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The Shiniest Debut Novels of 2016

6th October, 2017

Book List : The Shiniest Debuts of 2016

Is it too late to post about the best debuts of last year? I don’t think so. Because good books are always good news. Right? Here are a few of the shiniest debuts that you might want to take a look if you haven’t already.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

No surprise there. I personally read and loved Homegoing and I felt Yaa Gyasi did an incredible job in wrapping up the story of many generations affected by the slave trade within just 300 pages. The book has a strong emotional front and a nice historical background about how the actions of our older generations haunt the younger ones.

Check review.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

2. The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Not really sure about the title of this novel, because it often alludes to the absence of a mother rather than her presence. This is a deeply emotional story about coming of age, wrong choices and friendship.

Check review.

Shelter by Jung Yun

3. Shelter by Jung Yun

Shelter is almost a literary thriller. Kyun and Gillain Cho are struck by the Recession of 2008 as well are forced to live under the same roof as their parents. The book shows the generational and economic gap in families that triggers guilt and anger towards one another.

The Girls by Emma Cline

4. The Girls by Emma Cline

This was one of the most hyped books of 2016; some loved it and some didn’t. Either way, all readers have admitted that the unreliable narration, extensive character study and atmosphere build up deserves applause. The book deals with cults, teenage girls and friendships among girls in 1960’s.

The Wangs vs the world by Jade Chang

5. The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang

This book is a laugh riot. If you are looking for a light read, this is the book that you should reserve at your library. The Wangs are a rich family in America who suddenly go bankrupt. With eccentric characters and surprising scenes, this is a great read.

Check review.

The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany Mc Daniel

6. The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

In my review I described the book as having tones of Carson Mc Culler’s The Heart is a lonely Hunter. This was one of the strong debuts of the year because it deals with difficult themes with such ease. At the start of the novel, the devil comes to a town and he wants ice cream. But his arrival is complemented with a scorching summer that melts everything. Convinced?

Check review.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

7. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers touches on issues of love, marriage, financial stability, identity of immigrants and the American Dream. It is the story of a young Cameroonian couple in Harlem, New York, who are pursuing the American dream during the Recession period.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

8. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Told through a series of interviews and diary notes, Sleeping Giants follows a scientist who has uncovered a mysterious robotic hand from the Earth’s atmosphere. The humans embark on a mission to understand the superior technology of the hand and how it will affect the Earth.

There were two other debuts that created quite a stir last year. But these were originally published before 2016. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, first published in 2011, is the story of an unnamed American male who develops feelings for a hustler, Mitko. The novel speaks about desire and consequences. Pond by Claire Louise Bennett, first published in 2015, is a deeply moving tale of  a woman and her relationship with her surroundings as she leads a solitary life.

Let's discuss

Do you make a conscious effort to pick up debut novels by authors? Do you have a recent favourite debut? Is there a debut released in 2016 that you loved but isn’t included in the list?



This Post Has 38 Comments
  1. So far I’ve only read (listened to) The Mothers which was “ok” to me (probably becase I’m older I only gave it “ok”)> The writing was well done, the characters just weren’t very likeable! I have a few others–Behold the Dreamers–on my To Read list. And, I’m glad you are back to posting! 🙂

    1. I had the same problem with Mothers. The heroine didn’t seem to deserve the love that the author had in mind. However the writing was good, as you say. I will be reading Behold the Dreamers soon. And yes! I am very glad to be back too.

    1. I really liked how Tiffany made the suspense build up in The a Summer that melted everything. For a long time I didn’t know if I am looking for fantasy or a real life story in the novel. The ending wasn’t as good as the rest of the novel. But I still think it is a veg well written debut

  2. The title “The Mothers” isn’t about the presence or absence of a mother. It’s based on the gossipy church mothers narrating the story. Great list. ‘Shelter’ is on my TBR as well!

    1. I have read the book The Mothers. There are many aspects of mothers in the story. The protagonist’s mother, her lost motherhood and yes of course the ladies at church that you have rightly mentioned. But I still wasn’t sure if that would have been the right title. Personal opinion of course.

