Since I know your 2018 TBR pile can’t be touching the ceiling quite yet (that is, after all, the clearest way to distinguish the die-hard book lovers from your everyday readers) it’s time to start looking at all the new authors landing on bookstore shelves in 2018 — you know who I’m talking about: those writers you've probably never read before, but who you won’t be able to stop talking about once you do. And, if you love discovering new women writers as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that 2018 has shelves full of debut women authors just waiting to be read. By you. Specifically.
The books on this list are memoirs and murder mysteries, essay collections and thrillers, “self help books” for the non-self-help-inclined, works of investigative journalism, and more; they’re funny and they’re touching, illuminating and heart-pounding, surprising and relatable, and everything else you’re going to want in your reading life this year — and they’re all first books by authors whose second books you’ll be clamoring for before the ink on these debuts has even had time to dry.
Here are 14 debut books by women to look out for in 2018. Read on, readers.
'So You Want to Talk About Race' by Ijeoma Oluo (Jan. 16)
If you’ve read one of Ijeoma Oluo’s essays in the Establishment magazine (where she’s also an editor) you’re not likely to forget her fierce, feisty, no holds barred writing style. Her debut, So You Want to Talk About Race, dives deep into the realities of racism, oppression, cultural appropriation, and privilege in American life and explores how race has been one of the defining forces in the writer’s own experiences.
'This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America' by Morgan Jerkins (Jan. 30)
She’s been compared to Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie — so you already know you want to pick up Morgan Jenkins’ This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America as soon as it lands on bookstore shelves. A collection of linked essays, This Will Be My Undoing takes on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism alongside the writer’s own experiences of being a 20-something woman trying to make her way in the world.
'The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust' by Laura Smith (Feb. 6)
In the months before her wedding, Laura Smith found sudden inspiration in a most unlikely story: that of Barbara Newhall Follett, a free-spirited woman who published her first novel before she was teenager, sailed the south China seas at 15, and was one of the first women to hike the Appalachian trail — all before disappearing without a trace when she was 25, leaving behind a six-year-long marriage and her entire life. In The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust, Smith — obsessed with Follett, both the free-spirit and the disappeared women — decided to find out what happened to the woman, all while answering a number of burning questions about marriage, commitment, adventure, and freedom.
'Heart Berries: A Memoir' by Terese Marie Mailhot (Feb. 6)
A memoir in essays, Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries tells the story of the author’s coming-of-age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest — one filled with dysfunction and a dual diagnosis of PTSD and bipolar disorder. What did Mailhot do with all that? She wrote her way out of her trauma, finding forgiveness, understanding, peace, and triumph along the way.
'Love And . . .: Bad Boys, "The One," and Other Fun Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship' by Jen Kim (Feb. 13)
If you’ve ever wondered if all those Disney movies you watched as a kid really screwed up your adult life, this one is for you. Described by the author as “a self-help book for people who hate self-help books” Jen Kim’s Love And . . .: Bad Boys, "The One," and Other Fun Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship is a hilarious and eye-opening journey through your muddled past relationships as well as Kim’s own, as she looks at the science and psychology behind why we love (or, you know, don’t) in the ways that we do. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.
'Educated: A Memoir' by Tara Westover (Feb. 20)
Tara Westover has traversed distances few people have traversed before — from Idaho mountain survivalist to the hallowed halls of Harvard and Cambridge University. Her debut memoir, Educated, is Westover’s journey away from her upbringing and into herself, demonstrating the power of an education and asking the timeless question of whether or not any of us can ever really go home again.
'Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss' by Stephanie Wittels Wachs (Feb. 27)
Stephanie Wittels Wachs’ life was changed in the way that many lives are: by a single phone call. In Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss, Wachs describes the death of her brother Harris — a young, bright, comedy star — due to a heroin overdose. Unsentimental and at times even funny, Everything is Horrible and Wonderful is Wachs' journey to make sense of the senseless, to move from grief to hope, and to let humor light the way.
'Rainbirds' by Clarissa Goenawan (Mar. 6)
A murder mystery set in small-town Japan, Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan introduces readers to Ren Ishida, a graduate student whose sister Keiko is suddenly stabbed to death in a crime with no suspects and no leads. In pursuit of justice and answers, Ren heads to the small Japanese town his sister disappeared into years ago — when she mysteriously left behind her family and the Tokyo of her childhood.
'Exhibit Alexandra' by Natasha Bell (Mar. 8)
A thriller that explores how much we can ever truly know about the people we love, Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell is the story of Alexandra Southwood — a wife and mother being held against her will, and her husband, Mark — who is trying to pick up the pieces of his life without his wife, even as he frantically embarks upon his own search to find her.
'Sometimes I Lie' by Alice Feeney (Mar. 23)
For readers who love unreliable narrators, Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney tells the story of Amber Reynolds — a woman who wakes up paralyzed in a hospital and unable to communicate, but very much awake in her mind. Amber doesn’t remember her accident, but she knows what she was doing the week before, she knows that her husband doesn’t love her anymore, and she knows he had something to do with her accident. She also knows that, sometimes, she lies.
'The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder' by Nikki Meredith (Mar. 27)
Writers’ and readers’ obsession with the Manson Family just won’t end. The newest title to add to your Manson Family library (should you, you know, have one of those) is Nikki Meredith’s The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder. As intrigued by the women of the Manson Family cult as many of us are, Meredith, an award-winning journalist, began visiting two of the Manson women: Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, in prison, hoping to discover what led previously-normal young girls to commit brutal crimes, and if they had changed during their lives spent behind bars.
'The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery' by Barbara K. Lipska (Apr. 3)
Diving inside some of the deepest mysteries of the human mind with someone who has spent her life studying exactly that, Barbara K. Lipska’s The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery describes the leading neuroscientist’s own descent into madness — triggered by an aggressive cancer that spread to her brain, miraculously retreated just months later, and left Lipska not only with her memories intact, but with a whole lot more insight (and even more questions) into the human brain.
'True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Age' by Christine Lahti (Apr. 3)
The perfect addition to your feminist TBR pile, True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Age by award–winning actress and director Christine Lahti is the performer's first collection of linked personal essays, in which Lahti describes her childhood, her life as an actress and activist, and what it means to be a middle-aged woman in today’s Hollywood.
'I'm Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering' by Janelle Hanchett (May 1)
First of all: loving the phrase “renegade mothering”. When Janelle Hanchett became pregnant at 21-years-old, by a man she’d only known three months, she decided to make it work — until the alcohol and drugs she used to cope with her seemingly-directionless life began to destroy the very life she was using them to escape from. Far from your cookie-cutter story of addiction and recovery, I'm Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering describes Hanchett’s journey to recovery and sobriety in imperfect and unconventional ways.