Spring 2020's Most Anticipated Debut Books

Check out the newest authors to debut this spring across a variety of genres, including literary fiction, poetry, cooking, fantasy, social sciences, romance, memoir, and more.

Check out the newest authors to debut this spring across a variety of genres, including literary fiction, poetry, cooking, fantasy, social sciences, romance, memoir, and more.

NONFICTION
 

PERFORMING ARTS

Bernard, Maurice.  Nothing General About It: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me on and off General Hospital.  William Morrow & Co. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780062973375.

Actor Maurice Bernard tells all in this touching memoir, from his struggle with bipolar disorder and his relationship with his father, to life on the set of General Hospital and the ups and downs of his marriage.
 

Lehrer, Josh. Hamilton: Portraits of a Revolution. Rizzoli. Apr. 2020.. ISBN 9780789336804.

A reflective look at  Hamilton: An American Musical's vibrant characters and cast, told through the subtle art of portraiture. Recommended for super fans of the musical, but with appeal for anyone who loves Broadway and those interested in Lehrer’s technique. [Robin Chin Roemer, Apr. issue]

 

COOKING

Hooni, Kim.  My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes. Norton. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780393239720.

A rare restaurant cookbook that will work well in a home kitchen, this collection is more refined in flavors and techniques than Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking. [Devon Thomas, Feb. issue]

 

HISTORY

Mask, Dierdre.  The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal about Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power.  St. Martin's Pr. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9781250134769.

Engaging, illuminating, and with highly relevant current subject matter, this book is recommended for all readers, especially fans of popular history and politics. [Margaret Heller, Feb. issue]


Roberts, Lawrence.  Mayday 1971: A White House at War, a Revolt in the Streets, and the Untold History of America's Biggest Mass Arrest.  Hoghton Mifflin. Apr. 2020. ISBN  99781328766724.

Roberts conveys the personal and political impact of a pivotal event in American history in a narrative that will engage readers of the time period and resonate with today’s social justice activists. [ Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Feb. issue]

 

MEMOIR

Kalb, Bess.  Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as Told to Me) Story. Knopf. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9780349013510.

Emmy-nominated TV writer Bess Kalbs shares the collection of voicemails from her late grandmother in a heartfelt reflection on family, relationships, and love after loss.
 

Lane, Rachel.  In the Waves: My Quest To Solve the Mystery of a Civil War Submarine. Dutton. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9781524744151.

This engaging investigative work will intrigue readers of Civil War and naval histories and sleuths of scientific puzzles. [Margaret Atwater-Singer, Feb. issue]
 

Talusan, Meredith. Fairest. Viking. May 2020. ISBN  9780525561309.

Gender, race, and sexuality are all foremost themes throughout the book, and it is a notable read for those particularly interested in these topics. However, Talusan’s account also offers an intensely personal example of how one’s relation to oneself changes over time, making it a compelling story for a wide variety of readers. [Sarah Schroeder, Apr. issue]


RELIGION

Holmes, Jasmine L.  Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope. IVP. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9780830832767.

This sincere, personal account will appeal to parents and church leaders interested in the intersection of social justice and religion. Recommended for all libraries. [Ray Arnett, Mar. issue]

 

SCIENCE

Holland, Eva.  Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear. Experiment. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781615196005. 

Combining anecdotes that document her personal vulnerabilities with tales of outdoor adventure and just enough scientific research, Holland crafts an engaging and unique memoir. Fans of the self-help genre and popular science in the style of Mary Roach will enjoy this debut title. [Ragan O’Malley, Mar. issue]


SOCIAL SCIENCE

Cornejo Villavicencio, Karla. The Undocumented Americans. One World. May 2020. ISBN  9780399592683.

Readers come to see that there is no time for hedging: the personal traumas discussed in the book are compounded by their commonality. A must-read indictment on what it means to be undocumented and what it means to be American. [Sierra Dickey, Apr. issue]
 

Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture. Univ. of North Carolina. Mar. 2020. ISBN 9781469654874.

This exhaustive history will please fans of obscure indie movements, though readers with a more general interest in the groups should try Robert Dean Lurie’s Begin the Begin. [Amanda Westfall, Feb. issue]

 

FICTION
 

GENERAL FICTION

Araghi, Ali. The Immortals of Tehran. Melville House. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781612198187.

