Ranked: Reads in 2017

Nobody can argue that many aspects of 2017 were piles of flaming garbage. That doesn’t mean literature failed us though. I read 24 books* this year. While there’s never enough time for all the wonderful writing in the world and while I wish I had read more, I am more than satisfied with the books I chose this year. Therefore, to the Big Little Literature library: You got ranked.

*This number does not count Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and Aravind Adiga’s Selection Day, which I just could not finish.

It's Lit


24. New People by Danzy Senna

The only book in 2017 that I absolutely did not like (despite its positive reviews from critics).

New People

23. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

I wanted to love this 2017 hit, but its setting in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn was one of the only things I could appreciate.


22. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

My feelings toward this novel could have been bolstered by the hype simply because it’s a Liane story. Sadly, I was let down.

Truly Madly Guilty

21. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

A book that had potential to tell a great story chose to take the path of least resistance, though I wouldn’t advise completely staying away from it.

Another Brooklyn

20. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (published in 2016; not reviewed)

I wanted to like Stephanie Danler’s debut more than I did, but I still can’t deny her knowledge of food and wine and how she fully enlivens the senses. If you don’t want to read it, look for the Sweetbitter series premiering on Starz.


Photo credit: Allison Prang

19. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

This long-awaited story was another that had me pacing until I got my hands on it. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to its reputation.

Manhattan Beach

18. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (published in 1985; not reviewed)

To be honest, I wish I could place The Handmaid’s Tale higher on my list, but this shit was so freaky that I could not.

The Handmaid's Tale

17. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

What started out as a disappointment grew to a beautiful finish. Warning: Do not read when hungry.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

16. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware will keep you intrigued to the last page despite a not-so-creative storytelling device.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

15. The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang (published in 2016; not reviewed)

They are ridiculous and each have their own quirks, but the Wangs will make you laugh and see American life through an immigrant’s eyes.

The Wangs vs. The World

14. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel is as educational as it is riveting as it takes you from British colonization in Africa through the American slave trade to modern day inner city life.


13. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (published in 2012; not reviewed)

Bernadette takes you on a journey that’s just as wacky as she is. This easy read will have you smiling and closing the book in no time.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

12. The Mothers by Brit Bennett (published in 2016; not reviewed)

Another debut novel, The Mothers is emotional and might have you reaching for the phone to call up your madre just to say I love you.

The Mothers

11. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A classic! Don’t let the slow beginning stop you (as it did to me a couple of times); the latter half of this must-read will have you apparating to a different time and place.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

10. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest is one of the most beautifully written guilty pleasures I’ve ever read. It’s chick lit meets literary classic.

The Nest

9. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (published in 2008; review coming soon)

I wept over this book. Good grief, it tears at your core while teaching you every pertinent lesson to living life to the fullest and the importance of dreams.

The Last Lecture

8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (published in 2014; not reviewed)

The phenomenon that brought Reese, Nicole, Laura, Shailene, and Zoë together. A true page-turner for which if you haven’t hopped on board yet, you need to. Now.

Big Little Lies

7. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Make sure you have some tissues handy because this compelling story of AIDS, family, love, and loss is not for the weak of heart.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

6. The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

It wasn’t the shortest read of the year, but it was one of the best. Prepare to question your own philosophy while recognizing innumerable injustices.

The Patriots

5. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

This book elicited more laughter than any other this year. It’s a wild and sassy ride through America’s 20th century with a hotly contested main character.

Ice Cream Queen

4. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

If I could choose one word for Saunders first novel, it would be epic. His story, characters, and use of literary and plot devices are unlike any I have ever read before. You’ll fly through this in a day and will be ready for more.

Lincoln in the Bardo

3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (published in 2013; not reviewed)

New Yorkers knew what they were doing when they picked this modern masterpiece for their “One Book, One New York” citywide reading program this year. And in 2017, a read like Americanah couldn’t have come at a more important and appropriate time.


2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (published in 2016; not reviewed)

The Underground Railroad is one of those books that you know will be talked about for years and be on reading curricula across the county. Colson Whitehead’s elaborate writing puts a creative twist on an atrocious past, and everyone should read it.

The Underground Railroad

1. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (published in 2016; not reviewed)

Now I can’t remember if I finished Commonwealth right as 2016 was ending or when 2017 was beginning, but I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to talk about my favorite book of all time. As a writer, I loved the way Ann Patchett turned a phrase or used her characters’ actions and thoughts to describe them without spelling it out for the readers. It’s a roller coaster of a plot, and the novel really is one for the books … pun intended.


Thanks to everyone who subscribed to, read, and supported Big Little Literature in its first five months, as well as those who gave stellar book recommendations! If I had to rate you all, you’d be exponentially greater than 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px.

8 thoughts on “Ranked: Reads in 2017

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