The Edinburgh Book Festival starts today, which means that loads of readers, 800 writers, and a slew of literary sharks will be in Scotland in order to eat bland food and take in a lot of readings. This year marks the return of the Newton First Book Award, which includes contributions from 47 debut novelists as well as seasoned authors whose work has been published in English for the very first time. You can vote on the winner from now until October 7th, so get informed via our list below. These books are generating the most buzz for first-time writers in English for good reason, so click through to see the rising stars of the literary world and the novels we’ll all be talking about in the weeks (and hopefully years) to come.
Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman
Ned Beauman is 26 years old and his debut novel is about a man who collects Nazi memorabilia and smells like rotting fish. It is also about a gay Jewish boxer living in 1930s in London’s East End, so get ready for parallel stories. Boxer, Beetle has been nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, and Peter Carty from the Independent writes, “This is humour that goes beyond black, careening off into regions of darkness to deliver the funniest new book I’ve read in a year or two.”
The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya
Rahul Bhattacharya’s debut novel is about a young Indian journalist who moves to Guyana in order to “escape the deadness of his life”. In a video taken at the PEN World Voices Festival, Bhattacharya says, “The genius of the Caribbean is basically to take any word and turn it into a synonym for genitals — fish, pork, masala.” Not only has he written a beautiful novel, but he’s funny, too. We envy you and your many talents, Mr. Bhattacharya.
The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock
Mary Horlock once lived with Sacha Baron-Cohen and is the former curator for the Tate Modern, so we’re going to go out on a limb and say that she’s an interesting person to know. Her novel, The Book of Lies, concerns a 15-year-old girl named Catherine Rozier who shoves her best friend off a cliff on the first page. Aren’t you curious about what happens on the second?
The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung
The Fat Years is Chan Koonchung’s first crack at dystopian fiction in English, and the premise is that in 2013, Western capitalism has self-destructed and China happily reigns supreme. Recently, he told Stephanie Hegarty at BBC News, “I am trying to create a scenario that is a logical extension of the present system, it’s one step ahead. If the present system does not change it may end up looking like this. It’s not all positive.”
The Instructions by Adam Levin
What’s 1,030 pages and published by McSweeney’s? The Instructions, of course! Adam Levin’s debut novel centers around four days in the young life of Gurion Maccabee as he endures a particularly harsh education at Aptakisic Junior High. The bizarre book trailer was nominated for Melville House’s Moby Award earlier this year, so get your knives at the ready, kids.
Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph
The author describes her debut as, “a Bombay novel of misplaced dreams, recovered love, and quiet moments of beauty amid a vibrant city.” Aamer Hussein writes in the Independent , “She succeeds, above all, in keeping the reader absorbed in the events of an ordinary year in an ordinary life, without the narrative inflation and geopolitical information that have become the bedrock of so much fiction from South Asia. She believes in her story and that, in itself, is an achievement.”
Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
After writing her debut novel, Rebecca Hunt sparked a bidding war between seven British publishers, resulting in a two-book deal from Penguin and a six-figure advance. In Mr. Chartwell, we follow a large, smelly, black dog as he follows Winston Churchill around on the eve of his resignation from Parliament. Hunt tells the Telegraph , “I didn’t want the dog to be a punchline or a trick – it was the vehicle by which to discuss something very internal. It’s fantastical on the surface with its heart in reality.”
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelmen
Stephen Kelman’s critically-acclaimed debut is about an eleven-year-old Ghanaian transplant who lives in London with his mother in what they refer to as “housing estates” but what we refer to as “projects.” The boy witnesses a murder and begins his own investigation, all the while absorbing the squalid new surroundings and bantering with the new face of English youth. The BBC is adapting the story for film, which will be directed by Adam Smith of Skins fame. You can watch the book trailer here.
Ten Stories About Smoking by Stuart Evers
We’re going to take the plunge and endorse Stuart Evers anyway, despite his unfortunate haircut. David Vann writes, “Evers has found possibility in even the bleakest and smallest of lives, with each delicately linked not only by a cigarette but also by a glimpse into how terrifyingly empty a life can be.”
All the Lights by Clemens Meyer
Clemens Meyer is a former security guard, forklift driver, and construction worker. He worked all of these jobs as he wrote his debut, Als wir Träumten (As We Were Dreaming). Der Spiegel called his second novel, which was recently translated into English, “The best crafted, toughest and most heart-rending stories in Germany.” Wunderbar!