It’s our 4th Annual Debut Review, where we showcase the best and brightest debuts of the year! Debuts are hard to shop for; it’s hard enough to find debuts in the mass of new adult fiction titles, let alone trying to figure out who’s going to do well. This annual wrap-up will help you find those missing gems as we spotlight the top Debut titles across libraries in 2023 and feature a few of the standouts.
Here are some quick stats about this list. Of the fifty titles, there were twenty-two general/literary fiction, twelve thrillers, five mystery titles, four fantasy, four horror, and three romance titles. Diverse titles made up 38% of the list. Ten titles were selected for National Book Clubs like Reese’s Book Club or Reads with Jenna. And at least two titles have already been optioned for film or series!
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club is on track to take on Oprah’s Book Club in terms of bringing interest to their selected titles. That may be a strong statement, but the Reese Book Club selections get major traction with readers, and this year’s most popular Debut (by a mile) was one of Reese’s picks: The House in the Pines, by Ana Reyes. This psychological suspense follows Aubrey, (whose best friend died eight years prior) after she watches a Youtube video of another woman dying the same way as her friend – and in front of the same person: Aubrey’s ex-boyfriend, Frank.
The second most popular Debut of the year was another celebrity book club pick, this time a Today Show Read With Jenna selection: Maame, by Jessica George. The coming-of-age novel follows Maddie, aka “Maame,” a British Ghanian woman trying to find herself while dealing with family and work struggles. Reviewers called this book “pitch-perfect” and “deeply moving.”
The biggest Debut Mysteries of the year include The Golden Spoon, by Jessa Maxwell, a murder mystery with a Great British Bake-Off setting. The reviews for this whodunit were the equivalent of a Hollywood Handshake! The other top Mystery was The Housekeepers, by Alex Hay, where an Edwardian-era housekeeper is dismissed from her job and subsequently hatches a revenge plot. If your patrons are big fans of Cozy Mysteries, check out Charlotte Illes Is Not A Detective by Katie Siegel, about a former child-detective tossed back into mystery-solving as an adult. Give to fans of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files or Nita Prose’s 2022 debut, The Maid.
For fans of Romance, the top spot goes to Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler, a road trip romance with an opposites-attract trope. It’s followed by the quirky paranormal romance My Roommate is a Vampire by Jenna Levine, about – you guessed it – a woman who becomes roommate (and more) to a vampire.
A variety of Fantasy novels made this list this year. Good Morning America Book Club pick Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs, featuring a “library of magical books” and a “deadly secret,” took the top spot. Give this one to fans of Leigh Bardugo and Holly Black. If you’re looking for a laugh and a splash of romance, try Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer, based on a viral TikTok series. And if you’re looking for a blend of Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls, look no further than Breanne Randall’s The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic.
Horror had a big showing on this year’s list with Sisters of the Lost Nation by Nick Medina coming in first. This story follows a high school senior trying to find her missing sister, one of several girls disappearing from Louisiana's Takoda tribe. Other top titles include two haunted house tales: Carissa Orlando’s The September House and Johnny Compton’s The Spite House; and a second indigenous horror story (and YA Crossover) with Jessica John’s Bad Cree.
ICYMI, we have a couple of big debuts written by famous people from other fields: Music-themed This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs, co-founder of 80’s rock band The Bangles; and Nineteen Steps, a WWII drama inspired by the author’s family history, by Millie Bobby Brown (aka Eleven, aka Enola Holmes). And while it didn’t make the top 50, another celebrity, Middle Earth Dwarf King Richard Armitage, released his debut neuroscience-thriller, Geneva, in October.
Debut releases in the fourth quarter don’t always have enough time to climb to the top our Debut charts, so I wanted to take special notice of the rising stars from the end of the year: a four-year-old girl from a Mi’kmaq family disappears in Amanda Peters’ The Berry Pickers and, thanks to TikTok, the biggest 2023 debut in the fast-growing “Romantasy” genre is The Hurricane Wars by Thea Guanzon.
You can find the full list of the 50 Most Popular Adult Fiction Titles of 2023 in our Virtual Book Display collection of complimentary lists. To help you keep on top of debut fiction ordering, we post a list of forthcoming Debut titles three times a year. We have over 200 publisher meetings each year, where they discuss the debuts they’re really excited about. We take the information from those meetings, as well as our own research on new debut titles, and create a list of books we think libraries will want. You can find it in our Curated Complimentary lists in its new location in the Adult Subject Lists category.