything seems perfect. The tent is up, the top-tier ingredients are aligned, and the crew has their cameras at the ready. The six contestants work to prove their culinary talents over the course of five days, while Betsy is less than thrilled to share the spotlight with a new cohost—the brash and unpredictable Archie Morris. But as the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect.

The Deep Sky

The Deep Sky

Yume Kitasei

To save humanity, they left everything behind—except their differences. It is the eve of Earth’s environmental collapse. A single ship carries humanity’s last hope: eighty elite graduates of a competitive program, who will give birth to a generation of children in deep space. But halfway to a distant but livable planet, a lethal bomb kills three of the crew and knocks The Phoenix off course. Asuka, the only surviving witness, is an immediate suspect. Asuka already felt like an impostor before the explosion. She was the last picked for the mission, she struggled during training back on Earth, and she was chosen to represent Japan, a country she only partly knows as a half-Japanese girl raised in America. But estranged from her mother back home, The Phoenix is all she has left. With the crew turning on each other, Asuka is determined to find the culprit before they all lose faith in the mission—or worse, the bomber strikes again. Now, in order to survive, she must burn brighter than the stars that surround her.

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 18, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Get recommended reads, deals, and more from Novel Suspects

By clicking 'Sign Up,' I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Hachette Book Group’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

What to Read Next

AudioFile’s 2022 Best Mystery & Suspense_NovelSuspects

AudioFile’s 2022 Best Mystery & Suspense


20 Psychological & Domestic Thrillers We’re Excited to Read This Year

10 of the Best True Crime Books of 2022_NovelSuspects

10 of the Best True Crime Books of 2022

The Greatest Psychological Thriller and Suspense Books of All Time

8 of The Greatest Psychological Thriller and Suspense Books of All Time


Most Anticipated Crime Fiction Coming in Early 2023

All of NY Times Best Mysteries & Thrillers of 2022

All of NY Times Best Mysteries & Thrillers of 2022

Emily Hoang is a writer and editor, who is obsessed with haunted houses, ghosts, and dreams. More info can be found on her website .

  • Black Voices
  • Female Voices
  • LGBTQ Voices
  • Diverse Voices
  • Author Interviews
  • Bookstr Talks
  • Second Chapter
  • Featured Authors

This Revolutionary Queer Publisher Redefines the Industry

This Revolutionary Queer Publisher Redefines the Industry

A Look at the 2024 Women’s Prize for Nonfiction Shortlist

A Look at the 2024 Women’s Prize for Nonfiction Shortlist

Diversifying the Bookshelf: A Roundtable With Bookstr’s Women on Representation and Change

Diversifying the Bookshelf: A Roundtable With Bookstr’s Women on Representation and Change

Female Fiction Authors Discuss Writing Advice and Inspiration: 5×5

Female Fiction Authors Discuss Writing Advice and Inspiration: 5×5

  • On This Day
  • Bookspot / Libraries
  • Bookstagram
  • Bookish Memes
  • Bookish Trends
  • Favorite Quotes

Bookstr Team’s Ultimate Favorite Fantastic Female Protagonists

Bookstr Team’s Ultimate Favorite Fantastic Female Protagonists

Remembering Vernor Vinge and His Visionary Technology Predictions

Remembering Vernor Vinge and His Visionary Technology Predictions

Female Authors Who Were Great Innovators in Other Fields

Female Authors Who Were Great Innovators in Other Fields

  • Comics & Graphic Novels
  • Just For Fun
  • Adaptations

George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides To Be Limited MGM+ Series

George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides To Be Limited MGM+ Series

Which Lord Of The Rings Character Are You? Find Out!

Which Lord Of The Rings Character Are You? Find Out!

Which Hypnotic Book Boyfriend Would You Actually Date? Quiz

Which Hypnotic Book Boyfriend Would You Actually Date? Quiz

  • Food & Wine
  • Art and Music
  • Partner Articles

The Five Best Spots To Read a Book Across Ireland

The Five Best Spots To Read a Book Across Ireland

Discovering the Truth About Femininity and Flowers

Discovering the Truth About Femininity and Flowers

Upcoming New Wellness Releases by Extraordinary Female Doctors

Upcoming New Wellness Releases by Extraordinary Female Doctors

Excellent Forex Books for Beginners

Excellent Forex Books for Beginners

  • Young Readers
  • Science Fiction
  • Poetry & Drama
  • Thriller & Mystery
  • Young Adult
  • Three To Read
  • Female Authors

How To Use Books To Destroy Your Boring Date

How To Use Books To Destroy Your Boring Date

Sweet and Spicy Nannies: 6 Sensational Stories To Savor

Sweet and Spicy Nannies: 6 Sensational Stories To Savor

The Remarkable Story of the First Woman Who Made a Career From Writing

The Remarkable Story of the First Woman Who Made a Career From Writing

Irresistibly Wicked Fairytale Retellings Adult Disney Fans Will Love

Irresistibly Wicked Fairytale Retellings Adult Disney Fans Will Love

For the love of books

13 Fantastic 2023 Debut Authors You’re Guaranteed to Love

This year saw the release of dozens of incredible new books by breakout debut authors. Check out our favorites to see what you should be reading!

Headshots of Rita Chang-Eppig, Jinwoo Chang, and Erica Berry in front of overlapping book pages.

2023 has been quite the year in book history — from high-profile celebrity memoirs like Britney Spears’s The Woman in Me and Elliot Page’s Pageboy to long-awaited new releases from prolific authors such as James McBride, Cassandra Clare, and Emily Henry, there was no shortage of exciting books to read this year. Although some of them might not have received quite as much hype as the titles mentioned above, show-stopping debut books from sensational new authors were also abundant in 2023.

In case you might have missed them, let me introduce these 13 electrifying debut authors, plus, their spectacular books!

1. Julia Bartz

Julia Bartz standing outside in front of a wall of green vines and leaves.

Julia Bartz is a therapist, creative coach, and now a bestselling author as well! Her debut novel, The Writing Retreat , is a twisty psychological suspense about a young author who attends a remote writing retreat that quickly devolves into a nightmare.

An audacious psychological thriller debut…Boldly drawn characters complement Bartz’s gleefully twisted plot….Sara Gran fans, take note. Publishers Weekly

2. Maureen Lee Lenker

Maureen Lee Lenker sitting in front of a display of books in a bookstore.

Maureen Lee Lenker is an award-winning journalist. She currently writes for Entertainment Weekly , where she reviews romance books, as well as theater, movies, and TV. Her debut novel, It Happened One Fight , is a playful romance set in 1930s Hollywood about a struggling actress who unwittingly falls for her troublesome co-star.

In her lively debut, Maureen Lenker pulls back the curtain on 1930s Hollywood with this romantic tale of a smart, ambitious starlet and a farmboy-turned-playboy actor. Readers will have great fun following the twists and turns of Reno divorces, run-ins with difficult directors, and an Academy Awards show unlike any other — along with fascinating glimpses into industry powerplays. It Happened One Fight is aces! Deborah Harkness, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the All Souls Trilogy

3. Jinwoo Chong

Jinwoo Chong standing in front of a white background.

Jinwoo Chong is a novelist and short story writer with work published in Electric Literature , The Rumpus , and LitHub , among other publications. His debut novel, Flux , incorporates elements of science fiction and noir thriller to tell the story of three strangers whose paths begin to cross in unexpected and life-altering ways.

Flux is a powerful debut — deft and fluid, sharp and dreamy. Employing the vehicle of a breakneck sci-fi thriller, Jinwoo Chong explores interstitial spaces of ethnicity, sexuality, trauma, pop cultural memory and, finally, time itself, with wit, tenderness and alacrity. The result is provocative and deeply moving. Sam Lipsyte, author of Venus Drive

4. Joseph Earl Thomas

Joseph Earl Thomas sitting on a grey couch.

