Top 10 Best Debut Novels of the Decade (2000-2009)

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Earlier this month, we offered up our picks for the 20 best books of the decade, most of them from authors we’d had some time to get to know before the turn of the century.

Today, we pay tribute to some of the best new literary voices of the past ten years, fresh new writers whose first novels packed walloping promise. We’ve rifled through the Paste archives to see what we first wrote about some of these stellar debuts, and in all cases, we’re still looking forward to what’s next from these young talents.

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10. Rivka Galchen: Atmospheric Disturbances [4th Estate Publishing] (2008)
”[Dr. Leo] Liebenstein is a mentally declining psychiatrist who believes his real wife has been replaced by a doppelganger. [Atmospheric Disturbances] confirms that Galchen’s studies have put her in a unique position to write about themes regarding identity, intimacy and trust with both scientific and literary authority.” Brian Merchant, Paste #43 (read more)

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9. Marisha Pessl: Special Topics in Calamity Physics [Viking Press] (2006)
Special Topics in Calamity Physics is the smart, impressive debut novel from 28-year-old Marisha Pessl. She offers the story of Blue van Meer, who recounts her senior year at the exclusive St. Gallway School with a dead-on deadpan voice, quick wit and a remarkably cynical mind… Even if her cheek does tire or grow precious at times, Pessl’s novel is well-crafted and densely plotted.” Susan Swagler, Paste #23 (read more)


8. Hillary Jordan: Mudbound [Algonquin Books] (2008)
Mudbound, an ambitious and affecting debut, may very well become a staple for courses in Southern literature. It is accessible, engaging and spiked with suspense… Readers now have Hillary Jordan’s tremendous gift, a story that challenges the 1950s textbook version of our history and levels its readers completely in the thrall of her characters.” Tayari Jones, Paste #40

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7. Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner [Riverhead Books] (2003)
The Kite Runner could have been conceived in another century, with its grand themes of moral imperatives, redemption, cultural identity, guilt, loyalty and love. It has none of the alienating qualities of self-consciousness and irony—a ubiquitous irritant in modern fiction— and all of the elegance of a truly great work of literature.” Rosanne Cash, Paste #38 (read more)

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6. Joshua Ferris: And Then We Came to the End [Little, Brown] (2007)
First came Office Space, then The Office. And finally, Ferris’ debut novel—a worthy addition to the pantheon of Cubicle Comedy. The setting? A Chicago advertising agency. The malaise? Overpowering. To really get in the work-is-hell spirit, read Ferris’ book every day for an hour in the office bathroom, and see if any of your co-workers notice. They probably won’t. Nick Marino

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