7 Debut Books to Devour

In partnership with our friends at Random House

Readers love a first-timer. And we love this collection of debut memoirs and novels, which encompasses family sagas, a shadowy task force, twisted friendships, São Paulo, difficult history, long-held secrets, and dispelled myths.


  • For an Epic Story

    For an Epic Story

    The Travelers by Regina Porter
    Regina Porter is the kind of writer who can make you understand a complicated character’s essence in a sentence and can carry you across a decade in a page. The Travelers is a sprawling—yet tight and carefully plotted—novel about two interconnected American families (one Black, one White). It begins in the 1950s and ends in 2009. It’s intimate and beautiful. We cried—early on.

  • For Spy-Thriller Afficionados

    For Spy-Thriller Afficionados

    American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
    In the ’80s, Marie Mitchell is a young Black intelligence officer working in her last-choice NYC field office that’s run like an old boys’ club. Her life is a lot of paperwork, until she joins a shadowy task force focused on a charismatic Communist leader. The espionage plot (which is inspired by true events) is absorbing. But equally gripping and surprising is everything else. The romance and seduction. The family drama. The way Wilkinson deftly explores the complexities of her characters’ existence, their politics, their motives, their desires.

  • For the Jaw-Drop

    For the Jaw-Drop

    Everyone Knows How Much I Love You by Kyle McCarthy
    It’s hard to look away from thirty-year-old Rose, who, despite her acute self-awareness, continues to repeat the very behaviors and patterns that have proven to be highly destructive to her life and the lives of the people closest to her. This is a twisted story about envy, longing, and power. The ending is likely to induce a physical jaw-drop.

  • For Something Lush and Strange

    For Something Lush and Strange

    It Is Wood, It Is Stone by Gabriella Burnham
    Linda is a stressed American who moves to São Paulo with her husband, Dennis, after he accepts a yearlong position as a professor there. In São Paulo, Linda is adrift. Two women occupy her thoughts: Marta, her maid, and Celia, a stranger she meets at a bar. In her portrait of Linda, author Gabriella Burnham (a dual citizen of the US and Brazil) explores issues of class and colorism, sexuality, and privilege. It’s destabilizing and intoxicating.


  • For September

    For September

    Carry by Toni Jensen
    Toni Jensen’s memoir will be published on September 8, and it is so very preorder-worthy. Carry traces Jensen’s roots as a Métis woman, her childhood in rural Iowa, her intimate relationships, and her experiences teaching in college classrooms around the country. It also traces the history of Indigenous land and the people who have moved across it and been torn away from it. It’s about violence—the loud kind, the silent kind, the excused kind, the ignored kind, the domestic kind, the systemic kind. It’s striking. (Note: Carry is Jensen’s first memoir, but she published a story collection in 2010 called From the Hilltop.)

  • For Honesty

    For Honesty

    Empty by Susan Burton
    Susan Burton (an editor at This American Life) has spent most of her life obsessed with food, something that no one knew about for most of that time. This is her difficult, honest record of living with anorexia and binge eating disorder. Empty reveals both how our culture has evolved in conversations around food, body image, and shame—and how far we still have to go.

  • For a Reckoning

    For a Reckoning

    Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
    Our chief of staff, Diana Ryu, has excellent taste in books. Here’s what she said about reading Minor Feelings: “Cathy Park Hong knits together untaught US history—with sources—and intimate accounts of her life as an immigrant child. I’ve never felt more seen. As the Black Lives Matter movement crescendos around us, I’ve been reflecting on the detrimental impact of the model minority myth. As Hong writes: ‘the model minority myth was popularized to keep Communists—and Black people—in check. Asian American success was circulated to promote capitalism and to undermine the credibility of Black civil rights…. There’s no discrimination, they assured us, as long as you’re compliant and hardworking.’ Hong’s story is a challenge to American readers to step away from the solipsism of an often toxic Western lens and open up to the potential that what we learned in history class was intentionally abbreviated.”

We hope you enjoy the books recommended here. Our goal is to suggest only things we love and think you might, as well. We also like transparency, so, full disclosure: We may collect a share of sales or other compensation if you purchase through the external links on this page.