Joseph Earl Thomas is an associate instructor at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and the Director of Programs at Blue Stoop, an organization dedicated to supporting Philadelphia’s writing community. His debut memoir, Sink , tells his own coming-of-age story, in which he finds a reprieve from his loneliness and hardships in geek culture.

Joseph Earl Thomas has created a narrative that reads like a request and loving demand. Sink is a new kind of memoir, remixing the best parts of the genre. Thomas uses the act and politics of oration to move us within the silences of desire. It is criminal and absolutely delicious that Sink is a literary debut. Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

5. Daisy Alpert Florin

Daisy Alpert Florin standing next to a white-panneled window.

Daisy Alpert Florin received the 2016 Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellowship at Sarah Lawrence College, as well as the 2019–2020 BookEnds novel revision fellowship. Her debut novel, My Last Innocent Year , is an eloquent and timely coming-of-age tale about a young college student who enters into an affair with her writing professor.

There have always been impressionable young people who fall for older men ― teachers and other mentors ― and there have always been older men who have taken advantage of these crushes. But rarely has their story been told as thoughtfully as in Daisy Alpert Florin’s intelligent and sensuous debut novel, My Last Innocent Year , a remarkable coming-of-age story that examines sexual politics, power and lust and the sometimes murky nature of romantic encounters. Minneapolis Star Tribune

6. Jade Song

author's debut books

Jade Song is a writer, artist, and award-winning art director. Her debut novel, Chlorine , is a disturbing literary coming-of-age story about a young swimmer whose transformation into a dark mermaid-esque creature perfectly encapsulates the experience of adolescence.

Song’s debut is a strikingly original coming-of-age story…Full of contradictions, magnificently balancing and remarkably sustaining wonder with dread and magical realism with harsh reality, with a heartbreakingly beautiful and intensely uneasy tone, this is a story that will hold readers in its thrall. Booklist , starred review

7. Erica Berry

Erica Berry standing in front of a tan wood wall.

Erica Berry is an essayist, journalist, and teacher. She is also an Associate Fellow at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters. Her debut memoir, Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear , uses wolves as a lens through which to explore fear as it relates to womanhood and the female body.

An enticing blend of memoir, science, history and cultural criticism, Wolfish centers around OR-7, the legendary Oregon wolf who left his natal pack and wandered thousands of miles. Erica Berry uses OR-7 as a metaphor for investigations into fear, storytelling, gender bias and grief…the deft storytelling makes for a sensitive, satisfying read. Reader’s Digest

8. Rita Chang-Eppig

Rita Chang-Eppig standing in front of a grey wall.

Rita Chang-Eppig is a writer whose stories have been published in Clarkesworld , McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern , The Best American Short Stories 2021 , and elsewhere. Her debut novel, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea , is a heart-pounded adventure about a Chinese pirate queen who embarks on a perilous journey to protect those she loves.

Epic yet intimate, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea brings to life the pirate queen Shek Yeung. Rita Chang-Eppig charts the journey of a brilliant and brave heroine who fights for the survival of her fleet — and her family’s — against a fascinating historical backdrop. A stunning debut. Vanessa Hua, bestselling author of A River of Stars and Forbidden City

9. Maggie Millner

Maggie Millner lying sideways on a couch and leaning her head on her hand.

Maggie Millner is a lecturer at Yale University and a Senior Editor for The Yale Review . Her debut book, Couplets , is an exhilarating love story told through poems that delve into themes of identity, gender, queerness, and the complexities of relationships.

In her luminous, electric debut, Millner creates an original form to express the headlong revelations, obsessions, and erotic geometry of love. Couplets is propulsive, poignant, and terrific at showing the way carnality is tethered to vulnerability. Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward

10. Sarah Adler

Sarah Adler standing in front of a red brick wall.

Sarah Adler is an author of romantic comedies. Her debut novel, Mrs. Nash’s Ashes , is a charming road trip romance about a hopeless romantic and a pessimistic writer who get stuck on a journey from D.C. to Key West together after an airport mishap grounds their flight.

Sarah Adler nails the ultimate rom-com alchemy with her sparkling debut, Mrs. Nash’s Ashes . Full of zippy banter, gorgeous prose and tender-hearted characters who give the novel a deep, emotional core, it’s a complete delight. Carley Fortune, New York Times bestselling author of Every Summer After

11. Amber Roberts

author's debut books

Amber Roberts is a copywriter and author of contemporary romance. Her debut novel, Text Appeal , is a friends-to-lovers romance about a female programmer whose budding relationship with her longtime friend and crush is complicated when she starts doing text message–based sex work after losing her job at a big tech firm.

Bursting with feminist and sex positive vibes, Text Appeal is a fun and fresh take on the friends to lovers trope featuring perfectly matched nerdy Lark and Toby. More than a romance, Roberts’ debut novel is also a reminder of the power of acceptance and forgiveness, both of oneself and others. Meredith Schorr, author of As Seen on TV and Someone Just Like You

12. Margot Douaihy

Margot Douaihy standing in front of a large reflective window.

Margot Douaihy is an editor, poet, and Assistant Professor in Popular Fiction Writing and Literature at Emerson College. Her debut novel, Scorched Grace , is a thrilling lyrical mystery about a willful nun who takes matters into her own hands when her community is threatened by a serial arsonist.

Margot Douaihy’s bold entry into the hardboiled genre revitalizes it for our times. Skillfully plotted, propulsive, and deeply engaged with the communities it represents, Scorched Grace is one of the best crime fiction debuts I’ve come across in a long while. Don Winslow, #1 internationally bestselling author of The Power of the Dog and City on Fire

13. Caroline O’Donoghue

Caroline O'Donoghue sitting on a tan couch in front of a white wall.

Caroline O’Donoghue is an author and screenwriter, as well as the host of Sentimental Garbage , a podcast about our favorite trashy culture. Her debut novel, The Rachel Incident , is a complicated coming-of-age story about a young woman trying to navigate unrequited love, a looming financial crash, and a life-changing friendship.

If you’ve ever had a literary internship that didn’t really pay you; if you’ve ever contemplated writing a screenplay with a friend; if you’ve ever been unsure what to do with your degree in English; if you’ve ever wondered when the rug-buying part of your life will start; if you’ve ever avoided going home or run out of things to say to your parents; if you’ve ever built your life and your personality around a friend; if you’ve ever loved the wrong person, or the right person at the wrong time…In short, if you’ve ever been young, you will love The Rachel Incident like I did. Gabrielle Zevin, New York Times bestselling author of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

For more of Bookstr’s favorite authors, click here or here .


author's debut books

  • Debut Authors
  • Business & Money
  • Children's Books
  • Christian Books & Bibles
  • Comics & Graphic Novels
  • LGBTQ+ Books
  • Literature & Fiction
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Teen & Young Adult
  • Kindle Edition
  • 4 Stars & Up & Up
  • 3 Stars & Up & Up
  • 2 Stars & Up & Up
  • 1 Star & Up & Up
  • Collectible
  • All Discounts
  • Today's Deals

Featured Fantasy titles

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Featured Women's Fiction titles

The Women: A Novel

Featured Science Fiction titles

The Bad Weather Friend

Featured Humor titles

The Worst Wedding Date (Three BFFs and a Wedding Book 1)

Featured Romance titles

Where's Molly

Featured in Thrillers & Suspense

The Teacher: A Psychological Thriller

Religion & Spirituality titles

He Leadeth Me: An Extraordinary Testament of Faith

Featured Kindle Picks

The Rosie Project: A Novel (Don Tillman Book 1)

  • Amazon Newsletter
  • About Amazon
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability
  • Press Center
  • Investor Relations
  • Amazon Devices
  • Amazon Science
  • Start Selling with Amazon
  • Sell apps on Amazon
  • Supply to Amazon
  • Protect & Build Your Brand
  • Become an Affiliate
  • Become a Delivery Driver
  • Start a Package Delivery Business
  • Advertise Your Products
  • Self-Publish with Us
  • Host an Amazon Hub
  • › See More Ways to Make Money
  • Amazon Visa
  • Amazon Store Card
  • Amazon Secured Card
  • Amazon Business Card
  • Shop with Points
  • Credit Card Marketplace
  • Reload Your Balance
  • Amazon Currency Converter
  • Your Account
  • Your Orders
  • Shipping Rates & Policies
  • Amazon Prime
  • Returns & Replacements
  • Manage Your Content and Devices
  • Recalls and Product Safety Alerts
  • Conditions of Use
  • Privacy Notice
  • Consumer Health Data Privacy Disclosure
  • Your Ads Privacy Choices
  • Skip to main content
  • Keyboard shortcuts for audio player

NPR microphone in the studio.