      I need to read Shelter soon. I have heard such high praise for it.

  3. Nope! It’s never too late for a best of list like this. In fact, it’s a great reminder for some of us (namely me) to read some of these amazing books. A few in particular, The Summer That Melted Everything and The Wangs vs. The World are on my TBR. I should move them up the list! I have read Sleeping Giants and I really enjoyed it. Certainly one of my favorite debut novels from 2016.

    Have you read all of these books, even if you haven’t reviewed them? What criteria did you use to decide which 2016 debuts are the “shiniest”?

    1. No I have not read all of them completely. I have linked my reviews to the ones I have. I have read the samples of those that I have not finished and I know the writing styles. Moreover I know from the opinions of fellow readers whom I trust, about the language, execution, character study and other basic aspects that make a promising debut. Some novels like The Girls, had extreme reactions, both good and bad. It created quite a stir in the book world and it feels right to have books as those included in the list

      1. That’s what prompted me to ask; you linked to reviews for some, but not all, of the books. I know in my case, that might just mean I never posted a review on my blog! I certainly don’t write reviews for 100% of the books I read.

        It’s important to have fellow readers you can trust! I follow quite a few blogs where people don’t read the sorts of books I would read. But I trust their reviews. Like you said– they understand language, execution, and character studies.

        I look forward to your eventual reviews of these unread books — particularly The Girls!

  4. The cover for these are SO GORGEOUS THOUGh. Especially Homegoing wooooow!! I haven’t actually read any of these but I would very much like to read Sleeping Giants. I’ve heard it’s fantastic and super unique! I also don’t really make a particular effort to seek out debuts, but I like it when I do!? I’m tracking how many debuts I read on my spreadsheet this year. It should be interesting!

  5. It’s really been year of the debut author this year hasn’t it Resh, there’s been so many wonderful young adult and middle grade debuts this year that have been incredible. Although I haven’t read any of these and keen to check them out, one I read and reviewed recently was Nevermoor. It’s basically a modern, middle grade Alice in Wonderland by an Australian author. It’s so whimsical and fantastical. Most of my reading has been Australian authors this year and thinking about making it my blog speciality next year as well. I need to pick up Sleeping Giants. I bought it a few weeks ago and hoping to get to it over the Christmas break <3

  6. I don’t make an effort to pick up debut novels. Usually a debut novel will catch my attention either because of its cover, or the story’s synopsis, or an interview I’ve read featuring the author.
    Of the list here, I recently read Homegoing and LOVED it. It’s now a favorite. To me, Gyasi did a great job of recounting much of black experience in the lives of the characters in her 300-page novel.

  7. Homegoing and The Girls have been on my TBR ever since they were released basically, so I should really get to them. I didn’t know about The Wangs vs the World, but it sounds like so much fun!

  8. Loved Homegoing! The Mothers was a good read but I was disappointed with the ending….it seemed to fizzle out….I would have liked an epilogue. I love to discover great debut novels!

  9. I bought “Behold the Dreamers” in June but still have not found the time to read it. I’m hoping my paternity leave will give me full days of catching up on books between changing diapers!

    The Girls, personal tastes alert, is too plucked from true crime for me and when a book sells movie rights so early, I worry the prose will be too Hollywood in style and structure.

    1. I get what you mean about ‘The Girls’. I have not read the whole book, only the beginning and I though it is a promising one. I have been hearing extreme reviews about the book. So I guess a lot of personal taste is involved in enjoying that one.
      I read Behold the Dreamers recently and it was a nice and fast read. And is it time to say congrats (for the paternity leave)? Diapers plus books is going to be fun

  10. I was oh so very impressed with Homegoing. It was one of my favourites last year! I also read The Mothers and while I enjoyed it, I was also expecting a bit more. Still, an interesting read. And I haven’t read The Summer that Melted Everything yet. Shame on me. I’ve been putting it off and now, I’ll have to wait until next summer. I just can’t see myself reading it during the winter haha

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