The best debuts coming in 2024

Brilliant debuts to add to your reading list.

Hot-off-the-press new arrivals plus the debut works of some of our most esteemed literary and classic authors.

Where There Was Fire

by John Manuel Arias

When a lucrative American banana plantation erupted in flames in 1960S Costa Rica, destroying the evidence of the crimes committed there, Teresa Cepeda Valverde’s family was changed forever. Almost three decades later, with the fire still shrouded in mystery, Teresa and her estranged daughter Lyra set out to discover what really happened that night, and understand the events that broke their family apart. A love letter to his Costa Rican heritage, John Manuel Arias’s debut novel is a story of corruption, greed, redemption and, ultimately, the family ties that bind us. 


by Kaveh Akbar

With fans including Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Green to name just a few, Kaveh Akbar is a debut author everyone will be talking about in 2024. Cyrus Shams was a tiny baby when the plane his mother was travelling in was shot down over the Persian Gulf. Decades later, after growing up in the shadow of her death and looking for meaning in all the wrong places, a newly sober Cyrus sets out to learn the truth about who she was, and who he is. Humorous, profound and thrilling in equal measure, with Martyr! Kaveh Akbar proves himself as an electrifying new voice in contemporary fiction. 

How I Won a Nobel Prize

by Julius Taranto

When Helen, a brilliant young physicist, finds herself embroiled in her advisor’s student sex scandal, she must decide whether to abandon her research or accompany him to an island research institute that offers a haven to cancelled academics. As Helen gets to know the community of disgraced researchers, she is forced to confront her idea of what progress means, and whether a person can ever be purely “good" or “bad”. Sharp, satirical and utterly unputdownable, How I Won a Nobel Prize is a debut you won’t be able to ignore this year. 

Whale Fall

by Elizabeth O'Connor

Growing up on a remote Welsh island left reeling from The Great War, Manod dreams of a different future. So, when two anthropologists arrive on the island, she seizes her opportunity to get to the mainland and start her new life. However, as time passes and the threat of another war becomes ever more present, Manod realises that her dream may be too far out of reach. Selected by The Observer as one of their top debuts of 2024, Elizabeth O’Connor’s evocative, immersive coming-of-age tale will transport you to 1938, and a world on the edge of irrevocable change. 

Anyone's Ghost

by August Thompson

When Theron, a lonely, self-conscious teen meets confident, cool, and unbelievably beautiful Jake, his life instantly turns from grey to technicolour. Realising they have the same passion for music, drugs and chasing the next high, the pair become inseparable, and Theron falls madly in love with Jake, and the idea of being Jake. As they grow up, drifting together and apart over the next two decades, Jake remains just out of reach, until the pair are torn apart for one final time. A stunning story of love, longing, and loss, Anyone’s Ghost is a debut novel you won’t be able to put down. 

Some of the best debuts of all time

The Orchard Keeper

by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy was one of America’s finest and most celebrated authors, with over ten books to his name across a career spanning nearly sixty years. If you’re a fan, you’ll know McCarthy wrestles with the dark aspects of America’s past and present - but have you travelled all the way back to his earliest classic? McCarthy’s first book, The Orchard Keeper, is a standalone novel, set in a small, remote community in rural Tennessee in the 1920’s. Winner of the Faulkner Foundation Award for the best first novel, this book has earned a place among literary giants. 

Stir Fry

by Emma Donoghue

Can you honestly say you love literary fiction if you haven’t read a book by Emma Donoghue? You’ve probably read Room, a beloved novel-turned blockbusting film, but her first novel, Stir Fry, is equally poignant, and will stay with you long after the final page. This insightful coming-of-age story explores love between women and probes feminist ideas of sisterhood. There’s nothing like reading an author's entire body of work, especially one that is so sparklingly diverse and has been adapted for the screen not once, but twice, with The Wonder out on Netflix on 16 November.

