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Top Debuts of 2014

Thousand_MirrorsSpinningHeartStringer

I’ve been reading the best books lists for the year, and although Electric Literature lobbies that 2014 was “the year of the debut,” I feel like the only four debut authors who are getting much attention are: Celeste Ng, Phil Klay, Matthew Thomas and Smith Henderson. And I am surprised that a number of the best of lists don’t feature any debuts at all. I know that not every book can be a “best” book, and this year was notable for how many stand out authors published books that are getting attention, the best lists include Marilynne Robinson, David Mitchell, Joshua Ferris and Lorrie Moore to name a few, but I can’t help thinking of all the debut novels I read this year that are not bubbling up.

Last week I wrote about Island of a Thousand Mirrors, which was one of my favorite novels of 2014. I thought the writing was beautiful and I enjoyed how Munaweera mixed genres, combining a multi-generational story, with an immigrant story and a war story. For my next post, I will write about Donal Ryan’s, The Spinning Heart, which got a lot of attention when it came out earlier this year in the United States and won the Guardian First Book Award in 2013, but I have not seen mentioned on any of the year end lists. I loved how he used multiple voices to tell a story and how he told a complex story of life in rural Ireland after the economic collapse in 156 pages.

But the book, which I think is the most underrated debut of the year is Anjan Sundarman’s, Stringer, a memoir set in Africa, an homage to Ryszard Kapuscinski, which tells the moving story about Sundarman’s attempt to be a stringer in the Congo in 2005.

Happy holiday reading and to a happy new year! And if you are looking for a list of top debut novels for the year, Kirkus Reviews has a nice list to explore.

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Top debuts of 2013….

So the end of year lists are out…I like perusing the lists to see the range of books called “best,” and to find titles I had not read about yet this year.

Flavorwire has a list devoted to best debut novels, and it includes more experimental, off the beaten path, books. Two I noted, and have been recommended to me by friends, are:

In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, by Matt Bell. A mystical, slightly experimental, novel about a couple who move to a house on a lake where they hope to raise a family, but things do not unfold as planned. The book has been noted for its moving prose and memorable language.

Elect H. Mouse State Judge, by Nelly Reifler. With mice as the main characters this book is meant to be genre-bending noir, where two girls are kidnapped and rescued by doll private detectives. At a mere 112 pages it is described as a quick and kooky read.

Over at The Daily Beast, Adelle Waldman’s, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. gets acknowledged as best debut of the year. This book explores the psyche of a modern urban male, living in New York, who has to make a choice between a handful of women he is dating. It can be found on quite a few “best of” lists.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Best Fiction of 2013” list features six debuts out of its ten picks!  They featured some books that have been widely written about like, The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton, and Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi, but Bogotá, by Alan Grostephan, a novel about family who migrates into the slums of Bogota, and Wash, by Margaret Wrinkle, a novel about slave breeding, are less well-known picks.

And in the memoir category, Jesmyn Ward’s, Men We Reaped, got mention on New York Magazine’s “10 Best” list. This book tells the story of five African-American men, including the author’s brother, who died in the early naughts in the Mississippi town Ward is from.

I hope you all find something to read over the new year, whether you’re picking up a new author or returning to one you love.

 

 

 

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