Each month, Debutiful will recommend a handful of buzzworthy and under-the-radar debut books for you to read.
As the world turns its attention to America’s upcoming election and the book community begins to focus in on award season, debut books continue to be released. This month, some smaller presses are putting out crackerjacks of books. The stories feature memorable characters from a secretly gay college football player to a man who lost the love of his life. Check out the books below if you need escape from the horrid reality 2020 has turned into.
Sybelia Drive by Karin Cecile Davidson (Braddock Avenue Books; 10/6)
A small town in Florida during the Vietnam War is the setting for this kaleidoscopic coming of age story. The three main characters have a lot in common with those on The Wonder Years but is more airy than that show. Still, it is a refreshing book that book clubs can enjoy and dissect.
The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories by Caroline Kim (University of Pittsburgh Press; 10/6)
This collection is the winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and features storties about Korean Americans grappling with their Korean heritage. The title story is one of the best single short stories I have read in such a long time. It is a must read for any fan of literature.
After Elias by Eddy Boudel Tan (Dundurn; 10/6)
The author describes this as a modern queer tragedy. From the very first pages, readers can get a sense of dread hanging over the book. A man’s fiancé dies in the days before their wedding. From there, he must learn to live after everything he ever loved was taken away from him. It is a very internal book perfect for a somber autumn day.
The Redshirt by Corey Sobel (University of Kentucky Press; 10/13)
A queer college student navigates the homophobic bubble of his football team in Sobel’s debut. The provides a very direct narration that makes this a very easy read even though there are heavy moments in this young man’s life. It reminded me a lot of The Art of Fielding, but set on the gridiron instead of the baseball diamond.
The Lost Shtetl by Max Gross (HaperVia; 10/13)
Fans of Michael Chabon will enjoy this debut novel from the Editor-in-Chief of the Commercial Observer. Set in a small Polish village that no one knew existed until now, the book explores what happens when a Jewish community is suddenly exposed to the horrors of the world it had missed out on. Shtetl feels almost like an alt-history but Gross weaves in realism with ease. This is an extremely timely and vital read for anyone interested in modern Jewish relations.
High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann, trans. by Anne Posten (Catapult; 9/15)
Kampmann’s award-winning debut novel came out in September to rave reviews. It is set on an oil drilling platform when a man discovers his bunkmate has gone missing. What follows is an emotional journey of a grief-stricken man written with poetic prose. Kampmann has had a storied career as a poet, but this novel really takes her skills to another level.