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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 First Novels
Do you believe a first novel is necessarily recognizable as such, because of, say, an immature development of plot and character, or a pedestrian writing style, or a lack of seasoned wisdom about the world? Try the ones listed and annotated below on for size, all of which were reviewed in Booklist over the past year.
Bitter Sweets. By Roopa Farooki. St. Martin’s, $24.95 (0-312-36052-6).
This sparkling debut follows three generations of a family caught up in a web of its own deceit; the vibrant characters leap off the page and straight into the imagination in this clever and intricate novel set in India and London.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. By Junot Díaz. Riverhead, $24.95 (1-59448-958-0).
The author’s short story collection, Drown (1996), made this young Dominican American a literary star; his long-anticipated first novel, a spectacular reward for those who waited, is a family saga set in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey.
De Niro’s Game. By Rawi Hage. Steerforth, $23.95 (1-58195-223-6).
East meets West in this stunning first novel, yielding a totally fresh perspective on war-torn Beirut; both terse and lyrical, this story is a wonder.
The Headmaster Ritual. By Taylor Antrim. Houghton, $24 (0-618-75682-5).
This bitingly funny first novel explores the consequences when history PhD Dyer Martin (who has gone stagnant in a stint at a commercial real-estate firm) badly blunders on the job.
The Killing Jar. By Nicola Monaghan. Scribner, $24 (9780743299688).
This gritty take on the English underclass is a gripping coming-of-age tale about teenager Kerrie-Ann, who was dealing drugs by 10 years of age.
Lost City Radio. By Daniel Alarcón. HarperCollins, $24.95 (0-06-059479-9).
This Lima-born writer’s first novel is a marvel of concision; the wife of a missing man channels her grief into an immensely popular radio show dedicated to the disappeared, displaced, and disconnected.
The Ministry of Special Cases. By Nathan Englander. Knopf, $25 (9780375404931).
This long-awaited first novel by Englander, the author of the widely applauded short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (2000), is a staggeringly mature work set in Argentina in the 1970s, during the so-called dirty war, when the military regime turned against its own people.
Petropolis. By Anya Ulinich. Viking, $24.95 (9780670038190).
This coming-of-age novel, a brave blend of satire, farce, and heartwarming realism, follows the adventures of a Russian girl who travels from her native land to various U.S. cities.
Skylark Farm. By Antonia Arslan. Tr. by Geoffrey Block. Knopf, $23.95 (1-4000-4435-9).
Retired professor Arslan’s first novel, based on the experiences and using the names of her family, conjures the terrible, deliberate extermination of Armenians in 1915 with consummate art.
Strange as This Weather Has Been. By Ann Pancake. Shoemaker & Hoard, paper, $14.95 (9781593761660).
By tracing the devastating impact of coal mining through the eyes of a woman with four children, Pancake’s powerful debut evinces a poetic pathos and authentic respect for the land and the people who love it.
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