Staff Picks

First Novels

One way to take your reading in new directions is by exploring first novels. Some novelists begin their career with a whimper; others, with a bang. Check out this list of famous debuts: Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Hobbit, The Martian Chronicles, Black Beauty, To Kill a Mockingbird, and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to name just a few. You can find many sources for debut novels online. Try Amazon, Goodreads, and Novelist. Several magazines—Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Bookmarks--highlight books by first-time authors too. Or browse the shelves, discover wonderful cover art, and then dive into the first chapter and discover for yourself a totally unique voice about to shine light upon the world.

Doris Lynch
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena     A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    
Anthony Marra
    Marra

It’s 2004 in Cheyna during their second war with Russia. A man who has failed at being a doctor finds and cares for an injured eight-year old girl. The Russians have taken her father.  Another doctor, the surgeon Sonja, searches everywhere for her missing sister. Through a series of intertwined relationships, Marra shows the damage done to civilians in war time, and how people learn to help each other when government cannot.

Crazy Rich Asians     Crazy Rich Asians    
Kevin Kwan
    Kwan

Expecting an interesting vacation in an exotic place, American professor Rachel Chu accepts an invitation to Singapore from her boyfriend. There scheming families of very wealthy Chinese plot how to keep her from marrying her fiancée, while young Asian women work together to disrupt this couple’s marriage plans. An exploration into how mega-wealth complicates wedding plans.

Seating Arrangements     Seating Arrangements    
Maggie Shipstead
    Shipste

Winn Van Meter and his family descend upon the family’s summer retreat on the New England island of Waskeke where his pregnant daughter Daphne is about to tie the knot. Biddy, her mother, is deeply involved in final wedding preparations and Winn finds himself strongly drawn to one of the bridesmaids, Agatha.  Meanwhile, Daphne’s sister, Livia, who has just terminated a pregnancy, is trying to get over a heartrending breakup.  Written in graceful prose, this novel brims with very believable and flawed characters.  It also captures the insanity, tension, and chaos of a modern wedding.

Seraphina: a novel     Seraphina: a novel    
Rachel Hartman
    Y Hartman

Seraphina, a half-human, half-dragon mix, is a court musician during a time period when the human human/dragon peace treaty is unraveling after forty years. Prince Rufus is murdered—his head bitten off—a way of death usually executed by dragons. Seraphina wants to stay out of the investigation, but is drawn in.  Part coming-of-age story, part romance, and part murder mystery, this Morris Debut Novel Award will appeal to both teens and older fantasy lovers.

The Bookman’s Tale: a novel of obsession     The Bookman’s Tale: a novel of obsession    
Charlie Lovett
    Adult Fiction Lovett

A recently-widowed American, Peter Byerly, relocates to England to see if he can find joy once again in collecting antiquarian books. In a Hay-on-Wye bookshop, he discovers a portrait of a lady in an 18th century book about Shakespeare. The woman’s portrait looks remarkably like the America’s dead wife, Amanda. This thriller follows Byerly as he traces this picture back to Victorian times and then to Shakespearean ones to discover some amazing facts about both literary history and his own. 

The Light between Oceans     The Light between Oceans    
M.L. Stedman
    Stedman

After World War I, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and finds a job as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. After six months, he brings his new wife, Isabel, there. At first they are very happy and don’t mind the isolation, but after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, magically they find a baby in a boat on the beach alongside a dead man. They don't report the death and keep the baby, pretending that is their own. Thus begins a chain of events that is not reversible. This thrilling novel transports you to another place and another time; its plot twists and beautiful Australian descriptions keep you turning the pages.

The Other Typist     The Other Typist    
Suzanne Rindell
    Rindell

It’s Prohibition, yet New York City floats in bathtub gin. Rose Baker, a young woman who was orphaned as a child, gets a big job break, as a typist for a police station—what was a very new job for women in those days. While working she falls under the spell of the mesmerizing and beautiful Odalie. Her new friend takes her to speakeasies at night, precisely the kind of places the precinct Lieutenant and Sergeant find and arrest their criminals. This book explores where the lures of friendship and excitement lead our protagonist. 

The Summer of Dead Toys     The Summer of Dead Toys    
Toni Hill Gumbao
    MYS Hillgum

After being furloughed for a vicious beating of a suspect, Inspector Hector Salvado has returned to Barcelona and given what looks like a routine accidental death case, but soon he finds that the case is much more complicated than a college student falling from a balcony to his death. Drugs might be a big factor, and soon Salvado is drawn into the dangerous Barcelona underworld where he learns much about himself and his society.

Where Things Come Back : a novel     Where Things Come Back : a novel    
John Corey Whaley
    Y Whaley

In a darkly humorous debut, Whaley combines two plot lines that eventually come together in a thrilling denouement.  Cullen Witten’s brother goes missing from Lily, Arkansas, and a failed missionary Benton Sage ends up near this town while travelling from Ethiopia to Atlanta. There is also the appearance and hoopla surrounding a supposedly extinct woodpecker that is spotted nearby. This Morris Debut Novel award winner describes small town life while examining themes of friendship and religion.

Yellow Birds     Yellow Birds    
Kevin Powers
    Powers

It’s 2004 and two new recruits, Bartle who is 21 and Murphy, who is only 18, head off to war in Iraq.  Bartle promises Murphy’s mom to bring him home safely.  An intensely, emotional read, this novel will take you to the war zone and let you experience men under fire. The timescale includes Bartle’s time in Iraq, his training, and his homecoming.

You Are One of Them     You Are One of Them    
Elliott Holt
    Holt

Two Washington D.C. girls share a great friendship during the Cold War 80s. They both write to Russian Premiere Yuri Andropov but he replies only to Jennifer.  He invites her and her parents to Russia where the family dies in a place crash.  Or do they? Ten years have passed and Sarah receives a cryptic email hinting that her old friend might still be alive.  Enjoy this tale of politics, international intrigue and friendship.