September Reading Challenge

September Reading Challenge: Read a book by an author you’ve never read before

You know at first, I was pretty stumped on how to make a list and post for a challenge so…subjective. After all, no matter how well-known a book might be, there are always plenty of people who’ve never read it before, which means theoretically, I could talk about any book.

Thankfully my coworker had the fantastic suggestion to list books by debut authors as well as newly translated books, so here we go! As per usual, all the titles featured in this post will be available at Vaughan Public Libraries, though as they are new, many are on order. Get your holds in now!

DEBUT AUTHORS

Cover of When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

A mythic love story set in Trinidad & Tobago, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s radiant debut introduces two unforgettable outsiders brought together by their connection with the dead.

A masterwork of lush imagination and immersive lyricism, shot through with the rhythm of the island, When We Were Birds is a spellbinding novel about inheritance, loss and love’s seismic power to heal.

Cover of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

A delight for readers of Where’d You Go, Bernadette , this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

Cover of A History of Present Illness by Anna DeForest

A History of Present Illness by Anna DeForest

A novel of meticulous brevity and a tone and vision all its own, transmuting the practice of medicine into a larger exploration of humanity, the meaning of care, and the nature of annihilation—physical, spiritual, or both.

In brilliant, wry, and biting prose, A History of Present Illness is a boldly honest meditation on the body, the hope of healing in the face of total loss, and what it means to be alive.

Cover of Shutter by Ramona Emerson

Shutter by Ramona Emerson

This blood-chilling debut set in New Mexico’s Navajo Nation is equal parts gripping crime thriller, supernatural horror, and poignant portrayal of coming of age on the reservation. Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases—she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook.

Written in sparkling, gruesome prose, Shutter is an explosive debut from one of crime fiction’s most powerful new voices.

Cover of If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

A major debut, blazing with style and heart, that follows a Jamaican family striving for more in Miami, and introduces a generational storyteller.

Pulsing with vibrant lyricism and inimitable style, sly commentary and contagious laughter, Escoffery’s debut unravels what it means to be in between homes and cultures in a world at the mercy of capitalism and white supremacy. With If I Survive You, Escoffery announces himself as a prodigious storyteller in a class of his own, a chronicler of American life at its most gruesome and hopeful.

Cover of Story From The Tenants Downstairs

Stories From The Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana

Set in a Harlem high rise, a stunning debut about a tight-knit cast of characters grappling with their own personal challenges while the forces of gentrification threaten to upend life as they know it.

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs brilliantly captures the joy and pain of the human experience and heralds the arrival of a uniquely talented writer.

Cover of The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty

The Rabbit Hutch is a stunning debut novel about the quest for transcendence and the desire for love, set in a crumbling apartment building in the post-industrial Midwest.

Set across one week and culminating in a shocking act of violence, The Rabbit Hutch chronicles a town on the brink, desperate for rebirth. How far will its residents—especially Blandine—go to achieve it? Does one person’s gain always come at another’s expense?

Cover of Perish by Latoya Watkins

Perish by Latoya Watkins

From a stunning new voice, comes a powerful debut novel about a Black Texan family, exploring the effects of inherited trauma and intergenerational violence as the family comes together to say goodbye to their matriarch on her deathbed.

Tackling themes like family, trauma, legacy, home, class, race, and more, this beautiful yet heart-wrenching novel, will appeal to anyone who is interested in the intricacies of family and the ways bonds can be made, maintained, or irrevocably broken.

Cover of Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong

Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong

How can we live with integrity and pleasure in this world of police brutality and racism? An Asian American activist is challenged by his mother to face this question in this powerful—and funny—debut novel of generational change, a mother’s secret, and an activist’s coming-of-age.

Inspired by his family’s roots in activism, Ryan Lee Wong offers an extraordinary debut novel that is as humorous as it is profound, a celebration of seeking a life that is both virtuous and fun, an ode to mothering and being mothered.

Newly Translated

Cover of 1,000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel

1,000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel

A multilayered and rhythmic debut novel about her life as a Black German woman living in Berlin and New York during the chaos of the 2016 U.S. presidential election from playwright Olivia Wenzel.

Heart-rending, opinionated, and wry, Olivia Wenzel’s remarkable debut novel is a clear-sighted and polyphonic investigation into origins and belonging, the roles society wants to force us into and why we need to resist them, and the freedoms and fears that being the odd one out brings.

Cover of All The Lovers In The Night by Mieko Kawakami

All The Lovers In The Night by Mieko Kawakami

Fuyuko Irie is a freelance copy editor in her mid-thirties. Working and living alone in a city where it is not easy to form new relationships, she has little regular contact with anyone other than her editor, Hijiri, a woman of the same age but with a very different disposition. 

