Can’t-miss debut books you should read this January

Every month, Debutiful selects can’t-miss books from debut authors that readers will love. You can find more recommendations here.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff (January 3; Ballantine)

Fans of “Goodbye, Earl” by The Chicks will love this complex tale of female friendship, dead husband rumors, and pitch-perfect humor. Shroff nails the absurd reactions strong, independent women get from society.

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Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks (January 10; Algonquin)

Set during the beginning of the civil rights movement in 1950s Alabama, Minnicks creates a timely, uplifting story of the beautiful complexities of being Black in America. The turmoil her characters overcome isn’t specific to a time period. They’re an ongoing battle Black men and women face today.

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Night Wherever We Go by Tracey Rose Peyton (January 3; Ecco)

A haunting piece of historical fiction that follows six enslaved women in Texas. Peyton masterfully created a cast of memorable characters with unique voices readers won’t soon forget.

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The New Life by Tom Crewe (January 3; Scribner)

In this tender book set in the late-1800s, love and sex are on display and under the microscope. Forbidden love swirls through the pages with richness ad honesty.

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The Dream Builders by Oindrila Mukherjee (January 10; Tin House)

A kaleidoscope of characters narrates this story of tragedy and grief. Mukherjee understands how to make characters leap off the page.

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In The Upper Country by Kai Thomas (January 10; Viking)

In his historical fiction novel, Thomas plays with form as readers learn about Canadian slavery, land ownership, and the Underground Railroad. Told from the perspective of two women interviewing each other, this is the perfect book for historical fiction buffs as well as readers who enjoy modern, fragmented storytelling.

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The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley (January 10; Soft Skull)

If you need a laugh after the last few years, Cauley’s dark comedy about doomsday preppers is what you need this winter. She’s a former lawyer turned comedy writer (ever heard of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah?) and her knowledge of both worlds and skillsets is on full display on every page. She expertly tackles the seriousness the preppers feel as well as the hilarious reactions everyone else has.

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I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marissa Crane (January 17; Catapult)

Crane meditates on queer love and the government’s relationship with our bodies and children in this fragmented novel that is filled with beautiful passage after beautiful passage. It’s a masterclass is gorgeous writing that sings while also punching you in the gut. Expect to read a novel like you’ve never experienced before and walk away feeling changed forever.

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Please Report Your Bug Here by Josh Riedel (January 17; Henry Holt)

Riedel’s literary techno novel is exhilarating. It takes our fear of the big evil tech company and makes it scarily realistic as characters get sucked into metaverse worlds we never knew existed. It’s a surreal expose of the tech world with sharp wit and a lot to say. It’s the novel for everyone who hates [insert social media brand here] but still uses it because we’re trapped in an addictive and dependent relationship with it.

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Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey (January 17; William Morrow)

Many novels have been dubbed the next Bridget Jones and Heisey’s hilarious and heartfelt novel holds up to that label. Funny and tender, this is the cozy novel to kick your year off on the right foot.

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Judas Goat by Gabrielle Bates (January 24; Tin House)

This is the first-ever poetry collection that Debutiful has recommended. The words leap off the page. Bates will be a lasting voice in the modern poetry landscape.

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River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer (January 31; Berkley)

Billed as soulful and powerful, this historical fiction set in the Caribbean looks like it will be an amazing read for people who loved Maisy Card’s stellar 2020 debut These Ghosts Are Family.

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Disclosure: Debutiful is an affiliate of where your purchases support local bookstores. Debutiful will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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