The Best Books of 2013? Part 2: Debut Authors

Last week I posted: The Best Books of 2013? Part 1: Authors We Know and Love

This time it is the turn of new authors. Here are the 2013 releases that caught my eye:

Note: UK release month shown, date may be different in other countries.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Hutchinson, January

This book has been getting lots of praise in the US, with Oprah picking it as one of her books of the year. It is about one woman struggling to raise her children in 20th century America. It sounds like an emotional read.


Y by Marjorie Celona

Faber and Faber, January

This book follows a baby abandoned on the steps of the YMCA. It promises to uncover the true meaning of identity, family and the place we call home. I love books that provide more questions than answers!

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Hodder and Stoughton, January

This quirky book about a teenage boy sounds very entertaining. It questions our moral judgement and claims to be “one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you’ve ever read.” I hope it lives up to my expectations!

The Mussel Feast

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

Peirene Press, February
I am a massive fan of Beside the Sea, so when Meike from Peirene Press let me know that The Mussel Feast should also appeal to me I added it straight to my wishlist. It is described as a poignant yet hilarious narrative with a brilliant ending. Perfect!

Amity & Sorrow

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Tinder Press, March

A story about God, sex, and farming. It is described as having dark shades, similar to Room, and has been getting a lot of positive early reviews. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.


Butter by Erin Lange

Faber, March

This YA novel about an over-weight boy who pledges to eat himself to death live on the Internet sounds like a cutting edge analysis of our society. I hope that it has cross over appeal to the adult market as it sounds very intriguing.

The Coincidence Authority

The Coincidence Authority by JW Ironmonger

W&N, March

I’m always attracted to authors that are compared to David Mitchell. This book is said to combine Mitchell’s ideas with the warmth of David Nicholls. It also deals with coincidence. Sounds perfect for me.

Ghana Must Go

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

Viking, April

Taiye Selasi is a protégé of Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie, so this multi-generational drama spanning three continents has a lot to live up to. I hope it meets my high expectations.

Telling the Bees

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh

Oneworld Publications, April

An eighty-something beekeeper discovers the murdered body of his neighbour. This sounds as though it could be a very entertaining book.

The Hive

The Hive by Gill Hornby

Little, Brown, May

Set around a school this book concentrates on the relationship between the mums. It is said to be a fascinating and subtle story about group politics and female friendship. I see complex interactions taking place every time I drop my boys off at school so am interested to see how this story pans out.

Dirty Work

Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston

Jonathan Cape, June

Last year I listened to (and loved) the dramatised version of Direct Red, Gabriel Weston’s memoir of the years she spent pursuing a surgical career. Dirty Work is her debut novel and it centres on a doctor who performs abortions. I can see this being controversial, thought provoking and emotional – just the way I like them!





Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

Picador, July

This book has an unusual concept that grabbed me straight away. It revolves around a woman who wants to commit suicide, but doesn’t want anyone to know she is dead. In order to keep her secret she hires someone to maintain her online profile. This person must first learn everything there is to know about her and then keep the secret for as long as possible. It isn’t going to end well, is it?!

Other books to look out for:

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman Picador, January

First Novel by Nicholas Royle Jonathan Cape, January

Intermission by Owen Martell William Heinemann, January

White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse Fig Tree, April

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole Hutchinson, August

Do you like the sound of these books?

Which 2013 books are you looking forward to?

31 replies on “The Best Books of 2013? Part 2: Debut Authors”

I ordered the US edition of ‘The Twelve Tribes of Hattie’ from the Book Depository a couple of days ago so hope to read that one very soon. ‘Ghana Must Go’ particularly catches my eye from that list too, as does ‘Amity and Sorrow’. ‘The Universe Versus Alex Woods’ though seems to have borrowed its cover from the US edition of ‘Harold Fry’ which isn’t doing much to excite me!

I read Marjorie Celona’s ‘Y’ back in September – a solid 3 or 3.5 stars for me – it’s a book I would classify as a “promising debut”. It is a compelling read and Celona is particularly strong at voice – the way the girl’s voice matures as the book progresses, becoming quite sarcastic and judgemental as she hits her teens, is especially good, and then there is a letter from another character where the voice is completely different (a bit Willy Vlautin-ish) and believable. But, for me, parts of the book strayed dangerously close to sentimental TV Movie territory and the ending – although it felt right for the story – was far too neat. I liked it though and am looking forward to seeing what she writes next.

David, I’ve got a proof copy of ‘The Twelve Tribes of Hattie’ and hope to read it over Christmas. Let’s hope we both enjoy it.

I don’t think the covers of Alex Woods and Harold Fry are similar, but perhaps your illustrator’s eye sees things I don’t. Harold Fry is lovely warm humps of grass; Alex Woods is one dark cone. Some covers are far more similar.

Sorry to hear that ‘Y’ didn’t excite you that much. I hope I have more luck with it.

Don’t get me wrong – I thought ‘Y’ was good and very readable and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. I just thought there were some things about it that came close to not working, but what she gets right (the voice of the narrator especially) she really gets right. I hope you enjoy it and I’ll look forward to reading what you make of it.

Re: the covers. No, they’re not that alike I admit. But I often get briefs from publishers where they say ‘we want the cover to look a bit like this’ (accompanied by a picture of a pre-existing cover, usually to a very successful book aimed at the same market). It probably isn’t the case here as one is a US cover and one a UK, but that was what I immediately thought of when I saw it. Publishers want the reader to subconsciously connect the two books (I liked that, so I’ll like this). As an example a few years ago I did the cover for Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s ‘I Do Not Come to You By Chance’ and the brief I was given was that it should look like the cover of ‘The White Tiger’, because they thought there were similarities and the two books would appeal to the same readers. I understand it as a marketing tool, but I find it makes for some boring covers so I suggested something different and more Nigerian-looking which they went for. Though I did notice when the book was re-released in B format that they had gone for a more ‘White Tiger’-ish cover (and I must say, much nicer than mine)!

Diane, I look forward to seeing what you think of them. Hattie is the first on my list, but I’ve just started A Suitable Boy so it might be a while before I get to anything else!

I hope that all of these end up on your favorites list next year! So many sound so original, I made a note to look out for them. It’s lovely to see so much inspiration out there!

The Willoughby Book Club,
So many authors have been compared to David Mitchell and so far none have matched him. Hopefully this will be the first to get close.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie sounds like something I’d enjoy. Also Y, The Coincidence Authority, The Hive and Kiss Me First. I’d read those if I got my hands on them. The others, I’ll wait for your reviews!

I’d also want to suggest The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz (February). Link: I’ve got an paper ARC of this book and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

I’m particularly looking forward to the Taiye Selasi book. As far as others in 2013, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the MAN Asian longlistees find English publishers, notably Uzma Aslam Khan’s ‘Thinner Than Skin’, which I think (based on your previously stated preference for long, immersive reads – ie. Rafik Schami!) might be right up your street.

I’ve recently read How to be a Good Wife – my review is up on my blog at the moment, would love to know what you think – and I thought it was a cracking good read. I love the sound of Kiss me First too. There are many here I hadn’t heard of yet though, thanks for highlighting them.

Lindsay, I saw your review and am really pleased to see you enjoyed it so much. We seem to share a reading taste so I’ll ensure I read it at some point. Glad you found my list useful.

Looks like many more I need to add to my list. I am looking forward to The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. I’ve just read about them today and they sound like ones to add to my list for 2013!

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