It’s tough out there for a debut author, but these eight newcomers get nothing but love from us.
Amanda Lee Koe, author of Delayed Rays of a Star
The book: This century-spanning work charts the rise and fall of three of the most famous women of 20th-century cinema: Marlene Dietrich, Anna Mae Wong and Leni Riefenstahl.
The author: At 25, Amanda Lee Koe became the youngest-ever winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for her story collection Ministry of Moral Panic. She is the fiction editor of Esquire Singapore and the editor of the National Museum of Singapore’s film journal, Cinémathèque Quarterly.
For fans of: Novels that place art within the context of history, like The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith.
Read it for: Prose to get lost in, plus a heartfelt tribute to cinema history and the complicated lives of notable women.
Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom
The book: A foul-mouthed, Cheetos-loving crow named S.T. goes on an adventure to save humanity from doom.
The author: Kira Jane Buxton has been previous published in the New York Times, McSweeney’s and more. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with a menagerie: three cats, a dog, two crows and plenty of hummingbirds.
For fans of: All creatures great and small, as well as funny fantasy authors like Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and David Wong.
Read it for: A totally fresh take on the apocalypse, peppered with hilarious philosophical discourse and a fascinating, imaginative animal world.
Elizabeth Macneal, author of The Doll Factory
The book: An intricate web unfolds in 1851 London, where an aspiring artist is stalked by a creepy taxidermist.
The author: Scotland-born Elizabeth Macneal is a potter based in East London. She won the Caledonia Novel Award for this debut.
Read it for: A darkly beautiful exploration of the razor’s edge between creation and destruction.
Tope Folarin, author of A Particular Kind of Black Man
The book: The son of Nigerian parents—including a mother who shows signs of mental illness—grows up in a very white Utah in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
The author: A Nigerian-American author based in Washington, D.C., Tope Folarin won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing and was recently named to the Africa39 list of the most promising African writers under 40.
Read it for: Acrobatics in structure and pacing, meditations on memory, layers upon layers to unravel and a sharp perspective of the social structures in white and black communities.
Sarah Elaine Smith, author of Marilou Is Everywhere
The book: In northern Appalachia, a 14-year-old girl tries to escape a bleak life by slipping into the place left behind by an affluent teen who has gone missing.
The author: Sarah Elaine Smith holds two MFAs: fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and poetry from the Michener Center for Writers.
For fans of: Novels that delicately balance the brutal and the beautiful, like Julie Buntin’s Marlena.
Read it for: A mesmerizing blend of dream and reality, wrapped in a palpable love of language and plenty of suspense.
Natalie Daniels, author of Too Close
The book: Connie has found a new friend in fellow mom Ness. But jump forward in time, and Connie has been institutionalized for a crime, and her disturbing story sounds strangely familiar to her psychiatrist. Is Ness at the heart of this tale of madness and toxicity?
The author: Natalie Daniels is a pseudonym for London-based actor and screenwriter Clara Salaman.
Read it for: Entertaining thrills and a perceptive exploration of the way women’s relationships are portrayed in fiction.
Chanelle Benz, author of The Gone Dead
The book: A multiracial woman returns to her childhood home in Greendale, Mississippi, to reckon with weary prejudices and the truth of her father’s death.
The author: Chanelle Benz’s 2017 story collection, The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead, was long-listed for the 2018 PEN/Robert Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Benz lives in Memphis and teaches at Rhodes College.
Read it for: An actor’s ear for dialogue, flawless directorial vision and the many sprawling, tension-building perspectives of the American South.
Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic Velocity
The book: It’s 1964, and the space race is in full swing. The Soviet launch program seems to be a success, but it’s a ruse. Instead, the program relies on twins: The cosmonaut twin perishes, while the living twin survives on Earth, assuming the life of their deceased sibling.
The author: Zach Powers is the author of Gravity Changes, an award-winning short story collection. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, and works with the Writer’s Center in Maryland.
For fans of: Original alternate histories and juicy tales of Soviet secrets.
Read it for: The psychological burden placed on the twins who are selected to survive.