The Best Books of 2011? Part 2: Debut/Lesser Known Authors

The BookDepository

Last week I showed you books to look out for in 2011 written by authors you’ve might have heard of. This week it is the turn of ones you probably haven’t.

Here are the books I’m getting excited about!

Note: UK release month shown in brackets.


The Facility by Simon Lelic (January)

Rupture was one of my favourite books of 2010. I’m quite sad that it didn’t receive the recognition it deserved, but I am very excited that his new book comes out in January. I really hope that I’ll be able to persuade lots of people to try Simon Lelic in 2011.

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.The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (March)

Tea Obreht was the youngest author on The New Yorker’s Top 20 Writers under 40 List. This story about a tiger escaping from a Balkan zoo during WWII looks like a cross between The Jungle Book and the most harrowing of war novels. I love the sound of it!

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. The History of History: A Novel of Berlin by Ida Hattemer-Higgins (January)

An American women finds herself in a forest just outside Berlin, clothes torn, with no recollection of what has happened to her. This harrowing story combines the history of Berlin with a bizarre world in which Nazi ghosts manifest themselves as falcons and buildings turn into flesh. If it is as interesting as it sounds then it could well become my book of the year!

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.The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud (March)

This book came from nowhere to become the surprise winner of the 2010 Giller prize. I think it might be too quiet for me, but I know a lot of other people will be excited about its appearance in the UK.  

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 Leela’s Book by Alice Albinia (June)

This book manages to combine India’s great epic, the Mahabharata, with a modern love story. I love books that defy genre and this sounds different enough to be worth trying.

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  How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu (30th December, 2010– it is near enougth to 2011 to count, isn’t it?!)

Dinaw Mengestu’s 2007 debut novel, Children of the Revolution, won the Guardian First Book Award. His new novel is a family history that takes place in war-torn Ethiopia and contemporary America. It is a story of identity and belonging that promises to be heart-breaking. I love a story that requires a box of tissues to be on hand!

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Annabel by Kathleen Winter (March)

Annabel was shortlisted for the 2010 Giller prize  and Canadian readers with a similar taste in books to me are raving about it. I loved Middlesex, the only other book about a hermaphrodite that I’ve read, so I’m intrigued by how this one compares.

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Waterline by Ross Raisin (July)

Ross Raisin’s last book, God’s Own Country,was nominated for eleven awards including the Guardian First Book Award, the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize and the Impac. Rumors are saying that this one is even better. This sounds like a book worth getting hold of.

The Echo Chamber by Luke Williams (May)

Narrated by a woman called Evie with uncannily keen hearing (she could even hear in the womb) it is the story of a childhood in colonial Nigeria, of travels with a lover across America and of Evie’s present-day efforts to record her life and adventures before her powers of listening fade completely …

The Free World: A Novel by David Bezmozgis  (May)

David Bezmozgis was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award in 2004 for his short story collection Natasha and other Stories. Free World, his debut novel, was snapped up in a “substantial five-figure deal”. It centres on Russian émigrés living in Italy in the 1970s and promises to be a comic, but tragic tale about the intensity of family relationships.

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott (April)

From the US and UK publishing teams of The Lovely Bones and Room comes a new novel that promises to be just as moving. It is about a thirteen-year-old girl who goes missing and her best friend who uncovers some dark secrets in a quest to uncover the truth.

Other books to keep an eye out for:

Ours are the Streets by Sunjeev Sahota (January)

Caribou Island by David Vann (January)

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (April)

The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merril Block (May)

Africa Junction by Ginny Baily (June)

Which debut authors are you getting excited about?


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39 Comments

  1. Sandy says:

    Frankly, these books sound better than the ones with more exposure. I would read any of these right now.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I often think that debuts are the best books – they have to be really special for a publisher to take them on. If I could only read one list I’d read this one.

  2. Dan Holloway says:

    VERY excited about The Sentimentalists, Jackie.

    And, after a wonderful year this year launching a micro-press devoted to what I think people are calling New Libertine writing, I am delighted to say we’ll be adding 4 more titles next year by debut authors, 3 of which I can announce – the links are to samples of their writing
    Penny Goring’s NeuroRococo I honestly think is the most exciting book to be released since 2000 – utterly unlike anything else, just a joyous celebration of language and life (here is one of the pieces http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/darklings/)
    Sarah E Melville’s This is Paulie is an astonishing coming of age story consisting entirely of dialogue. (http://eightcuts.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/laura/)
    Robert James Russell’s The Mating Habits of College Girls takes the ground trodden by Brett Easton Ellis and Douglas Coupland and gives it both a modern twist and a heart.

    Charcoal by Oli Johns (http://eightcuts.wordpress.com/collaborate/coming-in-2010/charcoal-by-oli-johns/) counts as a 2011 book because that’s when we’ll be bringing out a special edition – it’s the beautiful story of a twenty-something man’s obsessionwith the suicide of a model on the other side of the world, and his increasingly desperate attempts to figure out if there was anything he, a total stranger, could have done to stop her. It’s like Murakami at his Wind-up Bird Chronicle best

    Cody James’ The Dead Beat (http://eightcuts.wordpress.com/collaborate/coming-in-2010/the-dead-beat-by-cody-james/) was issued last month but we’ll be entering it for a host of 2011 prizes. We’ve been blown away by the reviews – it’s the story of Adam and his group of wastrel friends, desperately trying to make sense – and largely, heartbreakingly but utterly hilariously, failing – of their lives in 1997’s San Francisco, waiting for Hale-Bopp Comet, which just might be some kind of supernatural force that’ll do it for them

    1. Jackie says:

      Dan, They all sound like wonderful books. I really hope that your new press is a success. Good luck with all the book awards :-)

  3. Some great-sounding books here! I wonder though how many -if any- I will read in 2011 … saying that, I already have The Weird Sisters on my wishlist.

