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You all know I love reading debuts and in 2022 I’ve read more than ever. The year has been my biggest reading year ever, with 147 books finished as I write this. (Thank you retirement!) Of those, 59 have been debuts; that’s 40% of my reading. That percentage is up a little from last couple years and it’s no big surprise because it’s been a year of many fabulous debuts. Paring down 59 books to only 10 was no easy task. I could easily have included many more books here, but had to cut it off somewhere, so these are my ten favorite debuts from 2022. You can be sure several will make my Best Books of 2022 next week. That’s also where you’ll find out which of these was my #1 debut of the year. And now, in order of publication only:
Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors (2/8) – This debut has so many aspects that appeal to me. It’s set in NYC, the main characters are a dark, multi-faceted couple evolving over time. It’s full of art and and drama, plus it’s been a somewhat divisive book. I saw reviews from those who thoroughly disliked it, but the book was included in the Goodreads Choice Awards both for Fiction and Debuts, so clearly it had a lot going for it AND a lot of other fans. (my review)
Groundskeeping by Lee Cole (3/1) – I have a thing for books about struggling young writers and that’s exactly what lead character Owen Callahan was. Still drifting well into his 20’s Owen finally returns home to Kentucky, a place he both loves and feels alienated from. There he slowly comes to understand his family while also trying to find himself and eventually reigniting his love of writing. Lee Cole’s own writing in Groundskeeping was absolutely gorgeous. I highlighted SO many passages! (my review)
Cover Story by Susan Rigetti (4/5) – I’d say this was a somewhat divisive book. The story of an “Anna Delvey like” con artist who takes advantage of a young college intern was loved by many and seemed like more of the same for others. I obviously fall in the loved category and it’s because Rigetti told the story so well AND had one of the greatest twists I’ve ever read in a book. I was hooked on the story form the start, but when I got to the end I was completely awed and had to go back looking for clues I’d missed. (my review)
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow (4/5) – It’s impossible to read this book and not talk about Stringfellow’s writing. From the opening paragraphs, describing in resplendent detail a true Southern front porch, I knew I was in for a treat. From beginning to end I was captivated by this story of three generations of a Memphis Black family, a family dominated by its women, and scarred by its men. I loved her emphasis on two different sister relationships which were at the heart of this impressive debut. (my review)
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley (6/7) – I don’t think you could find a more impressive debut author than Mottley. She started her book at only 17 years old and published this Booker Prize nominated book at only 19. Based on a real scandal within the Oakland Police Department, Nightcrawling tells the difficult story of Kiara: 17, Black, queer, poor, parentless, without a high school diploma, and desperate. As too often happens, Kiara sees no other way to make money, but to turn to the streets. It’s raw. (my review)
The Measure by Nikki Erlick (6/28) – This has to be the MOST hyped debut of 2022 and with good reason. Erlick delivered a completely original, completely compelling story that was almost impossible to put down. In it, every person on Earth (18+) gets a box with a string inside. Strings vary in length and the whole world is freaking out. Soon it’s figured out that the length of one’s string corresponds to the length of one’s life. From there things get truly wild as mankind adjusts to this new reality. (my review)
Kaleidoscope by Cecily Wong (7/5) – This is a seriously under the radar story about the relationship between two sisters, Morgan and Riley, daughters of very successful entrepreneurs. It’s about how one reacts after she’s left on her own. and about both sisters’ relationships with their parents, who treat the two very differently. It’s about crossing difficult boundaries, being lost and finding yourself again. Ultimately, Kaleidoscope is a love story in which love takes on many different forms. (my review)
The Net Beneath Us by Carol Dunbar (9/13) – Here we have another debut that far too many people have missed. It’s the sort of rich, complex story that I most love. It’s the story of Elsa and her family living off the grid in a partially finished house in rural WI. When her husband is badly injured in a logging accident Elsa realizes just how much her husband has done for them and how very unprepared she is. This is both terrifying and humbling, and Elsa, fearing judgment, is resistant to the help around her. (my review)
Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli (11/1) – This debut is a a sad, sad book, but so beautifully written. It opens with Eve telling us that her husband, the great love of her life, committed suicide. He also left no note. What follows is her ragged, raw journey through the first year of grief. This was fully Eve’s story, told in first-person, but Nwabineli wisely surrounded her with a wonderful cast of characters, both family and friends, who played well off her grief and enriched the story. This was a great November surprise! (my review)
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman – Here we have another sad, but wonderful story of dying. As the story opens Edi (at 45) is in the last stages of ovarian cancer. Her husband, Jude and long-time best friend, Ash make the difficult decision to move her into hospice. The place they choose is nearer to Ash, so she becomes Edi’s primary care taker. What follows is a journey filled with an abundance of love, a wealth of wisdom, and a whole lot of humor. You will cry, but will be glad you did. (my review)
What were your debut favorites of 2022?
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