Arts & Writing Craft & Culture Professor Wu's Rulebook

Debut books to read in 2022

Make 2022 the year you resolve to reading and supporting books by new debut writers.

In his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican, Galileo Galilei observes that books have an uncanny power to transport us, across time and space, into the mind of another person.

The power of reading is what draws us to this quiet, contemplative – and often beautiful – act; but where should one actually start? When you bookshelves are full to bursting with books you haven’t yet read, or if you’ve read them all and don’t know where to turn next, what book should you pick up?

It can be quite a commitment, which book you read and when. So, for 2022, we’ve made it a New Year resolution to support new writers by committing to reading more books by debut authors. In the list below, you’ll find some of our recommendations – but we’re the first to admit that it’s far from exhaustive. So, if you’re a debut author yourself, or if you’ve uncovered a new fabulous book by a debut writer and think it deserves a place on this list, please let us know in the comments or by getting in touch!

Assembly, by Natasha Brown

Published by Hamish Hamilton, Brown’s first book is remarkable both for its size (it’s a slim volume of around 100 pages or so), but also for just how much impact every single word within those pages has. As noted in The Elements of Style, what matters above all else in writing is that “every word tells”, and boy, does this book tell a stunning, vivid, and beautiful story. At it’s heart, it is a brilliantly compressed, existentially daring study of a high-flying Black woman negotiating the British establishment – and is the exact sort of fiction we all need in our lives. Check it out via Amazon (or all good bookstores)

A hundred years to Arras, by Jason Cobley

On a painful, freezing Easter Monday in 1917, Private Robert Gooding Henson of the Somerset Light Infantry is launched into the Battle of Arras. In the pages of the unfolding debut novel, Cobley delivers a simply stunning story, beautifully told. It is very hard to write about something as “big” as the Great War; yet Cobley shows some impressive writing talent in the way he’s able to bring us into the world and the characters. Beautiful and at times meditative language also help lift the book up and place it right up there alongside the very best of war literature. A fantastic reading experience. Check it out via Amazon

Crow Court, by Andy Charman

Charman has a gift for nimble interior monologues and a superb ear for the varieties and vagaries of human speech. It’s often the interior questions that his characters ask themselves that stand out most strongly; “What does God owe you now?” one asks as Crow Court moves to its conclusion. It’s a question that hangs in the air, as well as on the pages of the novel, as though we had asked it ourselves.

Check out our review and then go pick yourselves up a copy!

Cecily, by Annie Garthwaite

Over the course of Garthwaite’s brilliant first novel, titular protagonist Cecily flatters and flirts, she plots and schemes. She also faces an army, bargains for the lives of her children, and endures terrible losses. Garthwaite’s writing is brutal in places, beautiful in others, all powered by her thirty years of research and careful observation. A fantastic book by an excellent new writer. While you’re at it, check out our review with Garthwaite here.

Embers, by Josephine Greenland

Embers is a first novel by Josephine Greenland. A beautifully told mystery that takes place amidst conflict between contemporary Swedes, and Sami reindeer herders who want to preserve their traditional way of life.  Against this backdrop, Embers explores themes of hate crime, prejudice, family relationships and animal cruelty. Reading this book, one can’t help but be drawn into the dark mysteries at its heart, which are mirrored by the dark forests of northern Sweden and the mysticism of Sami folklore. Pick up a copy today.

Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart

Described by many reviewers as “bleak”, there’s very good reason that Stuart’s debut novel won the 2021 Booker Prize for fiction. An unforgettable story of a sweet and lonely young boy (Shuggie Bain) growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s. One to check out.

My Monticello, by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson 

Centuries after Thomas Jefferson set up home at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a few years from now, a group of Black and brown friends, families and strangers from the city’s First Street neighbourhood arrive after fleeing white supremacists. A time of rolling blackouts and turbulent weather, this near-future nightmare plays out over 19 tense days in the former president’s home. Told from the perspective of Da’Naisha Love, a Black descendent of Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, My Monticello is a blistering reflection of today’s society. Buy the book.

The President Show by Costanza Casati

Though author Costanza Casati sets her debut novel in a dystopia, there are very few elements of Iris’s world that do not seem to have an equivalent in ours. People’s sexual relationships are played-out on screen for entertainment. Women portrayed as glamorous and powerful are systematically abused behind the scenes. Hysterical social media posts reported as gospel truth. There are too many enemies to count. There are the other contestants jostling for the top spot, the entitled politicians the Lovers are ordered to ‘entertain’, the bodily imperfections – the cellulite, the wrinkles, the extra few pounds – that are said to hold each contestant back. Read our review here

Philosophers’ Dogs, by Samuel Dodson and Rosie Benson

What if all philosophers stole their ideas from their dogs?

That’s the premise behind this hilarious, beautifully illustrated debut by Nothing in the Rulebook’s own Samuel Dodson and his sister, Rosie Benson. Described by Waterstones as “side splittingly funny”, Philosophers’ Dogs could be treated as a kind of faux serious philosophy 101 text book, rewriting the philosophical work of thinkers from Socrates (ahem, Socrafleas), through Sun Tzu (Sun Shih-tzu), Karl Marx (Karl Barks) and Mary Wollstonecraft (Mary Woof-stonecraft). You’ll come for the philosophy; but you’ll stay for the dog puns.

Check it out via Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, or direct from the award-winning publisher, Unbound.

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