Nearly a million books are published each year in the US by some estimates. Even if we trim that number down to just “literary books” (whatever that term means), there are thousands of books filling the shelves each year. As such, it can be a little silly to sum up an etire year of books in any way. And yet, years do seem to have flavors and different books become part of the conversation each time. So, at the risk of violating my own advice from two sentences ago, I’m going to suggest that 2014 might be the year of the debut. 2014 was the year Phil Klay’s debut collection Redeployment won the National Book Award. It was the year Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing won a half-dozen awards. The year Andy Weir’s The Martian went from self-published debut to SF sensation (and winner of Goodreads choice award in Science Fiction). Then there are the books that were not technically first books published, but were the first books to break an author out into a large audience. Leslie Jamison had previously published a novel, but her debut essay collection The Empathy Exams became the rare indie press book to make a the New York Times Bestseller list. Roxane Gay published a short story collection in 2011, but her 2014 debut novel (An Untamed State) and debut essay collection (Bad Feminist) saw her rocket to household name status. This is not to say that major established writers didn’t release great books. Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, Denis Johnson’s The Laughing Monsters, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, and Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, among others, all got great reviews. Still, those books didn’t dominate the conversation the way that novels from established writers often do. (Think of how the following books controlled the conversation in 2013: The Goldfinch, The Tenth of December, The Circle, Doctor Sleep, Bleeding Edge, and The Flamethrowers.) This year, new voices were making a disproportionate amount of the racket. So I’m going to call it: 2014 was the year of debuts. If you don’t believe me, here is a (by no means complete!) list of stellar 2014 debuts for your perusal: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng High as the Horses Bridles by Scott Cheshire The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey (our review) Man V. Nature by Diane Cook (read an excerpt) Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (our interview) Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino Thrown by Kerry Howley The Wilds by Julia Elliott Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours by Luke B Goebel (read an excerpt) I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish Made to Break by D. Foy Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (read our interview) The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride The Martian by Andy Weir Redeployment by Phil Klay (read an excerpt) 16 Responses A Compilation of the Best Books of 2014 | A Vase of Wildflowers December 3, 2014 […] Electric Literature […] Reply Vol. 1 Brooklyn | Afternoon Bites: PJ Harvey’s Poetry, Kevin Young Interviewed, Dolan Morgan’s Playlist, Terry Riley Interviewed, and More December 3, 2014 […] Slate asked a number of writers for their picks for the most underrated book of the year, and Electric Literature makes the case that this is the year of the literary debut. […] Reply Avid indie press supporter December 3, 2014 It’s so sad to me to see a best debut list from Electric Literature without the mention of Eric Shonkwiler’s incredible “Above All Men.” It’s the best book I’ve read in years and years, and not enough readers and list-writers are venturing from the indie mainstream to pick up a truly fantastic ultra-indie smallstream book that fits perfectly in this list, but isn’t getting its due because the press is smaller. We all have our opinions and tastes, I know, but I expect something more from the people who brought us “The Great Indie Press Preview” as a response to The Millions’ having the same ol’ same ol’ “indie” list that everyone else had. Please pick up “Above All Men” and check it out and give it some credit. I am not affiliated with the press, just a reader who was blown away by this stunning debut, as you will also be. Reply Lincoln Michel December 3, 2014 Thanks for the rec! Just to clarify this was not meant as a “best of” list, we’ll be posting some of those soon (including an indie focused one) Reply Avid indie press supporter December 3, 2014 Thanks for the reply. So glad to hear it! These indie lists are the only lists worth paying much attention to these days. 🙂 I hope that you do check out Shonkwiler’s book. Based on the books that you have highlighted in this list, I think that you will really enjoy it. Looking forward to seeing more from you and from Electric Literature, always. I’ve been a long-time reader here. 🙂 Lista med listor över de bästa böckerna 2014 | bearbooks December 6, 2014 […] Bästa böckerna Electric Literature: Debutböcker Entertainment Weekly: Skönlitteratur Entertainment Weekly: Fackböcker Entertainment Weekly: De […] Reply Saturday Miscellany — 12/6/14 | The Irresponsible Reader December 6, 2014 […] Was 2014 the Year of the Debut? — a bunch of great debut novels […] Reply In the Media: 7th December 2014 | The Writes of Woman December 7, 2014 […] Huffington Post has its ‘Best Books of 2014‘; Electric Literature asks ‘Was 2014 the Year of the Debut?‘; ‘Three million voters reveal the books of 2014‘ on Stylist; ‘The 24 Best […] Reply Jessica December 8, 2014 I’d add to the list Red Rising and Bird Box, both of which made a splash and totally deserve recognition. Plus one of my favorites of the year, indie The Weirdness, which was a great trip of a debut. Reply De bästa böckerna 2014, lista med listor | bearbooks December 8, 2014 […] Bästa böckerna Electric Literature: Debutböcker Entertainment Weekly: Skönlitteratur Entertainment Weekly: Fackböcker Entertainment Weekly: 5 […] Reply Book Empire Vol. 51 | Bored to Death book club December 9, 2014 […] Electric Literature is making the claim that 2014 was the year of the literary debut. They do have some great books on that list, so there might be something to it. […] Reply Elizabeth Jackson December 9, 2014 I just want to add some debut novels by women over 50. Three favorites: Rachel Cantor’s A Highly Unlikely Scenario; Robin Black’s Life Drawing; Dylan Landis’s Rainey Royal. Thanks for the list above, which is terrific. (I tried a version of this comment a few days ago, but don’t see it here. Sorry for the repeat if you are still reviewing that one. I figured it got lost) Reply » Is Every Unhappy Friendship Unhappy in Its Own Way? On Emily Gould’s Friendship and Lindsay Hunter’s Ugly Girls February 6, 2015 […] the many stunning debut novels from last year, few plumbed platonic relationships like Emily Gould’s Friendship and Lindsay […] Reply Tumblr Import » Lit News Roundup March 4, 2015 […] 2014 the year of the debut? Electric Literature thinks so, but we recommend keeping an eye out for Lookout’s debut novel, Honey from the […] Reply Ten Debuts to Look for in 2015 August 12, 2015 […] month, Electric Literature made the bold claim that 2014 was the Year of the Debut. After looking at the incredible list of books attached to the statement, it certainly seems […] Reply » Sunday Sundries: Literary Links from Around the Web (Dec. 7th) May 16, 2016 […] Was 2014 the Year of the Debut? […] Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.