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The 10 Best Debut Novels of the Decade

Debuts are huge, so much so that many established authors have been complaining that all anyone wants is books by debut authors! Whatever the reason that debut authors are so en vogue, we’ve been spoiled with a raft of brilliant and award winning books in recent years, all by unknown authors and today we’re bringing you the best of them!

It’s not just the end of the year, it’s the end of a decade as the move from 2019 to 2020 is imminent. So today we’re featuring the 10 best debut novels of the decade! We hope to offer you some reading inspiration.

The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The Sympathizer won many awards including the Pulitzer Prize, 2016.

The Sympathizer

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99 Nights in Logar – Jamil Jan Kochai

A dog on the loose. A boy yearning to connect to his family’s roots. A country in the midst of great change. And a vibrant exploration of the power of stories–the ones we tell each other and the ones we find ourselves in. This 2019 release didn’t pick up any awards, but it’s a worthy addition to your TBR all the same.

99 Nights in Logar

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Lincoln in the Bardo – George Sanders

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. Released in 2018, Lincoln in the Bardo was named book of the year by various sources including Time Magazine.

Lincoln in the Bardo

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Freshwater – Akwaeke Emezi

One of the most highly praised novels of 2018, the debut from an astonishing young writer, Freshwater tells the story of Ada, an unusual child who is a source of deep concern to her southern Nigerian family


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There, There – Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. In addition to being one of the bestsellers of 2018, it was one of the NY Times 10 best books of the year, won the PEN/Hemingway award and was shortlisted for various other literary awards.

There, There

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We Need New Names – Noviolet Bulawayo

Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad. This stunning debut was shortlisted for the 2013 Booker Prize.

We Need New Names

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Cherry – Nico Walker

A young medic returns from deployment in Iraq to two things: the woman he loves, and the opioid crisis sweeping across the Midwest. Soon deep in the thrall of heroin addiction, he arrives at what seems like the only logical solution: robbing banks. This PEN finalist 2018 is a brilliant debut and well worth your time!


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City of Bohane – Kevin Barry

Forty or so years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the North Rises, and the eerie bogs of the Big Nothin’ that the city really lives. This 2013 debut was loved by the NY Times and became an instant bestseller!

City of Bohane

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The Vegetarian – Han Kang

Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. The reviewers loved this debut in 2016 and it made several best of lists at the end of the year.

The Vegetarian

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We The Animals – Justin Torres

In this groundbreaking debut, Justin Torres plunges us into the chaotic heart of one family, the intense bonds of three brothers, and the mythic effects of this fierce love on the people we must become. This 2012 novel is now a major movie!

We The Animals

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We hope you find some good suggestions there and we’ll be back with more recommendations lists soon. If you want to ensure you never miss any of these, subscribe now.

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