    A debut I am excited about: Palo Alto by James Franco.

    1. Just realised that The End of Everything caught my eye & is one I DM interested in reading also.

      1. Jackie says:

        Claire, I hadn’t come across Palo Alto, but film directors tend to write very well paced books. I hope you decide to read it and can let me know if it is worth getting a copy.

        1. It’s already top of the to-be-read list & probably one I’ll take home with me for Christmas. Of course, I fully expect you to let me know if any of the above are books I must read!

  4. FleurFisher says:

    Lots of interesrting possibilities!

    I’m pleased to see a few books from the Giller Prize list being published here. So many books from other English speaking countries seem not to be published here, which is such a pity.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jane, I’m pleased that they are over here so quickly too -normally we have to wait ages for them to finally make it.

  5. sakura says:

    Some very interesting titles there, lots from authors I’ve never come across before. Exciting!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sakura, I’m so pleased that you find them interesting too. Let’s hope they are as good as they look.

  6. Dorte H says:

    I´ll watch out for that one by Megan Abbott. I have only read one of hers – true crime, which I don´t even like – but it was a gripping novel.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, I think Megan Abbott has written a few crime novels, but this book is a departure for her and seems to be more highly regarded. I guess we’ll just have to wait until April to see if that is the case.

  7. Fantastic! I’ve started making my prediction list for the Orange Prize longlist, and I’ve had fun researching the lesser known and new authors more than the usual Orange favorites. Regardless, I love the expectations of new releases and upcoming prize lists!

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, I’d love to know which books are on your list – I’ve been thinking about that too and it would be good to compare notes. Have you got Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty and And this is true by emily mackie on your list? Worth looking into I think ;-)

      1. I started working on a list at work yesterday. I’ll pass it along when I’m back there tomorrow:-)

  8. Brenna says:

    Both The Tiger’s Wife and The History of History sound really great!

    1. Jackie says:

      Brenna, They are my favourites (apart from The Facility of course!) I love the sound of those books – I just hope they are as good as they sound.

  9. Beth F says:

    Weird Sisters is on my list :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I look forward to hearing all about it :-)

  10. I like the look of some of these, Jackie.

    I am looking forward to a book called When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman that I keep reading good things about – due out in March I think. Also, The Leopard by Jo Nesbo and Mary Higgins Clarks new book (woop woop!). Ohhhhh, so many books – when oh when will I have the time to read them all???? Sigh.

    1. Jackie says:

      The Book Whisperer, I think I’ve heard When God Was A Rabbit mentioned before, but haven’t paid much attention. I’ve just looked it up on Amazon and it has some impressive quotes there. The book trailer was quite moving. I think I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks for drawing it to my attention :-)

  11. stujallen says:

    greatr list ,the tigers wife had caught my eye too ,think her youth makes me wonder how she can produce such a well received book ,I bezmogis short stories to read and will get the novel I think ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I have had a problem with younger authors in the past so do worry that her youth might make me less likely to enjoy the book. I’m going to give her a try though :-)

  12. Annabel says:

    I shall be reading ‘The Facility’. Don’t know if I can face ‘Annabel’ though :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, LOL! I know what you mean. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book called Jackie, but I can imagine it would be very strange!

  13. Leela’s Book looks fascinating!

    1. Jackie says:

      LifetimeReader, I’m so pleased that you think so too – let’s hope it is :-)

  14. Amy says:

    Wow great list of books! I’m more interested in books on this list than from your first funny enough. Including Annabel. I so loved that one :) Though I DON’T love the cover on the paperback and international editions at all!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, That UK Annabel cover is so spooky – I agree that the Canadian one is much better.

      I’m glad you found this list interesting :-)

  15. Oooh, I read Rupture and thought it was amazing. Didn’t realise he’s already coming out with a new book.

    Not heard of the others, but will keeping an eye out for your thoughts on them. I’m sure at least a few of them will make their way to the infamous infinite list.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, I’m so pleased that we can promote Simon Lelic together. Perhaps we can hold a Simon Lelic reading week once he’s published a few more books ;-)

  16. Always look forward to these big roundups of yours, Jackie! I’m VERY excited for The Sentamentalists, loyal Canadian that I am, and I’ve already read a proof of The Free World, and loved it.

    1. So excited that I can’t spell Sentimentalists.

    2. Jackie says:

      Lija, It is great that you loved The Free World. It is impossible to know how good any of these books are without reading them, but it is good to know that some are as good as they sound :-)

  17. Andi says:

    These look fantastic!!! I can feel my wishlist growing as we speak.

    I finished The Birth of Love last night and thought of you. Will be writing up my review in the next day or so.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I hope that you enjoyed The Birth of Love as much as I did – I look forward to reading your review :-)

  18. It’s fun to read and support a debut author! I’m reading an ARC of THE WEIRD SISTERS (Eleanor Brown) – fantastic characters and great Shakespearean references (but I don’t need to be an expert on the Bard to enjoy it … )

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