12 can’t-miss debut books you should read in October

Each month, Debutiful helps readers discover debut authors who are releasing can’t-miss books!

When They Tell You To Be Good by Prince Shakur (Tin House; October 4)

This memoir of trauma, identity, and race will move you. Move you to tears. Move you to action. Shakur’s exploration of self is revelatory. He is the voice for readers forgotten by publishing.

Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong (Catapult; October 4)

Wong’s book follows two generations of Asian-American activists and examines how they view the world, enact change, and work to find common ground. It’s heartbreaking, but at times hilarious. The book knocks down stereotypes given to a community by the media and invites readers in with open arms. It’s a book America has needed for a very long time.

Jackal by Erin E. Adams (Bantam; October 4)

Jackal is a thoughtful take and welcome addition to the “young girl goes mission” canon. It’s part detective thriller and part horror that is one of the most thought-provoking commentary one race and social class of the year.

Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn (Knopf; October 4)

Quinn has produced a peculiar and sensational historical novel about a young heroine readers will not soon forget. If you’re looking for a novel where a woman transforms into a headstrong leader, this novel is for you.

The Enhancers by Anne K. Yoder (Meekling; October 4)

Yoder’s prose is outstanding as she unravels a modern coming-of-age story tinged with some science fiction. The central question is how can we change our memories for better or worse. There’s something haunting in this book that isn’t overtly unsettling, but enough to make you question enough about our reality.

If Falls Gentry All Around by Ramona Reeves (UPitt Press; October 4)

The stories in this linked collection explore memorable characters in Mobile, Alabama. They deconstruct what the American Dream means and while the stories build off one another, they are masterfully crafted to stand alone.

The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler (MCD; October 4)

In this near-future technothriller, a scientist aims to research a highly intelligent species of octopus. The plot bobs and weaves while readers keep guessing what this discovery truly means for humankind.

Daughters of the New Year by E.M. Tran (Hanover Square; October 11)

Tran has created a mesmerizing story about modern women in a Vietnamese immigrant family as well as bringing their ancestors to life. The layered story allows Tran to brilliantly explores a family history with a unique lens.

Self-Portrait with Nothing by Aimee Pokwatka (Tor; October 18)

This forthcoming literary sci-fi novel is proclaimed to be for fans of David Mitchell and Joanne Harris. By the sounds of it, Emily St. John Mandel readers will gobble this up. Pokwatka’s book follows a reclusive artist who claims her paintings send doppelgangers of the subjects to a parallel universe where they live their own lives.

Singer Distance Ethan Chatagnier (Tin House; October 18)

In this captivating novel, Chatagnier follows a group of scientists trying to communicate with Mars. The science-fiction-tinged debut novel explores the intricacies of human needs with such poignancy. Singer Distance perfectly blends genres throughout the page-turning plot.

When We Were Sisters Fatimah Asghar (One World; October 18)

Asghar is an outstanding poet and it’s no wonder their debut novel is equally beautiful. The book follows three Muslim sisters as they navigate the world and discover who they are. Asghar’s lyrical writing sings on every page.

Heretic by Jeanna Kadlec (Harper; October 25)

Yes, the plot of Kadlec’s memoir about breaking away from the Evangelical church is enough to draw readers in. However, it’s the brilliant writing and insight that makes this book one of fall’s best memoirs. Kadlec’s criticism and introspection is superb.

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