Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day of the week already but I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Tuesdays also mean one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week’s given topic is Freebie

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For this week’s theme, I had several topics in mind. One of the topics I considered was my Top 10 favorite books written by Japanese writers. I also considered sharing the ten latest additions to my reading list and my favorite quotes in my last ten reads. In the need, I settled with my Top 10 debut novels. But upon reviewing debut books that I liked, I saw several books I loved so to further limit the choices, I chose pre-2000 debut novels Without more ado, here is my list of favorite debut novels published before 2000. Happy reading!


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The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Kicking off this list is one of my all-time favorite reads, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It was a book that I kept encountering on must-read lists. But it was my first encounter with the book that I immediately recognized that it was going to be a book I would love. You just have that gut feeling. Unfortunately, it did take me time to obtain a copy of the book but once I did, I was ecstatic. I have an anecdote involving the book. It was not my first novel by the Italian writer – that honor goes to Baudolino – but it gave me a deep insight into his prose. It made me want to read more of Eco’s prose. The Name of the Rose is a unique and epic work and it is easy to understand why numerous readers around the world refer to it as a classic.

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The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Like The Name of the Rose, I immediately recognized that I will love Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits the first time I encountered it on must-read lists. Yes, I am thankful for these must-read lists because they introduced me to astounding literary masterpieces. When I acquired a copy of The House of the Spirits, I was very excited to read it. Allende had my attention from the get-go and she never relented, sustaining my attention until the end. The House of the Spirits is a great and captivating read. Allende’s writing prowess was on full display from the start until the end. Her vivid imagery and seamless prose greatly helped in my appreciation of the story. She was so good at it that even the grotesqueries came across as lyrical and beautiful. 

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

After I made a reading reset in 2015 (I previously focused on works of popular writers like Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, etc.), one of the writers that left an impression on me was Japanese-born Kazuo Ishiguro. I devoured his novels, some I enjoyed and some I found lackadaisical. My first foray into this oeuvre was An Artist of the Floating World, a book that impressed me. When I was able to obtain a copy of A Pale View of Hills, which I didn’t know was his debut novel, I consumed it with relish. It contained the literary elements that would be a trademark of his work – the compelling narrator’s voice, the poignant atmosphere, and the effortless storytelling.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The list would not be complete without one of my all-time favorite reads. It was during my university days when I first encountered Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. The book remotely interested me because the name was unfamiliar. I would encounter the book again and this time, I was more aware of the books that I should be reading. It was one of those books which comes highly recommended; it is part of nearly every must-read list. To say that To Kill a Mockingbird is a masterpiece is an understatement. It is a synergy of well-thought-of plot and themes, and well-developed characters. It is a timeless classic that shows the influence of one’s environment on one’s growth and development. It was deserving of all the accolades it got, including the Pulitzer Prize nod. 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Another must-read book in the ambit of American literature, rather, world literature is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. When I obtained a copy of the book, I barely had an inkling of what it was or the impact it had on the general reading public. The only reason I bought it was because it was tagged as “Classic” and “Award-Winning”, my weakness. The coming-of-age novel introduces one of the most renowned literary characters, Holden Caulfield, a captivating character – enigmatic, and charismatic. He imbibes reality. It is a rarity to encounter a literary character this memorable and realistic. In a breathtaking tapestry, Salinger weaved a wonderful story. This book truly belongs to the highest orders of the literary world.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Here is another Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece. Margaret Mitchell’s debut (and only) novel, Gone With the Wind, is one of the most popular titles out there. In fact, a 2014 survey showed that the book lagged behind the Bible, making it the second most favorite book of American readers. Its cultural influences transcend time. A behemoth of a historical novel, it relates the story of a young woman, Scarlett O’Hara, as she grows up in her home state of Georgia. It was also a complex character study. Whilst Gone With the Wind is a story that was molded from the past, it is a story whose finer details reverberate towards the future. It is a novel that will forever be embedded in every reader’s mind. It was just unfortunate that this was her only novel. Nonetheless, its impact is undeniable.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