A highly recommended literary page-turner worth a second reading; fans of Gabriel García Márquez will delight in this fantastical—and fantastic—work. [Lisa Rohrbaugh, Feb. issue]
 

Cook, Lindsey Rogers. How To Bury Your Brother. Sourcebooks Landmark. May 2020. ISBN 9781728205373.

 Although the title suggests that this is a mystery, it’s actually literary fiction about a particularly dysfunctional Southern family with dark secrets, featuring a woman who confronts hard truths. This is an accomplished, insightful debut ideally suited for book groups, with reading group guide and author interview included. [Michele Leber, Apr. issue]
 

Fossey, Brooke. The Big Finish. Berkley Books. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781984804938.

Fans of Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk and Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will appreciate this delightful romp. Fossey’s debut is destined to become a book club favorite. [Andrea Tarr, Apr. issue]
 

Greaves, Abbie. The Silent Treatment. William Morrow. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9780062933843.

When Frank enters a six-month-long period of selective mutism, his wife Maggie is pushed over the edge. As she's hopitalized, Frank must come to grips with his withdrawal and how far he's willing to go for the relationship and her well-being.
 

Hammer, Alison. You and Me and Us. Morrow. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9780062934857.

Those who love a poignant family drama will tear up as they consider how to navigate life without the one person who makes every day worth living. [See Prepub Alert, 10/14/19.]
 

Hare, Louise. This Lovely City. Anansi International. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781487007058.

A compelling read that, though set 70 years ago, has timely and identifiable themes. Romance, intrigue, and history all come together in this novel that tells a story of hope amidst struggle. [Anne M. Miskewitch, Apr. issue]
 

Hudson, Genevieve. Boys of Alabama. Liveright: Norton. May 2020. ISBN 9781631496295.

Because Max is unfamiliar with the U.S. South, his experiences are described using clichés meant to represent the town’s views on gays, god, football, and liberals, with results that are both unrevealing and off-putting. Not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.; Pamela Mann, Apr. issue]
 

Moloney, David. Barker House. Bloomsbury. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781635574166.

Moloney draws on four years he spent working at New Hampshire’s Hillsborough County Department of Corrections to weave together narratives about a group of corrections officers at an imagined correctional facility. Mostly seasoned veterans (and including one woman), they have well-honed survival and observational skills, with results that aren’t movie-sensational but taut, gritty literature. [Barbara Hoffert]

 

Murray, Martine. The Last Summer of Ada  Bloom . Tin House Books. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781947793613.

Marital secrets, the long days of summer, and the difficulty of finding out how to grow up set the scene for nine-year-old Ada Bloom to discover who she is.
 

Neuberger, Emily. A Tender Thing. Putnam. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9780593084878.

While the writing is a little dry at times, the theme is sure to appeal to fans of musical theater. Readers of Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls or Fiona Davis’s The Chelsea Girls will also enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 10/14/19.]
 

Walker, Harriet. The New Girl. Ballantine Books. May 2020. ISBN 9781984819970.

From the loss of a child to feeling overshadowed in the workplace to being cyber-stalked, this work examines insecurity and fear in a new light.
 

Williams, Ian. Reproduction. Europa Editions. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781609455750.

There is a breathless quality to the novel, and at times Williams appears to take on too much. Nevertheless, this work successfully examines major themes of empathy, responsibility, secrecy, race, multiculturalism, misogyny, and honesty. [Jacqueline Snider, Apr. issue]
 

Wright, Stephen. The Coyotes of Carthage. Ecco: HarperCollins. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9780062951663.

This is an archly comic and ultimately chilling political novel on the effects of the dark money unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on the American political soul as well as on the souls of individuals. Thoughtful, sharp-edged fare for this election year. [See Prepub Alert, 10/14/19.]
 

Zhang, C. Pam. How Much of These Hills is Gold. Riverhead . Apr. 2020. ISBN 9780525537205.

This moving tale of family, gold, and freedom rings with a truth that defies rosy preconceptions. The description of human and environmental degradation is balanced by shining characters who persevere greatly. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/7/19.]

 

ROMANCE

 

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Hogle, Sarah. You Deserve Each Other. Putnam. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9780593085424.

