Debut Author Snapshot

Each month we seek out a hidden gem from the vast Goodreads catalog, focusing on debut authors, indie publishers, and other literary folk not yet on the best-seller lists.

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Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Lisa Brennan-Jobs Small Fry
Lisa Brennan-Jobs' coming-of-age memoir, Small Fry, details her childhood as the disowned daughter of Apple cofounder and tech icon Steve Jobs. "I felt ashamed to be the dark side of someone’s brilliant story—and I wanted to write, in part, to understand that," she says about her debut book.
Heather Morris
Heather   Morris The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Heather Morris' debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, started with a simple question: Would she like to meet a man who had a story to tell?
Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher Vox
The debut novel Vox is set in a dystopian near-future where women live in forced silence, limited to 100 words a day, and are forbidden from holding jobs.
Stephen Markley
Stephen Markley Ohio
Stephen Markley's novel, Ohio, follows four former classmates in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Markley describes feeling haunted by his Midwestern hometown and why he doesn't want his book to be an explainer for "what's happening in flyover country."
R.O. Kwon
R.O. Kwon The Incendiaries
A young Korean American college student grieving the death of her mother is drawn deep into a dangerous cult in the debut novel The Incendiaries. R.O. Kwon talked about being inspired by her own religious upbringing and loss of faith and why she spent a decade completing the book.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Ingrid Rojas Contreras Fruit of the Drunken Tree
The debut novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree is based on author Ingrid Rojas Contreras' own experience as a child in 1990s Colombia at the height of drug lord Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. "I hope to complicate our understanding of the inheritance of violence and how this affects women and girls living in it," she says.
James A. McLaughlin
James A. McLaughlin Bearskin
A former smuggler tries to start a new life as a caretaker of an Appalachian forest preserve, in the thriller Bearskin. But his reprieve ends when poachers invade the woods. Author James A. McLaughlin tells us how his debut was inspired by a hitchhiker, and he describes the book's long road to publication.
Aja Gabel
Aja Gabel The Ensemble
The Ensemble is a novel about a professional string quartet, the musical career they create, and the relationships in art they forge with one another. It's about the family you choose, the peculiar bonds you make through the common dream of music, or art-making of any kind.
Zeyn Joukhadar
Zeyn Joukhadar The Map of Salt and Stars
"I wanted to explore the stories we tell ourselves when we are in pain. Particularly for those of us who have experienced severe trauma, can our stories help us heal?" says debut novelist Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar of her heartbreaking look at the Syrian refugee crisis through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl.
Alice Feeney
Alice Feeney Sometimes I Lie
New author Alice Feeney was a BBC journalist for 15 years, secretly writing fiction before and after work, during her lunch breaks, and on her commute. After years of rejections, she was approached by 15 literary agents when she completed Sometimes I Lie.
Shobha Rao
Shobha Rao Girls Burn Brighter
In the debut novel Girls Burn Brighter, two girls from a small Indian town become separated by an act of cruelty. "In thinking about their friendship, I very much thought about lengths: What are the lengths we are willing to go for another human being?" says author Shobha Rao.
Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi Freshwater
In the debut novel Freshwater, a young Nigerian named Ada struggles with reality and embodiment. She starts developing separate selves as a child, and after moving to America for college, a traumatic incident crystallizes them into something more powerful.
Brianna Wolfson
Brianna Wolfson Rosie Colored Glasses
New author Brianna Wolfson told Goodreads about using her life (and her parents' star-crossed relationship) as inspiration for her first book, Rosie Colored Glasses. "At first, it was really challenging to tease apart the real from the fiction," she says.
C.J. Tudor
C.J. Tudor The Chalk Man
In the debut thriller The Chalk Man, an innocent game leads to a body in the woods.
A.J. Finn
A.J. Finn The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window is a boozy, paranoid mystery in the tradition of Hitchcock's Rear Window. Debut author A.J. Finn tells us about his noir inspirations and secretly writing while working in the publishing industry.
Krysten Ritter
Krysten Ritter Bonfire
The actress, best known from Netflix's Jessica Jones, is now a debut novelist with her sizzling thriller Bonfire. We asked her to share the books that inspired her to write and the novels she thinks you'll love.
Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado Her Body and Other Parties
Sex, ghosts, doppelgängers, and an insane reimagining of all 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit collide in this genre-smashing debut of short stories where anything—really, anything—can happen.
Maggie Shen King
Maggie Shen King An Excess Male
"I saw three basic ways to try to balance the equation—import women, export men, or ask women to take on more than one husband. I thought the last option posed the most provocative and disturbing questions," says Maggie Shen King about her book An Excess Male.
Gabriel Tallent
Gabriel Tallent My Absolute Darling
This debut novel takes us to the wilds of Northern California as an isolated girl works to escape her abusive survivalist father.
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ Stay with Me
The Nigerian writer's debut focuses on a couple who experience trouble having children, and the disastrous chain of events that occur when a second wife enters their relationship.
Zinzi Clemmons
Zinzi Clemmons What We Lose
Zinzi Clemmons found the plot of her first novel as she struggled to deal with her mother's death. The result is What We Lose, a gut-punch of a debut that examines issues of identity and grief.
Matthew J. Sullivan
Matthew J. Sullivan Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
This Denver literary mystery features a cast of bookish characters and a dark crime. The author took his inspiration from working at bookstores and the readers he encountered.
Lisa Ko
Lisa Ko The Leavers
In The Leavers a Chinese woman is deported, leaving her American-born son alone. The author talks about the ripped-from-the-headlines inspiration for her book.
Omar El Akkad
Omar El Akkad American War
American War imagines a second American Civil War, fought over fossil fuel. A former journalist, Akkad talks about his debut, the violence of war, and political polarization.
Patty Yumi Cottrell
Patty Yumi Cottrell Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is a dark comedy that follows a woman back to her hometown to investigate why her brother killed himself. Cottrell talks about the importance of humor—and family.
Elan Mastai
Elan Mastai All Our Wrong Todays
All Our Wrong Todays is a time travel tale that throws its protagonist from the 1950s version of today into an alternative reality (namely, ours). Mastai talks respecting time travel science and choosing lives we want.
Emily Fridlund
Emily Fridlund History of Wolves
History of Wolves is a coming-of-age novel about perception, misguided belief, and guilt. The debut author talks about how she was inspired by J.M. Coetzee, Francine Prose, and pack animals.
Alwyn Hamilton
Alwyn Hamilton Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)
The Debut Author winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards talks about her first young adult novel and finding her inner gunslinger in Rebel of the Sands.
Emily Littlejohn
Emily Littlejohn Inherit the Bones (Detective Gemma Monroe, #1)
Pregnant detective Gemma Monroe works to solve the ghoulish death of a circus clown in Inherit the Bones, a riveting mystery debut set in a remote Colorado town.
Jade Chang
Jade Chang The Wangs vs. the World
A Chinese immigrant family whose fabulous life is razed by the financial crash must rediscover themselves—and one another—in The Wangs vs. the World, a vibrant debut.
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