The debut novel is a tricky thing. Sure, the author may have put out short story collections or written pieces for major magazines, but a novel is truly a different animal, one which some authors have likened to a first child or first love (or first heartbreak). In composing their first novel, writers must temper their excitement at being given the opportunity to present hundreds of pages to the public with the discipline to create a story memorable enough to bring readers back for their second attempt. Finding that balance isn’t always easy, but when a debut novel works, it’s a uniquely electrifying literary experience. Here are ten of 2013’s best.
Necessary Errors, Caleb Crain
Crain is the rare debut novelist who writes with the sort of confidence we’d expect from an author who has already penned books upon books. And, in fact, Crain is no novice; he has been writing about, studying, and translating literature for years now. That’s probably why Crain’s novel, following the life of Jacob Putnam, a gay man in post-Velvet Revolution Prague feels more like a fourth or fifth novel. His control of pace and affect, and his descriptions of the city and people, make us feel like we’re right there. This book wasn’t simply written — it was crafted.