Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 200,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
Register or subscribe today
Find more Top 10 First Novels
It has been a banner year for first novels. Below we present 10 of the most outstanding examples culled from an extraordinarily rich field of first novels that have appeared over the past year and were reviewed in Booklist from November 15, 2001, through November 1, 2002. The range in voice and subject matter represented here is quite impressive.
Earling, Debra Magpie. Perma Red. Putnam/Blue Hen, $24.95 (0-399-14899-X).
This love story of uncommon depth and power is set in the years following World War II on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Everything Is Illuminated. Houghton, $24 (0-618-17387-0).
It may be a pretentious title for a 24-year-old’s first novel, but nearly everything about this remarkable book is illuminated. Although there’s plenty of lyrical acrobatics here, it’s the emotional depth of the characters that stands out.
Lin, Ed. Waylaid. Kaya; dist. by D. A. P., paper, $12.95 (1-885030-32-0).
The unnamed narrator of this brilliant debut is the 12-year-old son of Taiwanese immigrant parents who own a rundown motel on the New Jersey shore.
O’Neill, Jamie. At Swim, Two Boys. Scribner, $27 (0-7432-2294-6).
This powerful novel, which took Irishman O’Neill 10 years to write, tells the story of two boys and their tragic involvement in the 1916 Easter Uprising.
Otsuka, Julie. When the Emperor Was Divine. Knopf, $18 (0-375-41429-0).
Otsuka tells an exquisite psychological tale, inspired by her own family’s travails, of the internment of tens of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans during World War II.
Pearson, Allison. I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother. Knopf, $23 (0-375-41405-3).
This terrific novel is alternately hilarious and sad, and the driven, irreverent Kate Reddy is the perfect companion for a headlong voyage into the world of a high-powered hedge-fund manager and mother of two.
Pogrebin, Letty Cottin. Three Daughters. Farrar, $24 (0-374-27660-9).
Pogrebin does a superb job of interweaving several complex personal histories into a humorous and heartbreakingly honest family melodrama.
Reza, Yasmina. Desolation. Knopf, $19 (0-375-41087-2).
Rapier wit and exquisite timing power Reza’s novel. Her furious, highly entertaining narrator is a man in his seventies incensed by the seemingly desultory life of his peripatetic 38-year-old son.
Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. Little, Brown, $21.95 (0-316-66634-3).
Few novels, debut or otherwise, are as masterful or as compelling as Sebold’s. Her heroine, 14-year-old Suzy Slamon, is murdered in the first chapter, on her way home from school. Suzy narrates the story from heaven, viewing the devastating effects of her murder on her family.
Spragg, Mark. The Fruit of Stone. Riverhead, $23.95 (1-57322-223-2).
This artful, affecting novel tells the story of a recalcitrant Wyoming rancher who understands the land but struggles to master the tricky terrain of the heart.
Register or subscribe today