11 Big Fat Debut Novels to Keep You Reading All Summer

August 11 2015

While the classics have always had a reputation for intimidating length (Tolstoy, Dickens, I’m looking at you), we are now living in the era of an entirely new trend: the big, fat, juicy debut novel. Industry insiders (The Daily Beast and Vulture among them) have put in their two cents, but here’s ours: the bigger the better! Whether they’re fetching huge advances or sleeper successes, here are our favorite first-time tries that keep us reading past page five hundred.

The Art of Fielding
by Chad Harbach

Set at Wisconsin’s fictional Westish College, Chad Harbach’s novel took him a decade to write. An expansive, warmhearted story about innocence, dreams, and coming-of-age on the baseball field, it renews our faith in the power of contemporary literature..... Page Count: 544

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The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbach

Set at the fictional Westish College in Wisconsin, The Art of Fielding is about innocence, dreams, and coming of age on the baseball field. An expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others—it renews our faith in the power of contemporary literature.

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We Are Not Ourselves
by Matthew Thomas

Another novel a decade in the making, Matthew Thomas’s stunning prose and unforgettable characters make for an impressive and moving read. The daughter of Irish immigrants in Queens, Eileen Tumulty is determined to achieve the American Dream and becomes a conduit through which the reader witnesses a changing world..... Page Count: 656

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We Are Not Ourselves
Matthew Thomas

The promise and tragedy of post-war America is charted in this riveting portrait of an Irish-American family as they chase the American Dream. It is at once expansive and exquisitely detailed, but what readers will remember most is the huge heart at its core. It heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction and is destined to be an American classic.

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Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

A Pulitzer Prize. Millions of copies sold. A film adaptation that’s regarded as one of the best of all time. Not bad for a first try..... Page Count: 960

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Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

The Game of Thrones and Harry Potter series are both masterworks of imaginative literature that have been thrillingly translated to the screen, but for my taste, I’ll go with Gone with the Wind. Like the Stark family and the residents of Hogwarts, Scarlett and Rhett are such vivid characters on the page that you can’t imagine them being portrayed adequately on film—until suddenly, there they are, each work only enhancing your enjoyment of the other.

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The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova

This absolutely enthralling, plan-canceling, un-put-downable debut novel is a journey of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present..... Page Count: 720

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The Historian
Elizabeth Kostova

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of—a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.

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City on Fire
by Garth Risk Hallberg

The most anticipated novel of 2015, Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut fetched a huge advance, and even bigger buzz. We were able to lay our hands on an advance copy, and spoiler alert: it’s well worth the weight!.... Page Count: 944

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City on Fire
Garth Risk Hallberg

The most anticipated novel of 2015, Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut fetched a huge advance, and even bigger buzz. We were able to lay our hands on an advance copy, and spoiler alert: it’s well worth the weight!.... Page Count: 944

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

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House of Leaves
by Mark Z. Danielewski

Filled with second and third appendices, colored words, and vertical footnotes, this will be one you spend days reading again and again..... Page Count: 709

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House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski

A young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story -- of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics
by Marisha Pessl

Heralded by critics and readers alike as the arrival of a vibrant new voice in fiction, Marisha Pessl’s debut is a fast-paced, mind-boggling thriller steeped in literature, philosophy, science, and cinema..... Page Count: 528

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Marisha Pessl

Heralded by critics and readers alike as the arrival of a vibrant new voice in fiction, Marisha Pessl’s debut is a fast-paced, mind-boggling thriller steeped in literature, philosophy, science, and cinema..... Page Count: 528

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The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco

In 1327, Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, he must use his knowledge of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Bacon to decipher secret symbols and coded manuscripts..... Page Count: 592

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The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by a series of bizarre deaths that mimic the Book of Revelation, Brother William turns detective.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

This fantasy classic is the longest book on this list and the most recent material mined for a BBC miniseries. At the dawn of the nineteenth century most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until two very different magicians emerge who change England’s history..... Page Count: 1,024

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke

This fantasy classic is the longest book on this list and the most recent material mined for a BBC miniseries. At the dawn of the nineteenth century most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until two very different magicians emerge who change England’s history..... Page Count: 1,024

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A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness

When a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld that she must navigate..... Page Count: 592

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A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness

Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendent of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld that kicks off this riveting and magical trilogy.

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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
by David Wroblewski

A modern retelling of Hamlet and an Oprah Book Club pick, David Wroblewski’s beautiful debut introduces us to a mute boy living with his parents on their idyllic farm in Wisconsin. When catastrophe strikes, he’s forced to flee to the wilderness..... Page Count: 608

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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
David Wroblewski

In this extraordinary retelling of HAMLET, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote Wisconsin. Although born mute, Edgar seems poised to carry on his family’s traditions, but when catastrophe strikes, he is forced to choose between leaving forever or returning home to confront the mysteries he has left unsolved.

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Close

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