The Pulitzer Prize has been awarding “excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917”. The Pulitzer Prize for fiction has actually only been awarded since 1948, when it was won by James Michener’s ‘Tales of the South Pacific’. The Pulitzer was begun by journalist and publisher Jopseph Pulitzer, and awarded by an independent panel. There have been many fine Pulitzer winners for fiction, but some of then have stood, and will stand, the test of time better than others, reverberating in the consciousness for years and, perhaps, lifetimes.
include: title, author, publish date, a synopsis of the story, character description, the type of audience who would enjoy this book, who the illustrator was (if there was one), what makes this book special in your opinion, the type of lesson it teaches, and whether you think it is still a relevant and great book today.
Word count: 400
The Road, Cormac McCarthy, 2006
Cormac McCarthy is generally known for his westerns and Southern gothics, but ‘The Road’ is a whole new thing. A post-apocolyptic tale of a father and son roaming a ruined country and trying to keep their goodness amid death and cannibals. Like most of McCarthy’s writing, it’s a riveting yet oddly practical and matter-of-fact story which lingers in the mind long after you are finished.
The Color Purple, Alice Walker, 1982
You would think a book which concentrates on spousal abuse, racism and rape would be a real downer, but Alice Walker’s epistolary novel is a joyous (eventually) celebration of life. The story of poor, unattractive Celie and her journey to independence and self-esteem is a harrowing one, yet persistent readers will find a surprisingly happy ending. Walker has yet to top this one.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
Harper Lee’s famous one-hit wonder has withstood the test of time and become part of the modern-day canon of literature. Populated with realistic, gripping characters, Lee’s novel of racism and heroism is a classic in its field. The excellent film version also led me to a lifelong crush on Gregory Peck.
The Reivers, William Faulkner, 1962
Faulkner’s Pulitzer for ‘The Reivers’ may be seen more as a lifetime achievement award than as something specifically awarding this, often regarding by both readers and scholars as one of his lesser works. Make no doubt about it, however: this picaresque novel about the adventures of Lucius Priest fine readin’, even if it ain’t no ‘Sanctuary’.
The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer, 1979
I am generally no fan of Norman Mailer, but ‘The Executioner’s Song’ is an astonishing piece of work, a tragic, sad and strangely poetic account of the crimes and death of Utah murderer Gary Gilmore. Read it; a bestseller, you should no trouble finding it in your library or local bookstore.
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
John Kennedy Toole’s rich, funny, Don-Quizote-like novel may, unfortunately, be as well known for its back story as the book itself. After trying in vain to find a publisher, Toole committed suicide, and it was only when his determined mother and writer Walker Percy got it published posthumously that it became a cult sensation.
Ironweed, William Kennedy, 1983
William Kennedy’s somber novel about alcoholism is another Pulizter Prize-winner which has become a modern classic. The story of tormented vagrant Francis Phelan has been chosen as one of the 100 best novels written in English in the 20th century by Modern Library, along with ‘Ulysses’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Brave New World’.
Rabbit is Rich, John Updike, 1981
John Updike’s series of Rabbit novels concern the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom as he grows up, gets married and deals with his life. In ‘Rabbit is Rich’, Harry has inherited a car dealership from his father-in-law and is indeed wealthy. Money does not magically shield Rabbit from family problems and the ghosts of the past. A fascinating meditation on “the average life” and the excesses of the 1980s.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz’s novel of the coming-of-age of Dominican-American super-nerd Oscar has something for everyone who ever rearranged their schedules to watch original episodes of the ‘The Twilight Zone’ and felt like no one understands them. A large, imaginative book refreshingly free of pretty teenage vampires and scheming, adulterous CEOs.
Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
An astonishing novel and ghost story (or is it?) about slavery, both literal and figurative, may be one of the finest novels ever written. The story centers around Sethe, a former slave who now lives in the North with her daughter. The past comes back to haunt Sethe in all kinds of ways, and it is a great testament to Morrison’s lyric writing skills that a book about murder, abuse, and insanity ends up being so inspiring.