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The Massachusetts Book Awards are a foundational program of the Massachusetts Center for the Book. The program highlights the work of the Massachusetts contemporary writing community and encourages readers to do some "close reading" of those imaginative works created by local authors.

Each year, the MassBooks recognize significant achievements in fiction, general nonfiction, poetry, and children's literature from the previous calendar year. To be eligible, books must have been written by authors who currently live and work in Massachusetts or must present topics of particular and specific importance to the Commonwealth regardless of their author’s residency.

Throughout the award year,the Center promotes an award winner and two honors books in each of the four award categories by producing/hosting reading, discussion, and activity guides for each title at their web site and by featuring the books at the Massachusetts table in the Pavilion of the States at the National Book Festival. The award and honors titles are also deposited in Special Collections at the State Library.

Note: We have listed the winning and honor books here as part of our service to spread the word not only to other States of America, but through our global literary award network. The Massachusetts Book Awards official site is very rich in detail with links to author pages, video footage and much more and is well worth a visit and bookmarking

10th Massachusetts Book Awards (books published in 2009)

Fiction Award

Woodsburner by John Pipkin (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

This debut novel takes an actual incident in the life of Henry David Thoreau — he and a companion accidentally set a fire that consumed three hundred acres of the Concord Woods — and weaves it into a richly satisfying tale. Pipkin realizes fully the Boston and Concord of 1844, introducing a wonderfully diverse set of characters affected by the fire, and suggests that an inadvertent act of destruction was the spark that ignited the literary career of the future author of Walden. --The MassBook Judges

Nonfiction Award

American Passage: A History of Ellis Island by Vincent J. Cannato (Harper)
In his clarifying and enlightening account of Ellis Island, a port of disembarkation which has become, in the American mythos, symbolically akin to Plymouth Rock, Cannato marshals impressive research to demonstrate the conflicting priorities played out during a significant chapter of our immigration history, dispelling a great many of the myths surrounding the entry process for prospective Americans and helping us to understand the continual challenge to open borders that a nation of immigrants must confront.

American Passage invites us to consider the history of the Ellis Island experience as well as the ongoing story of our national identity. --The MassBook Judges

Poetry Award

This Is the Red Door by James R. Whitley (Ironweed Press)
This remarkable collection of lyrical poems about love, loss, and moving on, with sections aptly titled In, Under, Through, Over, and Out, brings the reader along the arc of a relationship, from breathless beginning to inevitable end. Whitley's first lines draw one immediately into his experience, while the remainder of the poems invite further exploration. The poems, read aloud, roll off the tongue with an intelligence that avoids cleverness for its own sake.

There is much to ponder and even more to discuss in this exceptional volume. --The MassBook Judges

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)

In this richly textured novel about a young girl on a magical journey, Grace Lin weaves characters and stories from Chinese folklore with universal themes of independence and attachment. The heroine finds her strengths in cleverness, friendship, and daring as she discovers essential truths for herself. The delicately detailed illustrations complement and augment the narrative experience.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is as beautiful to hold and view as it is to read. -- The MassBook Judges

9th Massachusetts Book Awards (books published in 2008)

Fiction Award

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Viking)

Brooks explores the history of a rare illuminated manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah, which survives through centuries of upheaval because people of all faiths risked their lives to safeguard it. People of the Book reminds us of the best that we are capable of as it depicts a series of protectors who surmount factionalism to preserve a work whose importance they recognize even though it arises from a cultural tradition quite different from their own. --The MassBook Judges

Fiction Honors

Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant (Scribner's)

Against the tumultuous backdrop of Boston during the school busing crisis, a young Irish-American lesbian infatuated with her French teacher, a Parisian of African descent, sets out to find love on a journey that takes her through the fringes of the Black Power movement. This is a novel that demands we confront the turbulence that was mid-1970s America. -- The MassBook Judges

American Savior by Roland Merullo (Algonquin)

Merullo presents readers with a hilarious and inventive novel of church and state, a subject that he knows is deadly serious in contemporary political and civic life in the Commonwealth and throughout our nation. -- The MassBook Judges

