So you sped through All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Marra's riveting second novel set during World War II. Starring two teenagers—a French girl and a German boy—on opposite sides of the war whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways, this magical, almost fable-like story is a sweeping saga. If you're looking for a book worthy of following it, allow us to humbly present the options below.
If you were drawn to Doerr's not-unsympathetic portrait of German life during wartime—and the explanation of how everyday people could be caught up in the Nazi machine—pick up Hummel's realistic story of a German hausfrau on the homefront, which is based on the lives of her grandparents. Full of pitch-perfect details about the hardships faced by families as resources were diverted to the army, this novel "drive[s] home the humanity and suffering of the people who are frequently considered only as the enemy."
This moving debut, set during the Chechen wars, also features a cast of characters whose lives, at first, appear to have little in common, but are eventually shown to be linked in surprising ways. It also possesses the same emotional heft as Doerr's bestseller—and hey, we already know you like books by authors named Anthony!
Was it the peek at a lesser-known side of World War II that drew you to All the Light We Cannot See? Then you should pick up Jamie Ford's accomplished 2009 debut novel, which sheds light on the shameful treatment of Japanese-Americans in their own country during that conflict. "Ford aims to portray the Japanese-American internment with solid historicity, choosing to focus on how the events affected the course of real people’s lives. And he succeeds," according to our review.
If you thought that Doerr's portrayal of life in France during and World War II felt real, don't miss this long-lost masterpiece. Némirovsky's manuscript for Suite Française was written as the Germans rolled into France, and is that rarest of treasures: A fictional account of WWII as it unfolded. And it was only found some 50 years later, long after the author herself (a Jew) was murdered in Auschwitz.
Fans of the fable-like feel of All the Light We Cannot See should consider picking up The Illuminations, which imagines that the physical and psychological pain of others is visible—shining like a beacon. Through this device, Brockemeier explores the links between suffering and beauty, using the stories of six different characters connected by a journal of love notes, with a wisdom and compassion that will be familiar to readers of Doerr's work.
So you loved All the Light but thought that maybe, just maybe, it could use a little more action? An illicit affair or two? Gillham's twisty debut is your best bet. Set in 1943 Berlin, it's the story of an ordinary German woman who somehow finds herself helping Jewish refugees—even as her husband fights for the Third Reich. The fact that her short-lived lover, whom she still longs for, is Jewish might have something to do with it.
What books do you recommend to readers of All the Light We Cannot See? Tell us in the comments!
RELATED CONTENT: Read our previous "Read it Next" posts.
Which debut author from 2015 is destined to be your new favorite author? Let an old favorite lead you to it.
If you liked The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisburger, you'll love Oh You Pretty Things! by Shanna Mahin.
This workplace drama has loads of humor and a touch of romance, all set against a finely drawn LA backdrop that's just as full of crazy as the fashion industry. (read our review)
Set on Staten Island, this family drama follows a close-knit Irish-Italian family whose world changed forever on 9/11. Like Butler's debut, it is especially good at making the relationships between men feel real. (read our review)
Like Messud's Nora Marie Eldridge, the protagonist of Hausfrau is angry (albeit more passive in expressing it) and definitely not a role model (/understatement). Yet somehow, you can't keep from turning the pages to see what she'll do next. And like Messud, Essbaum has some serious literary chops. (read our review)
Like Sebold's modern classic, Walsh's debut traces the effect of a horrible crime on a community. Walsh takes it a step further, though, to provide a thoughtful examination of what these crimes say about society—especially men—adding timely thematic resonance alongside his suspenseful story. (read our review)
Readers who couldn't get enough of the historical detail and chilly Nordic landscapes of Kent's debut will want to pick up Wolf Winter, which also pits outsiders against their community and features a mysterious death. (read our review)
If you liked The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, you'll love The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader.
Like Miller's Orange Prize winner, Cadwallader's debut takes readers to a vanished world in poetic and polished prose. Her heroine, though, is no warrior, but a 17-year-old girl who voluntarily retreats from society to become a holy woman, or Anchoress. (read our feature story)
In his most recent novel, the author of Corelli's Mandolin returns with another gripping tale of love and war. This time, the children of three neighboring families, who grew up in an Edwardian idyll, face love and loss as World War I rages. De Bernières blends global events with personal stories to great effect, putting both into perspective.