The People in the Trees

Book cover for The People in the Trees

You’ve probably read or at least heard about the award-winning A Little Life, by Hanya Yanahigara. But you can’t be a true admirer if you haven’t read her first, debut novel, The People in the Trees, which marked her as a remarkable new voice in American fiction. It is 1950, when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island where he encounters a strange tribe of forest dwellers who appear to have attained a form of immortality. We know that Hanya Yanaghiara has a way with words that can puncture you emotionally, and this all began with the haunting, but bewitching, The People in the Trees.

The Pickwick Papers

by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’ era-defining novels undoubtedly belong in a list of the best books of all time. But we’re here to talk about The Pickwick Papers, his debut novel and a comic masterpiece which first brought this iconic writer to fame. Originally published in a series of magazine instalments, in novel form it is a hefty 1,080 pages, but you’ll be acquainted with some of fiction’s most endearing and memorable characters. It’s a classic, so you’ve got to give this work of literary invention your utmost attention if you haven’t already.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

What would you change if you could go back in time? You’d read this novel when it was a bestseller in Japan in 2015 of course. . . Before the Coffee Gets Cold is the first book in this eponymous series about a coffee shop which offers its customers the chance to travel back in time. You’ll become captivated by four heartwarming characters as you follow their wistful attempts to change their respective pasts, whether that be seeing a loved one for one last time or confronting someone who did them wrong. An incredibly moving series that you have until September 2023 to become emotionally invested in, before the fourth adventure blesses our bookshelves.

The Miniaturist

by Jessie Burton

Set in the golden city of Amsterdam, The Miniaturist is a historical novel with a strange secret at its heart. It’s 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Joannes Brant, who gifts her a cabinet-sized replica of their home. As she engages the services of a miniaturist, an elusive and enigmatic artist, his tiny creations start to mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

At the Bottom of the River

by Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid’s books are beloved for their honest exploration of colonial legacy, full of unapologetic passion and defiance. Her first work, At the Bottom of the River, is a selection of inter-connected prose poems told from the perspective of a young Afro-Caribbean girl. You’ll not forget the way Kincaid explores the nature of mother-daughter relationships, and the short prose style will leave you wanting more. We think you should get to know this unique and necessary literary voice, starting with At the Bottom of the River.

Less Than Zero

by Bret Easton Ellis

Years before American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis shocked, stunned and disturbed with his debut, a fierce coming-of-age novel about the casual nihilism that comes with youth and money. Less Than Zero is narrated by Clay, an eighteen-year-old student, whose story is filled with relentless drinking, wild, drug-fuelled parties and dispassionate sexual encounters. This unflinching depiction of hedonistic youth and the consequences of such moral depravity, is neither condoned or chastised by the author. Published when he was just twenty-one, this extraordinary and instantly infamous work has become a cult classic and a timeless embodiment of the zeitgeist.

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen

No one can write quite like Jane Austen. Her six novels are famous for their witty social commentary of British society in the early 19th century. Sense and Sensibility, her first novel, features two sisters of opposing temperament and their respective approaches to love. This comedy of manners is the humorous history lesson everyone needs.

Last Night in Montreal

by Emily St. John Mandel

If you’ve not heard of Emily St. John Mandel before, the New York Times bestselling author of Station Eleven, you have an incredible list of books to look forward to, starting with her extraordinary debut, Last Night in Montreal. Lilia has been leaving people behind her entire life, moving from city to city, abandoning lovers and friends along the way. Gorgeously written, charged with tension and foreboding, Last Night in Montreal is a novel about identity, love and amnesia, the depths and limits of family bonds and — ultimately — about the nature of obsession. 

Burial Rites

Book cover for Burial Rites

Inspired by actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving first novel that will transport you to Northern Iceland in 1829, where Agnes Magnúsdóttir is a woman condemned to death for her part in the murder of her lover. But all is not as it seems, and time is running out to uncover the truth – winter is coming, and with it is Agnes’ execution date. Hannah Kent announced her arrival into the literary space with this speculative biography and it's rare to find a debut novel as sophisticated and gripping as this one.