Best Debuts of 2019

Best Debuts of 2019


I’ve always felt strongly about reading debuts…I love to support these authors and I’ve traditionally had great luck with the debuts I’ve read.

This year, I’ve read a ton of debuts (32 so far, 38% of my total reading) and judging from my current draft of my Best Books of 2019 list (I’ll post this on Thursday), they were a fantastic bunch!

Finally, I normally have about eight debuts that make it onto this list every year and, this year, I have eleven! Plus, there were two more that almost made the cut, but didn’t.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

My #1 Debut of 2019

Miracle Creekby Angie Kim (my review)
This literary courtroom drama took #bookstagram by storm when it was announced as April Book of the Month pick. Prior to that, I hadn’t heard a peep about it! I love it’s highly literary and tackles multiple serious issues, yet doesn’t forego the fast-moving plot of a traditional courtroom drama. And, I love that Angie Kim didn’t shy away from voicing thoughts many people probably have at their toughest moments, but are unacceptable to speak out loud. Hear more from Angie Kim on Ep. 22 of the podcast! PS – Miracle Creek didn’t make the finals of the Goodreads Choice Awards in the Debuts category…this is me doing my small part to rectify this travesty!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The rest of the Best Debuts of 2019

A Woman is No Manby Etaf Rum (my review)
This semi-autobiographical story of a Palestinian mother (Isra) and daughter (Deya) growing up in Brooklyn in a household that tried to strictly adhere to traditional Muslim custom is a brutal and important read. But, it’s ultimately hopeful and ends on a badass lady note! Plus, it would be a great book club choice if your book club can stomach some tough reading.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Beyond the Pointby Claire Gibson (my review)
I loved this novel about friendship among three female West Point cadets and I loved that Gibson made all three women elite athletes (a rarity in fiction!). This book is long, but incredibly readable and I didn’t feel it’s length at all. Check out Claire on Ep. 36 of the podcast!
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Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (my review)
I loved the snarky writing, the male perspective on divorce, and the surprising feminist undercurrent of this “very New York City” novel that’s garnering mixed reviews. But, I have a theory (tested on my less than statistically sound Instagram stories) that, if you lived/live in or have spent significant time in NYC, you’re more likely to appreciate the humor and characters in this book! Plus, it was long-listed for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I Miss You When I Blinkby Mary Laura Philpott (my review)
Y’all know how much I love “women who get women” memoirs and Mary Laura is my newest addition to that authors club that includes writers like Anna Quindlen and Kelly Corrigan. She’s spunky, relatable, and open. When I read her debut essay collection, I immediately thought I’d love to grab a glass of wine with her…and I sort of got to (at least virtually) when I interviewed her on Ep. 21 of the podcast!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Out Eastby John Glynn (my review)
You might expect a memoir about a Hamptons share to be 100% debauchery (think Bravo’s Summer House) and Out East certainly contained a lot of that, but it’s one of the most heartfelt and emotional memoirs I’ve ever read about friendship and love. Glynn grapples with his sexuality and the unsettled feeling of the transition from college to early adulthood. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer (my review)
This historical love story (not usually my cup of tea) is not just a love story or historical fiction…it could also be called a “badass lady book.” It’s the story of a woman who is defined by the man in her life trying to break out on her own…to be known for her own work. Plus, it was a Book of the Month pick!

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The Dearly Belovedby Cara Wall (my review)
I loved this gorgeously written character-driven novel involving two families and religion. I’m not a super religious person, but each of the four main characters in this book feel very differently about their faith and all of them struggle with their feelings throughout the book. Plus, it was a #ReadWithJenna Today Show Book Club pick!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Other’s Goldby Elizabeth Ames (my review)
The writing style of this campus novel about four female friends took me a minute to get used to (it has some very long sentences and requires a bit of concentration), but it’s gorgeous and Ames is an astute observer of life. It’s gotten mixed reviews across the board (I think people had trouble connecting with the writing and thought certain plot elements were unrealistic), but it was 5 stars for me!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Secrets We Keptby Lara Prescott (my review)
This historical fiction about two undercover members of the CIA typing pool that are enlisted to help smuggle the novel Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR (where it had been banned) so it could be used as an anti-Communist propaganda tool is, at its heart, a dang good story! It’s a page turner and I agree (for once!) with the publishers comparison of “Mad Men meets Hidden Figures.” Plus, it was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Wild Gameby Adrienne Brodeur (my review)
This story Brodeur’s mother’s decades-long affair with her stepfather’s best friend and how her mother made her complicit in the affair starting at age 14 is an incredible, yet sad and disturbing story. A 5 star memoir that I flew through in two days!

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What are your favorite debuts of 2019?

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  1. Jill wrote:

    Sarah, your list is so on point!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Thank you for your great podcast!

    Posted 12.10.19 Reply
  2. Alison wrote:

    These lists make this time of year one of my favourites for my reading life. Often the titles on this list that I have missed start my January off with a bang.

    Thanks Sarah for sharing and being my go to book whisperer!

    Posted 12.10.19 Reply
    • Alison Holliday wrote:

      Oh and Miracle Creek !! .

      Posted 12.10.19 Reply
  3. Great list Sarah! We overlap on 4 and a couple more on your list I was considering for mine. I love this time of year and seeing everyone’s favorites from the year and I think 2019 was an especially good year for books. Don’t you?

    Posted 12.10.19 Reply
  4. What a great list! You are making me want to track what debuts I read. Sadly the answer is probably fewer than I should. Book of the Month has definitely helped with that, though.

    Posted 12.10.19 Reply
  5. Lindsay wrote:

    Great list, Sarah! I own so many of these books but still need to read them. I’m glad to know I bought good ones. 🙂

    Posted 12.10.19 Reply
  6. Hillary wrote:

    I enjoyed a lot of these, and I discovered Dearly Beloved and The Other’s Gold through your recommendation, and I loved them both. I’m so surprised the Goodreads rating for The Other’s Gold isn’t higher because I found it fascinating. Part of why that’s not my only recommendation source.

    Posted 12.11.19 Reply
  7. Catherine wrote:

    My gosh, we don’t have much overlap at all! I don’t have a favorite, but I completely agree about Miracle Creek. It will be on my list for sure.

    I’m working on my list but it’s smaller books, which probably means they’re more specific to my taste than everyone else. The only one I am almost certain you would love is The Falconer. Or did you DNF it?

    Posted 12.15.19 Reply
  8. Sharon Blessing wrote:

    Hi Sarah, I really like reading about what books you have enjoyed and loved. You are a much faster reader than I am, but many of your choices that you’ve read are ones I have read or want to read. One book that I absolutely LOVED recently, and I’m curious to see if you’ve heard of it or read it, is The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna. It is a wonderful book of an Italian family, main character is Stella of course, and they immigrate to Connecticut. It’s loosely based on the author’s grandmother – made me smile the whole way through! Let me know what you think….

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply

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