Best Debuts of 2023

Best Debuts of 2023


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 (40 so far, 40% of my total reading), up a bit from last year. 85% of those were successful (down from 89% last year) and you’ll be seeing some of these make an appearance on my overall Best Books of 2023 list coming later this month.

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 2023

Talking at Night by Claire Daverley
I’ve talked about my love for the Micro Genre of “Intense Love Stories that Definitely Aren’t Romances”…and I’m adding this 5 star debut novel to the list! This love story is between Rosie and Will, who meet in high school, despite being from different parts of the high school social hierarchy. They initially form a relationship through late night conversations before they hit some very real and large roadblocks. I read this 400 page character-driven book in 3 days. This couple has real obstacles to overcome that go beyond the “he’s a sociopath” obstacle of Tell Me Lies. It’s like Normal People, but less dark and with less of the millennial angst. 

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin
I couldn’t put this 5 star memoir down! Lara kicks her story off by talking about her first ever addiction, which was reading. Then, beautifully segues into her more dangerous addictions later in life. ⁠She shares the story of how she went from overwhelmed suburban mom to opioid addict to serving jail time for 32 felonies. Then, how she rebuilt her life and family relationships, becoming a co-writer on bestselling books including The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton.⁠ Lara’s writing style is highly engaging. Her story is sad and inspirational. She explores the debilitating effects of shame, problems in the parole and Child Protection Services systems, and co-writing for such luminaries as Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.⁠ 
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

The rest of the Best Debuts of 2023

A Likely Story by Leigh Abramson
Wealthy people behaving badly has been done many times at this point, but Abramson made her debut feel unique by adding an “authors behaving badly” spin. The juicy plot and sharp social commentary about the wealthy help this story stand out. Even though the main characters are fairly dislikable (privileged and entitled), I loved the exploration of what it’s like to be the child of a legend and the behind the scenes of the publishing industry. I thought I knew where this book was going…and I did to a certain extent, but Abramson added layers on top that were totally unexpected. 

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Adelaide by Genevieve Wheeler
Another addition to my Intense Love Stories That Aren’t Romances Micro Genre! This story is highly relatable for women who’ve dated in a big city in their 20’s, you’ve either been in a situation like this or seen a friend in one. This familiarity made it deeply uncomfortable at times to read at times because the unhealthiness of the situation is obvious from afar. Consequently, this is a book I wish I’d read in my 20’s and I want my daughter to read when she’s old enough. The story goes in a direction I totally didn’t expect, exploring something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a book before.
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman
Good for a Girl is SUCH an important and fascinating book that felt ground-breaking to me for women’s sports (though it focuses on distance running in particular), though I do think it’s for a niche audience (anyone interested in women’s sports, women’s rights or reimagining various industries). Like Lauren herself, this book is an intersection of sports, business, and advocacy. She explores how elite sports are built around men and women are just expected to fit into that structure. She covers the puberty plateau, unhealthy eating habits, unfair sponsorship practices, being an elite athlete as a mother, and how she became a feminist entrepreneur alongside her running career. 

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan
This family drama is told in a warm, funny voice that brought me back to many of the books I loved in 2022. An Indian couple (living in Texas) who divorce 36 years into an arranged marriage both venture into the dating world to sometimes funny and sometimes disastrous results. This is a story about second acts and pushing out of your comfort zone even when it’s scary. I loved the commentary about marriage, relationships with adult children, and parenting adult children. The mix of humor, sentimentality, nostalgia, and warm-heartedness made this a standout debut for me.

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Pete and Alice in Maine by Caitlin Shetterly
I’ve been a bit sensitive about books set during COVID, but this one worked for me because, ultimately, it’s a marriage and family story rather than a pandemic novel. COVID is there in the background, but sometimes you forget it’s set during COVID. I’ve been interested in how the COVID wrench could impact complicated personal and relationship issues and Shetterly explores that well here. 

Buy from: | (Audio)

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck
The premise of this novel is completely ridiculous (Lewis and Wren are newly married when Lewis slowly begins turning into a great white shark), but it worked so well! But, it didn’t FEEL that weird when I was reading it. I expected the story to focus on Lewis since he’s the one turning into the shark, but I actually think it’s more Wren’s story and it turned out to be a bit of a multi-generational family story. It’s kind of sad, but also incredibly touching and makes you have faith in love and marriage. A highly creative and unexpectedly touching story!

Affiliate Link: Amazon | | (Audio)

The Art of Scandal by Regina Black
This novel is more than just a romance…it’s a bit genre defying (there’s a heavy political drama element) and the romance is a tool in service of something greater (reclaiming yourself), which I loved. The story centers on Rachel’s story of finding herself and reclaiming her true identity more than the romance. It’s also about being in an interracial relationship, marriage, the role art can play in discovering yourself, and appearances vs. reality (through putting on a facade for political reasons). There’s a hell of an opening scene that had me laughing and hooked me right away. 

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters
This surprise hit novel (it was a Barnes & Noble’s 2023 Discover pick) somehow manages to be sad and heart-warming at the same time. It’s the story of a Mi’kmaq (a First Nations people indigenous to North Atlantic areas of Canada) family from Nova Scotia whose four year old daughter disappears while they’re working as berry pickers on a farm in Maine. The Prologue tells us how the story ends, so the details of how we get there are what propels the story. It has a melancholy tone and is about living with regret and anger. But, it’s also about learning how to forgive yourself. It’s a quiet family story with gorgeous writing that wormed its way into my heart without having to get flashy.  
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

What are your favorite debuts of 2023?

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Best Debuts of 2023


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