My first encounter with Donna Tartt was with her Pulitzer Prize-winning labyrinthine novel, The Goldfinch. However, it was an entirely different reason that made me decide to read Tartt’s debut novel (which I didn’t realize was her debut novel). The book was listed as one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die; most of the books in this list are part of the list as well. The first thing I would say that would characterize the book is that it is filled with dark themes. Although the story revolves around a murder, it also dwells on lust, incest, alcoholism, and narcissism among other deviant human behaviors. Overall, The Secret History is a brilliantly, albeit darkly, crafted masterpiece deserving of the accolades it has received.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

It was during my university days that I read my first-ever novel written by Jane Austen. I did struggle a bit with Pride and Prejudice; maybe because of my relative greenness vis-a-vis literary classics. This, however, did not stop me from reading more of her works, and in 2018, I was lucky enough to read Sense and Sensibility, my first Austen in over a decade. I didn’t realize that it was her debut novel. The novel charted the story of sisters Elinor and Marianne. Austen was able to conjure two contrasting yet believable characters while making them thrive in the emotionally taxing Victorian society. But Sense and Sensibility is more than just an ordinary story about two sisters. It is a critical commentary on how money motivates men in general. Overall, the biggest winner in the story was the elegance of Austen’s prose. 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

In the ambit of literature, one set of literary sisters stands out: the Brontë sisters. Their works are ubiquitous and the passage of time has not dimmed the luster of their works. I loved all novels by the Brontë sisters I have read, including the very first one, Jane Eyre by Charlotte. I also loved Emily’s debut novel, Wuthering Heights. She laid the groundwork for a captivating story that transcends all times. It had the perfect mix of elements, from characters to story to story-telling. Wuthering Heights is a towering work of fiction, a book that has left its mark on me. It also introduced me to one of my favorite literary characters, Heathcliff. Yes, it is a romance story, but beyond the romance, it is a story of passion.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Another book I kept encountering on must-read lists was Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Even though I barely had any inkling of what the book was about, I obtained a copy of it and made it part of my 2018 reading journey. Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the story is narrated by a half-Native American patient, the gigantic and docile Chief Bromden, who everyone thought was deaf and mute. On a more minute scale, the facility is a representation of society as a whole. Nurse Ratched is the embodiment of rules and law. She personifies Order but she is also control. One central point in Ken Kesey’s narrative is his humanization of mental health patients. The book was both insightful and provocative, exploring subjects like lobotomy, sexuality, and identity. It was a staggering literary piece.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Nobel Laureate in Literature Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye introduces the readers to eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Her father burned down their house, causing her to temporarily stay with a foster family, the MacTeers. Her unusual mannerisms and dark complexion drew the ire of her neighborhood, school, and community. She was frequently regarded as “ugly”. This resulted in Pecola developing an inferiority complex and an insatiable desire to have blue eyes because they are the highest representations of “whiteness”, hence, beauty. The Bluest Eye is an exceptional novel about our deepest desires, the prejudices of society, and the different standards that emanate from these prejudices. The novel was scintillating in its exploration of these subjects.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

It was curiosity that drove me towards Sylvia Plath’s only novel, The Bell Jar. More renowned as a poet, I have first learned of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Plath’s personality before I started reading her novel. The Bell Jar was actually drawn from Plath’s experiences in college. It captured the feeling of being locked in a bell jar, at least mentally. I was given a glimpse of Plath’s mind and a piece of her story. People think that the decision to take one’s life is abrupt. The truth is that it is a slow and arduous process that inevitably swirls into a period when nothing feels bearable anymore. In spite of the dark subject, the novel gave glimmers of hope. Mental health is a subject that is very dear to me, and perhaps that is the very reason why the novel plucked the proverbial strings of my heart.