10 Really Good First Novels

Add Image

Looking for some terrific holiday reading? Need some inspiration to get that first novel finished? Here is a list of 10 great books that were the first novel published by each of these authors. (In some cases, the only novel they published.)

This isn’t meant to be discouraging. Every writer has a first book… sometimes they’re amazing. Be inspired!

1. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
2. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
4. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
6. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
7. Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
8. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
9. The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
10. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

What are YOUR favorite “first novels”?

Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Jo on March 30, 2013 at 6:33 AM

    Don’t really know any premiere novels. #5 is awesome. Just as a joke, I’m going to go ahead and say the Lavender Johnson book by my friend Tiffany. Technically, I know its not a proper book (not even finished) and she doesn’t have the proper makings of a writer. Or so she says!

  2. Jo on March 30, 2013 at 6:32 AM

    Don’t really know any premiere novels. #5 is awesome. Just as a joke, I’m going to go ahead and say the Lavender Johnson book by my friend Tiffany. Technically, I know its not a proper book (not even finished) and she doesn’t have the proper makings of a writer. Or so she says!

  3. WiFi Marketing on January 3, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Read was interesting, stay in touch……

    […]please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web[…]……

  4. PKV-Vergleich on January 3, 2012 at 7:34 AM

    Gems form the internet…

    […]very few websites that happen to be detailed below, from our point of view are undoubtedly well worth checking out[…]……

  5. fsbo missouri on January 2, 2012 at 6:27 PM


    […]just beneath, are numerous totally not related sites to ours, however, they are surely worth going over[…]……

  6. fontanna czekoladowa on December 29, 2011 at 10:45 PM

    Recent Blogroll Additions……

    […]usually posts some very interesting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[…]……

  7. JoanMccarthy on December 3, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    The loan seem to be useful for guys, which are willing to start their career. By the way, it is not really hard to get a credit loan.

  8. Heather B. Moore on December 19, 2008 at 12:25 AM

    >I agree with all of those except TTW. Good list. I loved WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr.

  9. Anonymous on December 17, 2008 at 6:18 PM

    >”Ghost Road Blues” by Jonathan Maberry

  10. Dineen A. Miller on December 17, 2008 at 4:23 PM

    >Oh wow, I thought the Secret Life of Bees was new. Didn’t realize it came out in 2004. I read “When the heart Waits” years ago and loved it.

  11. Lady Glamis on December 16, 2008 at 7:32 PM

    >I’ve read Bees, Rye, Catch-22, and am currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird … which, having been an English major, you’d think I would have read by now!

    Kite Runner is next on the list. I hear nothing but great things about that one!

    I stumbled onto your blog through other blogs. It’s great to see Christian literary agents. Like a breath of fresh air. 🙂

  12. Lea Ann McCombs on December 16, 2008 at 12:24 PM

    >Gone With the Wind–my all-time favorite book. I’ve read it at least ten times.

    It was also rejected 14 times for all the reasons we get to hear: too long, too much description, no one cares about the Civil War era anymore, Scarlet not a beleiveable or sympathetic character!

    Reminding myself of the trials of my all-time favorite first novel keeps my chin up!

  13. vince on December 16, 2008 at 11:54 AM

    >Hi Rachelle:

    I’m not sure about firsts but I think Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, and Harriet Beecher Stowe should be on the list along with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Two other questions are worth asking: (1) was their first book considered their best? (2) how many years did they spend writing their first book?


  14. Thoughts from South Moon on December 16, 2008 at 11:18 AM

    >Gone With The Wind and To Kill A Mocking Bird are my all time favorite ‘first’ and I guess “only” novels. Both of these books have moved me and touched in a way no other books have. They have been the best lessons in writing I’ve had.

  15. Rachelle on December 16, 2008 at 11:04 AM

    >Hey everyone, just to clarify… some of these authors, notably Sue Monk Kidd, had written and published nonfiction books prior to writing their first novels. Sue was already an amazing writer before trying fiction.

    Also, Nicole… you’re right, if I started mentioning my favorite contemporary CBA novels, the list would be really long and I’d STILL be afraid of leaving somebody out. Many of these authors are my friends, you know? So I just avoid it altogether and instead talk about general market books.

  16. Nicole on December 16, 2008 at 10:48 AM

    >Demon . . . a memoir.

    First Christian novel for an accomplished writer: Redeeming Love, a bona fide classic, superb novel.

