One of my favorite things about a new year is the never-disappointing list of new authors to discover — and the debut titles on this list were all written by new authors you’re going to be obsessed with in 2017. (Or, at the very least, these are some of the authors I’m completely excited about this year. But based on the books below, I’m pretty confident you’ll agree.)
Each year we bookworms and some of our favorite folks in publishing totally geek out over the prospective publishing trends of the year ahead, asking questions like: are we going to be obsessed with thrillers featuring “Girl” in the title (most likely;) will dystopian YA novels abound again (or is that too real right now?;) will novels challenging social, political, gender, and racial norms make the top of the bestseller charts (hope so;) will women writers and their literary heroines keep raising their voices and staking their claims (yes, please.) This year, based on the titles below, politics will feature front-and-center in 2017 (no surprise there,) with novels shedding light on everything from life beneath the North Korean dictatorship, to the Egyptian revolution, to the Syrian refugee crisis, to an imagining of a second American civil war. Books by and about women challenging the status quo, making themselves heard, and forging their own unique identities will definitely be a staple on this year’s reading lists as well (rock on, girlfriends.) There is even a love story or two. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to dive into everything that the books of 2017 have to offer.
Here are 15 new authors you’re going to love this year — and now would be a good time to start making some space in that TBR pile.
1. Emily Robbins, author or ‘A Word for Love’
Emily Robbins’ extraordinary debut novel, A Word for Love, takes readers into pre-revolution Syria, where Bea, a young, American foreign exchange student spent months living and learning Arabic: a language in which there are 99 words for love. But in a country on the brink of civil unrest and subsequent war, Bea learns a lot more than Arabic; becoming entangled in her host family’s personal and political lives, and witnessing a forbidden romance that will change her understanding of love — and loss — forever.
2. Lindsey Lee Johnson, author of ‘The Most Dangerous Place on Earth’
Debut novel The Most Dangerous Place on Earth dives headfirst into a too-good-to-be-true community in California, where newby high school teacher Molly Nicoll finds herself wondering what secrets lie behind the near-perfect facades of her privileged students’ lives. Unknown to Molly, her students are still scarred by a tragedy that took place years earlier — one that they were all complicit in. Replete with Pretty Little Liars-style drama, and illuminating a disturbing world in which every action is fodder for social media, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth navigates the haunting sorrows and passions of modern adolescence.
3. Felicia Yap, author of ‘Yesterday’
Described as a 2017 literary event by Newsweek, Felicia Yap’s debut novel Yesterday has already created quite a stir — including a bidding war by several U.K. publishers. Landing on bookshelves in both the U.K. and the United States in August, Yesterday answers the question: “How do you solve a murder when you can only remember yesterday?”, taking intrepid thriller readers into the mind of one woman who is without a long-term memory, and whose entire connection to the events of her life is through a diary she keeps. But when police arrive at her door to inform her that her husband’s mistress has been found dead, she realizes her diary might not be enough to anchor her to the true events of her life.
4. Daniel Lowe, author of ‘All That's Left to Tell’
Intense and compelling, Daniel Lowe’s debut novel, All That’s Left To Tell, is filled with both profound emotional disconnect and insatiable longing. The novel introduces readers to Marc Laurent, an American businessman who has been taken hostage by an unknown entity in Pakistan, and who spends each night bound and blindfolded as he speaks to an unknown woman about his past. Although the conversations begin with her trying to discover who in Marc’s life will pay his ransom money, they quickly evolve into something much deeper, as the two begin to share the most intimate, complicated, and haunting details of their lives.
5. Scaachi Koul, author of ‘One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter’
The title of this book has become one of the key mantras of my life this year — funny, irreverent, and disturbingly true (and landing on bookstore shelves in May.) Growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada, writer Scaachi Koul understood what it meant to be an outsider. Koul’s debut essay collection One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter blends personal anecdotes with explorations into gender dynamics, ethnic and cultural stereotypes, mortality, and the constant politicization of women of color.
6. Hala Alyan, author of ‘Salt Houses’
Hala Alyan debut novel, Salt Houses, tells the story of one Palestinian family whose lives are uprooted and forever changed by the Six-Day War of 1967. Salma, the family matriarch, is forced to leave her home, while her daughter Alia and Alia's husband are forced to flee to Kuwait City with their young children, beginning their lives anew. But just 23 years later, when Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, the family loses their home again, finding refuge in far-flung cities like Paris and Boston. Salt Houses illuminates the heartache and permanent unsettledness experienced by refugees all over the world, reminding readers of the burdens and the blessings of home.
