(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Want to make your own list? Clicking the image will take you to this week’s post. Happy listing!)
This week it’s all about debut novels. I know there’s lots of “firsts” coming out in 2011, but my goal was to look through all my books and find the best from any year.
1. Little House in the Big Woods (1932) – The first book in the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like many others, my love of this series had its genesis in my childhood, and I read the books until the covers fell off. I love the mix of history and great descriptive sentences and stories. They might have also been the first chapter books I read, and the first books in which a female was the protagonist.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) – The first and only book by Harper Lee. I somehow managed to not read this book until my sophomore year of high school, when it was an assignment for my English class. I’d seen the movie before (it’s one of my mom’s favorites, and she watches it whenever she can), but the book has so much more complexity and room for character development. I wish Lee had written more books.
3. At Wit’s End (1967) – With a writing career that spanned almost 50 years, humor writer Erma Bombeck is one of my favorite writers. Her humorous musings on being a homemaker, wife, and mother were featured in a weekly newspaper column, “At Wit’s End.” In 1967 the publisher Doubleday compiled those articles into Bombeck’s first book, also titled At Wit’s End. Two years later, her weekly column was being featured in 500 US newspapers, and Bombeck went on to publish 12 more books, all of them with awesome titles like The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession, and When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home.
4. The Mediterranean Caper (1973) – The debut book by adventure writer Clive Cussler. Caper is the first in a 21-book series featuring Dirk Pitt, the Special Projects Director for the National Underwater and Marine Agency, and his best friend, Deputy Special Projects Director Al Giordino. I was introduced to Cussler’s novels by a good friend in high school, and was immediately hooked. Until that point, I’d never experienced what I call “guy literature”: scary mysteries, lots of action, and a fair amount of seduction. Eventually Cussler retired Pitt, and has continued the same kind of adventures with another character, Kurt Austin. But Pitt will always have that special place in my heart.
5. The Joy Luck Club (1989) – It seems like this movie was always on television when I was younger. I don’t even think I knew it was a book until (you guessed it) I had to read it for class in high school. I love that it goes back and forth through time, and tells the stories of these remarkable women who survived so much. It also tells the stories of their daughters, who grew up in America and are fundamentally different from the generation who raised them; they are so different from each other, yet still the same. I love it.
6. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating (1995) – The only non-fiction book on my list (surprise, surprise). Desire was written by evolutionary psychologist David Buss, and is based on the research he and his team conducted in 37 cultures. Buss’ team surveyed over 10,000 people about every aspect of mating, from what they look for in a partner to what they look for in a one-night stand, to their beliefs regarding infidelity, and platonic friendships across genders. Fascinating stuff that led me to minor in Psychology in college, and has caused more than one raised eyebrow when people see books on my shelves with titles like Why Women Have Sex and Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences.
7. The Eyre Affair (2001) – My favorite serendipitous find. I happened upon Jasper Fforde’s novel on a shelf at Barnes and Noble several years ago, and literally could not stop myself from buying it. A novel in which the characters from my favorite books are real?! It does not get any better than that. Fortunately I think three of the books in the series were already out by the time I found the first book, so I didn’t have to wait to see what happened next. Fforde’s obvious love of literature, puns, clever humor, and amazing writing talent combine to make the Thursday Next series one of my absolute favorites. Don’t tell Miss Austen, but I think my love of Fforde’s novels rival my love for Pride and Prejudice.
8. Graceling (2008) – A book I probably never would have heard of if I hadn’t started blogging and following other book bloggers. I ran across a review of Graceling at Love YA Lit, and went to the library the next day to grab it. I read it in two days, and could do nothing but think obsessively over it for the next two weeks. I didn’t expected to feel so connected to Katsa, and it was a pleasant surprise. It’s not often in YA literature (or most literature, really) to find a character who is set so against marriage and children, and doesn’t eventually “see the light” once her biological clock starts ticking. There’s a sequel coming out this year, and I really hope Katsa’s just as badass as ever!
Oops, a little long-winded today. This list was basically asking me to review my favorite books, though, so I’m not surprised.
Are any of these books on your list? Anyone else find themselves leaning more toward either fiction or non-fiction?
16 thoughts on “Top 10 Debut Books”
Yay for Graceling! Made my list as well 🙂 And I loved the Eyre Affaire, haven’t gotten around to reading the rest of the series.
Daisy, you definitely need to read the rest of the series — each one is more awesome than the last, because you keep discovering new things about the world that Fforde has created. And while The Eyre Affair focuses mostly on one or two of the great classics, the rest of the books feature everything from the Minotaur to nursery rhymes to completely obscure and ridiculous puns and allusions. Fabulous.
Oh! I loved loved The Joy Luck Club. I was stunned when I read it because Tan has an amazing ability to write with such force without sounding “writerly,” if you know what I mean. I also read Saving Fish From Drowning and it was very good, but I think it’s clear that everyone who’s read Tan prefers her debut.
I didn’t put it on my list, because I basically just remembered the books I loved that have come out in the last few years, with the exception of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. And, I only made my list 5 long….it’s a kind of underachiever day today 🙂
I know what you mean about Tan’s books, Jenny — I’ve always really enjoyed The Joy Luck Club the most, probably because it’s so closely entwined in my childhood. I’ve seen the movie about a zillion times, and read the book in high school. I just don’t have that same connection with her other works.
Underachiever days are the best! Usually for Top 10 Tuesdays I go through my “master list” of all my books, to try and jog my memory. It usually takes some brainstorming time before I have my full list.
TKAM: It’s a must on both our lists! And now I’m going to run over to my library – as you did – to get Graceling. Thanks for that fine idea!
I wonder if fiction often gets us emotionally worked-up more than non-fiction, so we recall it more clearly when it comes to “best of’s”. I have Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point on my list, but that’s it for the latter category, so I think you make a strong point with your question.
Laurie, I hope you like Graceling — it was one of my favorites of 2010. Cashore has also written another book, called Fire, that is set in the same general world, but about 50 years prior to Katsa’s story. I don’t like it as much as Graceling, but there are some great themes and moments that made the book worth reading.
I recently read Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, and really enjoyed myself. I’m not normally a “newspaper” kind of person, but he makes his articles read like fiction-ish stories. I know several people who really prefer non-fiction over fiction, so it’s probably some weird sort of thing from childhood.
Great list. I didn’t consider the first Little House book.
I was obsessed with Wilder’s series as a kid, although the first one I actually read was The Little House on the Prairie. I could never get into the television series, but I could read the books over and over again — including the books that were later in the series that revolved around Rose, Laura’s daughter.
Agreed! I completely spaced out on the Little Prairie series when figuring out my list.
It wasn’t the first series to pop into my head. I was scrolling through the program I use to keep track of all my books, and knew they had to be on my list!
Great list! I love seeing The Eyre Affair on so many lists. I also included To Kill a Mockingbird on my list!
I re-read Fforde’s novels way more often than is probably healthy, but I can’t stop myself — they’re just so awesome! I’m glad to see that so many other people are joining me in the obsession. To Kill a Mockingbird is on a lot of people’s lists, and for good reason. I hope it’s always a staple in English classes.
Great list – I have to read the Eyre Affair!
Yes, Willa, you do! 😀 And all the others in the series. And the spin-off Nursery Crimes series (also by Fforde). It will be the best money and time you’ve ever spent.
Graceling is on my list too, and I can’t wait to read Bitterblue. I liked the Joy Luck Club too. I want to check out many of the books on your list! Thanks for sharing.
I’m glad my list was inspiring, readingdate. I often tell myself that I need to stop reading other book blogs, because I keep finding more books to ad to my TBR list! It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta live it! 😉