MLA Platinum Award Press Release

It's always exciting to encounter a debut novel that you really love. It's a great experience to be there from the beginning and then follow an author over the course of their career, watching their voice evolve and seeing how they might choose to experiment with different genres or themes in their writing. Reading a debut with your book club can be especially fun because you get to have this experience together. You might even talk about where you see the author going in the future, or what you'd like them to write next.

Here are five debut novels that have recently been released in paperback, all of which received glowing reviews on BookBrowse. We have reading guides available for each and we're discussing two of them in our own online book club so you can compare and contrast your club's thoughts with ours.


The Beekeeper of Aleppo

The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri



Paperback Jun 23, 2020. 352 pages. Published by Ballantine

Author Christy Lefteri worked at a refugee center in Athens, Greece, where she met numerous people fleeing the civil war in Syria. She drew from this experience to write The Beekeeper of Aleppo, about a husband and wife making the perilous journey from Syria to England. In addition to the tangible dangers, the couple are haunted by the trauma of the things they've seen and experienced. It's a realistic and deeply insightful rendering of the refugee crisis that ultimately allows for a gleam of hope.

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Miracle Creek

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim



Paperback Apr 2020. 368 pages. Published by Picador

Angie Kim's debut, winner of the Edgar Award for best new novel, is about a group of people drawn together by their connection to an experimental and controversial new medical procedure. The plot centers around the aftermath of a terrible accident related to the procedure, and much like Christy Lefteri, Kim draws on her professional experience as a former lawyer. This one is sure to spark some intense discussions in a book club, as the novel addresses questions about medical ethics, parenting, immigration, and a wealth of other interesting topics.

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Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth
by Julia Phillips



Paperback Apr 2020. 272 pages. Published by Vintage

A National Book Award finalist, this novel is set in Russia's remote Kamchatka Peninsula and narrates the reverberating effects of the disappearance of two young girls on the tight-knit community. The abduction of the girls is the driving force of the plot, making this something of a thriller, but the book is perhaps most notable for the subtle emotional resonance depicted in the impact on the other residents of the town, the women in particular. Book clubs will be riveted by the twists and turns this story takes and by the poignant depiction of the inner lives of the women.

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The Old Drift

The Old Drift
by Namwali Serpell



Paperback Mar 2020. 512 pages. Published by Vintage

Namwali Serpell's vivid generational saga dominated the Best of the Year lists when it came out in 2019. It follows three families over the course of more than a century in the country now known as Zambia. The families' stories intertwine in remarkable ways over the years, and Serpell's prose and magical-realist tinged narrative elements are absolutely stunning. The history of the region is threaded through the plot effortlessly as well, so it's as informative as it is enchanting.

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A Woman Is No Man

A Woman Is No Man
by Etaf Rum



Paperback Feb 2020. 368 pages. Published by Harper Perennial

Like The Old Drift, this one appeared on numerous Best of the Year lists in 2019, including BookBrowse's own list of the Top 20 Books of the Year, chosen by our subscribers. Etaf Rum's debut is the story of three generations of Palestinian women from the same family with vastly different experiences and different levels of autonomy. The women are in many ways inhibited by their cultural upbringings, but each possesses an inner strength and determination that is palpable on the page. The novel is fueled by a secret that, when revealed, upends the entire family dynamic. This one should inspire plenty of debate about cultural and familial loyalties and how one reconciles the past with the present.

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