Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top Ten Book Debuts

The Broke and the Bookish inquire: what are some of your favorite debuts by authors?

In no particular order...and bear in mind these are just the first ten authors I thought of that qualified.

1. Syrup, Max Barry
Max Barry loves to satirize corporate America, and this take on advertising and marketing may be his best novel.

2. Life in a Medieval City, Frances and Joseph Gies

Before seeing this book in the store a few years ago, my perception of the medieval era was that of William Manchester's: the Middle Ages were a long, bleak time in which nothing besides war ever happened. As I found out through this book and later studies, the medieval epoch had a life of its own, albiet not as philosophically rich or politically stable as the Roman period.

3. Stiff, Mary Roach

Mary Roach started a series of books incorporating interesting science, humor, and gruesome detail with Stiff, which I read in late September and enjoyed far more than was appropriate, given this was a book about the uses of dead people.

4. A Stitch in Time, Andrew Robinson

Andy Robinson's debut novel is remarkable for being the first Deep Space Nine novel set after the end of the television series, but is notable as well for being penned by the actor who portrayed the mysterious Mr. Garak -- plain, simple Garak, an ordinarily tailor and not in any way connected to the fearsome intelligence agency of Cardassia, the Obsidian Order.

5. The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

This is, as far as I know, Dawkins' first published book, and one that still informs my science reading. While the book's focus is a gene-centered view of evolution, he also coins the word 'meme' to describe ideas which are passed from person to person and change over time: a 'meme' is the building block of cultures. Meme has become a very popular word: how many Facebook and Blogger quizzes, surveys, and games have been labeled as such?

6. Barefoot Boy with Cheek, Max Shulman

Bareboot Boy is not the first Shulman novel I read, though it's the only other Shulman work I've read that comes close to matching the brilliant wit of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. It's a satire of college life, particularly liberal-arts academica, and so delightfully silly that even reading my comments on it amuses me.  Good memories.

7.  Redwall, Brian Jacques
This was my first epic fantasy novel,  one that introduced the world of Mossflower to me. I'd never read a story like it before, and even though I probably haven't read it in a decade, I can still remember how many little stories it contained inside the greater narrative.

8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling

I've read the series several times now, listened to the audiobooks once, and have watched the movies...more times than I can count. None of them capture the charming magic of the Potterverse the way the original does, and I suppose none could -- since it's as new to Harry as it is to the reader, and we enjoy the wonder through his eyes.

9. In the Forests of the Night, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Rhodes wrote this book, one of my very favorite fantasy titles, when she was fifteen. 

10. The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner.

Though the four siblings (Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny) later made a series of solving mysteries,  the first book reads more like an adventure. Four orphans decide to run away on their own, rather than stay with their grandfather, whom they think to be very mean. They find an abandoned boxcar in the woods and make a home of it.  This story enthralled me as a kid -- I loved reading about how they cooked for themselves and did their own laundry. 

-- Questionable Bonus -- 

11. Avatar, S.D. Perry

I'm cheating here, as Avatar is not Perry's first work. It is, however, her first contribution to Star Trek literature and it initiated and gave shape to the entire Deep Space Nine relaunch, which was an unprecedented "eighth season in book form" with rich characters and a continuity of its own. Other relaunches followed in DS9's -- and Perry's -- footsteps. While the Relaunch decision was probably made by the editors, Perry made it work. 


  1. That’s great that you included Life in a Medieval City. I’ve also read Life in a Medieval Castle and enjoyed them both!

  2. Loved the Boxcar children growing up and I've heard only good things about Mary Roach. I should give her books a try.

  3. I love Stiff, I laugh when I think about it. Can you imagine writing a book about cadavers and then having people adding it to lists like this one. Ha!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog.
    My Head is Full of Books


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