7. Gabby Rivera, author of ‘Juliet Takes a Breath’
As the year’s first pick for Bustle’s American Woman Book Club, Juliet Takes a Breath is definitely a book you’ll want to add to your shelves ASAP. This debut novel by radical, creative writer Gabby Rivera introduces readers to Juliet Milagros Palante, a young woman who is about to embark upon a summer internship that will change her life — she just has to come out to her family real quick, first. Traveling from the Bronx to Portland, Juliet moves in with the author of her favorite book: the feminist, lesbian writer Harlowe Brisbane. Over the course of one beautiful, complicated, heartbreaking, eye-opening summer, Juliet learns more about herself, the world, and “this whole ‘Puerto Rican lesbian thing’” than she ever thought possible — and develops even more questions along the way as well.
8. Rachel Yoder, author of ‘Infinite Things All At Once’
If you loved Abigail Ulman’s debut collection Hot Little Hands last year, then this year you have to check out Rachel Yoder’s own debut Infinite Things All At Once. The collection features stories of young womanhood, girls and women who are coming-of-age and emerging into adulthood, doing things like moving from small towns to big cities, moving from small-mindedness into awakenings, and discovering the blessings and burdens of freedom.
9. Omar El Akkad, author of ‘American War’
The year is 2074 and the second American Civil War has just broken out. Louisiana native Sarat Chestnut is only six-years-old as she witnesses her state quickly sinking into the gulf due to rising sea levels, the criminalization of oil consumption, and the drone-filled sky above her. But when Sarat is relocated to a displaced persons camp after her father is killed, she is radicalized into an instrument of war herself — making a series of choices that will affect not only her family, but her entire country, for generations to come. Haunting and timely, Omar El Akkad’s debut novel American War is not a book to be missed this year.
10. Bandi, author of ‘The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea’
Scheduled for publication in English this spring The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea is considered the first collection of short stories smuggled out of North Korea that was written by a North Korean writer still living under the regime. Written by the pseudonymous Bandi (“firefly” in English) The Accusation is made up of seven stories set in 1990’s North Korea, during the period of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s leadership, and depicts what life is really like for those living under the dictatorship, completely cut off from the rest of the world.
11. Georgia Hunter, author of ‘We Were the Lucky Ones’
Based on the true experiences of the author’s grandfather, Georgia Hunter’s debut novel We Were the Lucky Ones tells the gripping and moving story of three generations of one Jewish family, the Kurcs, who are ripped apart at the start of World War II, and whose lives quickly become unrecognizable — as they lose their homes, their jobs, their friends, their safety and other basic rights, and each other. But despite the unrelenting horrors of the war and the Holocaust, the Kurcs still manage to hold onto their humanity: sharing moments of hope and love, resilience and new life with those around them, and remaining determined to reunite with one another after the violence has subsided.
12. Omar Robert Hamilton, author of ‘The City Always Wins’
Oman Robert Hamilton’s debut novel, The City Always Wins, takes readers into the on-the-ground experience of the Egyptian revolution, diving beyond the headlines and into the lives of the people who protested and revolted and tried desperately to change the world. From the revolutionaries in Cairo to the Egyptians living in exile in the United States, this novel explores the unrelenting hopes and shattering heartbreaks of one of the major political events of our generation.
13. Jane Harper, author of ‘The Dry’
This Reese Witherspoon book club title and Pacific Standard movie-optioned mystery will definitely give Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train a run for their money this year. When the small farming community of Kiewarra is faced with a murder-suicide committed by one of their own, Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk is brought in to clean up the mess. But what he discovers leads him to believe that the deaths might not have been a murder-suicide after all.
14. Emily Ruskovich, author of ‘Idaho’
If you love the kind of novel that asks you to sleuth your way through a series of multiple perspectives, attempting to make sense of all the things you as a reader don’t yet know, then Emily Ruskovich’s intricate, introspective, and multi-layered debut novel, Idaho, definitely needs to make its way into your TBR pile this year. Set in a small town in northern Idaho, this novel tells the story of one family and one shockingly violent event that changes their lives forever — exploring the burdens of love and loss, the complexities of mind and memory, and the power of forgiveness and hope.
15. Weike Wang, author of ‘Chemistry’
Weike Wang’s debut coming-of-age novel, Chemistry, introduces readers to an unnamed narrator — a young, female scientist who discovers that, three years into her graduate studies, she doesn’t actually love chemistry. With her academic career unraveling and an unanswered proposal from her boyfriend looming, Wang’s narrator throws comfort and predictability to the wind, finally daring to ask herself what she really wants out of life.