Nonfiction Award

Snow Falling in Spring by Moying Li (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This moving memoir begins with the Great Leap Forward when the author is four years old; it concludes at the end of the Cultural Revolution when she is permitted to travel to the United States to study. Li tells of her family's efforts to follow Chairman Mao's dictates through the most turbulent time in modern China. Recounting events without anger or judgment in the voice of the child that she was at that time, Li gives us a book for all ages about the values of family and education, particularly about the refuge that is reading. -- The MassBook Judges

Through an Uncommon Lens by Patricia Fanning (U Mass Press)

Based on newly discovered archival sources, this is an important biography of often-overlooked Norwood, Massachusetts, native F. Holland Day, considered one of the world's most influential photographers at the turn of the twentieth century, someone who challenged conventional sensibilities and was an early practitioner of photography as an art form. -- The MassBook Judges

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple (Knopf)

Wineapple reveals another side of Emily Dickinson through her friendship and correspondence with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, offering readers new insights into the personality and character of one of Massachusetts' most reclusive poets. -- The MassBook Judges

Poetry Award

The Ghost Soldiers by James Tate (Ecco)

James Tate brushes aside poetic cliché and artifice to offer a fresh and compelling vision. His narratives explore the lives of a series of interchangeable protagonists who struggle in a world of surveillance, missing children, and neighbors who remain forever strangers--a world in which an army tank can appear suddenly in the middle of a meadow. Tates' figures search for that which is lost, deal with political restlessness and uncertainty, and seek meaning in a world of starvation, disease and war. But his vision is anything but bleak; ultimately, these are restorative poems, their implicit tenderness quite the "necessary angel." -- The MassBook Judges

Poetry Honors

Spring by Oni Buchanan (U Illinois P )

This is a work that grips down and awakens the very roots of a poetic process that is still and still moving, a "journeywork" as Whitman might have called it, a multidimensional text that will transform the way Buchanan's generation and future generations of poets approach poem-making. -- The MassBook Judges

Sea Change by Jorie Graham (Ecco)

An ethical text of the highest magnitude, demanding that we arrive at that hardest of all creeds: a belief in the unarrestable destiny of the Other, whether that "other" be our dead and the "garden of continuing to think about them" or our fellow creatures suffering from a sea change induced by global warming, pollution, warfare. -- The MassBook Judges

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway (Kids Can Press)

Milway gives young readers a lesson in microfinance as well as a cultural introduction to life in rural Ghana, framed by the story of an enterprising young boy named Kojo, a character so engaging , and with a story so inspiring, that children will enjoy learning about how "one small loan made a big difference." --The MassBook Judges

Children's / Young Adult Honors

The Willoughbys byLois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin)

A witty, wicked, and yet old-fashioned story of despicable parents, an affable nanny, and her badly behaved charges who long to be orphans. Award-winning author Lois Lowry presents a winsome parody of thirteen classic titles that is a comical confection. -- The MassBook Judges

Impossible by Nancy Werlin (Dial )

In a successful crossing of the genres of realistic fiction and fantasy, Werlin presents readers with a compelling heroine, Lucy Scarborough, a foster teen who must work to
perform three impossible tasks to free her from an ancient family curse. -- The MassBook Judges

8th Massachusetts Book Awards (books published in 2007)

Fiction Award
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Riverhead Books )

Fiction Honors
The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett (W.W. Norton)

Like You'd Understand Anyway by Jim Shepard (Knopf)

Nonfiction Award
Salem Witch Judge by Eve LaPlante (Harper One)

Nonfiction Honors
Leviathan by Eric Jay Dolin (W.W. Norton )

Eden's Outcasts by John Matteson (W.W. Norton)

Poetry Award
Blackbird and Wolf by Henri Cole (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Poetry Honors
If No Moon by Moira Linehan (Southern Illinois UP)

Gulf Music by Robert Pinsky (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award
Whale Port by Mark Foster and Gerald Foster (Houghton Mifflin )

Children's / Young Adult Honors
The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (Houghton Mifflin)

Bravo Zulu, Samantha! by Kathleen Duble (Peachtree Publishers )

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Massachusetts Book Award Winners for the Year 2007
Honoring books published in 2006.

