It’s time to get excited because this fall there are so many new things to look forward to! Pumpkin patch day trips, jumping in colorful leaf piles, and sipping warm mugs of spiced apple cider are only the beginning, as the best part of this season is easily the new books! In fact, these books aren’t just new to you but new to the literary world as well. This autumn, many authors are debuting their first novels ever and we’ve got a list of the best picks!
Not only entertaining but enlightening as well, THE WITCHING TIDE explores the nuances of the witch trials in mid-17th century England through the harrowing story of a mute woman, Martha Hallybread, who is forced to betray her friends who have been accused of practicing the supposedly evil craft. Helping the witch hunter himself, Martha finds that her silence is both a blessing and a curse—she couldn’t possibly be considered a witch if she’s turning others in, and yet feels terrible for not standing up for what she believes is right. This debut novel by Margaret Meyer is sure to be a mainstay because even though it focuses on fictionalized tales from centuries past, it tackles modern-day themes and issues like the prevalence of oppressive patriarchy.
“Stylish and raw…seizes the reader’s sympathy and does not let go.” —Anne Enright, Booker Prize–winning author of The Gathering
For readers of Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel, an immersive literary debut inspired by historical events—a deadly witch hunt in 17th-century England—that claimed many innocent lives.
East Anglia, 1645. Martha Hallybread, a midwife, healer, and servant, has lived peacefully for more than four decades in her beloved seaside village of Cleftwater. Having lost her voice as a child, Martha has not spoken a word in years.
One autumn morning, a sinister newcomer appears in town. The witchfinder, Silas Makepeace, has been blazing a trail of destruction along the coast, and now has Cleftwater in his sights. His arrival strikes fear into the heart of the community. Within a day, local women are being captured and detained, and Martha finds herself a silent witness to the hunt.
Powerless to protest, Martha is enlisted to search the accused women for “devil’s marks.” She is caught between suspicion and betrayal; between shielding herself or condemning the women of the village. In desperation, she revives a wax witching doll that belonged to her mother, in the hope that it will bring protection. But the doll’s true powers are unknowable, Martha harbors a terrible secret, and the gallows are looming…
Set over the course of just a few weeks that will forever change history, The Witching Tide delivers powerful and psychologically astute insights about the exigencies of friendship and the nature of loyalty, and heralds the arrival of a striking new voice in fiction.
In 1870s Philadelphia, Dr. Lydia Weston finds herself in a difficult predicament: a local handmaid who was a patient of hers, Anna, is found dead in a river, and she must help the detectives solve the case despite all the roadblocks in the way. Anna’s employers, the wealthy and nonchalant Mr. and Mrs. Curtis, don’t seem to care that their servant has passed, and other forces begin meddling with Lydia’s work—both on the case and in her clinic—as many people are not too happy that a woman is taking on such work. In fact, Lydia develops an unfortunate rivalry with a chauvinistic male physician who undermines every step she takes in pursuit of justice. Historical yet topical, MURDER BY DEGREES is a medical thriller mystery that will have you waiting in anticipation both for the truth to come out and for this exciting debut.
For fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd, Murder by Degrees is a historical mystery set in 19th century Philadelphia, following a pioneering woman doctor as she investigates the disappearance of a young patient who is presumed dead.
Philadelphia, 1875: It is the start of term at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lydia Weston, professor and anatomist, is immersed in teaching her students in the lecture hall and hospital. When the body of a patient, Anna Ward, is dredged out of the Schuylkill River, the young chambermaid’s death is deemed a suicide. But Lydia is suspicious and she is soon brought into the police investigation.
Aided by a diary filled with cryptic passages of poetry, Lydia discovers more about the young woman she thought she knew. Through her skill at the autopsy table and her clinical acumen, Lydia draws nearer the truth. Soon a terrible secret, long hidden, will be revealed. But Lydia must act quickly, before she becomes the next target of those who wished to silence Anna.
David is a curious man who doesn’t know what to think when he hears his senator declare the start of his presidential campaign. David knows he wants to be on this project—after all, his senator could become the United States’s first Black president and being a part of that journey would be a dream come true in his own political career—but he recognizes that there are many difficulties that lie ahead. What he didn’t expect was to be questioning everything he felt about life as his worldview expands more and more. What does it mean to be a young Black man in a country that works overtime to subvert every step you make towards your goals? And can anything really be done to overcome the oppressive foundations America was founded on? Sometimes, there is a certain harm to having too many great expectations.
Flor, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila are as close as sisters can be, so when Flor refuses to tell them why she wants to host a living wake, everyone in the family is concerned. It’s because Flor’s secret gift is widely known: she can predict exactly when someone will die. Though they would like to invest their time into what Flor is up to, the other sisters all have their own clandestine powers and problems as well, so unity is difficult for them to forge. Alternating between many different points of view across several periods of time tracing back the family’s history, FAMILY LORE is a curiously magical story about the complexities of family that also celebrates Latin American culture. While this technically isn’t Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel, this is her transition into adult novels after a career of establishing herself as a poet and young adult novelist, and her history of literary prowess definitely shows!
