The Greatest "Contemporary, Postmodern" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 313 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Contemporary

Contemporary books are a genre that focuses on stories set in the present day, often exploring current social, cultural, and political issues. These books are typically written in a modern style and often feature relatable characters dealing with real-life situations. Contemporary books can cover a wide range of topics, from romance and family drama to coming-of-age stories and thrillers. The genre is constantly evolving to reflect the changing world we live in, making it a popular choice for readers who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and issues.

Postmodern

Postmodernism is a literary movement that emerged in the mid-20th century, characterized by a rejection of traditional narrative structures and a focus on self-reflexivity and intertextuality. Postmodern literature often features fragmented narratives, unreliable narrators, and a blurring of the lines between reality and fiction. It is a genre that challenges the notion of a single, objective truth and instead embraces the idea of multiple perspectives and interpretations. Postmodern literature is often seen as a response to the modernist movement that preceded it, and it continues to be a popular and influential category for contemporary writers.

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  1. 1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

    Set against the backdrop of the Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history, the novel explores the philosophical concept of Nietzsche's eternal return through the intertwined lives of four characters: a womanizing surgeon, his intellectual wife, his naïve mistress, and her stoic lover. The narrative delves into their personal struggles with lightness and heaviness, freedom and fate, love and betrayal, and the complexities of human relationships, all while offering a profound meditation on the nature of existence and the paradoxes of life.

    The 167th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

    The book follows the lives of two Jewish cousins, one a skilled escape artist and the other a talented artist, before, during, and after World War II. They create a popular comic book superhero, which brings them fame and fortune. However, their success is complicated by personal struggles, including the escape artist's attempts to rescue his family from Nazi-occupied Prague and the artist's struggle with his sexuality. The narrative explores themes of escapism, identity, and the golden age of comic books.

    The 279th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    A man's search for his wife's missing cat evolves into a surreal journey through Tokyo's underbelly, where he encounters a bizarre collection of characters with strange stories and peculiar obsessions. As he delves deeper, he finds himself entangled in a web of dreamlike scenarios, historical digressions, and metaphysical investigations. His reality becomes increasingly intertwined with the dream world as he grapples with themes of fate, identity, and the dark side of the human psyche.

    The 337th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

    This novel is a complex, multi-layered narrative that explores themes of addiction, recovery, and the human condition in a near-future society. The story is set in a tennis academy and a halfway house for recovering addicts, and it intertwines the lives of its numerous characters, including a gifted but troubled teenage tennis prodigy, his filmmaker father, and a group of Quebecois separatists. The book is known for its length, intricate plot, and extensive use of footnotes.

    The 393rd Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Money by Martin Amis

    "Money" is a darkly humorous novel that follows the life of John Self, a hedonistic, self-destructive director of commercials, as he navigates the excesses and depravities of 1980s New York and London. His life is filled with overindulgence in food, alcohol, drugs, and women, leading to a downward spiral of self-destruction. The novel is a satire on the excesses of capitalism and the obsession with wealth and materialism, and it also explores themes of identity, self-loathing, and the destructive power of addiction.

    The 440th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

    The book follows the life of Calliope Stephanides, a Greek-American hermaphrodite, who narrates her epic story starting from her grandparents' incestuous relationship in a small village in Asia Minor to her own self-discovery in 20th century America. The novel delves into themes of identity, gender, and the American dream, while also providing a detailed history of Detroit through the eyes of three generations of an immigrant family.

    The 471st Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

    "The Savage Detectives" is a novel that follows the lives of two Latin American poets, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, who are founders of a literary movement called "visceral realism." The book is divided into three parts and is narrated by multiple characters, providing different perspectives on the protagonists. The narrative spans over 20 years, following the poets' journey from Mexico City to Europe, Israel, and Africa, as they search for a mysterious poetess and navigate through the world of literature, sex, drugs, and the complexities of life.

    The 524th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Underworld by Don DeLillo

    "Underworld" is a sweeping narrative that spans from the 1950s to the end of the 20th century, exploring the interconnectedness of events and the impact of the Cold War on American society. The story revolves around a diverse group of characters, including a waste management executive, a graffiti artist, a nun, and a baseball collector, among others. These characters' lives intertwine in unexpected ways, illustrating the complex web of relationships and influences that shape our world. The novel is renowned for its vivid portrayal of historical events and its profound examination of themes such as memory, technology, and waste.

    The 552nd Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

    The novel is a sprawling, ambitious work that spans continents and time periods, centering around an elusive, reclusive German author. It intertwines five different narratives: a group of European academics searching for the author, a professor in Mexico dealing with his own personal crises, a New York reporter sent to cover a boxing match in Mexico, an African-American journalist in Detroit, and the horrifying and unsolved murders of hundreds of women in a Mexican border town. The narratives are linked by themes of violence, mystery, and the search for meaning in a chaotic world.

    The 558th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

    "A Visit from the Goon Squad" is an interconnected collection of stories about a group of characters whose lives intersect in the music industry. The narrative spans several decades, tracing the characters' journey from their youth to middle age. It explores themes of time, change, and the impact of technology on human relationships and the music industry. The novel is known for its experimental structure, including a chapter written as a PowerPoint presentation.

    The 575th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald

    The novel follows the story of Jacques Austerlitz, an architectural historian who was brought to England on a Kindertransport from Czechoslovakia during World War II. As an adult, Jacques embarks on a journey to uncover his past, including his original identity, his parent's fate, and his own lost history. The narrative is a haunting exploration of memory, identity, and the lasting impact of the Holocaust.