Fiction Award
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (Alfred A. Knopf)

Fiction Honors
Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin (HarperCollins)
How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed (HarperCollins)

Nonfiction Award
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking)

Nonfiction Honors
House of War by James Carroll (Houghton Mifflin)
Failed States by Noam Chomsky (Metropolitan/Henry Holt)

Poetry Award
Averno by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Poetry Honors
The Republic of Poetry by Martín Espada (W. W. Norton)
God’s Silence by Franz Wright (Alfred A. Knopf)

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award
Incantation by Alice Hoffman (Little, Brown)

Children's / Young Adult Honors
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (Hyperion)
Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop (Wendy Lamb/Random House)

Massachusetts Book Award Winners for the Year 2006
Honoring books published in 2005.

Fiction Award
The Season of Open Water by Dawn Clifton Tripp
(Random House)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Fiction Honors
Hedwig and Berti by Frieda Arkin
(Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Flashback by Gary Braver
(Forge / Tom Doherty Associates)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Nonfiction Award
The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism
by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Nonfiction Honors
Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet by Charlotte Gordon
(Little, Brown)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman
(Pantheon Books)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Poetry Award
Zeppo's First Wife: New and Selected Poems by Gail Mazur
(University of Chicago Press)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Poetry Honors
Natural History by Dan Chiasson
(Alfred A. Knopf)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965-2005 by Brendan Galvin
(Louisiana State University Press)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award
Where the Great Hawk Flies by Liza Ketchum
(Clarion Books)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Children's / Young Adult Honors
The Old African by Julius Lester
(Dial Books / Penguin)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Beneath the Streets of Boston: Building America's First Subway by Joe McKendry
(David R. Godine, Publisher)

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6th Massachusetts Book Award Winners for the Year 2005
Honoring books published in 2004.

Massachusetts Book Medal
Reach Out and Read
Taking care to build the next generation of readers
Somerville, Massachusetts

Fiction Award
Project X by Jim Shepard
(Alfred A. Knopf)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Fiction Honors
Love in the Asylum by Lisa Carey
(William Morrow)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang
(W. W. Norton)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Nonfiction Award
Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky
(Algonquin Books)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Nonfiction Honors
Spirit and Flesh by James M. Ault, Jr.
(Alfred A. Knopf)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer
(Oxford University Press)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Poetry Award
Trouble in Mind by Lucie Brock-Broido
(Alfred A. Knopf)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Poetry Honors
Goodbye to the Orchard by Steven Cramer
(Sarabande Books)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

The Unsubscriber by Bill Knott
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award
My Light by Molly Bang
(Blue Sky Press)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Children's / Young Adult Honors
Blow Out the Moon by Libby Koponen
(Little, Brown)
MCB Reading and Discussion Guide (PDF)

Fine Feathered Friends by Jane Yolen
(Boyds Mills Press)

Massachusetts Book Award Winners for the Year 2004
Honoring books published in 2003.

Massachusetts Book Medal
Pen New England
A Community of Writers Enriching a Commonwealth of Readers
(PEN New England)

Fiction Award
A Kiss from Maddalena by Christopher Castellani
(Algonquin Books)

Fiction Honors
Reunion by Alan Lightman
(Pantheon Books)

Operation Monsoon by Shona Ramaya
(Graywolf Press)

Nonfiction Award
Patriots: the Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides by Christian G. Appy
(Viking Press)

Nonfiction Honors
The Big House by George Howe Colt
(Scribners/Simon & Schuster)

Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick
(Viking Press)

Poetry Award
Middle Earth by Henri Cole
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Poetry Honors
Far Side of the Earth by Tom Sleigh
(Houghton Mifflin)

Departure by Rosanna Warren
(W. W. Norton)

Children’s / Young Adult Literature Award
The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry
(Houghton Mifflin / Walter Lorraine)

Children’s / Young Adult Honors
Don't Say Ain't by Irene Smalls
(Charlesbridge Publishing)

My Brothers' Flying Machine by Jane Yolen
(Little, Brown and Company)

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Massachusetts Book Award Winners for the Year 2003
Honoring books published in 2002.