While many have compared this to Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, die-hard fans of that work will be disappointed by the lack of passion here. Those seeking a hate-to-love romance, however, should enjoy, as will admirers of Christina Lauren’s Dating You Hating You.[Jacqueline Rammer, Jan. issue]
 

Morganthaler, Sarah. The Tourist Attraction. Sourcebooks Casablanca. May 2020. ISBN 9781728210483.

Morganthaler’s debut is an utterly delightful romance with humor, small-town high jinks, and protagonists who share great chemistry. [Claire Brown, Mar. issue]

 

Patel, Sajni. The Trouble with Hating You. Forever. May 2020. ISBN 9781538733332.

Liya is set up with a lawyer by her parents and immediately rejects him. However, things take a turn when the two are reunited later as he is hired at her workplace and the must see each other regularly.
 

Santos, Yaffa S. A Taste of Sage. Harper Paperbacks. May 2020. ISBN 9780062974846.

Santos’s debut blends the rare but real condition of synesthesia into a fast-paced if uneven romance. Recipes throughout make this an ideal recommendation for those checking out cookbooks with their romances. [Kellie Tilton, Apr. issue]
 

Tschida, Sam. Siri, Who Am I? Quirk Books. May 2020. ISBN 9781683691686.

When Mia suffers a traumatic brain injury that leaves her with amnesia, she has to piece together her life through using her phone and the social media apps on it. However, in her search for her identity, she comes across evidence that indicates her head wound wasn't an accident.
 

Wilsner, Meryl. Something To Talk About. Berkley Books . May 2020. ISBN 9780593102527.

This debut is an unputdownable slow-burn romance with well-drawn and incredibly real characters. Wilsner does an amazing job exploring a Hollywood love story in the middle of a #MeToo movement. [Kellie Tilton, Apr. issue]
 

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Waters, Martha. To Have and To Hoax. Atria. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781982136116.

Debuter Waters is off to a promising start with a rare historical romantic comedy that is sure to delight fans of either genre. [Kathryn Howe, Jan. issue]

 

HORROR, MYSTERY, THRILLER, & SUSPENSE

 

HORROR

Harrison, Rachel. The Return. Berkely. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9780593098660.

When Julie returns after two years of being missing, her best friend Elise begins to have her suspicions that this new Julie isn't the person she once loved...or even a person at all.
 

Pohlig, Molly. The Unsuitable. Holt. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781250246288.

A weird and bloody ghost story combining the challenges of living with mental illness with body horror that, while set in a gothic world, features a sensibility more akin to the 21st century. Similar in appeal to the psychological suspense of Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger blended with the real-life horror of the abuse the heart of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. [Becky Spratford, Apr. issue]


MYSTERY

Neubauer, Erica Ruth. Murder at the Mena House. Kensington. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9781496725851.

Stunning revelations, romance, adventure, and intrigue abound in this multilayered, delightfully entertaining whodunit. Neubauer’s debut dazzles, with a smart plot, remarkable scenery, and skilled execution. [Julie Whiteley, Jan. issue]


SUSPENSE

De Palma, Brian & Susan Lehman. Are Snakes Necesarry?  Hard Case Crime/Titan. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9781789091205.

De Palma and Lehman stuff their book with cinematic tropes, unrealistic characters, and predictable plot twists, but somehow it’s still an overall exciting read. [Liz French, Mar. issue]
 

Farrell, Richard. The Falling Woman. Algonquin. May 2020. ISBN  9781616208578.

Former pilot Farrell’s skillfully written story of hope, love, and regret contemplated amid a fast-paced, high-pressure major airline accident investigation will appeal to readers who enjoyed Michael Crichton’s Airframe, Gregg Hurwitz’s The Survivor, and Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall. [George Lichman, Mar. issue]


THRILLER

Kay, Elizabeth. Seven Lies. Little, Brown. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780751578133.

The first lie is told when Jane tells her best friend Marnie that she approves of her stuck up husband. However, when he dies, even more lies follow in a tale of obsession and toxic friendships.


Marr, Elle. The Missing Sister. Thomas & Mercer. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9781542006057.

This debut thriller from Marr has a promising plotline but seems to get caught up in the details, moving at an achingly slow pace, as Angela’s thoughts are constantly broadcasted. Still, fans of suspense who enjoy elaborate descriptions and relish knowing every thought of the protagonist will appreciate. [Cynthia Price, Feb. issue]


Santos, Richard Z. Trust Me. Arte Publico Pr. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9781558859043.

