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50 of the Best Debut Novels Since 1950

For a reader, there’s something magical about picking up a first novel — that promise of discovery, the possibility of finding a new writer whose work you can love for years to come, the likelihood of semi-autobiography for you to mull over. The debut is even more important for the writer — after all, you only get one first impression. Luckily, there are a lot of fantastic first impressions to be had. In fact, the year’s best might have been published just this month. After the jump, check out some of the greatest first novels written since 1950 — some that sparked great careers, some that are still the writers’ best work, and some that remain free-standing (but hopefully not for long!).
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1
The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai
2
Geek Love (Katherine Dunn)
Geek Love (Katherine Dunn)
3
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
4
The Secret History
The Secret History
5
The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
6
The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides
7
The Mezzanine
The Mezzanine
8
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
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9
The Recognitions
The Recognitions
10
Neuromancer
Neuromancer
11
Lucky Jim
Lucky Jim
12
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye
13
Speedboat
Speedboat
14
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
15
Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
16
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
17
Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World
Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World
18
We the Animals
We the Animals
19
Wise Blood
Wise Blood
20
White Teeth
White Teeth
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21
Lanark
Lanark
22
V by Thomas Pynchon
V by Thomas Pynchon
23
Bastard Out of Carolina
Bastard Out of Carolina
24
The Known World
The Known World
25
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
26
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson)
27
The Tin Drum
The Tin Drum
28
Housekeeping
Housekeeping
29
Revolutionary Road
Revolutionary Road
30
Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart
31
Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
32
The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood
The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood
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33
Doctor Zhivago (Boris Pasternak)
Doctor Zhivago (Boris Pasternak)
34
Invisible Man
Invisible Man
35
The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club
36
Leaving the Atocha Station
Leaving the Atocha Station
37
The Name of the Rose
The Name of the Rose
38
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
39
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
40
Love Medicine
Love Medicine
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