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.
24. New People by Danzy Senna
The only book in 2017 that I absolutely did not like (despite its positive reviews from critics).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.