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Find more Top 10 First Novels
In settings ranging from bohemian Paris to present-day Kashmir to a nearly unrecognizable future U.S., the ten best debuts reviewed in Booklist from November 2018 through October 2019 prove just how outstanding first novels can be, and what a treasure they are for readers to discover.
After the Flood. By Kassandra Montag. 2019. Morrow, $27.99 (9780062889362).
In a future climate-change-altered world overrun by water, Myra embarks with her young daughter on a dangerous sea-quest to find the older daughter she hasn’t seen for years.
The Age of Light. By Whitney Scharer. 2018. Little, Brown, $28 (9780316524087).
Moving from bohemian Paris to the battlefields of WWII Europe, Scharer’s intoxicating historical novel re-envisions the true story of model-turned-photographer Lee Miller.
The Atlas of Reds and Blues. By Devi S. Laskar. 2019. Counterpoint, $25 (9781640091535).
Taking place in a single morning, Laskar’s bravura drama delivers the life-spanning thoughts of an American woman of Bengali descent as she’s sprawled on the pavement, bleeding, while government agents search her house.
The Far Field. By Madhuri Vijay. 2019. Grove, $27 (9780802128409).
Vijay’s transporting debut of a young woman crossing India to find her late mother’s long-ago friend is an engrossing tale of love, grief, politics, and morality.
The Farm. By Joanne Ramos. 2019. Random, $27 (9781984853752).
Questions of money, ethics, privilege, and ambition drive this novel centered on the lives of four women involved in Golden Oaks, a gestational retreat for surrogates carrying the babies of the very rich.
Fleishman Is in Trouble. By Taffy Brodesser-Akner. 2019. Random, $27 (9780525510871).
Shrewd and precisely observed, this enthralling, affirming novel of midlife, marital, and existential despair asks and answers if there’s such a thing as fairness, in marriage or in life.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. By Ocean Vuong. 2019. Penguin Press, $26 (9780525562023).
Addressing his story as a letter to his mother, who cannot read, Vietnamese refugee Little Dog narrates Vuong’s spellcasting tale of language, origin, and the power of story.
A Particular Kind of Black Man. By Tope Folarin. 2019. Simon & Schuster, $26 (9781501171819).
Tunde, son of a Nigerian immigrant, must make peace with his past and navigate racial realities in the U.S as he wrestles with the shadows cast by both home-brewed racism and vestiges of colonialism imported from Nigeria.
The Unpassing. By Chia-Chia Lin. 2019. Farrar, $26 (9780374279363).
Lin’s majestic writing immerses readers in both the natural world and the bodily experience of her characters, a family dealing with grief and guilt in 1980s Alaska.
The Water Dancer. By Ta-Nehisi Coates. 2019. Ballantine/One World, $28 (9780399590597).
Hiram, son of an enslaved woman and her slave master, survives a near-death accident that leaves him with a remarkable gift in Coates’ beautifully written, soulfully imagined look at slavery and human aspirations.
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