    The 620th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Rabbit at Rest by John Updike

    The novel is a final look into the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a former high-school basketball star, now in his mid-fifties, overweight and grappling with several health issues. Despite his success in business, his personal life is in shambles, with his wife addicted to alcohol and his son to drugs. Harry, struggling with his mortality, is trying to understand his past and make sense of his future, while dealing with the changing American society and the consequences of his own choices.

    The 681st Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes

    The novel centers around a retired doctor's obsession with the life and works of Gustave Flaubert, a 19th-century French writer. The doctor's fascination leads him on a quest to find a stuffed parrot that once belonged to the writer. The novel is a blend of biography, literary criticism, and personal memoir, and it explores themes such as the nature of art and the difficulties of interpreting the past.

    The 713th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

    The novel follows two Indian actors who miraculously survive a plane explosion, and as a result, find themselves embodying good and evil. As they navigate their new identities, the story also delves into the life of a prophet and his creation of a new religion in a city of sand. The narrative is a blend of fantasy and reality, exploring themes of identity, religion, and the immigrant experience, while also providing a controversial interpretation of Islamic faith and the life of Prophet Muhammad.

    The 716th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Oranges are not the only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

    This novel follows the coming-of-age story of a young girl adopted by a religious fanatic, who believes her daughter is destined to become a missionary. As the protagonist grows up, she begins to question her mother's strict religious beliefs and discovers her own sexuality. The book explores themes of identity, love, and religion, as the protagonist grapples with her place in the world and her evolving understanding of herself.

    The 1067th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco

    This novel follows three intellectual friends who work at a small publishing house. As a joke, they start inventing a conspiracy theory about a secret society that has been manipulating world events for centuries. However, as they delve deeper into their own fabrication, they begin to lose sight of what's real and what's not. Their lives take a dangerous turn when actual secret societies believe they hold the key to a universal secret and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

    The 1079th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. The Hours by Michael Cunningham

    The novel is a reimagining of Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" and follows three women from different time periods, each of whom are profoundly affected by Woolf's work. The narrative alternates between Virginia Woolf as she writes "Mrs. Dalloway" in 1923, a 1950s housewife who is reading the novel, and a contemporary woman who is essentially living the life of the titular character. These three storylines eventually converge in a powerful exploration of mental illness, sexuality, and the transcendent power of literature.

    The 1260th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. London Fields by Martin Amis

    The novel is a darkly comic, murder mystery set in London at the end of the 20th century. The story follows three main characters: a terminally ill American writer, a petty criminal, and a beautiful but doomed woman who predicts her own murder but not the murderer. The narrative is filled with satirical social commentary, exploring themes of love, lust, greed, and deception.

    The 1353rd Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

    The novel follows the life of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a seemingly ordinary woman, from her birth in Canada in 1905 to her death. It explores her experiences as a mother, wife, and widow, as well as her work as a gardener and her later years as a columnist. The book is unique in that it is written in a variety of styles including letters, diary entries, and third-person narrative, and it explores themes of identity, love, and the often overlooked lives of women.

    The 1427th Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. Erasure by Percival Everett

    This novel follows a successful African-American academic and author who, frustrated by the publishing industry's expectations and stereotypes around black literature, pens a satirical novel under a pseudonym. The novel becomes a huge success, forcing him to grapple with the unexpected consequences of his critique on the industry. He is also dealing with personal issues, including the disappearance of his sister and his mother's declining health. It's a complex exploration of identity, race, and the literary world.

    The 1715th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The book follows a renowned pianist who arrives in a Central European city to give a concert. However, his time there becomes increasingly surreal and disjointed as he is pulled in different directions by the demands of the locals, his own past, and his responsibilities. The narrative explores themes of memory, time, and self-delusion, creating a dream-like atmosphere that blurs the lines between reality and illusion.

    The 1839th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

    The book is a darkly introspective narrative that delves into the mind of a reclusive, obsessive intellectual who is struggling to complete his scholarly work on the composer Mendelssohn. As he grapples with his own ailments and the perceived mediocrity of his surroundings, the protagonist's stream-of-consciousness monologue reveals his deep-seated anxieties, self-loathing, and profound isolation. The narrative is a relentless examination of the protagonist's psyche, showcasing his critical view of society and his own personal relationships, which are fraught with tension and dysfunction. Through this, the novel explores themes of artistic creation, intellectual elitism, and the suffocating nature of expectations and familial obligations.

    The 1891st Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard

    Woodcutters is a darkly humorous critique of Vienna's artistic elite. The story takes place over the course of a single evening, as the narrator attends a dinner party in honor of a recently successful actor. As the evening progresses, he reflects on the pretentiousness and hypocrisy of the guests, the mediocrity of their artistic achievements, and the tragic suicide of his former lover. The novel is a scathing indictment of the vanity and self-delusion of the artistic community.

    The 2061st Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. The Clay Machine-gun by Victor Pelevin

    "The Clay Machine-gun" is a surreal and complex novel that explores the nature of reality and illusion. The story is set in post-Soviet Russia and follows a protagonist who has multiple identities, including a poet in 19th-century Russia, a 20th-century psychiatric patient, and a 21st-century advertising executive. The narrative moves between these identities and realities, blurring the lines between them and creating a layered and philosophical exploration of Russian society, identity, and the human psyche.

    The 2063rd Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai

    "The Melancholy of Resistance" is a surreal and philosophical novel set in a small Hungarian town that becomes isolated by a massive snowstorm. The arrival of a mysterious circus, featuring a stuffed whale and a silent, enigmatic leader, brings with it a wave of change and unrest. The narrative explores themes of chaos, resistance, and the struggle for power through the perspectives of various townsfolk, including a reclusive music theorist and a former political dissident. The novel is known for its complex, long-winded sentences and its bleak yet profound examination of human nature and society.

    The 2590th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

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