The Greatest "Contemporary, Massachusetts" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 305 '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 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.


The category of "Massachusetts" books refers to literature that is set in or about the state of Massachusetts. These books may explore the history, culture, and people of Massachusetts, as well as the unique landscapes and landmarks that define the state. From classic works of American literature to contemporary fiction and non-fiction, the Massachusetts category offers a diverse range of books that capture the essence of this iconic New England state. Whether you're a history buff, a lover of nature, or simply looking for a great story, the Massachusetts category has something for everyone.

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  1. 1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

    The novel follows the story of a young woman who wins a guest editorship at a magazine in New York City and, after a series of personal and professional disappointments, suffers a mental breakdown and returns to her family, where she continues to struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. The protagonist's experiences in psychiatric institutions and her attempts to reclaim her life are depicted with brutal honesty, making it a poignant exploration of mental illness and the societal pressures faced by women in the mid-20th century.

    The 78th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. Herzog by Saul Bellow

    The novel centers around Moses Herzog, a middle-aged, intelligent yet distressed man who is going through a mid-life crisis. After his second marriage fails, he falls into a state of emotional turmoil and begins writing letters to friends, family, and even famous figures, expressing his philosophical thoughts and personal feelings. His journey of self-discovery and understanding forms the crux of the story. It's a profound exploration of a man's struggle with the complexities of life and his quest for meaning.

    The 197th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. 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 475th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. The Human Stain by Philip Roth

    The Human Stain is a novel that explores the life of Coleman Silk, a classics professor in a small New England town who is forced to retire after accusations of racism. The story delves into Silk's personal history, revealing that he is a light-skinned African American who has been passing as a Jewish man for most of his adult life. His affair with a much younger, illiterate janitor further scandalizes the community. The novel examines themes of identity, race, and the destructive power of public shaming.

    The 733rd Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

    The novel tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, a second-generation Indian-American, who struggles with his unique name and his dual cultural identity. Born to immigrant parents from Kolkata, India, Gogol is named after the famous Russian author, Nikolai Gogol, a decision that shapes his life in unexpected ways. As he grows up, he finds himself torn between his parents' traditional Indian values and his desire to fit into mainstream American society. This internal conflict is further complicated by his relationships with women of different cultural backgrounds. The book explores themes of identity, cultural assimilation, and the immigrant experience.

    The 937th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. The Women's Room by Marilyn French

    "The Women's Room" is a groundbreaking novel that explores the journey of a suburban housewife from a traditional, oppressive marriage to an awakening of self-discovery and feminism. After her divorce, the protagonist goes back to school, where she encounters a group of independent, intellectually stimulating women who challenge the societal norms of the time. The novel provides a stark portrayal of the struggles faced by women in the 1950s and 1960s, highlighting the need for gender equality and women's rights.

    The 1013th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

    This novel is a contemporary, multicultural exploration of family life, love, and identity. It follows the lives of two mixed-race families, the Belseys and the Kipps, who are linked by their shared professions in academia and a complex web of marital and extramarital relationships. The story is set against the backdrop of Wellington, a fictional New England town, and explores themes of race, class, and cultural clash. It also delves into the world of academia, examining the politics and conflicts that arise in that environment.

    The 1459th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Holder of the World: A Novel by Bharati Mukherjee

    The novel explores the life of Hannah Easton, a woman born in 17th century Salem, who gets married to a British adventurer and travels to India. In India, she becomes the concubine of a local ruler and takes on the name "The Holder of the World". The story is narrated by a 20th-century woman who discovers Hannah's story through a virtual reality device. The narrative weaves together the historical and the contemporary, the East and the West, and the real and the virtual, to create a rich tapestry of a woman's life and the cultural clashes she experiences.

    The 4050th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. House by Tracy Kidder

    "House" is an in-depth exploration of the process of building a home from the ground up. The book follows the journey of a young couple as they work with an architect and a team of builders to construct their dream house. The narrative delves into the intricate details of construction, the complexities of the interpersonal relationships involved, and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with creating a home. It's a unique perspective on the American dream of homeownership.

    The 4144th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Family Pictures by Sue Miller

    "Family Pictures" is a poignant narrative that delves into the complexities of family life, centering around a seemingly perfect family that is forever altered by the diagnosis of one of the children with autism. The story unfolds over decades, exploring the profound impact of the child's condition on each family member's life and relationships. As secrets and tensions surface, the novel examines themes of love, responsibility, and the enduring bonds of family amidst the challenges of raising a child with special needs. The narrative provides a deep and empathetic look at the sacrifices and joys inherent in family dynamics, and the ways in which personal crises can both fracture and fortify the connections between relatives.

