Best Debut and New-to-Me Authors in 2021

I hope you had a very happy Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a safe and healthy holiday. In this post I’m talking about the best new authors I read this year. If I’ve calculated correctly, I read 58 books in 2021 by authors that were new to me. That’s out of 111 books, so just over half. Last year this was higher, about 63%; this year I made an effort to read more backlist books, so it looks like I succeeded a little bit in that effort.

Some of my favorites this year were first novels, which means there are great things to come from these authors – although it also means there’s no backlist where I can read more. Here are some of my favorite debut novels read in 2021:

Here are other authors I particularly enjoyed who were new to me this year:

  • In nonfiction, I highly recommend Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamarr, and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga and Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King were other nonfiction reads I recommend. Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer was also excellent, though of course that topic may not appeal to most readers. (In general, most nonfiction reads are new-to-me authors, since I don’t usually read multiple works by nonfiction authors. Jenny Lawson is an exception as I’ll read anything she writes.)
  • In fiction, other favorites included Michelle Gallen, who wrote Big Girl, Small Town, Nadine Abgeryan who wrote Three Apples Fell From the Sky; and Yangsze Choo who wrote The Night Tiger.

What authors did you discover this year?

  8 comments for “Best Debut and New-to-Me Authors in 2021

  1. December 27, 2021 at 8:11 am

    I read three books each by Cynthia Bourgeault and Bruce Perry this year, so they probably qualify as my top new-to-me authors. Two each by Edith Eger and Antony Sher. I want to read more books by John Mullan, Valarie Kaur (as soon as she writes more than one), and Elodie Harper. Yes, it was a good year for discovery!

    • December 27, 2021 at 7:32 pm

      A lot of good suggestions, I know Edith Eger looks fascinating, and so does Elodie Harper. Wishing you happy reading in 2022!

  2. December 27, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    Some great books here! I discovered Molly Clavering this year (a backlist author so loads more to enjoy, hooray!) and Juno Dawson, whose memoir I read but I want to explore further in fiction. It’s something I should record better next year, I think.

    • December 27, 2021 at 7:30 pm

      Ooh, Molly Clavering’s books look like fun, I haven’t heard of her! Juno Dawson looks good too, thanks for sharing. It’s always hard to balance discovering new authors and reading more by the authors we love.

  3. December 28, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    Winter’s Orbit was a favorite of mine this year as well! I would love to read more set in that world!

  4. WendyW
    December 28, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    Finding new authors is so much fun.

  5. January 17, 2022 at 10:37 pm

    I’ve seen Firekeeper’s Daughter on so many of these lists! I really need to read that one.

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