Interview highlights

'worry' is a disturbing and honest picture of what it's like to be in your 20s.

Ailsa Chang

Headshot of Alejandra Marquez Janse.

Alejandra Marquez Janse

Justine Kenin headshot

Justine Kenin

author's debut books

Alexandra Tanner's debut novel centers two sisters in their 20s struggling with the love, anxieties and truths that they hold about each other. Sasha Fletcher hide caption

Alexandra Tanner's debut novel centers two sisters in their 20s struggling with the love, anxieties and truths that they hold about each other.

Your 20s are often painted as the greatest decade, but what's less talked about is how brutal those years can also be. There is pressure to declare who we are, uncertainty about what that even means, and confusion about what we want.

That is the case for two sisters in their 20s at the center of Alexandra Tanner's debut novel, Worry . Jules and Poppy Gold end up becoming roommates in New York City, and they torture each other with their anxieties, despair and truths. It's a portrait of sisterly love that's both hilarious and disturbing.

A former nun explains why she ran away from her 'Cloistered' life

Author Interviews

A former nun explains why she ran away from her 'cloistered' life.

Tanner spoke to All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang about how she tried to capture the complexities of the decade and sisterhood in this book.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Ailsa Chang: So can we just first talk about the 20s? Like, what is it about that decade that makes it so painful? You just finished the decade, right?

Alexandra Tanner: Yes. I'm in my early 30s now and very glad to be done with my 20s forever. I think they're this just super pressurized time where you feel like, you know, your early 20s, you're on your own for the first time, you're out of college, you feel like, "Here I am, I've arrived in my life." But often you haven't arrived in your life and you don't know who you are and you're still a child, really.

Chang: In the middle of this existential dread that is the 20s are your characters Jules and Poppy. And let's just talk about the relationship between these two sisters. I mean, it's loving, but it's so messed up. It made me wonder: Were you writing from personal experience there? Do you have a sister?

Tanner: I have a younger sibling. They're non-binary and trans, and they are my favorite person in the entire world. But sometimes a sibling relationship is quite diabolical. It's a very unique relationship in that it's someone you love so intensely and know so well – you think. There's this huge gulf between what you [think you know] of your sibling and what you actually know of your sibling. So I think the core of the novel is the horror of realizing that your sister is a part of you and the bigger horror of realizing your sister is separate from you.

The cover of the novel Worry.

Chang: Well, even though we're talking about the viciousness between these two sisters, it really, for me, was the mother in this book who was the most cruel. Like, you depict a particularly vicious woman who calls her daughter the disappointment of her life. You also, I noticed, write about these other annoying mommy bloggers out there, and all of that got me thinking: How do you feel about motherhood, Alexandra?

Tanner: I mean, I wrote 300 pages about it and I still can't quite figure it out. And I think that, you know, in the writing of the novel, I kind of endeavored to have the relationship Jules and Poppy have with their mother, which I think it mirrors the relationship they have with each other, and that it's a relationship of deep emotional extremes, deep boundaryless-ness. And that's the thing about family, right? You can say anything to them and they're the people who are always going to be with you.

Chang: You hope.

'James' reimagines Twain's 'Huckleberry Finn' with mordant humor, and horror

Book Reviews

'james' reimagines twain's 'huckleberry finn' with mordant humor, and horror.

'The Tree Doctor' chronicles one woman's response to a series of life-changing crises

'The Tree Doctor' chronicles one woman's response to a series of life-changing crises

Tanner: You hope. But there's a huge responsibility in that to recognize that you have to treat other people with care. And that saying something like, "You are the disappointment of my life," in a moment of deep emotional stress, they're going to remember that for the rest of their lives. That's not a statement you can just walk back. And I think, mothers, daughters, you go through these cycles of being there for each other and not being there for each other and wounding each other and then being the only person in the world who can lift someone up from, you know, a breakup, getting fired, a devastation. That's the person you want to reach out to.

Chang: Why set this book in 2019, by the way? Because for me, you know, it's so specifically not the present day, but also not that long ago. So what was it about the cusp of the pandemic that you wanted to remind us about?

Tanner : When I look back on 2019, it was this year that felt really normal until all of a sudden it didn't. And I remember there was this period, especially toward the end of the year, where it started to feel like things were about to hit the fan in this really big, scary way. And maybe that's a little bit of an anachronistic thing to say. But now when we look back on it, it was the last year of a chapter in our collective narrative about the world and about so many of our individual lives. And it just had this bonkers energy that I really wanted to try to capture.

In 'The Manicurist's Daughter,' a refugee family goes on after its matriarch's death

In 'The Manicurist's Daughter,' a refugee family goes on after its matriarch's death

In 'Unshrinking,' a writer discusses coming out as fat and pushing back against bias

Shots - Health News

In 'unshrinking,' a writer discusses coming out as fat and pushing back against bias.

Chang: You know, loneliness became such a theme during the pandemic, but you remind us that there was a lot of loneliness before the pandemic.

Tanner: Everybody around the world was lonely in 2019, too. You sort of thought things were about as bad as they could get, you know, politically, socially, whatever. And then it got so much worse.

Chang: Well, I want to end this interview where I started. What do you hope current 20-something-year-olds come away with after reading your book? What do you want to tell them?

Tanner: You're going to strive, you're going to suffer. It's all going to be OK. You're going to make it even if you only make it with a percentage of yourself that is far less than you thought you would carry on to the other side of it.

Worried about climate change? Read these women authors

Beachgoers are framed against the setting sun at the end of a warm day in Huntington Beach.

The defining issue of our time, and more in this week’s Book Club newsletter.

  • Show more sharing options
  • Copy Link URL Copied!

You’re reading Book Club

An exclusive look at what we’re reading, book club events and our latest author interviews.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

Good morning and welcome back to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

For the next few editions of the newsletter, you’ll be hearing directly from authors. Next up …

I’m Lorraine Berry, a frequent contributor to The Times’ books coverage.

For as long as we can remember, most of us who grew up in the West have been aware of the environmental issues we face, including water rights, grazing rights, wilderness preservation, forest fires, drought and endangered species. But these issues have never felt more pressing.

Climate change’s impact on water supplies, forest firestorms and air quality have been front and center for many of us.

I’ve immersed myself for the last few years in the books that consider our collective future. I’ve especially resonated with the novels, memoirs and studies written by women. After all, part of choosing whether to have children is also a decision about the future. Other factors in the climate crisis — the inequality of its impact based on structural issues of race, class, gender and mobility — has created a complex ecosystem in which to grow such creative work.

Recent books by Camille T. Dungy , Lydia Millet , Emily Raboteau , Elizabeth Rush , Manjula Martin , and many others have looked specifically at these questions about climate change’s impact on women.

Here are some books by female writers that offer more insight on climate change and the environment.

(Please note: The Times may earn a commission through links to, whose fees support independent bookstores.)

“The Light Eaters” by Zöe Schlanger The Atlantic staff writer examines the role of plants in climate change and the secrets they hold. Increasingly, scientists have turned their research to investigating whether plants can teach us their strategies for survival.

“You Are Here” by Ada Limón Limón, the U.S. poet laureate , edited a collection of poetry by authors in conversation with the natural world. The collection appears in April. It’s a lovely book to take with you to read at the end of your next hike.

