Best Debuts of 2022

Best Debuts of 2022


I love finding new debut authors to get excited about and that’s generally reflected in my reading stats. I read a number of quality debuts this year (36 so far, 37% of my total reading), down slightly from last year. 89% of those were successful (up from 84% last year) and you’ll be seeing some of these make an appearance on my overall Best Books of 2022 list coming later this week.

I’ve divided my list into Fiction and Nonfiction since there were so many I wanted to include this year.

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 Debuts of 2022

The Measure by Nikki Erlick
This novel (also one of my overall favorite books of 2022!) is both otherworldly and very of our time in a symbolic way rather than a literal way. It felt a bit like an allegory of the COVID pandemic as it taps into the feelings it generated, but leaves you with a feeling of peace. Ultimately, it felt like a healing story. It’s perfectly balanced between plot and character (it goes down super easy while remaining incredibly thought-provoking!) and, though some readers might think the ending is too tidy, I delighted in the thoughtful way Erlick tied up even the smallest details.

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
This delightful, unintentionally funny historical fiction novel is one of my favorite books of 2022 and left me wanting to go out and conquer the world! It’s fresh, unique, and actually lived up to its pre-publication hype. Elizabeth Zott (the main character) is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read…she’s a woman pushing against the constraints of her time and says things many women think, but may not say out loud. This story is a random collection of worlds thrown together (Rowing, chemistry, cooking, dogs)…yet, they feel seamless. This story is for dog lovers, lovable curmudgeon fans, and readers who love books about found family. And, it’s filled to the brim with meaning.

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

The rest of the Best Debuts of 2022 (Fiction)

Don’t Know Tough by Eli Cranor
Slow Burn Crime Suspense with football? Yes, please! Don’t Know Tough totally surprised me! It’s a bit literary, but not overly so and is a lot more plot driven than I expected. The vibe of the Arkansas town is very Friday Night Lights, but darker, and the story also reminded me of a grittier version of The Bright Lands, minus the supernatural horror. It’s about abuse, poverty, and the power of sports to lift people up. Yet, it also addresses the dark side of football.

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
This multi-generational family saga is a story about women doing what they need to to make it in their lives while not relying on men…and overcoming the damage men have done to them. Stringfellow is a poet and it shows in her writing, which is absolutely breathtaking (the Acknowledgements section is a thing of beauty). You can deeply feel North Memphis and Stringfellow paints a vivid picture of the evolution from pre-World War II to present day. This is very much a character-driven story and I did wish for slightly more story propulsion, but I loved how Stringfellow centered the women in this family. An impressive start to Stringfellow’s career as a novelist and I can’t wait to see what else she does.
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
This genre mash-up has been a bit misunderstood, but it’s a 5 star read for me! There’s a crime at the center of this story, but it’s not a thriller (as many readers expected). It’s a character study of the complex and fascinating (if not totally likable) woman behind a highly unusual crime (a woman living a double life that leads to a murder). This story is deeply layered, touching on the public’s fascination with true crime, gender, marriage, motherhood, and Mexican economic history and its interaction with the economies of Texas border towns. The ending is smart and surprising, yet felt 100% earned. This story felt fresh and would make a fantastic book club pick.

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
I went into this novel fairly blind and I was pleasantly surprised by this story. It’s hard to categorize…it’s a mash-up of a family story, a political story, a grandmother / granddaughter story, a bit of romance, and social commentary on the wealthy. It’s smart and has much more depth than you would expect. Olga is a strong, snarky woman and I was rooting for her (though she may read as dislikable to some). And, I learned an incredible amount about Puerto Rican history and politics in a way that felt seamless with Olga’s story.

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli
This novel about a young woman who lost her beloved husband to suicide and her extraordinary grief is loosely based on true events. Unsurprisingly, it’s an emotional story about intense grief, but Nwabineli’s tone is sort of dryly funny (similar to Annie Hartnett) and there is healing with the support of family, which takes some of the heaviness out of the reading experience. She talks about grief A LOT, but never in the same way twice. Her writing is out of this world. This is also a bit of a love story, but not a romance (there is a difference), as Eve (the widow) reflects back on her marriage. 

Buy from: | (Audio)

The Local by Joey Hartstone
Patent law might sound boring, but the patent law landscape in Marshall, TX (it’s a hotbed for patent law) is not. The history behind this unlikely phenomenon gives this story the “something more” element I always crave in my thrillers. I also love when my legal thrillers give good insight into legal and trial strategy and Hartstone reminds me of Steve Cavanagh (Thirteen) in that way. A great pick if you’re looking for something fast-paced that will easily keep your attention.

Affiliate Link: Amazon | | (Audio)

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
The heart of this “literary mystery” is Ray’s story rather than the mystery of who stole his violin, so make sure to set your expectations appropriately (i.e. it’s more literary fiction than mystery). Ray struggles to pursue violin in a family that doesn’t support his dreams and to rise to stardom in a world that doesn’t welcome him. The anticipation and drama surrounding the Tchaikovsky Competition gave this story a sports book vibe and Slocumb did a great job writing about classical music in a way that was understandable and interesting to a layperson. 

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
My Mom died from cancer in hospice a few months before I read this debut novel based on the author’s real life friend’s death from cancer. However, I found it comforting, a spot-on portrayal of the hospice experience, and it grew on me the farther I read. Edi is dying of ovarian cancer and enters a hospice facility near Ash’s home. This is the story of the end of Edi’s life…including a look back at Edi’s and Ash’s pasts and friendship. Though this is obviously an incredibly sad and heavy story, it’s told with humor and love. 

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)


Bully Market by Jamie Fiore Higgins
I was completely engrossed in Bully Market on audio! Higgins covers sexual harassment, office politics manipulation, intolerance of family and motherhood, and work / life balance…and this book is sad and maddening. It reminded me of a mash-up of Smacked by Eilene Zimmerman, From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein, and The Boys Club by Erica Katz. Warning: there is a massive trigger in this book, so please do your research or DM me if you want specifics.
Buy from: Amazon | (Audio)

Corrections in Ink by Keri Blakinger
Corrections in Ink is a debut memoir that tells a mind-blowing personal story while also speaking to a broader issue (addiction and women in the prison system). The first chapter is a doozy and immediately pulled me into this story. Blakinger uses the Friday Night Lights pilot episode strategy of alternating chapters between her childhood as a figure skater and journey into drugs with chapters from her time in prison. Keri is self-reflective and it’s a hopeful and redemptive story despite the dark places it goes along the way.
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Dilettanteby Dana Brown
Dana Brown was Graydon Carter’s (the longtime former Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair) Assistant at Vanity Fair magazine in the late 90’s and 2000’s and eventually rose to Editor. What a FUN book that took me back to my time living in New York City in my 20’s and early 30’s, during which I regularly read Vanity Fair magazine and the NY Post’s Page Six gossip column. This book is juicy, scandalous, honest, and self-deprecating. His writing style is brash and thoroughly entertaining…and it’s great on audio (narrated by Brown himself).
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Never Simple by Liz Scheier
A 5 star mother / daughter memoir! This story hooked me within the first few pages. Liz paints a vivid and heart-breaking picture of what it’s like to have an extremely erratic parent, who is always this black cloud over your head and you never know when it’s going to dump rain. And, she perfectly encapsulates the very complicated emotions that go along with caring for a parent who has essentially ruined her life. I loved Liz’s gallows humor and had deep empathy for her. This is also the kind of book you can tear through in a weekend. 
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

What are your favorite debuts of 2022?

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Best Debuts of 2022


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