    The 4787th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

    "Home Fire" is a contemporary reimagining of Sophocles' Antigone set against the backdrop of modern-day London and Syria. The novel explores the lives of five characters caught in a complex web of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The story revolves around two British-Pakistani families, each struggling with their own dilemmas related to identity, radicalism, and loyalty. One family is headed by a powerful politician who disowns his jihadist son, while the other consists of three orphaned siblings whose lives are turned upside down when their brother is accused of joining ISIS. The novel explores the consequences of their actions, questioning the extent to which one can go for love and loyalty.

    The 4839th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

    The book follows the lives of the Owens sisters, Sally and Gillian, who come from a long line of witches. Raised by their eccentric aunts after their parents' death, the sisters grow up learning about love and magic. However, they face an age-old curse that any man who falls in love with an Owens woman will meet a tragic end, leading them on a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and a struggle to overcome their family's dark past.

    The 5301st Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

    The novel explores the complexities of an enduring friendship between two girls from different backgrounds who bond over summers spent at Martha's Vineyard. As they grow from adolescence into adulthood, their relationship is tested by personal differences, romantic entanglements, and the pressures of growing up. The story delves into themes of love, sexuality, and the challenges of maintaining a lifelong friendship amidst the tumultuous changes of life. Through the years, the girls' bond serves as a pivotal anchor in their lives, even as they navigate their separate paths and the inevitable trials that come with them.

    The 6576th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

    "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld follows the story of Lee Fiora, a scholarship student from Indiana who attends an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. The novel explores Lee's struggles with fitting in among her wealthy and privileged classmates, as well as her relationships with her roommates, teachers, and family. As Lee navigates the challenges of adolescence and the complexities of social hierarchies, she ultimately learns valuable lessons about identity, belonging, and the true meaning of success.

    The 6928th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

    "The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley" is a gripping novel that explores the life of a rugged, hardened criminal named Samuel Hawley, who attempts to protect his daughter Loo from his violent past. The narrative alternates between the present, where Hawley and Loo are trying to settle down in Massachusetts, and the past, where the circumstances surrounding Hawley's twelve bullet wounds (each representing a "life") are revealed. Through their journey, the book delves into themes of love, sacrifice, and survival.

    The 7163rd Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. H. M. Pulham, Esquire by John P. Marquand

    The novel is a reflective account of the life of Harry Pulham, a middle-aged, conventional Bostonian who is prompted to examine his past and the choices he has made during the process of writing a Harvard class reunion biography. As he delves into his memories, he confronts his youthful ambitions, his experiences in World War I, and his complex relationships, particularly with a vivacious woman who challenged the conservative values of his upbringing. Through this introspection, Harry grapples with the realization that he has conformed to societal expectations at the expense of his own happiness, leading to a poignant exploration of the conflict between individual desires and societal pressures in early 20th-century America.

    The 7168th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

    In "Boy, Snow, Bird," a young woman named Boy Novak escapes her abusive father in New York City to settle in a small town in Massachusetts, where she marries a widower and becomes stepmother to his daughter, Snow. After giving birth to her own daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, it is revealed that her husband and stepdaughter are light-skinned African Americans passing as white. The book explores themes of identity, beauty, and the damaging effects of racism as Boy grapples with her feelings towards Snow and Bird, and the societal implications of their different skin tones.

    The 9679th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

    The novel delves into the lives of a family grappling with the impact of mental illness across generations. It explores the bonds and strains among family members as they confront the challenges posed by the eldest son's severe anxiety and depression. Through shifting perspectives, the narrative examines the ways in which each family member copes with their shared and individual struggles, illuminating the profound effects of love, loyalty, and the legacy of mental health issues on their relationships and choices. The story is a poignant and insightful portrayal of the complexities of familial love and the enduring human capacity for resilience in the face of emotional turmoil.

    The 10090th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette

    "Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story" is a poignant autobiography that explores the author's journey of self-discovery and acceptance as a gay man in America. The narrative delves into his struggles with his identity, his experiences of homophobia, his life in the closet, and his eventual coming out. The book also documents his relationships, particularly with his long-term partner who succumbed to AIDS, and his own battle with the disease. The memoir serves as a powerful commentary on the societal attitudes towards homosexuality during the 20th century.

    The 10517th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


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.