“Dispersals” by Jessica J. Lee In this collection of essays, Lee reflects upon human interactions with nature by examining terms we use in our gardens like “invasive” and “weeds.” It’s a terrific work on how borders work to keep both people and plants separated.

“Lessons From the Climate Anxiety Counseling Booth” by Kate Schapira Schapira brings years of knowledge gleaned from conversations about people’s concerns in “Lessons From the Climate Anxiety Counseling Booth.” It provides advice on how to deal with the increasing sense of dread many feel in our uncertain climate times.

“Medicine Wheel for the Planet” by Dr. Jennifer Grenz Grenz is an Indigenous ecologist and scholar whose guidebook offers advice to those seeking a holistic approach to restoring the earth, advocating for a purposeful, reciprocal interaction with the environment. Drawing from both her own scientific research and the Indigenous worldview, Grenz creates a new path forward.

“The Age of Loneliness” from Laura Marris This collection of essays is dedicated to understanding periods of loneliness and alienation and times when we feel connected and harvest the abundance around us. In recounting periods of ecological loss and recovery, she provides solace to those who feel alone right now.

The L.A. Times Festival of Books has a ton of climate-related talks

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books promo visual that shows a reader and states that the festival is April 20-21.

The Times Book Club author for April is Abraham Verghese , Stanford medical professor and author of the highly-acclaimed epic novel, “The Covenant of Water.” The Book Club discussion will be one of the featured events at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books , which will run April 20-21 on the USC campus. Ticket packages for these and other special events are available now.

At the L.A. Times Festival of Books, several panels will explore and interrogate our changing planet. Many of these events are free, but require tickets in advance. Ticket information is available here .

Ask a Reporter: Our Climate Change Challenge Join reporters Russ Mitchell, Rosanna Xia and Sammy Roth in an audience Q&A on issues related to climate change. Saturday, April 20, 11:45 a.m. Mudd Hall 203

Science: Climate Change Isn’t Fiction, Presented by Getty PST Art Sammy Roth leads panelists who will look at how the stuff of dystopian novels is our new reality. Join panelists Jeff Goodell, Dan Egan, Edward Humes and Rosanna Xia, who will offer helpful, actionable ideas about hopeful living in a world on fire. Saturday, April 20, 3:30 p.m. Seeley G. Mudd 124

Turf War: When Wildlife and Cities Collide Peter S. Alagona, Ben Goldfarb, Beth Pratt, Rae Wynn-Grant and Louis Sahagún examine our capacity for creating a more livable world not just for ourselves, but our animal friends who live alongside us. Saturday, April 20 3:00 PM Seeley G. Mudd 123

Ask a Reporter: Cali of the Wild L.A. Times reporters Corinne Purtill, Louis Sahagún and Lila Seidman participate in an audience Q&A on California wildlife and environmental challenges. Sunday, April 21, 10:00 a.m. Mudd Hall 203

Mother Nature: Women and Wilderness Authors Angie Sijun Lou, Melissa Sevigny, Diane Smith, Karen Tei Yamashita and Denise Hamilton challenge notions of conquering nature in their approach to covering the natural world. Sunday, April 21 11:00 a.m. Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre

Placemaking and the Politics of Land This provocative panel will explore placemaking and the land that we share. Drawing from California’s wine country, the Panama Canal, Owens Lake and the L.A. River, panelists will look at issues related to labor, race, gender, sustainability and more. The panelists will be Joan Flores-Villalobos, Julia Ornelas-Higdon and Alexander Robinson. William Deverell will moderate. Sunday, April 21, 12:00 p.m. Wallis Annenberg Hall Presented by USC

Humans vs. Nature: Conflict with the Natural World Panelists Andrea Lankford, Christina Gerhardt and Will Cockrell, along with moderator Thomas Curwen answer questions like how do we meaningfully interact with and explore the world in a way that benefits both humanity and nature? Sunday, April 21, 2:00 p.m. Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre

The Week(s) in Books

Books comp

California saw an increased number of books — 98 — that right-wingers tried to ban, Axios reported . Top of the list in California were the books “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and “Beyond Magenta.” Books featuring LGTBQ themes have been the focus of many of these attacks. Donna Wares wrote about book bans for this newsletter back in September .

The National Book Critics Circle announced its 2023 awards in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism. Judy Blume was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. L.A. Times Book Prize nominee “We Were Once a Family” also won in nonfiction. See the full list here .

Local author Myriam J.A. Chancy, who is chair of the humanities at Scripps College, launches her newest book, “Village Weaver,” in an event sponsored by the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice. She will be appearing April 5 in conversation with Talia Lakshmi Kolluri, author of “What We Fed to the Manticore.”

Vroman’s Bookstore hosts Simone Gorrindo in conversation with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney on April 12. Gorrindo’s April debut, “The Wives,” is her memoir about life as the spouse of a member of an Army Special Forces unit.

Vroman’s Hastings Ranch location will close in May .

Bookstore faves

A mosaic depicting the Culver City community lines the cafe counter at Village Well Books & Coffee in Culver City.

Every couple of weeks, we ask an L.A. bookseller what they’re selling and what they’re loving. This time, it’s Jennifer Caspar, founder of Culver City’s Village Well Bookstore and Coffee.

We asked Caspar what was catching readers’ attention at the store, and whether climate change books were drawing an audience.

Here’s what she wrote back ( edited for length and clarity):

We have two excellent new releases this week that are striking nerves: First, Percival Everett’s “James,” which is a retelling of the Huckleberry Finn story from the perspective of Huck’s enslaved companion Jim. Everett is riding a tide of recognition he got from the adaptation of his book “Erasure,” which [was made] into the film “American Fiction” and took the Oscar for adapted screenplay.

The second is Hanif Abdurraqib’s “There’s Always This Year,” the author’s latest work of cultural criticism, this time on the game of basketball. No matter what he’s writing about, Abdurraqib’s language is like poetry and his insights draw the magic out of a subject.

It’s so great to see two excellent writers finding audiences in this moment.

We’ve also had multiple inquiries this week about the “Trump Indictments” and James McBride’s “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store,” which has been selling well since fall.

In terms of climate change, we’re selling lots of books that address this.

With Netflix’s release of “3 Body Problem,” we’ve seen sales spike of that, as well as Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which gets mentioned in the show. It came out in 1962 and warned about the dangers of pesticide use and humanity’s collective negative impact on its own future.

We have sold a lot more fiction than nonfiction books on climate change, with “The Overstory” by Richard Powers, Octavia Butler’s prescient classic “Parable of the Sower” and Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton’s “Birnam Wood,” which just came out in paperback, currently leading our fiction list.

In terms of nonfiction, our bestsellers and the ones we like best have been:

  • “California Against the Sea” by Rosanna Xia. That book won the California Independent Bookseller’s Alliance (CALIBA)’s 2023 award in the nonfiction category .
  • “The Heat Will Kill You First” by Jeff Goodell, which our new Environmentalist book club read for its inaugural meeting in January this year.
  • Naomi Klein’s 2014 bestseller “This Changes Everything.”

Sign up for our Book Club newsletter

Get the latest news, events and more from the Los Angeles Times Book Club, and help us get L.A. reading and talking.

More From the Los Angeles Times

Souther California Bestsellers

The week’s bestselling books, March 31

March 27, 2024

Lydia Millet, author of "We Loved It All."

Storytellers can inspire climate action without killing hope

March 26, 2024

Sacha Baron Cohen in a brown suit and tie with his mouth open. Rebel Wilson in a black dress speaking into a microphone

Entertainment & Arts

Sacha Baron Cohen counters Rebel Wilson after she claims reps ‘bullied’ her over book

March 25, 2024

The week’s bestselling books, March 24

March 20, 2024

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Holly Jackson.

‘I will defeat Richard Osman!’: Holly Jackson on being Britain’s top selling female crime author

The YA novelist talks about her early love of Tomb Raider, true crime and fangirling the cast of the BBC adaptation of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

A few minutes into our conversation, bestselling author Holly Jackson is convinced she’s spotted the American singer Nick Jonas. It would be surprising, since we’re having coffee in Wimbledon. “It’s not,” she realises, “it’s just a lookalike.” Turning back to me, she says she has “gone off the Jonas Brothers, anyway” since Joe, formerly her favourite member, split from Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner.

