Each month, I will pick a handful of buzzworthy and under the radar debut books I feel you’ll enjoy.
There is something in the hot air this month. A lot of people are missing. In literature anyway. Literary fiction and thrilling mysteries collide throughout the month in interesting ways. From Nevada’s desert to the sunny (but gritty) beaches of SoCal to rural Pennsylvania. In between, families and friends try to find their place in the world, where (hopefully) no one gets murdered or goes missing.
Stay and Fight by Madeline ffitch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; July 9)
While ffitch has a collection of short stories out, this novel was my first interaction with the author. I’m playing a little fast and loose with what a debut is, but with so many small presses, it’s impossible to catch them all. This book explores what it means to be a family and who has the right to say how to raise a child. It’s a socially conscious story about environment, feminism, and children rights.
A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar (Riverhead; July 9)
A story about a missing woman and the friend desperate to find her. Sure, a story told over and over, but Tomar leans into how these stories are told. The mystery is an enigma, but what makes this such standout novel is the navigation of trauma and the map we use to find peace. Everything is chaotic – like life – until it all clicks into place in unexpected ways.
The Expectations by Alexander Tilney (Little, Brown; July 16)
Prep schools are a rich setting for unique character development and twisting and turning plots. Tinley’s book is no exception. It’s a prep school story for the modern times. In your face, bingeable, and filled with memorable characters. Set in the 1990s, this is an ideal summer romp.
We Love Anderson Cooper by RL Maizes (Celadon; July 23)
Good story collections can go multiple ways. Varying from cohesive tales through character, theme, or setting. Or, like this debut, very diverse. There are coming out stories, tales of recent widows, and introspective explorations of mental health. Bonus points for one of the best book titles out there right now.
The Churchgoer by Patrick Coleman (Harper Perennial; July 30)
In this SoCal noir, Coleman introduces readers to a former pastor turned blue collar worker who begins to investigate the death of a coworker. Simultaneously leaning into and away from the genre’s tropes, this mystery is extremely digestible and refreshing.
Marilou Is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith (Riverhead; July 30)
July is filled with missing people. Marilou stands out due to the nature of what unfolds. The missing girl is, seemingly, replaced by another who is trying to help the family out. It’s an unlikely dynamic of a mother trying to hold onto what is gone and a teen trying to find her place in a world where she feels forgotten. It’s equally hopeful and bleak.