Each month, I will pick a handful of buzzworthy and under the radar debut books I feel you’ll enjoy.
November’s picks range from dystopians to historical pieces about finding your place in the world. The picks this month all seem to be about how the small moments in our lives create the longest lasting impressions.
American Grief in Four Stages by Sadie Hoagland (West Virginia University Press; 11/1)
The stories in Hoagland’s collection are traumatic. They explore dark subjects from suicide to infertility. The beauty in these stories are in the small moments that allow readers to sit and reflect on how the character’s and the own lives are shaped by our lowest moments.
On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl (Riverhead; 11/5)
Set in the 1950s American West, the characters in Pufahl’s novel are searching for identity. Muriel and Lee are newly weds and she is growing restless. She finds a job as a waitress at a horse racing track where she becomes well versed in gambling. Meanwhile, her bother-in-law, Julius, has fallen in love with Henry. When Henry goes missing, Julius is determined to find him.
Disaster’s Children by Emma Sloley (Little A; 11/5)
An interesting take on the dystopian novel where characters have been prepping for the end of the world. It touches on socioeconomics and who ‘deserves’ to survive the apocalypse. Sloley’s novel falls in line with the likes of Station Eleven and has a lot of sci-fi crossover appeal.
Jakarta by Rodrigo Marquez Tizano, trans. by Thomas Bunstead (Coffee House Press; 11/5)
A less straightforward dystopian novel that offers glimpses into small moments rather than tackling a sweeping, epic story. It is very abstract and offers a poetic interpretation of our crumbling world.
Big Familia by Tomas Moniz (Acre Books; 11/15)
Not everyone comes of age in their 20s. This explores middle age through the eyes of Juan Gutiérrez, a divorced man sharing custody of his daughter with his ex-wife. He is surrounded by diverse and unique characters who are also searching for some meaning in their lives. Moniz offers tremendously fleshed out characters in such a small amount of pages.
Wyoming by JP Gritton (Tin House; 11/19)
In the 1980s, a man delivers drugs across the sprawling Big Sky landscape to raise a few bucks. That part is easy. The hard part is getting back with the cash. Gritton’s book feels wide open and small at the same time. His sense of location is central to this book, but he also delivers internally with the protagonist’s musings on life.
Adam Vitcavage is the founder of Debutiful. His interviews and criticism have also appeared in Electric Literature, The Millions, Paste Magazine, and more.
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