The 32-year-old author is clearly more used to being the fangirl than the fangirled – despite the fact that her young adult series, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, has sold millions of copies worldwide, and is currently being made into a BBC TV series.

The writer has taken a break from working on her sixth novel to meet me near where she lives with her “boyf- I should say husband”, who works for a real estate company. The pair got married last September, but Jackson says it still “feels too weird” to call him her husband. “I don’t want people to know I’m old!”

She admits she has been doing some “real grownup stuff” over the last few years, such as getting a cocker spaniel and buying a house, which has allowed her to progress from writing books at the kitchen table to an office with “an actual proper desk”. When she wrote A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder she was still living with her parents in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, having moved back there after studying English at Nottingham. “Funnily enough, I did actually start with English and creative writing,” she says, but “ditched the creative writing after the first semester.”

The “forgotten middle child” of a BBC production assistant mother and a camera operator father, Jackson says she knew she wanted to be a writer from the age of 11, completing a 400-page fantasy novel as a 15-year-old which she “bullied [her] little sister into reading”.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

The first manuscript she sent to agents when she was 25 was very different from the teenage murder mysteries for which she would become known. Jackson can see, looking back, why her adult novel “about a thief with obsessive compulsive disorder in a dystopian 15th/16th-century England” didn’t get picked up. It was “too many things”. When her now agent read the novel and asked if she had any other ideas, she proposed a story about a 16-year-old class swot who begins to solve a local murder for her A-level extended project. He liked the sound of it, so she went away and wrote A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder “in about seven weeks, because I didn’t want him to forget me”. It was the UK’s bestselling YA debut of 2019, and has continued to sell in huge volumes, along with its two sequels Good Girl, Bad Blood and As Good As Dead, and a standalone thriller, Five Survive.

Last year, Jackson not only sold more books than any other young adult author, she was also the top-selling female author of crime fiction in the UK. “Who’s above me?” she asks. It’s Richard Osman , James Patterson , and Lee and Andrew Child . “I will defeat them,” she remarks. “I think Richard Osman is the one I’ve got to go for. He’s very tall though.”

He does seem quite gentle, I note. “Yeah and I’m not,” she responds. “I would fight dirty, so I’ve got that going for me.” Joking aside, Jackson admits “it is wild” how successful her series has been. “I can’t really work out why it’s not dead yet. I mean, I’m not complaining about it!”

A big reason for its continued success is TikTok: Jackson’s books are some of the most recommended among the #BookTok community. The author says she “joined TikTok against [her] will”, because so many of her readers use it, but now finds the app so addictive that she has it blocked on her phone – it can be opened with a password that only her husband knows.

Jackson “can’t work out the alchemy” of why certain books become TikTok sensations. Sometimes, she’ll read a book because it has been hyped on the app and think: “This is the worst book I’ve ever read. What does everyone see in it?” She’s not into the current trend of “ romantasy ”. “I tried,” she says, but “I don’t like dragons and snogging.”

Thrillers have always been Jackson’s genre of choice: she remembers faking illness when she was 10 to skip school and watch her dad’s box set of 24 , and reading Stephen King at an age when she “definitely shouldn’t have been”. A lifelong gamer, she also played Tomb Raider on her parents’ desktop in the “pre-PlayStation days”. In one Christmas family video she can be seen turning away from her game with a “goblin smile” and saying: “Look Daddy, I can snap her spine!”

“Maybe it’s lucky that I’m a crime writer, otherwise I’d be a serial killer,” she jokes. Yet playing video games “has probably been one of the biggest reasons that I wanted to be a storyteller,” she says. “Obviously, if you want to be a writer, you should read books, but I think you should definitely watch TV and play video games as well.”

Readers of her novels won’t be surprised to hear that Jackson is an “avid consumer” of true crime media, too – A Good Girl’s protagonist, Pip, has her own true crime podcast. True crime is a form of storytelling, too, Jackson points out, despite the fact that we tend to consume it as fact. “In things like Making a Murderer , you’re being told a story, you’re not actually being told the truth, because there are editors who are telling you exactly what they want you to believe,” she says.

This interest in the way true crime narratives are shaped by their creators was at the forefront of Jackson’s mind when she wrote her latest book, The Reappearance of Rachel Price. In it, Bel, a standoffish 18-year-old, has agreed to take part in a documentary about her mother, Rachel Price, who went missing from her home town of Gorham, New Hampshire, when her daughter was two. Not long after filming gets under way, Rachel – you guessed it – reappears, and Bel makes it her mission to work out whether Rachel is telling the truth about where she has been.

The Reappearance of Rachel Price by Holly Jackson

As in her previous books, the police don’t come across particularly well in this novel. Jackson thinks the modern justice system “often fails the people it’s supposedly meant to protect”. And, like Five Survive, The Reappearance of Rachel Price is set in the US. While this was partly because Jackson believes “America is a more fertile ground for crazy mystery thrillers” and means her characters can have “easy access to guns”, it was also a practical business decision. When the US rights for A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder were sold, the publisher stipulated that the American version of the book be set in the US. So Jackson had to “translate” the story to Connecticut, swapping references to the UK school and justice systems to the American equivalents, which was “quite arduous”. It was “partly a lazy decision” to set later books in the US, Jackson admits.

The author says she is ready “to try and branch out a bit”, and write a supernatural or paranormal mystery thriller. First, though, is the BBC adaptation of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Jackson, who was “heavily involved” in the series’ production, admits to being nervous, but says she is “cautiously optimistic” that viewers will enjoy the show, especially given its cast, which includes Anna Maxwell Martin, Mathew Baynton and Emma Myers, who starred alongside Jenna Ortega in Netflix’s Wednesday. Jackson is back in full fangirl mode when I mention Myers. “Oh my gosh, she’s so good,” she says. “I’m so excited for everyone to see her as Pip, because she more than knocks it out of the park. She knocks it out of the Milky Way.”

Between promoting the BBC show and The Reappearance of Rachel Price, Jackson worries she won’t have much time this year to write her next novel, which is “very secret, hush hush”. “I’ll probably be told off by my agent for mentioning it at all,” she says, but “I’ll just mysteriously say that it might be a slight departure from what I’ve done before.”

I point out that, for someone so successful, she is very concerned about getting into trouble with her agent and publishers. “Well, that’s true,” she concedes. “If they tell me off, I will just write their names into a book as a horrible character.”

  • Young adult
  • Crime fiction

Most viewed

  • Election 2024
  • Entertainment
  • Newsletters
  • Photography
  • Personal Finance
  • AP Buyline Personal Finance
  • Press Releases
  • Israel-Hamas War
  • Russia-Ukraine War
  • Global elections
  • Asia Pacific
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • March Madness
  • AP Top 25 Poll
  • Movie reviews
  • Book reviews
  • Personal finance
  • Financial Markets
  • Business Highlights
  • Financial wellness
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Social Media

Easter 2024

Laurent de Brunhoff, ‘Babar’ heir and author, dies at age 98

FILE - Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff poses for a photograph with Babar while celebrating 75 years of the book on Friday, April 21, 2006 at Mabel's Fables in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. De Brunhoff, a Paris native who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s, died Friday, March 22, 2024 at his home in Key West, Fla., according to The New York Times. (Nathan Denette /The Canadian Press via AP)

FILE - Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff poses for a photograph with Babar while celebrating 75 years of the book on Friday, April 21, 2006 at Mabel’s Fables in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. De Brunhoff, a Paris native who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s, died Friday, March 22, 2024 at his home in Key West, Fla., according to The New York Times. (Nathan Denette /The Canadian Press via AP)

FILE - Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff signs the wall, while celebrating 75 years of the book on Friday, April 21, 2006 at Mabel’s Fables in Toronto, Ont. De Brunhoff, a Paris native who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s, died Friday, March 22, 2024 at his home in Key West, Fla., according to The New York Times.(Nathan Denette /The Canadian Press via AP)

  • Copy Link copied

NEW YORK (AP) — “Babar” author Laurent de Brunhoff, who revived his father’s popular picture book series about an elephant-king and presided over its rise to a global, multimedia franchise, has died. He was 98.