Looking for a fresh start and an escape from a failed career in politics, Charles accepts a PR job at a New Mexico airport when a skeleton is unearthed, sparking legal and interpersonal conflict in a story of lies, guilt, and betrayal.


Serritella, Francesca. Ghosts of Harvard. Random. May 2020. ISBN 9780525510369.

The book begins as thriller and ends as a story of personal growth and redemption. The writing is vivid and engaging, and it works for adults as well as for mature young adult readers. [Cheryl Bryan, Apr. issue]


Sligar, Sara. Take Me Apart. MCD: Farrar. May 2020. ISBN  9780374272616.

Love story, hate story, mysteryall in one. For patient readers of feminist, psychological suspense fiction. [Robert E. Brown, Feb. issue]


LITERARY FICTION

 

Bieker, Chelsea, Godshot. Catapult. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781948226486.

Lacey May’s is an irresistible voice, part gullible believer, part whip-smart independent spirit who surprises at every turn. Debut novelist Bieker weaves in the political battles being fought on multiple fronts. [Beth Andersen, Feb issue]


Cha, Frances. If I Had Your Face. Ballantine. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780593129463.

In an apartment complex in Seoul delicate friendships string together the lives of an entertainer, an artist, a newlywed couple, and a hairstylist in a stroy of potential, community, and finding one's place in a difficult economy.


Chang, Alexandra. Days of Distraction. Ecco: HarperCollins. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9780062951809.

This coming-of-age tale focuses on what it means to be an Asian American woman in a society that neither understands nor accepts you when the narrator is denied promotions at her workplace and must relocate crosscountry for her partner.


Hammes, Brady. The Resolutions. Ballantine. May 2020. ISBN  9781984818034.

When three siblings find their lives turned upside by unemployment, addiction, and ivory poaching gangs, they embark on a journey through West Africa to recenter their lives.


Jedrowski, Tomasz. Swimming in the Dark. Morrow. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780062890009.

German born of Polish parents, debut author Jedrowski here writes in English, and his lyrical prose reveals a complete command of the language. Highly recommended for all who enjoy a tale of love under the most difficult circumstances. [Edward B. Cone, Mar. issue]


Masad, Ilana. All My Mother's Lovers. Dutton Bks. May 2020. ISBN  9781524745974.

When Maggie's mother dies she finds five envelopes from her mother addressed to men she's never heard of and must embark on a roadtrip to deliver the letters and uncover their relationships to her mother.


McFarland, Jeni. The House of Deep Waters.  G.P. Putnam's Sons. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780525542353.

When three women return home to a small town, they must confront the issues of their past in a story laden with trauma, secrets, and affairs.


Mustafah, Sahar. The Beauty of Your Face. Norton. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9781324003380.

When the principal of a Muslim girl's school in Chicago faces a terror attack from an alt-right school shooter, she is confronted by her identity as a Palestinian immigrant and struggles with her faith.


Probst, Barbara Linn. Queen of the Owls. She Writes Pr. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9781631528903.

Elizabeth agrees to a private nude photoshoot with a prominent photographer. Yet, when he publishes the photo as his art without her consent, Elizaebth becomes the center of a scandal that jeopardizes her career, marriage, and academic interests while making her a feminist heroine.


Scott, Stephanie. What's Left of Me Is Yours. Doubleday Bks. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780385544702.

In the face of a messy divorce an unexpected love arises, causing readers to question the line between passion and possession.


Swarup, Shubhangi. Lattitudes of Longing. One World. May 2020. ISBN  9780593132555.

Extraordinarily affecting, this work should be a priority acquisition for all libraries with astute, globally hungry patrons. [Terry Hong, Apr. issue]


Thomas, Elizabeth. Catherine House. Custom House. May 2020. ISBN  9780062905659.

Ines is accepted into a prestigious university, the Catherine House, that encourages students to disconnect from the outside world for three complete years, when she discovers a shocking secret behind the school's muddled past.


Wink, Callan. August. Random. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9780812993752.

This work follows August from twelve years old to nineteen as a messy divorce and shocking acts of violence move him across the country through America's heartland.

