Not all of us can follow an author from the very beginning—sometimes it takes a breakout with book #2 to prove an author's mettle. These four authors made a splash with their second novels in 2014, so why not go back to where it all began and check out their debuts?
Fans of this year's remarkable Astonish Me shouldn't miss Shipstead's 2012 debut, Seating Arrangements, perhaps the smartest book ever written about the leadup to a wedding. As our reviewer put it, "Like J. Courtney Sullivan in Maine or Galt Niederhoffer in The Romantics, Shipstead places deeply flawed characters in an idyllic setting and creates an unforgettable world."
Readers who were swept up in Rachman's worldwind world tour of a second novel, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers, might be surprised by the smaller stage he set for his first novel, The Imperfectionists, a story of journalists working at a struggling paper in Rome. Our reviewer said, "Perhaps the unnamed paper is deserving of the destiny that looms over it in these stories. But by the time its fate has become clear, it’s hard not to greet it with a touch of sympathy engendered by Rachman’s vivid tales."
Did you love the dysfunctional family dynamics in Straub's summer hit, The Vacationers? You might be intrigued to learn that her debut novel, 2012's Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, was a completely different sort of book. A historical novel set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, it followed a young Wisconsin woman's quest for fame and fortune. Our reviewer called the book "a marvel," going on to say that "Her silken writing conjures images of old Hollywood, all red lipstick and Glenn Miller, but even more impressively, Straub paints a vivid portrait of a woman torn between her desire for fame and what she must leave behind to win it."
Makkai's second novel, The Hundred-Year House, is an ambitious story of one very unusual home and the lives of its residents over the last hundred years. It's a sort of literary scavenger hunt, where the seemingly diverse tales come together in a satisfying way. Her first novel, The Borrower, was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2011, earning praise from the likes of Richard Russo. Our reviewer described the book as "a wonderful celebration of books and friendship, brimming with literary references and plenty of laughs." A book about books? Something we can totally get behind.