De Brunhoff, a Paris native who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s, died Friday at his home in Key West, Florida, after being in hospice care for two weeks, according to his widow, Phyllis Rose.

Just 12 years old when his father, Jean de Brunhoff, died of tuberculosis, Laurent was an adult when he drew upon his own gifts as a painter and storyteller and released dozens of books about the elephant who reigns over Celesteville, among them “Babar at the Circus” and “Babar’s Yoga for Elephants.” He preferred using fewer words than his father did, but his illustrations faithfully mimicked Jean’s gentle, understated style.

“Together, father and son have woven a fictive world so seamless that it is nearly impossible to detect where one stopped and the other started,” author Ann S. Haskell wrote in The New York Times in 1981.

The series has sold millions of copies worldwide and was adapted for a television program and such animated features as “Babar: The Movie” and “Babar: King of the Elephants.” Fans ranged from Charles de Gaulle to Maurice Sendak, who once wrote, “If he had come my way, how I would have welcomed that little elephant and smothered him with affection.”

De Brunhoff would say of his creation, “Babar, c’est moi” (“that’s me”), telling National Geographic in 2014 that “he’s been my whole life, for years and years, drawing the elephant.”

The books’ appeal was far from universal. Some parents shied from the passage in the debut, “The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant,” about Babar’s mother being shot and killed by hunters. Numerous critics called the series racist and colonialist, citing Babar’s education in Paris and its influence on his (presumed) Africa-based regime. In 1983, Chilean author Ariel Dorfman would call the books an “implicit history that justifies and rationalizes the motives behind an international situation in which some countries have everything and other countries almost nothing.”

“Babar’s history,” Dorfman wrote, “is none other than the fulfillment of the dominant countries’ colonial dream.”

Adam Gopnik, a Paris-based correspondent for The New Yorker, defended “Babar,” writing in 2008 that it “is not an unconscious expression of the French colonial imagination; it is a self-conscious comedy about the French colonial imagination and its close relation to the French domestic imagination.”

De Brunhoff himself acknowledged finding it “a little embarrassing to see Babar fighting with Black people in Africa. He especially regretted “Babar’s Picnic,” a 1949 publication that included crude caricatures of Blacks and American Indians, and asked his publisher to withdraw it.

De Brunhoff was the eldest of three sons born to Jean de Brunhoff and Cecile de Brunhoff, a painter. Babar was created when Cecile de Brunhoff, the namesake for the elephant’s kingdom and Babar’s wife, improvised a story for her kids.

“My mother started to tell us a story to distract us,” de Brunhoff told National Geographic in 2014. “We loved it, and the next day we ran to our father’s study, which was in the corner of the garden, to tell him about it. He was very amused and started to draw. And that was how the story of Babar was born. My mother called him Bebe elephant (French for baby). It was my father who changed the name to Babar. But the first pages of the first book, with the elephant killed by a hunter and the escape to the city, was her story.”

The debut was released in 1931 through the family-run publisher Le Jardin Des Modes. Babar was immediately well received and Jean de Brunhoff completed four more Babar books before dying six years later, at age 37. Laurent’s uncle, Michael, helped publish two additional works, but no one else added to the series until after World War II, when Laurent, a painter by then, decided to bring it back.

“Gradually I began to feel strongly that a Babar tradition existed and that it ought to be perpetuated,” he wrote in The New York Times in 1952.

De Brunhoff was married twice, most recently to the critic and biographer Phyllis Rose, who wrote the text to many of the recent “Babar” publications, including the 2017 release billed as the finale, “Babar’s Guide to Paris.” He had two children, Anne and Antoine, but the author did not consciously write for young people.

“I never really think of children when I do my books,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2017. “Babar was my friend and I invented stories with him, but not with kids in a corner of my mind. I write it for myself.”

author's debut books

  • Share full article


Supported by

Kate Banks, Children’s Author Who Wrote About Grief, Dies at 64

She became an award-winning author of children’s books and young-adult novels despite debilitating health issues and the murder of her father.

Kate Banks, wearing a patterned scarf and dangly gold earrings, smiles in front of a bookshelf.

By Alex Williams

Kate Banks, who, despite personal tragedy and debilitating illness, became an award-winning author of children’s books and young-adult novels that captured the wonder of youth while also confronting fear and grief, died on Feb. 24 in Basel, Switzerland. She was 64.

The cause was medically assisted death, following a Stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis in 2022, her sister Amy Banks said.

Ms. Banks had mast cell activation syndrome, a disorder of the immune system, and had been unable to undergo standard cancer treatments or take most medications, including those for pain.

Despite the ailment, which she had suffered for decades, and the lingering trauma from the murder of her father when she was in college, Ms. Banks was prolific: She had published more than 50 books since the late 1980s.

A Maine native, she drew inspiration for her work from a childhood spent among the woods and rocky beaches of her home state.

“A Gift From the Sea” (2001), illustrated by Georg Hallensleben, follows a boy who finds a rock on a beach, leading him to ruminate on the geological and historical forces that led the rock to that spot. “That’s Papa’s Way” (2009), illustrated by Lauren Castillo, wistfully recounts the story of a young girl’s deepening relationship with her father during a languid day fishing together on a lake.

“This dialogue with nature has accompanied me through adulthood, and it’s an important theme running through many of my books,” Ms. Banks said in a 2013 interview with the blogger Melissa Buron. “I think that getting children to explore and engage in their natural habitat can help them to understand their place in the world, not only as residents but as part of a big, beautiful whole.”

Ms. Banks, with Mr. Hallensleben, won the picture book award from The Horn Book, a youth literature magazine, in 1998 for “And if the Moon Could Talk,” about a girl slipping into reveries of imagination as her father reads her a bedtime story. Two years later, her middle-grade novel “Howie Bowles, Secret Agent,” about a boy who adopts a dashing alter ego on his way to finding true self-acceptance, won the Edgar Award for best juvenile book from the Mystery Writers of America.

By all appearances, Ms. Banks lived a charmed life. When she was in her 30s, she lived in Rome with her Italian-born husband, Pierluigi Mezzomo, a civil engineer and entrepreneur, and their two sons, Peter and Max.

When she was in her 40s, the family moved to the Côte d’Azur in France. A 2008 article in The New York Times chronicled the couple’s renovation of their stately hillside house, Villa Bois Joli (Pretty Wood), with its sun-dappled white exterior and pale blue shutters, bountiful apricot and pear trees, and a stunning view of the sea.

“The colors, the smells, the views, that’s what makes inspiration come,” Ms. Banks told The Times. “And it comes a lot in that house.”

Things were far from perfect, however. As her sister Amy put it in an email: “From the outside looking in, Kate’s life seemed carefree, romantic, even enviable. But the hard stuff she endured was just below the surface.”

Katherine Anne Banks was born on Feb. 13, 1960, in Farmington, Maine, the second of four children of Ronald Banks, a history professor at the University of Maine, and Helena (Poland) Banks, who managed the home.

By her early teens, Kate was writing short stories and poetry about nature. “I had a vivid imagination from an early age,” she said in an interview with the blog The Picture Book Buzz, “and, for me, words were the ideal vehicle for connecting my inner and outer worlds.”

After graduating from Brewer High School in Maine in 1978, she enrolled in Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Her life took a devastating turn during her freshman year. On April 12, 1979, her father, who was attending a convention in New Orleans, was walking with a colleague back to his hotel from the French Quarter when two men tried to rob them. During a scuffle, one of the assailants fired a pistol at Professor Banks, killing him instantly.