 

SHORT STORIES

 

Hampton, Leah. F*ckface: And Other Stories. Holt. May 2020. ISBN  9781250259592.

From a ranger who finds one too many corpses on patrol to a woman who suspects her illness was caused by unsafe working conditions, these stories tackle the intricacies of post-coal Appalachia and the myriad communities within.


Thammavongsa, Souvankham. How To Pronounce Knife. Little, Brown. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780316422116.

Fans of pristine short fiction think Paul Yoon, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Phil Klaywill want to read this one, too. [Terry Hong, Feb. issue]


HISTORICAL FICTION


Atakora, Afia. Conjure Women. Random. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780525511489.

Atakora effectively handles the before-during-and-after structure, enriching her story. If its center is the vibrant Rue, the entire community finally feels like the main character. Highly recommended. [Barbara Hoffert, Dec. 2019 issue]


Brookes, Maggie. The Prisoner's Wife. Berkley. May 2020. ISBN  9781529124293.

Izzy is diguised as a man as she fleas a World War II-ravaged Europe with her husband Bill. When the two are captured and put in a POW camp, Izzy must maintain her disguise or be executed.


Foster, Brooke Lea. Summer Darlings. Gallery: S&S. May 2020. ISBN  9781982115029.

Lifestyle journalist Foster’s first novel aims to be a solid beach read and mostly succeeds, though the story could have benefited from greater character development. [Julie Kane, Mar. issue]


Hadlow, Janice. The Other Bennet Sister. Holt. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9781250129413.

Readers with fond but not necessarily exhaustive memories of Pride and Prejudice will love this story, as will historical fiction readers looking for intelligent heroines with agency and heart who belong to their time and place without quite fitting in. [Marlene Harris, Mar. issue]


SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

 

SCIENCE FICTION

Hugo, Ilze. The Down Days. Skybound Bks. May 2020. ISBN 9781982121549.

A mysterious epidemic that cause hysteria and hallucinations circulations through a quarantined city where a corpse collector must put the pieces together and uncover the truth behind the disease and the society it ravages.
 

FANTASY

Boyden, Alina. Stealing Thunder. Ace: Berkley. May 2020. ISBN  9781984805461.

This delightful debut is rich with detailed worldbuilding, political intrigue, and South Asian cultural references drawn from Boyden’s experience as a trans activist who has traveled in India and Pakistan. Boyden handles the story with a steady hand, and this first novel will delight romantic fantasy enthusiasts. [Kristi Chadwick, Feb. issue]


Chung, Caitlin. Ship of Fates. Lanternfish. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9781941360316.

Speaking to the difficulties that faced women, particularly immigrants in the 1800s, this is a powerful if bleak look at the nature of California’s Barbary Coast. Recommended for fans of unique historical fiction. [Katie Lawrence, Mar. issue]


POETRY


Abdolmalekian, Garous. Lean Against This Late Hour. Penguin. Apr. 2020. ISBN  9780143134930.

Like Federico García Lorca, an acknowledged influence, Abdolmalekian merges the personal with the political in a semisurreal poetry of troubled nights and harrowing days, exposing the fear and vulnerability we bury with denial, daring to pose the question, “How many times are we born/ that we die/ so many times?” An impressive U.S. debut for a poet whose work invites global recognition. [Fred Muratori, Apr. issue]


Guzman, Roy. Catrachos. Graywolf. May 2020. ISBN  9781644450239.

A collection of verses that covers myriad identities, including what it means to be a queer, Honduran immigrant, while maintaining a voice of humor, emotional complexity, and moral depth.


Marsh, Roya. dayliGht. MCD: Farrar. Mar. 2020. ISBN  9780374538897.

This work centers on questions of sexuality, race, gender identity, and, above all, resilience.


GRAPHIC NOVELS


Conway, Allison. The Lab. Top Shelf Productions. Mar. 2020. ISBN 9781603094610.

An unsettling vision from an exciting and distinctly talented newcomer. [Thomas L. Batten, Apr. issue]


Gonzalez, Borja. A Gift for a Ghost. Abrams Comicart. May 2020. ISBN  9781419740138.

Elegantly crafted, with delicate cartooning and a brilliant autumnal color palette, González’s first full-length work delivers a quietly emotional evocation of the universal hopes and desires linking characters across centuries. [Thomas L. Batten, Feb. issue]

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