Discovering an author at the dawn of their career is incredibly exciting. As readers, we get to watch their storytelling talents grow with each new book they release. Here are nine recently published novels by talented, first-time fiction writers that you absolutely must add to your TBR list.
9 Outstanding Debut Fiction Books to Read This Summer
Remember the names of these promising first-time authors — you’ll be reading them for years to come.
By Brandon Miller
We Are the Brennans
By Tracey Lange
Tracey Lange’s debut novel, We Are the Brennans, is a compulsively readable story about the complexities of family, confronting your past, and building a shared hope for the future. The novel follows Sunday Brennan, who heads back to New York and her large Irish Catholic family after an extended time away. Five years ago, Sunday packed up and decamped to Los Angeles, offering little explanation. Now, as she navigates her return home, Sunday has to mend her relationships with the loved ones she deserted and reestablish her role within a complicated family dynamic. When a threatening figure from Sunday’s past jeopardizes the family business, the entire Brennan clan must come together and face down their secrets if they hope to move forward.
The Other Black Girl
By Zakiya Dalila Harris
In her New York Times bestselling debut, Zakiya Dalila Harris delivers a tantalizing suspense book packed with tension and twists that also tackles important issues like racial microaggressions and privilege in the workplace. Editorial assistant Nella Rogers is the only Black employee at Wagner Books, and she’s more than ready for a change. When a new Wagner employee named Hazel moves into the cubicle next door, Nella is overjoyed to have another woman of color in the office. Not long thereafter, however, Hazel’s workplace popularity skyrockets while Nella’s plummets. Then threatening notes begin appearing on Nella’s desk, ordering her to leave. Could Hazel be behind it all? As Nella’s grip begins to slip, it quickly becomes clear that dangerous forces are at play in her workplace.
The Music of Bees
By Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin is an author and beekeeper who lives in Oregon, which also makes an ideal setting for her hope-filled, heartwarming debut. The narrative follows three strangers — Alice, Jake, and Harry — who converge on a bee farm in search of a reprieve from life’s burdens. Each is dealing with serious personal issues, and the farm ends up giving the strangers a shared space to heal, restart, and forge a brighter future.
By Jennifer Saint
Any Greek mythology fans out there? If so, Jennifer Saint’s dazzling debut novel is a must-add for your reading list. The book focuses on Ariadne, the princess of Crete, and her brother, the Minotaur, a monster driven by blood sacrifice. Throw in a charming prince, Theseus of Athens, and you’ve got a good-versus-evil love story for the ages. Will Ariadne give up everything for love, defying the Gods and abandoning her family? You’ll have to read this gorgeously crafted tale to find out.
Things We Lost to the Water
By Eric Nguyen
President Barack Obama included Eric Nguyen’s Things We Lost to the Water on his summer reading list. So, if you don’t take our word for it, take a cue from the former president. Nguyen’s debut is an exquisite story about the immigrant experience and the search for identity. It centers on Huong, a Vietnamese woman who moves to New Orleans with her two young sons, Tuan and Binh. Huong’s husband, Cong, stays behind in Vietnam. As Huong and her sons build a new life in America, they struggle to remain connected to both Cong and the country they left behind.
The Chosen and the Beautiful
By Nghi Vo
Nghi Vo’s celebrated debut is an elegantly crafted narrative set in 1920s America that possesses all the dazzling magic of The Great Gatsby but is told from a fresh perspective. Jordan Baker is rich and well-educated; she’s also queer and Asian, and her marginalized identity makes for a radically different view of the Jazz Age American dream.
Of Women and Salt
By Gabriela Garcia
Gabriela Garcia’s powerful novel became an international bestseller very quickly, propelled by the sweeping strength of its storytelling. The narrative focuses on three generations of Cuban women. Jeanette is a young woman in Miami who’s battling addiction and in search of her own identity; her mother, Carmen, struggles to raise her wayward daughter while navigating her own complicated relationship with her mother back in Cuba. When Jeanette sets off to Cuba to find her grandmother and uncover the truth about her roots, it sets the stage for a profound family reckoning.
The First Day of Spring
By Nancy Tucker
In her debut novel, Nancy Tucker delivers a psychological thriller you won’t soon forget. The First Day of Spring centers on Chrissie, a 28-year-old single mother who committed a terrible act of violence in her youth. Now she’s living in hiding under an assumed name, and her only goal is that her daughter lives a better life. But Chrissie’s plans for the future are complicated when the crimes of her past come back to haunt her. Someone is making threatening phone calls, warning Chrissie that people know her secret and are out to get her. As Chrissie scrambles to protect her child, it soon becomes clear that you can change your name but you can’t outrun your past.
The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu
By Tom Lin
Tom Lin’s The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is an action-packed, genre-bending novel that reimagines the typical Western narrative by placing a Chinese American at the center of its love–revenge story. Ming Tsu, an orphan raised to be a deadly assassin, falls in love with an heiress named Ada, only to have her taken away in a violent scheme. Ming sets out to rescue Ada and exact his revenge, enlisting the help of a prophet and some magicians, and embarking on a wild ride across the Old West.