A 16-year-old, Isaac Knapper, who lived in a nearby housing project, was charged with the crime and later convicted, but he was exonerated in 1991 and released from prison. Amy Banks, with Mr. Knapper, chronicled the tragic tale in the 2015 book “Fighting Time.”

The shooting left deep emotional scars, but Ms. Banks continued on, receiving a bachelor’s degree in history in 1982. She then moved to New York City, earned a master’s degree in history from Columbia University and took a job at Knopf Books for Young Readers in 1984. Four years later she published her first children’s book, “Alphabet Soup,” about a boy who refuses to eat his soup but who taps into a world of wonder by the words that appear in its floating letters.

The hollowness of loss eventually found its way into her work. “Many of my novels for older readers have dealt with death,” she once wrote. “And I suppose that represents my attempts to come to terms with love and loss of that magnitude.”

Ms. Banks’s young-adult novel “Dillon Dillon” (2002) centers on a boy who learns that the people whom he thought were his parents are actually his aunt and uncle, and that his actual parents died in an accident when he was young. He rediscovers a sense of freedom and wonder while paddling a red rowboat to an island on a lake , where he becomes enchanted with a pair of loons.

In “Walk Softly, Rachel” (2003), a young girl reads the diary of her dead brother, only to learn that he had died by suicide.

Ms. Banks managed to maintain a strict daily writing schedule for years, despite a chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis in her 20s and pain that was at times crippling from a botched medical procedure for a prolapsed uterus from childbirth.

With the complications of mast cell activation syndrome, including drops in blood pressure, flushing, severe itching and rashes, Ms. Banks relied on alternative therapies, including reiki, hypnosis, emotional freedom technique, quantum healing and regression therapy.

In addition to her sister Amy, she is survived by her husband, her sons and another sister, Nancy Banks.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Banks found another form of therapy — poetry. Her first anthology, “Into the Ether,” is to be published this fall.

One poem from the book, “What He Did to Me,” begins, “That guy pulled out of his pocket/a Saturday Night Special,” and then details the crushing emotional fallout from the bullet that killed her father. But the loss also led to a rebirth:

I began to see God everywhere, in my neighbor’s smoking chimney, the crackle of melting frost, the twist of a climbing vine, the leap of a cat. I saw God in every person who passed. That’s what that guy did to me. And I ought to be grateful.

Alex Williams is a reporter in the Obituaries department. More about Alex Williams

Read the Latest on Page Six

  • Sports Betting
  • Sports Entertainment
  • New York Yankees
  • New York Mets
  • Transactions


Luis severino’s mets debut goes awry as rhys hoskins, brewers take another game.

  • View Author Archive
  • Email the Author
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Get author RSS feed

Contact The Author

Thanks for contacting us. We've received your submission.

Thanks for contacting us. We've received your submission.

Luis Severino’s Mets debut on Saturday went about as smoothly as his final season with the Yankees.

Which is to say there was much room for improvement.

The defense behind Severino didn’t help, but the right-hander also had no answers for Mets tormenter Rhys Hoskins in the team’s 7-6 loss to the Brewers at Citi Field.

A day after Hoskins’ late slide into second base irked Jeff McNeil and prompted the benches to empty, Hoskins delivered three hits, including a homer, and four RBIs — all of which occurred before reliever Yohan Ramirez threw behind him in the seventh inning and was ejected.

Severino, who arrived on a one-year contract worth $13 million after pitching to a 6.65 ERA in 19 appearances with the Yankees last season, was among the Mets’ bright spots in spring training, but that didn’t carry over into his first start.

Overall, he allowed six earned runs on a career-high 12 hits over five innings with six strikeouts.

Luis Severino took a loss in his Mets debut.

The Brewers weren’t fooled by his pitches. Severino averaged 95.5 mph with four-seam fastball — he topped out at 98.1 mph — but produced only six swings and misses in total.

“My breaking ball was not there today,” Severino said. “I need to keep working on that.”

Severino cited the chilly weather as a reason his breaking ball perhaps failed him, but said it wasn’t an excuse.

“My job is to go out there and get people out,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. I need to fix it and fix it quick.”

After Hoskins had already inflicted his damage, a message may have been sent in his direction by Ramirez with a pitch that sailed behind him in the seventh.

The teams remained in their respective dugouts, and after umpires convened Ramirez was ejected.

Ramirez, who received an ovation from the fans as he departed, said the pitch was unintentional.

Luis Severino struggled early in the first inning.

“I was trying to throw my sinker inside and sometimes when I try to get it too in the ball just runs,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “And with this type of weather I don’t have the grip that I am accustomed to having and at this point the ball just ran.”

There is a good chance MLB will view the situation differently, and Ramirez could be facing a suspension.

“When one of your pitchers gets thrown out of the game, there is always that possibility,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “Hopefully that’s the case here, because he is not trying to hit anybody.”

Brett Baty gave the Mets a pulse in the eighth inning with a pinch-hit, three-run homer against lefty Hoby Milner.

But after Edwin Diaz (in his first appearance 2022) pitched a scoreless ninth, the Mets could muster only one additional run, on Pete Alonso’s homer against Abner Uribe.

Milwaukee Brewers Rhys Hoskins after he scores on his two-run home run during the third inning against the New York Mets.

Willy Adames’ RBI single in the first brought in the game’s first run. Severino followed with a strikeout of Jake Bauers for the second out before Hoskins stroked a two-run single that sunk the Mets in a 3-0 hole.

The rally started with Zack Short mishandling William Contreras’ grounder to third base — ruled a hit — and Christian Yelich’s bloop single.

“I thought [Severino] missed a lot over the plate,” Mendoza said. “That pitch to Hoskins in the first inning I think he was trying to go inside with a two-seamer and too much over the plate and I didn’t think the slider had too much of a bite. The fastball, even though it was 97-98, I didn’t think it had the hop on it. I think it came down to location and they put a lot of good swings on it.”

New York Mets relief pitcher Yohan Ramirez (46) walks off with New York Mets Manager Carlos Mendoza after he  is tossed from the game after throwing at the head of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Rhys Hoskins (12) during the seventh inning when the New York Mets played the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday, March 30, 2024

Francisco Alvarez jumped on DL Hall’s first pitch of the second inning, a hanging curve, and launched it into the left-field seats for the Mets’ second homer of the season.

Hoskins returned to torment the Mets in the third, blasting a slider into the left-field seats for a two-run homer that extended the Brewers’ lead to 5-1. Adames singled leading off the inning before Hoskins delivered.

Alvarez got a run back in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single against Hall after the Mets rallied with two outs. Starling Marte walked and McNeil singled, setting up Alvarez.

Severino balked in a run in the fifth, putting the Mets in a 6-2 hole. Hoskins singled for his third hit of the game and Oliver Dunn’s first major league hit, a single on a grounder off Alonso’s glove put runners on the corners before the balk.

Adam Ottavino allowed three hits in the eighth inning, including an RBI single to Yelich that gave the Brewers a 7-2 lead.

Baty struck in the bottom of the inning, after Marte and Alvarez had singled. Alvarez finished the game 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Alonso’s homer in the ninth got the Mets closer.

Share this article:

Luis Severino took a loss in his Mets debut.


author's debut books


  1. Great Debut Novels (1188 books)

    Canary wrote: "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was such a strange book. I am not sure about it being a great debut. Alice" Agreed, not a great book IMO, but maybe a great DEBUT, coming out with trumpets blaring, etc. Similarly, I'm for overlooking juveninalia and half-baked failures resurrected after the author made a serious debut.

  2. The best debut novels

    Best debut novels. 1. The Hobbit - J.R.R Tolkien (1937) Buy now from Amazon. "In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit." The words that kickstarted one of the biggest fantasy book and, in turn, movie franchises of all time.

  3. 2023 Debuts (349 books)

    A list of debut books releasing in the year of 2023. flag. All Votes Add Books To This List. 1. Chasing Pacquiao. by. Rod Pulido (Goodreads Author) 3.69 avg rating — 467 ratings. score: 9,047 , and 91 people voted.