Who are these women in the book title, you may ask? Well, Alice is an aspiring actress who has accepted a respectable theatrical role in a Shakespearean playhouse; Sadie is Alice’s best friend since childhood who unfortunately cannot come watch her opening performance and begs her mother to go in her place; and Celine is said mother, a tenured gender & sexuality professor at UC Berkeley, who goes to Alice’s show and finds herself falling in love with her daughter’s best friend. It’s messy, it’s awkward, but it’s also endearing, emotional, and raw. This sapphic love story is an utterly unique testament to both motherhood and sisterhood, as well as the consequences of boundaries between relationships blurring unexpectedly.
“Obsessed!” —Chloë Sevigny
“I am literally obsessed.” —Busy Philipps
A hypnotic, sexy, and incisive debut adult novel following one woman’s affair with her daughter’s best friend that tests the limits of love and ambition from #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Riding Hood.
It’s opening night, but Alice’s performance in the local Bay Area production of The Winter’s Tale is far from glamorous. She doesn’t have dreams of stardom, but the basement theater in a wildfire-choked town isn’t exactly what she envisioned for her career back home in Los Angeles. To make matters worse, her best friend Sadie is not even coming.
Pragmatic, serious Sadie and flighty, creative Alice have been best friends since high school—really one another’s only friends—but now that they are through with college (which they attended together) and living on opposite ends of California, Alice would at least expect her friend’s support. Sadie, determined not to cancel her plans with her boyfriend, ends up enlisting the help of her mother, Celine.
A professor of women’s and gender studies at UC Berkeley, Celine’s landmark treatise on sex and identity made her notorious, but she’s struggling to write her new book in a post-second-wave feminist world. So, when Sadie begs her to attend Alice’s play, she relents, if only to escape writer’s block. But in a turn of perplexing events, Celine becomes entranced by Alice’s performance and realizes that her daughter’s once lanky, slightly annoying best friend is now an irresistible young woman.
Set over the course of decades—from Alice and Sadie’s early friendship days and Celine’s decision to leave her husband to the radical movements of 1990s Berkeley and navigating contemporary Hollywood—Alice and Celine’s affair will test the limits of their love for Sadie and their own beliefs of power, agency, and feminism. Witty and relatable, sexy and surprising, Sarah Blakley-Cartwright’s debut adult novel is a mesmerizing portrait of the inner lives of three very different women.
Transitioning away from his long-standing career as a comedian, Cedric “The Entertainer” Kyles has debuted his new novel, FLIPPING BOXCARS, which is a fresh take on the Great Depression and World War II through a racial justice lens. Babe is a Black veteran, a devoted husband and father, and a dreamer. He dreams of stability, financial freedom, and a safe life for his family, and he’s willing to commit crimes just to achieve that—especially after a derailing loss playing cards at the local casino. He knows he needs a high-reward plan, even if that means taking an equally high risk. Executing a multi-layered boxcar train robbery is no easy task, but when the plan alerts the attention of the feds, it seems that Babe’s family is truly in danger now. Charming and exciting, FLIPPING BOXCARS is hopefully the first of many novels to come by Cedric “The Entertainer”!
This is a book like no other. I’M A FAN is a contemplative look into what it means to be a lost millennial woman navigating all the complexities of adulthood and unsatisfying relationships. It reflects the thoughts of an unnamed narrator—a woman in her thirties who struggles with being alone, living with regrets, and facing microaggressions as a person of color. She elicits a unique combination of pity and sympathy from readers who may disagree with some of her problematic actions or but also understand the taxing circumstances she’s been put under. After all, isn’t that what adulthood is like?
After a meet-cute gone awry, Gary doesn’t know what to do. All he wanted was to have a conversation with the cute girl at the bar reading a book called The Clementine Complex but just as he stepped away to order another drink she disappeared, leaving the novel behind. Turns out, not only did she disappear from the bar, but she is actually declared missing according to the police who turn up at Gary’s door the next morning. He was the last person seen with her and is the owner of the book she had been reading, making him look very suspicious. The only thing he can do now is track her down to prove his innocence! Equal parts crime novel and odd love story, THE CLEMENTINE COMPLEX is certainly complex—especially as Bob Mortimer injects his signature surrealist humor into the mix, transitioning from his long-standing career as a comedian to novelist.
Bob Mortimer, beloved comedian and #1 Sunday Times (London) bestselling author of the memoir And Away…, returns with a delightfully quirky mystery in the vein of Richard Osman and Nita Prose.
Unremarkable legal assistant Gary Thorn goes for a pint with his coworker Brendan, unaware his life is about to change. There, Gary meets a beautiful woman, but she leaves before he catches her name. All he has to remember her by is the title of the book she was reading: The Clementine Complex. And when Brendan goes missing, too, Gary needs to track down the girl he now calls Clementine to get some answers.
And so begins Gary’s quest, through the estates and pie shops of South London, to find some answers and hopefully, some love and excitement in this page-turning, witty, and oddly sweet story with a cast of unforgettable characters.
Photo credit: iStock / YakobchukOlena