Eric Carle
Who reminds us as always to stop and look at the pictures

Fiction Award
Sea Room by Norman G. Gautreau
(MacAdam/Cage Publishing)

Fiction Honors
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Lisa Borders
(River City Publishing )

My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond
(Grove Press)

Nonfiction Award
Revere Beach Elegy by Roland Merullo
(Beacon Press)

Nonfiction Honors
Black Livingstone by Pagan Kennedy
(Viking Press)

Choosing Naia by Mitchell Zuckoff
(Beacon Press)

Poetry Award
Never by Jorie Graham
(Ecco Press/HarperCollins)

Poetry Honors
Blind Huber by Nick Flynn
(Graywolf Press)

Among the Musk Ox People by Mary Ruefle
(Carnegie Mellon)

Children’s / Young Adult Literature Award
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
young adult title – for mature readers
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Frances Foster Books)

Children’s / Young Adult Honors
Little Rat Sets Sail by Monika Bang-Campbell & Molly Bang
(Harcourt Children's Books)

What Charlie Heard by Mordicai Gerstein
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Frances Foster Books)
Massachusetts Book Award Winners for the Year 2002
Honoring books published in 2001.

First Annual Massachusetts Book Medal
Stanley Kunitz
A Life Well-Lived in Poetry

Fiction Award
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
(William Morrow / Harper Collins)

Fiction Honors
The Bostons by Carolyn Cooke
(Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin)

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey
(Picador Books/St. Martin’s)

Yellow by Don Lee
(W. W. Norton)

Nonfiction Award
The Imprisoned Guest by Elisabeth Gitter
(Picador Books / St. Martin’s)

Nonfiction Honors
Gracefully Insane by Alex Beam
(Public Affairs / Perseus)

Uphill Walkers by Madeleine Blais
(Grove / Atlantic )

Poetry Award
Poems Seven by Alan Dugan
(Seven Stories Press)

Poetry Honors
Memoir of the Hawk by James Tate
(Ecco Press / HarperCollins)

Oubliette by Peter Richards
(Verse Press )

The Seven Ages by Louise Glück
(Ecco Press / HarperCollins)

Children’s / Young Adult Literature Award
Moonpie and Ivy by Barbara O’Connor
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Frances Foster Books)

Children’s / Young Adult Honors
Mountain Pose by Nancy Hope Wilson
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst
(Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins )

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Massachusetts Book Award Winners for the Year 2001
Honoring books published in 2000.

Fiction Award
MotherKind by Jayne Anne Phillips
(Alfred A. Knopf / Vintage)

Fiction Honors
The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman
(Pantheon Books)
The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve
(Alfred A. Knopf / Vintage)
Properties of Light by Rebecca Goldstein
(Houghton Mifflin)
The River King by Alice Hoffman
(Penguin Putnam)

Nonfiction Award
Reflections in Bullough’s Pond by Diana Muir
(University Press of New

Nonfiction Honors
norss
Constant Turmoil by Mary Blewett
(University of Massachusetts Press)
Fire & Roses by Nancy Lusignan Schultz
(Free Press / Simon & Schuster (e-book) / Vintage)
In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
(Viking Press)
Red Sox Century by Glenn Stout and Richard Johnson
(Houghton Mifflin)

Poetry Award
Breathing Room by Peter Davison
(Alfred A. Knopf)

Poetry Honors
Bewitched Playground by David Rivard
(Graywolf Press)
The Leaf and the Cloud by Mary Oliver
(DaCapo Press)
A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen by Martín Espada
(W.W. Norton)
Multitudes by Afaa Michael Weaver
(Sarabande Books)

Children’s / Young Adult Literature Award
What’s in a Name by Ellen Wittlinger
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers )

Children’s / Young Adult Honors
The Janitor’s Boy by Andrew Clements
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers )
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
(Walter Lorraine Books/Houghton Mifflin)
Learning to Swim by Ann Turner
(Scholastic)

Children's Picture Book Award
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D. B. Johnson
(Houghton Mifflin)

Children's Picture Book Honors
The Disappearing Island by Corinne Demas
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers )
Dory Story by Jerry Palotta
(Charlesbridge Publishing )
Zachary's Ball by Matt Tavares
(Candlewick Press)
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen
(Scholastic)

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