Literary Hub: The Ultimate Best Books of 2017 List

By Emily Temple

It’s the end of the year, and everybody has an opinion. And of course, where there’s an opinion, there’s a listicle. The river of Best of 2017 lists can be exhausting this time of year, so as a public service, and because my math skills are always in need of a little exercise, I’ve created a streamlined master list of the books that the most people loved this year. Of course, I couldn’t include everything (like NPR’s enormous list of favorites). But I looked at the end-of-year roundups from 35 outlets and tracked a total of 520 discrete books in order to figure out the most critically popular books of the year. Does that mean they are the Best? You’ll have to decide for yourself, by reading them.

It’s interesting to compare this list of the “best” books to the most recommended books of fall (though it’s not a perfect match-up, of course, because many of these books came out in other seasons)—for instance, everyone was pretty sure they were going to like Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and then they did! Success. Other books fell a little in the relative rankings. But all in all, it’s pretty satisfying to see how much people loved and recommended books by women and people of color this year.

For the record, the best-of lists I consulted for this master list are from the following outlets: GQ, The New York Times, Vogue, Vulture, USA Today, Luna Luna, Publisher’s Weekly (Top 10), The Washington Post, The Chicago Review of Books (Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction), The New York Public Library, The LA Times (Fiction and Nonfiction), Financial Times (Fiction, Poetry, and Literary Nonfiction), Popsugar, Newsday, Library Journal, Elle, Amazon, Book Riot, EW, Cosmopolitan, The Economist, The Stranger, The Wall Street Journal, Bookpage, Shelf Awareness, NYLON (Fiction and Nonfiction), Entropy (Fiction and Nonfiction), Buzzfeed (Fiction), HuffPost (Fiction), Paste (Nonfiction and Novels), Esquire, The Boston Globe, TIME (Novels and Nonfiction), The Chicago Tribune, The Brooklyn Rail. NB: wherever publications had multiple lists, I went with the shorter one—so, for instance, I counted the NYT “Best Books” list but not their “Notable Books” list. This choice was made for my sanity.

(Some of these lists, I should say, bizarrely included books published in 2016—I caught what I could, but all mistakes in that area are the responsibility of the outlet in question.)

And now, without further ado…

The Best Books of 2017, per the power of the list:

On 22 listsLincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

On 19 lists

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward

On 14 lists

Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann

On 13 lists

Pachinko, Min Jin Lee

Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

On 12 lists

Hunger, Roxane Gay

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado

On 9 lists

We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Sour Heart, Jenny Zhang

On 8 lists

You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, Sherman Alexie

On 7 lists

The Power, Naomi AldermanManhattan Beach, Jennifer EganThe Future is History, Masha GessenThe Leavers, Lisa KoWhite Tears, Hari KunzruThe Answers, Catherine Lacey

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy

Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie

Borne, Jeff VanderMeer