Best Debuts of 2016

December 15, 2016 Book Lists 19

Best Debuts of 2016


The past couple years have been stellar for debuts. 30% of my overall Best Books of 2014 and 20% of my Best Books of 2015 were debuts. And, I suspect that you’ll be seeing an even higher percentage of debuts on this year’s Best Books of the Year list! 

Best Debuts of 2016

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review)
I read this dysfunctional childhood/social analysis memoir before the election. Since then, sales have taken off and controversy has swirled.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington (review)
When I first read this Southern coming-of-age story, I was thrilled that it reminded me of 2015’s My Sunshine Away. Then, I found out it was based on an actual double murder in Lynchburg, VA (Tarkington’s hometown), which added to the intrigue.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Shelter by Jung Yun (review)
I’m shocked I haven’t seen this perfectly balanced (between plot and style) dysfunctional family novel on more Best Books of 2016 lists so far.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (review)
This gritty, gorgeously written NYC foodie/restaurant novel has gotten some very mixed reviews…but it was unquestioningly a winner for me.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Girls by Emma Cline (review)
This super hyped novel was different than I expected, but the gorgeous writing won me over.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (review)
This gorgeously written novel about a young girl coming of age in a black community in California has deservedly appeared on numerous Best Books of 2016 lists. I’m firmly on this bandwagon.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
I waited awhile to read this because I was somewhat skeptical of all the hype, but it lived up to everything I’d heard. Yet, sadly, this will be the one and only work of Kalanithi we’ll get the pleasure of reading.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Youngblood by Matt Gallagher (review)
The writing and the emotional struggles of the main character made this Iraq war story shine for me.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Another stellar year for debuts!

19 Responses to “Best Debuts of 2016”

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I feel like Sweetbitter got pretty mixed reviews…love it or hate it kind of thing. I also lived in NYC when I was the same age as Tess and have worked in a restaurant, so maybe that’s why it appealed to me more.

      Hope you love The Mothers!

  1. Carmen Perez

    You always have an eye for critics’ darlings. Some of these debuts are among the Best Books of the Year on Amazon, and also among the most popular books of this year.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Haha! Thanks, I think? It’s funny because I feel like I’m never in line with awards committees…like the Pulitzer.

  2. Susie | Novel Visits

    We have three the same! Youngblood was another one that I was considering. Glad to see you decided to include the nonfiction books. I think I need to read When Breath Becomes Air.

  3. Naomi

    Every single one of these is on my list! The Mothers will get read, because I have it. If I had to choose one other right now, it would be… either Shelter or Sweetbitter. Then Hillbilly Elegy. (I couldn’t choose just one!)

  4. Tara

    Man, some *really* great debuts this year, right?!! I love to go back and look at these because, often, I forget what I’ve read (sheesh); I feel like it’s been a pretty good reading year!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yep – such a good debut year that I’m worried my overall Best of 2016 list will be almost the same list!

  5. Catherine

    I didn’t know Only Love was a debut! I feel as if I need to go back and re-read it.

    Apparently, I am the only blogger out there who hated Shelter. I could not relate to the narrator at all and so nothing else worked. A gap in our twinness but we’ll survive.

  6. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Oh dear, I tried so hard to read Shelter, and when I got a third of the way through I was already maxed out on the violence and misery. So I decided to give up. BUT these others (the ones that I’ve read) are fab, in particular The Mothers. The Mothers was for sure one of my favorite debut novels of the year, if not my number one most favorite.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      You’re not the only person I’ve heard that from about Shelter. I don’t mind super dark stories, but I can see how it’s not the right fit for some people.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I read that one and thought it was OK, but I was a bit disappointed in the writing. With all the hype, I was expecting more. The story itself was good, though.

Leave a Reply