Top Ten Tuesday: Best Debut Novels

Monday, January 31, 2011

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the brilliant bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is "Best Debut Novels".  Having a good debut is a tricky thing.  It can be sort of like a one-hit-wonder phenomenon, or getting the "Best New Artist" award at the Grammy Awards*.  Sometimes the person goes on to have a long, illustrious career (Alicia Keys), and sometimes they don't (anyone else remember Arrested Development?).  I decided for the sake of my list that even if it was the only book that the author wrote, it counted as a debut novel.

*On an unrelated note, while researching the metaphor abovc, I discovered that Bob Newhart won the Best-New-Artist Grammy at the 1961 Grammys.  I'd love to know how that happened!

1.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee-I don't really need to explain this one, do I?

2.  Carrie, by Stephen King-OK, so I sometimes get confused with the timeline for the books written as him and the books written as Richard Bachman, but this is the first novel that was published as him, so I'm going with it.  Carrie was such a sympathetic character that you actually found yourself rooting for her to use her powers and destroy all of those horrible people.  Kind of set me up to be a Dexter fan, I guess...

3.  A Time to Kill, John Grisham-I've read many Grisham books, but none that had the impact (or originality) of A Time to Kill.  Apparently he should have just stopped while he was ahead.  While I enjoyed most of his books, he fell into the "Steele" trap-named after Danielle Steele, mistress of using one plot over and over again by changing the names and settings.

4.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling-Again, I think this is fairly self-explanatory, but This novel was so charming and engaging that for a while I knew way more adults who had read it than children.

5.  The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger-I loved this book so much that I was actually afraid to read her next book for fear that it wouldn't live up to the awesomeness that is TTW.  I'm reading Her Fearful Symmetry right now, and I while I am not quite as caught up in it as I was the love story between Claire and Henry, it is not disappointing me so far.

6.  The Kite Runner, Khaled Hoseini-I think that this, and A Thousand Splendid Suns, are two of the absolute best books of the new century.  Hoseini's writing is a revelation, and the stories are so compelling I don't know how anyone could fail to be engaged and moved.

7.  The Help, Katherine Stockett-Stockett couldn't have asked for a better reception to her first novel.  It's been on several "best books for book clubs" lists, not to mention about every blog I've ever read.  It deserves all of that attention.  I don't remember a book, other than maybe The Secret Life of Bees, that does such a good job spotlighting the effects of racism and oppression on women in the south.

8.  Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger-I heard an interview on NPR this weekend with Pat Conroy talking about an English teacher he had in high school in 1961 who had to fight the school board to get permission to teach this book, and it reminded me all over again how powerful it really is.

9.  The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien-While the Lord of the Rings trilogy might be considered his masterwork, this first novel is so much more accessible, and really helped my fantasy loving teen-age self committed to getting through the other books, despite how dense they sometimes were.

10. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison-While not my favorite of her books, or her best, as a first book this title is pretty remarkable.


  1. I really enjoyed TTW and have yet to read Her Fearful Symmetry.

    The Help was a really good read.


  2. Great list! I'm not sure if I can think of many more than the big examples you did.

  3. Great list--I loved A Time To Kill. It is one of my favorites!

  4. Great list! I am putting mine together right now :-)

  5. These are some awesome picks! Great lists!

  6. Mockingbird is on a lot of lists today.
    Carrie's shown up on quite a few too, I haven't read it either. I love that you include Grisham. I tired of him long ago, but I devoured his first three novels...The Firm was HUGE in its pre-Harry Potter day. I can't believe this is the first I've seen Catcher in the Rye today (another I've yet to read)...and your last two are on my list as well. I reading Beloved now.

  7. @Tony-While many people consider Beloved her best book, I think that Paradise is actually better. That may be the best novel in terms of style and structure I've ever read.

  8. This is one of the best lists I have seen so far. You included so many of my favorites.

    Reading Lark's Top 10

  9. Great choice with A Time To Kill. That was such an amazing, thoughtful book and Grisham hasn't written anything since which can even come close. Also, Carrie was a great book although I liked some of King's later works much better.

  10. I love this list. I usually remember modern debuts, but looking at these older books makes me remember some of my favorite novels from high school and college.


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