King Edward brought his brief and beautiful age to an end on the sixth day of May in 1910. Prostrated by bronchitis but smoking cigars to the very end that they had been hastening, he leanred from the Prince of Wales that his orse Witch of the Air had won at Kempton. 'I am very glad,' he said, and his servants put him to bed. 'I shan't give in,' he said, 'I am going to fight it,' but he fell into a coma and died at the imminence of midnight.
Thus it was left to King George to deal with what his father had foreseen; and to Rosie, Christabel, Ottilie, Sophie, Sidney, Albert, Archie, Daniel and Ashbridge.
What are you reading this week?
A heartbroken widower resolves to make the best of the life that remains in this poignant and deeply felt novel, written by a former dean of Columbia College.
In Peter Pouncey's multilayered debut novel, Rules For Old Men Waiting, it's clear from the opening that regulation play for retired professor and former rugby player Robert MacIver ended when his beloved wife, Margaret, died.
Having found himself alone in life's overtime, MacIver initially concedes defeat. Then the Scots warrior gene that served him so well during his college rugby career kicks in, and MacIver sets himself a new path.
Read the rest of our review here.
Fans of folklore-based fiction like The Snow Child, The Great Glass Sea or Mr. Fox would enjoy Adrienne Celt's myth-steeped first novel, which wraps Polish folktales and a family curse over four generations of women. Lulu is an opera singer, but after her beloved grandmother dies the same day her daughter is born, she can't sing a note. As her complicated history and many secrets unfold, the reader is left to contemplate familial bonds and the ancestral stories that we share.
Told from Lulu's point of view, The Daughters is full of depictions of music and its power.
So you see. I was wrong to think that I could run away and make my life lighter. If I hadn't been there, hadn't left John alone to wonder about me, if I hadn't sung for Funn and watched his eyes dance in the firelight, there may have been no Kara. No birth. And so Ada wouldn't have been in the hospital either, wouldn't have fallen to the cold tile floor.
On the ranch, I opened my mouth and let sound rumble from my deepest well. Not knowing, then, who I was really singing to. Si je t'aime prends garde à toi! I thought it was a wake-up call for the sleepers in their beds. I didn't know it was a warning.
What are you reading this week?
Discovering a new voice that speaks to you is one of the most exciting things that can happen to any book lover. Here, we're highlighting the best 12 debuts of the year (so far). Share your favorite in the comments!
This sweet, alluring first novel follows an elderly woman as she leaves her home to trek across Canada by foot and see the ocean for the first time. As Etta walks across the countryside, she reminisces about her past and the two men who meant the most to her.
Fans of Southern noir will thrill to Cooper's dark, enticing story of corruption in the Louisiana bayou after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, where folks who live on the fringes struggle to eke out a living in ways that just might push the boundaries of legality.
This sharp and insightful social satire is an all-too-timely look at race relations in America, as three ostensibly liberal and definitely privileged Berkeley students from various backgrounds travel with a friend and classmate to his home in rural Georgia—just in time for a Civil War re-enactment.
Australian author Davis takes on the tricky subject of recovering from loss—whether you're 7 or 87—in her winsome first novel, which finds an abandoned young girl embarking on a road trip with very unlikely companions.
Eli Goldstein idolizes his uncle Poxl, a Czech Jew who served in Britain's Royal Air Force. But does Poxl's best-selling memoir really tell the whole story? Torday's tour-de-force of a novel puts a fresh spin on World War II (yes, really) in a page-turning tale of truth, lies and forgiveness.
Freeman's rabble-raising debut, set in the rough-and-tumble world of 1800's prize-fighting, features two memorable and very different heroines who push the limits for women of the day to fight for a better future. Fans of Sarah Waters or Michel Faber, meet your new favorite author.
