We all have authors we love, whose books we await each year, but discovering a new author is one of the greatest pleasures for a reader. In recent years, debuts by Gail Honeyman, Heather Morris, Chris Whitaker, Will Dean and Ruth Hogan have introduced five new stars of fiction, amongst many, many others. And with a plethora of debuts releasing in 2019, there will surely be some names for the future. Here, we pick 19 debuts (and a few sneaky extras) to look out for in 2019.
- The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – With Scandi-thrillers continuing to entice readers, those looking for the next big thing will be excited to read the debut novel from the creator of hit TV show The Killing. For those wanting to explore thrillers from elsewhere, Ilaria Tuti’s Flowers Over the Inferno offers the first in a thriller trilogy in the Italian Alps.
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Another thriller to look out for this year, about a wife who shoots her husband five times and never speaks again and the forensic psychologist wanting to uncover the truth. Film rights have already been snapped up. Other debuts of note in the ever-popular genre include The Perfect Wife (Samantha Downing), Mind Games (Leona Deakin), Blood Orange (Harriet Tyce), The Woman Inside (EG Scott), Your Truth or Mine? (Trisha Sakhlecha) and Beautiful Bad (Annie Ward).
- The Whisper Man by Alex North – With endorsement from Mark Billingham, Mike Herron and CJ Tudor, this debut comes with big billing, but it will be up to readers to decide whether it really is ‘the best crime novel of the decade’. Other new voices in crime fiction include Gytha Lodge with She Lies in Wait, Benjamin Stevenson with She Lies in the Vines, Dominic Nolan with Past Life and Merilyn Davies with When I Lost You.
- The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins – a historical fiction debut about a slave-turned-servant who is put on trial for murder at the Old Bailey, this sought-after title promises to be one of this year’s highlights.
- Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili – Better known for his books on quantum physics, Professor Jim Al-Khalili makes his fiction debut in a futuristic sci-fi thriller that’s sure to be at the cutting-edge. Other debuts to stir the imagination include If, Then by Kate Hope Day, My Name is Monster by Katie Hale, Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff and The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt.
- The Binding by Bridget Collins – Young adult author Bridget Collins’s first adult fiction novel claims to be ‘a unique literary event’ full of magic and intrigue set around the art of book binding.
- The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden – Billed as reading group fiction, with a 117-year-old protagonist reminiscing over a life well lived and wanting to remember what it is to love. In a similar vein, readers may seek out The Red Address Book by Swedish author Sofia Lundberg about 96-year-old Doris and When All is Said by Anne Griffin about 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan.
- Hello, My Name is May by Rosalind Stopps – After a stroke, protagonist May is moved to a care home and finds herself unable to communicate when she needs to the most.
- Queenie by Candice Carty Williams – Since last year this novel has been gaining incredible attention and with the eponymous heroine at the helm, this looks set to be a novel we’ll all be talking about.
- Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace – Anyone wanting to chase away the doom and gloom may find solace in Kathryn Wallace’s funny and relatable novel about a single mum trying to negotiate love, life and parenting. In a similar vein, Jo Middleton’s debut Playgroups and Prosecco and Claire Frost’s Living My Best Li(f)e are two more to watch out for.
- M for Mammy by Eleanor O’Reilly – Joining the ranks of brilliant female contemporary fiction authors like Cecelia Ahern, Marian Keyes and Emma Hannigan hailing from the Emerald Isle, Eleanor O’Reilly’s debut offers a great new Irish voice.
- Train Man by Andrew Mulligan – A novel which has thus far largely flown under the radar but which promises much, with its main character on a final train journey, determined today is his last day on earth. Something to Live For by Richard Roper offers a similarly life-affirming tale.
- What Red Was by Rosie Price – At 26, Rosie Price is one of the youngest debutant’s this year but her timely novel about sexual violence and class is set to be one for all ages. Another young gun to look out for is Ocean Vuong who turns his hand to fiction (On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous) after winning the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and finishing up the triumvirate is Katie Lowe with her debut The Furies.
- Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor – Former celebrity agent and publicist, Melanie Cantor delivers a poignant novel that asks if your life is going to end tomorrow, what would you do today? The protagonist’s answer is to write letters to three significant people in her life.
- The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd – A time-slip novel with a protagonist who lives several lives but in each a man called Peter Stanning disappears and Lauren attempts to find him.
- The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer – Scharer’s debut takes on the story of photographer and, subsequently, war correspondent, Lee Miller, and her tempestuous relationship with Surrealist artist Man Ray that takes readers from the smoky cabarets of Paris to the battlefields of World War Two. Readers looking for an alternative story set in a similar era and context may also seek out Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian.
- The Pact We Made by Layla Alammar – Those looking for fiction from new international voices may consider seeking out Alammar’s debut set in contemporary Kuwait in which protagonist Dahlia faces a choice over which path to take. Elsewhere, Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift offers a glimpse into the lives of three Zambian families, whilst Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, set in Nigeria, is also one to watch, as is Laetitia Colombani’s The Braid.
- The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – Readers wanting a splash of romance in 2019 can look to Beth O’Leary’s quirky debut about two flatmates who share a flat but who’ve never met. Other debuts to soothe the heart include When You Read This by Mary Adkins, Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior, Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke and Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams.
- Syria’s Secret Library by Mike Thomson – I had to squeeze this one non-fiction title into the list, given its bookish theme. Written by World Affairs Correspondent Mike Thomson, the book travels deep into the heart of war-torn Syria to find this one vestige of hope – the secret library.
If you only set one reading resolution this year, make sure you discover at least one new voice in fiction in 2019 – there’s plenty of books to choose from.
By Jade Craddock, Managing Editor of NB Magazine