6 debut books you should read this February

Each month, Debutiful will recommend a handful of buzzworthy and under-the-radar debut books for you to read.

February is jam-packed with debut book releases. To be honest, this list was almost expanded from the traditional six recommendations. However, I decided to buckle down and pick the six that spoke to me. I’m still in the middle of one book and it is the honorary seventh recommendation.

That book is Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham. I’ll hopefully have an interview up with the author once I finish the book.

The six books selected feature Brandon Taylor’s Real Life. The author, who is a staff writer for LitHub and a Recommended Reading editor at Electric Literature, will be my guest on February’s podcast episode. Subscribe now to be the first to hear it on February 18.

In addition to that book, there is a wide diversity of books ranging from one that was already released abroad to a gripping story collection.

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland (Tin House; February 4)

Part memoir, part biography, part historical undertaking. Shapland discovered love letters between the famed author and a mysterious woman. The book follows that journey of piecing together a narrative lost to time while reflecting on her own personal evolution. It’s easy to throw out genre-bending when describing a book. This one actually bends and almost breaks what a novel can do.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (Random House; February 4)

Set in the maze of tight streets in India, this novel follows three teens as they try to discover what happened to a missing classmate. It subverts typical missing teen tropes and focuses more on the culture that has shaped these youngsters. Anappara has a background in journalist and her ability to tell a gripping story is on display from the very first pages of this novel.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (Dutton; February 4)

About a young Nigerian girl who strives for a better education, the story subvert’s typical coming-of-age tropes and leans into realistic missteps and victories. Daré gives readers memorable characters in a vivid world that we rarely have access to. The story of education in Africa is an important one and the book doesn’t let down the children t represents. The Girl With the Louding Voice is can’t miss debut novel about fighting for your deepest desires and and dreaming of a better world. 

I Know You Know Who I Am by Peter Kispert (Penguin; February 11)

Stories about the mundane but also about the fantastic moments in life. Kispert dissects characters’ wants and desires with such precision that reading many of these stories felt like a morning out drinking coffee with friends. Then there are off-kilter stories that turn the collection on its head. His ability to shock and awe in the most subtle ways truly make this a standout collection.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead; February 18)

The emotional intimacy in Taylor’s debut is completely gripping from the first page to the last. His story is about a graduate student transplanted from Alabama to a Midwestern university as he grapples with love, friendship, pain, and belonging. The subtle observations on life and how it the anxieties of being lost and confused in your late-20s manifest, allow readers to sit with a moment for a long time, reflecting on the character’s pain, but also our own. He pushes us to question our own desires through beautiful prose and thoughtful revelations page after page. Simply put, the book is brilliant, and will be talked about in literary circles for years to come.

Home Making by Lee Matalone (Harper Perennial; February 18)

As the title implies, this is about about home. What does home mean? Where is home? Why do we need a home? Not the physical house, but the symbolic home we all grow in. The story moves back and forth in time and between locations. Matalone’s prose elevates the novel. There is beauty on every page as she reflects on the world around the characters. Her observations are pitch perfect.

You can purchase any of these books at BookShop.org, which supports local, independent bookstores.

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