What makes a home? This question is pondered (and argued about) by the 13 Turner siblings and their children in this tender family saga as they must decide whether to sell the Detroit house that has been home to three generations over 50 years. Flournoy paints an impressively realistic portrait of sibling bonds and a city in decline.
At just 28 years old, Nović has written an insightful first novel that will appeal to fans of Anthony Marra and Téa Obreht. Moving back and forth between 1991 Croatia and 2001 New York City, Girl at War follows Ana as she survives a dangerous childhood and attempts to transition to a new family and culture in the United States.
Librarian Simon Watson is barely holding his life together when a mysterious book appears on his doorstep. Could this journal be the key to understanding his mother’s death—and saving his sister from a similar fate? Fans of magical stories like The Night Circus will flock to this ambitious debut.
Plum Kettle is sure that bariatric surgery will change her life. But when she crosses paths with a mysterious young woman, Plum ends up involved in a full-on riot grrl ride to a feminist awakening. Walker's first novel is a fierce and fiery look at the struggles women face in today's world—and it's as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.
Finding out your father cheated on your mom? Bad. Finding out by reading his dirty emails to the other woman when you're just 11 years old? Even worse. Pierpont’s debut makes this common premise feel fresh thanks to character-enriching details (Kay copes by writing smutty “Seinfeld” fan fiction, for example) and a willingness to shake up her narrative structure.
Food and family combine in this vibrant first novel, which hopscotches through the life of Eva, a Minnesotan who has risen to become one of the country’s best young chefs. When the mother who abandoned her returns, Eva must decide if they can repair their relationship. The unusual setting, embraceable characters and mouthwatering recipes add up to a can’t-miss debut.
This week's debut is Joe Schreiber's heart-pounding Chasing the Dead, a horror-filled road trip that goes from 0-60 on the first page and doesn't let up until the final one.
Joe Schreiber's brilliantly creepy debut novel will have discerning horror connoisseurs everywhere comparing it to terror-inducing classics like Stephen King's Pet Sematary and Peter Straub's Ghost Story. Equal parts supernatural horror and psychological thriller, the majority of Chasing the Dead takes place during one nightmarish 14-hour period.
Scared yet? Read the rest of our review here.
New York City's crowded Lower East Side tenements come to life in Alkemade's first novel, which opens in 1919. After tragedy strikes Rachel Rabinowitz's family, she's separated from her brother, Sam, and sent to a Jewish orphanage. Decades later, her past comes back to haunt her in surprising way, and her ability to forgive will be tested.
Alkemade's descriptions of Rachel's life in the orphanage are heartreading, although that won't come as a surprise to readers of books like The Orphan Train.
"You see?" Nurse Shapiro said. "They all cry themselves to sleep eventually if you leave them alone long enough."
In the secret darkness under the blanket, Rachel intertwined her fingers and pretended she was holding her brother's hand. It seemed like only a second later that she was jolted awake by a dream of a baby doll come to life, black buttons sewn on with coarse thread where its eyes should have been.
What are you reading this week?
Hilary Liftin is the author of more than 15 fiction and nonfiction bestsellers—but she's just released her first novel. How? Well, Liftin's previous works bore the name of other people: She's been working as a ghostwriter for more than a decade. In a guest post, Liftin talks about what it's like to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
My first novel, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, was published in July. It’s been strange for me to see this book into the world. I should feel like a pro. After all, I worked in publishing for 10 years, published two nonfiction books under my own name, and, as a professional ghostwriter, have so far collaborated on more than 15 books with a wonderful collection of celebrities and experts. But I never considered myself a fiction writer. For all the writing I had done, I’d never made anything up! In fact, that’s what I’ve always said I like most about ghostwriting. The raw material is pretty much handed to me.
Then I had the idea for Movie Star. Like any ghostwriter, I have to wait, sometimes impatiently, for the right projects to come along. I read gossip magazines and fantasize that various stars will want my services. So one day I decided I would take the bull by the horns and write a fictional celebrity memoir—the tell-all of my dreams.
