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8 Stunning Debut Novels to Read This Fall

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Michelle Regalado

Staff Writer

Michelle Regalado is a New York-based digital writer and editor. When she's not hunting down her next must-read book (recommendations are welcome!) or writing about all things pop culture, you can probably find her drinking iced coffee and hanging out with her dog, Lola. Follow her on Twitter: @mar8289

While summer reading season may be wrapping up, there are plenty of exciting new book releases still to look forward to. A whole slew of anticipated new titles are set to hit shelves this fall, including not only a range of anticipated releases from longtime authors, but also a bunch of captivating debut novels from some talented new voices. These stunning works are all fiction, but they vary widely in subject and tone, from a page-turning mystery thriller to a feel-good story about community to a nuanced and heartbreakingly honest portrait of marriage and motherhood. Whether you’re looking for the next entry in your favorite genre or hoping to try something new outside of your comfort zone, you’re sure to find something to keep you hooked in the pages of these engrossing new reads. 

With their compelling debut novels, these first-time authors deliver everything you want in a great story, including drama, insight, humor, and plenty of sharply written observations that will stay with you long after you finish reading the final chapter. So break out your TBR list, and read on to make note of some of the best recent and upcoming new debut books hitting shelves this fall. 

Image of the book cover for Last Chance Library

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

At nearly 30 years old, shy and reclusive librarian June Jones has never ventured outside of the sleepy English village where she grew up, and she prefers to spend most of her time with her head buried in books rather than out on the town. But when her beloved library is threatened with potential closure, June is forced to break out of her comfort zone and join a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals to save the place that holds the most meaning to her. Freya Sampson’s debut novel is an endearing and heartwarming story that also serves as a reminder of the power of libraries to connect people and unite communities. 

three rooms book cover

Three Rooms by Jo Hamya

Set over the course of a year, Jo Hamya’s astute debut novel follows a young woman as she moves from a rented room in Oxford to a stranger’s sofa and, eventually, back to her childhood home after losing first her full-time job and then her temp job. This smart and incisive novel provides an insightful portrait of the challenges of modern life and the trials and tribulations of a millennial woman searching for security and identity. 

fault lines book cover

Fault Lines by Emily Itami

In Emily Itami’s nuanced and provocative debut, Mizuki is a Japanese housewife who seems to have it all but is feeling desperately unhappy in her everyday life as a mother and wife. When she meets handsome restauranteur Kiyoshi, she feels seen for the first time in years. As their relationship gets further involved, she starts to recapture the sense of self she lost and the love she once felt for the bustling city. But is the promise of this new romance worth sacrificing the steady — if unsatisfying — life she’s built with her family at home? At once clever and heartbreaking, Fault Lines is a poignant and candid novel that expertly tackles issues of identity, marriage, and the pressure of societal expectations.

assembly book cover

Assembly by Natasha Brown

This stunning debut follows a young Black British woman as she navigates racism, sexism, and everyday microaggressions while ascending the ladder at her investment banking job. In addition to rising in the ranks at her corporate career, she’s also on the cusp of solidifying her social standing by marrying her wealthy white boyfriend. But as she prepares to arrive at his parents’ anniversary party at their country estate (the spot where she believes he will propose), she receives life-changing health news— and for the first time, she contemplates choosing agency over complicity. Innovative, beautiful, and lyrical, this slim novel is a devastatingly unflinching exploration of class, gender, and race and what happens when you take control of your own story.  

nice girls book cover

Nice Girls by Catherine Dang

After years of being known as the quiet “nice girl” in her home of Liberty Lake, Minnesota, Mary seemingly finds her ticket out when she gets accepted to Cornell University — until she gets unceremoniously expelled during her senior year for unknown reasons. As she tries to avoid questions about what happened, her unexpected return home is overshadowed by the disappearance of her childhood best friend, Olivia. While the town obsesses over the case, Mary questions whether the disappearance is tied to that of another missing teenage girl, who has been dubbed a runaway. Engaging, edgy, and packed with suspense, Dang’s debut is sure to appeal to any fans of true crime. 

all her little secrets book cover

All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris (November 2)

This fast-paced thriller focuses on Ellice, a successful lawyer with some dark secrets in her past whose seemingly perfect life is upended when her boss — whom she happened to be romantically involved with — is found dead. When Ellice gets promoted to take over his position, she quickly uncovers some shady dealings in the company and realizes she may be getting pulled into a sinister plot. Teeming with tension, suspense, and twists, All Her Little Secrets is a remarkable and searing debut that you’ll want to read all in one sitting. 

the ballerinas book cover

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale (December 7)

Rachel Kapelke-Dale’s captivating debut centers on Delphine, a dancer who abandoned her prestigious spot as a soloist at the Paris Opera Ballet 13 years ago over a life-changing secret that could upend the lives of both her then-best friends. Now returning to the elite ballet to choreograph a potentially career-making dance, Delphine is determined to make things right with her former friends — but things have drastically changed in the years since she left. 

smile and look pretty book cover

Smile and Look Pretty by Amanda Pellegrino (December 28)

A group of four best friends work as overworked and underpaid assistants to some powerful figures in the entertainment industry. Fed up of dealing with toxic work environments, the women decide to share their experiences in an anonymous blog. What they don’t anticipate is that their blog will go viral, leading hundreds of others to come forward with their own stories. As they face the possibility of their identities being revealed, the assistants must confront the potential consequences of speaking out. Empowering, timely, and scathingly funny, this sharply written novel is a page-turning testament to the power of female friendship and making your voice heard. 

For even more great reads to look forward to in the coming months, check out 12 Incredible Fall 2021 Books To Put on Hold at the Library and 10 of’s Most Preordered Audiobooks for Fall 2021.