  4. Best Debut Novel 2023

    WINNER 45,420 votes. Alert readers will note that debut author Emilia Hart is a double winner in this year's GCAs, having also taken the prize in Best Historical Fiction. As first novels go, Weyward is both accomplished and ambitious, effectively blending elements of magical realism and historical conjecture to tell the stories of three ...

  5. 29 Debut Authors to Have On Your Radar for 2023

    4. Compass and Blade by Rachel Greenlaw. For fans of Fable by Adrienne Young or To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, this romantasy debut is filled with sirens and mysterious magic, swoony romance and cutthroat betrayal. This world of sea and storm runs deep with bargains and blood.

  6. Introducing our 10 best debut novelists of 2022

    T his is the ninth year in which the Observer's writers and editors spent the busy weeks before Christmas with our heads down in dozens of forthcoming debut novels, written by authors who live ...

  7. Debut Novels by Authors You'll Love

    Debut Novels by Authors You'll Love. by Maria Couto. Writing a novel is no easy feat. But sometimes you find a debut novel that feels as if the author is a seasoned pro. With elegant prose and unique plot lines, these authors have the ability to transport you to new worlds with characters that stay with you long after you've finished the ...

  8. Introducing our 10 best debut novelists of 2021

    Introducing our 10 best debut novelists of 2021. Clockwise from left: Caleb Azumah Nelson, Sam Riviere, Megan Nolan, Natasha Brown, Abigail Dean, Will Burns, Rebecca Watson, JR Thorp, Ailsa ...

  9. 100 Must-Read Debut Novels

    Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman: "A modern classic, Einstein's Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity and physics. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds.".

  10. The 10 Best Debut Novels of the Decade ‹ Literary Hub

    The kids in NoViolet Bulawayo's debut are the vibrant hearts of a book that at times reads like a fable. This is partly because of the names the title alludes to, those missing and misaligned and poorly understood. ... Irish author Kevin Barry is a dark wizard of language and City of Bohane is an unholy conjuring of the highest and most ...

  11. 25 Books by Debut Authors to Read in 2024

    Cold to the Touch by Kerri Hakoda. Homicide detective DeHavilland Beans is on the hunt for a serial killer in this Alaska-set thriller. After a string of local women are killed, Beans and the FBI are in a race against the clock to find a murderer before they strike again. NetGalley.

  12. 50 of the Greatest Debut Novels Since 1950

    I will only say this: I have personally been to three Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -themed Bar Mitzvahs. Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1961) Perhaps the best-ever satirical war novel. The Bonfire ...

  13. 10 Debut Novels That Are Also Their Authors' Masterpieces

    Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart. Achebe's Things Fall Apart was arguably the first African novel to enter the Western canon, and it's still ubiquitous in high schools all across America. It's definitely Achebe's most famous and widely read work, and Dwight Garner has officially called it the writer's masterpiece ("accessible but ...

  14. 30 World-famous Authors' Debut Novels

    8) Alan Paton. " Cry, the Beloved Country " (1948) - A hard read, Paton's debut novel tackled the racism of his native South Africa and its effects on the native population. It's a novel that deals with the persecution meted out, by the white "overlords", on native inhabitants of countries under colonial rule.

  15. The best debuts coming in 2024

    by Kaveh Akbar. With fans including Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Green to name just a few, Kaveh Akbar is a debut author everyone will be talking about in 2024. Cyrus Shams was a tiny baby when the plane his mother was travelling in was shot down over the Persian Gulf. Decades later, after growing up in the shadow of her death ...

  16. Most Anticipated Debut Books of 2023

    Most Anticipated Debut Books of 2023. By Emily Hoang. New year, new authors. These up-and-coming authors are serving us dazzling debut novels to keep us entertained throughout the year. Like many of us, these characters are hoping for a fresh start. An opportunity of a lifetime sends Alex to an estate and on the road to becoming the author she ...

  17. 8 Debut Authors of 2023 That We're Excited About

    Keep reading for more information on why we loved these 2023 debut authors and their books! 1. Timmy Straw. Timmy Straw is a poet, musician, translator, and recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Their debut poetry collection, The Thomas Salto, explores the AIDS epidemic, the Soviet collapse, the war on drugs, and U.S. proxy wars ...

  18. Most Buzzed About 2023 Debuts

    When Santiago passes away, his mother seeks to bring him back to life. While Santiago's mother creates Monstrilio, debut author Gerardo Sámano Córdova pens a creative, visionary, and fantastic examination of grief and love; parents and children; friends and lovers. Once you start the book, you won't be able to un-read it.

  19. 13 Fantastic 2023 Debut Authors You're Guaranteed to Love

    In her luminous, electric debut, Millner creates an original form to express the headlong revelations, obsessions, and erotic geometry of love. Couplets is propulsive, poignant, and terrific at showing the way carnality is tethered to vulnerability. Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward. 10. Sarah Adler.

  20. Debuts in 2022 (310 books)

    Debuts in 2022. Debut novels in 2022 - MG, YA, and adult. flag. All Votes Add Books To This List. 1. Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Duology, #1) by. Sue Lynn Tan (Goodreads Author) 4.12 avg rating — 82,187 ratings.

  21. Debut Authors: Books

    Online shopping for Debut Authors from a great selection at Books Store. ... Piemu, and Profit: Bone 1 (How I Stole the Princess's White Knight and Turned him to Villainy Book 7) AJ Sherwood, Katie Griffin, Cait Wade. Kindle Edition. $2.99 $ 2. 99. 835. Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass Book 6) Sarah J. Maas. Kindle Edition. $8.21 $ 8. 21 $15.20 ...

  22. Book Review: 'All the World Beside,' by Garrard Conley

    Garrard Conley makes his fiction debut with a story about a queer affair between a reverend and a doctor in Puritan New England. By Tom Crewe Tom Crewe is a contributing editor at The London ...

  23. 'Worry' is a disturbing and honest picture of what it's like to be in

    That is the case for two sisters in their 20s at the center of Alexandra Tanner's debut novel, Worry. Jules and Poppy Gold end up becoming roommates in New York City, and they torture each other ...

  24. Lorrie Moore Is Among National Book Critics Circle Award Winners

    This year, Becca Rothfeld, the nonfiction book critic for The Washington Post and the author of a forthcoming debut essay collection, "All Things Are Too Small," received the Nona Balakian ...

  25. Worried about climate change? Read these women authors

    The Times Book Club author for April is Abraham Verghese, ... Gorrindo's April debut, "The Wives," is her memoir about life as the spouse of a member of an Army Special Forces unit.

  26. 'A memoir wrapped in this fiction tortilla of time travel'

    The book is full of real tear-jerking memories, sensitive topics, comedic zingers and time-traveling. ... Texas author explores the 1970's, sensitive topics in debut novel.

  27. 'I will defeat Richard Osman!': Holly Jackson on being Britain's top

    It was the UK's bestselling YA debut of 2019, and has continued to sell in huge volumes, along with its two sequels Good Girl, Bad Blood and As Good As Dead, and a standalone thriller, Five ...

  28. Laurent de Brunhoff, 'Babar' heir and author, dies at age 98

    But the first pages of the first book, with the elephant killed by a hunter and the escape to the city, was her story." The debut was released in 1931 through the family-run publisher Le Jardin Des Modes. Babar was immediately well received and Jean de Brunhoff completed four more Babar books before dying six years later, at age 37.

  29. Kate Banks, Children's Author Who Wrote About Grief, Dies at 64

    Kate Banks, who, despite personal tragedy and debilitating illness, became an award-winning author of children's books and young-adult novels that captured the wonder of youth while also ...

  30. Luis Severino's Mets debut goes awry as Rhys Hoskins, Brewers take

    Luis Severino took a loss in his Mets debut. Bill Kostroun/New York Post. Severino, who arrived on a one-year contract worth $13 million after pitching to a 6.65 ERA in 19 appearances with the ...