Because the form was familiar to me, this was a baby step into fiction. I knew I wanted to delve into my Hollywood heroine’s struggle in her marriage to a megastar, and I wanted to let readers experience what it might be like if a tabloid darling held nothing back. I’ve written enough memoirs to have a sense of pace and scope. But actually plotting out the story was completely new to me. So I did something that may be unusual for novelists but felt perfectly natural to me as a collaborator—I called upon two of my writer friends to help me do what screenwriters call “breaking the story.” At least with an outline in hand I felt more confident facing the blank screen. Nonetheless, along the way I took some wrong turns, wrote myself into corners, and had to throw out hours of work. But in this process I was bolstered by another attribute acquired through ghostwriting—I had a sense of what I might call caring detachment. I knew exactly what the book wanted to be, and I was willing to scrap anything that didn’t serve it.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this process for me was not the writing, but the publication itself. Once my ghostwritten projects make it through the editorial process, I’m out. I have zero to do with publicizing the book. I just watch from the sidelines, like a proud relative at a graduation ceremony. When Movie Star came out, there was so much to do! The publisher had questions for me. Features and reviews had my name in them. The full spotlight was on me. To be honest, I would have loved to hire a ghost-self-promoter to pull it off with more finesse than I. I still love ghostwriting—the collaboration, the form, and not least the freedom to hide in the shadows—but Movie Star is my baby, and it’s proven fun to nurture it along.
Falling in love with a debut novelist is scary. Will they write again? Will the second novel be as wonderful as the first? Most first-time writers probably struggle with those same questions. Here are a few authors who hit it out of the park the first time around—and whose second novels we're still hoping to read one day. (Hey, if it can happen for Harper Lee...)
Golden's 1997 smash hit was a cultural phenomenon and earned him an invite to the White House. But his second novel, set in 1860s Amsterdam and sold to Knopf in 2002 for seven figures, has been a long time coming. A 2013 interview suggested a fall 2014 publication date, but two years later, no announcement has been made.
Almost 20 years after the publication of her first and only novel—which won the Booker Prize and is still one of the biggest touchstones for Indian fiction— Roy has involved herself in activism, leading many to assume that novel-writing is on the back burner. Despite 2007 rumors of a novel-in-progress, readers are still waiting.
Jones' poignant and beautiful exploration of the life of a black slave owner won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle award. Since then, he's published a short story collection, All Aunt Hagar's Children, but no full-length work has yet been announced.
Readers have been waiting since 2004 for another novel-length glimpse into the magical imagination of Clarke, whose nearly 1,000-page opus about the titular frenemy magicians' antics in Napoleonic-era England was a dark horse bestseller. In the wake of the (excellent) BBC miniseries that aired this summer, there's only likely to be more demand. News soon, please?
While Diaz's 2012 short story collection, This Is How You Lose Her, was wonderful, we're still eager for another novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner, whose recent self-aware remarks on the pitfalls of men writing about women only made us love him more.
A pick for Oprah's Book Club, this coming-of-age story starring a protagonist with an affinity for dogs—and based on Shakespeare's Hamlet—shot up the bestseller list. In December 2008, Wroblewski sold a prequel to Lee Boudreaux and Daniel Halpern at Ecco, in a deal that mentioned a planned trilogy about the Sawtelle clan. Boudreaux left Ecco in 2014 to form her own imprint at Little, Brown, and it's unclear if Wroblewski went with her. Either way, there's been no word on another Sawtelle story.
Unsettling and provocative, Galchen's 2008 literary debut about a man who is certain his beloved wife has been replaced by another woman, was assured and accomplished. It won her the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and a spot on the New Yorker's 20 Under 40 list in 2010. Galchen published a short story collection, American Innovations, in 2014, but there's been no news of a sophomore novel.
This 2010 surprise bestseller was a charming and engaging story of British country life in East Sussex, where a very English retired Major forms a surprising relationship with a Pakistani shopkeeper. In 2011, Simonson sold her second novel to her original publisher, Random House, but no publication date has been set. However, German rights to novel #2, tentatively titled The Summer Before the War, were sold in June—perhaps an announcement is on the horizon?
Is there a debut novelist who has you eager for book #2? Let us know in the comments!