All the Lovers in the Night is acute and insightful, entertaining and engaging; it will make readers laugh, and it will make them cry, but it will also remind them, as only the best books do, that sometimes the pain is worth it.

Cover of The Artisans: A Vanishing Chinese Village by Shen Fuyu

The Artisans: A Vanishing Chinese Village by Shen Fuyu

Evoking Studs Terkel, Shen Fuyu delivers a rollicking deep dive into working life in a small village in rural China, tracing the last 100 years of history. In an acerbic, earthy and unsparing style that swings from poignancy to comedy, sometimes within a single paragraph, Shen evokes the spirits of these workers—a bamboo-weaver and his beloved bull, a carpenter’s magical saw, the deserter who became the village lantern-maker and a rebellious woman who beats up her own kidnapper.

A reflection on the vicissitudes of small-town life during the epic shift from agricultural to industrial civilization, The Artisans vividly details the hardships, friendships and communal mythmaking of a disappearing community.

Cover Narinjah (The Bitter Orange Tree) by Jokha Alharthi

Narinjah (The Bitter Orange Tree) by Jokha Alharthi

Zuhur, an Omani student at a British university, is caught between the past and the present. As she attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, she can’t help but ruminate on the relationships that have been central to her life.

 Narinjah (The Bitter Orange Tree) is a profound exploration of social status, wealth, desire, and female agency. It presents a mosaic portrait of one young woman’s attempt to understand the roots she has grown from, and to envisage an adulthood in which her own power and happiness might find the freedom necessary to bear fruit and flourish.

Cover of The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk

The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk

In the mid-eighteenth century, as new ideas-and a new unrest-begin to sweep the Continent, a young Jew of mysterious origins arrives in a village in Poland. Before long, he has changed not only his name but his persona; visited by what seem to be ecstatic experiences, Jacob Frank casts a charismatic spell that attracts an increasingly fervent following.

Narrated through the perspectives of his contemporaries—those who revere him, those who revile him, the friend who betrays him, the lone woman who sees him for what he is—The Books of Jacob captures a world on the cusp of precipitous change, searching for certainty and longing for transcendence.

Cover of Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung

A stunning, wildly original debut from a rising star of Korean literature—surreal, chilling fables that take on the patriarchy, capitalism, and the reign of big tech with absurdist humor and a (sometimes literal) bite.

From an author never before published in the U.S., Cursed Bunny will shock and surprise readers with each new tale. Translated by the acclaimed Anton Hur, Bora Chung’s stories are unique and imaginative, by turns thought-provoking and stomach-turning, where monsters take the shapes of furry woodland creatures and danger lurks in unexpected corners of apartment buildings. But in this unforgettable collection, Chung’s absurd, haunting universe could be our own, illuminating the ills of contemporary society.

Cover of A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse

A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse

With Septology, Fosse has found a new approach to writing fiction, different from what he has written before and—it is strange to say, as the novel enters its fifth century—different from what has been written before. Septology feels new.

Written in melodious and hypnotic “slow prose,” A New Name is the final installment of Jon Fosse’s Septology, “a major work of Scandinavian fiction” (Hari Kunzru) and an exquisite metaphysical novel about love, art, God, friendship, and the passage of time.

Cover of Portrait Of An Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza

Portrait of An Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza

In the Buenos Aires art world, a master forger has achieved legendary status. Rumored to be a woman, she specializes in canvases by the painter Mariette Lydis, a portraitist of Argentinean high society. But who is this absurdly gifted creator of counterfeits? What motivates her? And what is her link to the community of artists who congregate, night after night, in a strange establishment called the Hotel Melancólico?

Driven by obsession and full of subtle surprise, Portrait of an Unknown Lady is a highly seductive and enveloping meditation on what we mean by “authenticity” in art, and a captivating exploration of the gap between what is lived and what is told.


Well, I hope this list has brought some new and interesting titles to your attention! And if, in a more general sense, you’d like recommendations for your next read, you can always speak to any librarian and we’d be happy to whip up some suggestions for you. You can also see further recommendations on our website, or get a personalized list of your Next 5 Reads by filling out this form!

Last but not least, you can also request that VPL purchase an item if it turns out we don’t have it, at no cost to you! You’ll only be hearing from us in the event that we can’t get the title, and otherwise it’ll be placed on hold for you once acquired! How neat is that?

Until next month, happy reading everyone!

About Sumayyah

Sumayyah is an Information Assistant at the Vaughan Public Libraries. She's also a bookworm and aspiring author, constantly dreaming up a multitude of different stories and wrestling with actually finishing any of them.