    My first novel was very much a first novel, not an accomplished work, but it served its purpose and is still reaching out to those within and without the horse racing community.

    I always wonder why people in the business of CBA publishing never mention Christian fiction in their lists of favorites or great examples. Is it because they’re afraid of offending their clients or other CBA authors?

  17. Christina S. Nelson on December 16, 2008 at 10:44 AM

    >To Kill a Mockingbird and The Secret Life of Bees are two of my favorite novels. Thanks for the info. I didn’t realize The Secret Life of Bees was a first. It gives me even more motivation to learn, learn, learn the craft.

    Merry Christmas,

    Christina S. Nelson

  18. Kim Kasch on December 16, 2008 at 10:10 AM

    >1. Stephen King’s Carrie
    2. Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament
    3. Danette Haworth’s Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightening

  19. Camille Cannon Eide on December 16, 2008 at 10:09 AM

    >I recently read Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees and was inspired. I knew it was her first, and I was awed by her smooth voice in a story full of pain and suffering. Reading it and knowing it was her first novel inspired me to ask her and other authors, as well as a couple agents and editors to give their thoughts on understanding, unnlocking and developing your voice as a writer. I was blessed with an overwhelming response from several writers and publishing professionals (go to my Dec 6 blog post to see what they said) including Rachelle, whose comment really got me thinking about being truly honest as a writer.

    Unfortunately, Ms. Kidd was on deadline when asked and was unavailable for comment. Ah, a glimpse into the secret life of best-selling authors. 🙂

    I also have Tosca Lee’s Demon (sounds like a spiritual epidemic) and heard her second novel, Havah, was another winner, so it’s on my Christmas wish list.

  20. Yvonne on December 16, 2008 at 9:51 AM

    >Ha, ha,Dayle… sometimes I feel like throwing my writing out the window!

    I write a lot in my head. As I was raising my kids, I “wrote” my novel. So, when by the time I put it on paper, I had the plot and characters worked out.

    I don’t think I’ll ever spend that much time on a book again.

  21. lynnrush on December 16, 2008 at 9:05 AM

    >Wow, what a great list. I don’t know how many of the books I like are firsts other than Demon, A Memoir (it’s really good). And wasn’t Stephanie Meyer’s book Twilight a first? I enjoyed that book as well. But I write YA and that’s my genre pretty much.

    What a fun topic.

  22. christa on December 16, 2008 at 9:04 AM

    >FUGITIVE PIECES by Anne Michaels

  23. Dayle James Arceneaux on December 16, 2008 at 8:43 AM

    >Yvonne, I know it took Harper Lee five years to write and re-write TKAMB. In fact, at one point, she threw it out the window.

    My favorite is: Demon: A Memoir.

  24. Yvonne on December 16, 2008 at 8:22 AM

    >I wonder if the author spent more thought and time on their first novel, thus making it better.

    What do you guys think?

    I’ll have to research to find out which of my favorite novels are first ones.

  25. Timothy Fish on December 16, 2008 at 8:21 AM

    >There are plenty of great firsts out there. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an example, but for the most part, I can’t keep up with which books are firsts. There is a book that comes to mind that I think is a first. It comes to mind in part because Michael Hyatt is talking about marketing and great content. While the book has quality content, it didn’t enjoy huge success. I don’t know the author well, but I doubt it ever appeared in more than a couple of bookstores and the majority of sales were to a few thousand of her friends. The book is A Heart Toward Home by Maggie Chandler. It has been out of print for years, but it is an example of a great first book.

  26. Pam Halter on December 16, 2008 at 8:12 AM

    >Wow ~ Gone With The Wind was a FIRST novel? Amazing. I read it for the first time this summer and enjoyed it.

    My favorite first novel hasn’t been released yet. “The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow” by Joyce Magnin Moccero and will be released by Abingdon in August 2009.

  27. Katy McKenna on December 16, 2008 at 8:03 AM

    >I’m late in reading The Secret Life of Bees, because…well…I’m scared of Bees. (It’s like having the word “Fuzz” in the title of a restaurant, ya know?)
    Gotta say it is one of the Best First Books Ever.

    And every time I think about The Time Traveler’s Wife, I ask myself HOW the author did what she did….Fantastic!

  28. kfeldotto on December 16, 2008 at 7:44 AM

    >That’s pretty amazing. I didn’t realize those were all first novels. I’m both inspired and intimidated. My current favorite first is “Demon: A Memoir” by Tosca Lee.