The Pulitzer Project

the pulitzer project

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, briefly: The Pulitzer website states the criteria for the fiction award is: “distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.” The original prize was named the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, which was changed to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948. The rules and criteria have changed since the award first began in 1917. The rules and processes as we know them today started in 1981. A panel of three readers will submit three recommendations (of books published that year) to the Board, which consists of eighteen members. The Board can pick one of the three, ask for a fourth, or pick something completely different. Sometimes the Board will refuse to award any of the eligible books, the most recent year being 2012.

Why Read the Pulitzers? We’ve always wanted to read our way through a big, hefty award list, from Nobel prize winners to Caldecott award winning childrens books – we want to read them all! I think the Pulitzer Prize is as good as any to start with, afterall, we live in America and love a Great American Novel. I think it’ll be interesting to see how we define American literature and how it might change over time. I’m a stickler for completeness, so I’ll be reading the Pulitzer finalists as well. I’m also excited to learn more about the selection process, as well as the social and political pressures involved.

The Goal: I’m going to try to read at least one book a month in order of earliest to latest. If I’ve already read a book on the list, I may still try to write a little about it. I don’t have an end date in mind – but my guess is this will take anywhere between three to ten years.

Read Along!: If you would like to read along with me, please let me know! I’ll be starting with His Family, by Ernest Poole this month. Link to your reviews or comment below, or follow along with our Pulitzer-Project tag. Wish us luck!

(Note: Books read will be in bold or will be linked to a review/tag)

Current Progress: 33/169; 20% Completed.


1917: no award given

1918: His Family by Ernest PooleFree eBook

1919: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth TarkingtonFree eBook

1920: no award given

1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith WhartonFree eBook

1922: Alice Adams by Booth TarkingtonFree eBook

1923: One of Ours by Willa CatherFree eBook

1924: The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson

1925: So Big by Edna Ferber

1926: Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis (declined prize)

1927: Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield

1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

1929: Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin

1930: Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge

1931: Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes

1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

1933: The Store by Thomas Sigismund Stribling

1934: Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller

1935: Now in November by Josephine Winslow Johnson

1936: Honey in the Horn by Harold L. Davis

1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

1938: The Late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand

1939: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

1940: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

1941: no award given
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
– Although the Pulitzer Board initially agreed with that judgment, the president of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler, persuaded the board to reverse its judgment because he deemed the novel offensive, and no award was given that year.

1942: In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow

1943: Dragon’s Teeth by Upton Sinclair

1944: Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin

1945: A Bell for Adano by John Hersey

1946: no award given

1947: All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

1948: Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener

1949: Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens

1950: The Way West by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.

1951: The Town by Conrad Richter

1952: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

1954: No award given

1955: A Fable by William Faulkner

1956: Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor

1957: No award given
The Voice At The Back Door by Elizabeth Spencer
-The fiction jury had recommended the 1957 award to Elizabeth Spencer’s The Voice at the Back Door, but the Pulitzer board, which has sole discretion for awarding the prize, made no award

1958: A Death in the Family by James Agee (posthumous win)

1959: The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor

1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury

1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

1962: The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor

1963: The Rivers by William Faulkner (posthumous win)

1964: No award given

1965: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau

1966: The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter by Katherine Anne Porter

1967: The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

1968: The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

1969: House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

1970: The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford by Jean Stafford

1971: No award given

1972: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

1973: The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

1974: No award given
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
-The fiction jury had unanimously recommended the 1974 award to Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, but the Pulitzer board, which has sole discretion for awarding the prize, made no award.

1975: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

1976: Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

1977: No award given
A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean
Roots by Alex Haley (special Pulitzer Prize)
-The fiction jury had recommended the 1977 award to Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It, but the Pulitzer board, which has sole discretion for awarding the prize, made no award. That same year, however, Alex Haley’s iconic family saga Roots was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize.

1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson

1979: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

1980: The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
Birdy by William Wharton
The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth

(Note: Starting in 1981, the Pulitzer Foundation began announcing Finalists as well as winners)

1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (posthumous win)
Godric by Frederick Buechner
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

1982: Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
A Flag for Sunrise by Robert Stone
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
Rabbis and Wives by Chaim Grade

1984: Ironweed by William Kennedy
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
The Feud by Thomas Berger

1985: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
I Wish This War Were Over by Diana O’Hehir
Leaving the Land by Douglas Unger

1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
Continental Drift by Russell Banks

1987: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
Paradise by Donald Barthelme
Whites by Norman Rush

1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
Persian Nights by Diane Johnson
That Night by Alice McDermott

1989: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver

1990: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow

1991: Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Jernigan by David Gates
Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig
Mao II by Don DeLillo

1993: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
At Weddings and Wakes by Alice McDermott
Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
The Collected Stories of Reynolds Price by Reynolds Price
Operation Shylock: A Confession by Philip Roth

1995: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
The Collected Stories of Grace Paley by Grace Paley
What I Lived For by Joyce Carol Oates

1996: Independence Day by Richard Ford
Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos
Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth

1997: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
The Manikin by Joanna Scott
Unlocking the Air and Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin

1998: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Bear and His Daughter: Stories by Robert Stone
Underworld by Don DeLillo

1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

2000: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
Waiting by Ha Jin

2001: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams

2002: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead

2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Servants of the Map: Stories by Andrea Barrett
You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett

2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
American Woman by Susan Choi
Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins

2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
An Unfinished Season by Ward Just
War Trash by Ha Jin

2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
The Bright Forever by Lee Martin
The March by E. L. Doctorow

2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
After This by Alice McDermott
The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Shakespeare’s Kitchen by Lore Segal
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

2009: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
All Souls by Christine Schutt
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

2010: Tinkers by Paul Harding
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet

2011: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee

2012: No award given.
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (posthumous nominee)

2013: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

2014: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Son by Philipp Meyer
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis

2015: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Let Me Be Frank with You by Richard Ford
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates

2016: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Maud’s Line by Margaret Verble

2017: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

2018: Less by Sean Andrew Greer
In the Distance by Hernan Diaz
The Idiot by Elif Batuman

2019: The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
There, There by Tommy Orange

2020: The Nickle Boys by Colson Whitehead
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner


Additional Reading and Resources (in case these 100+ books aren’t enough for you):

18 thoughts on “The Pulitzer Project

  1. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: His Family, Ernest Poole (1918) | Like Bears to Honey

  2. Pingback: Books I Read in August | Like Bears to Honey

  3. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington (1919) | Like Bears to Honey

  4. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: A Brief History, or Why There was No Award in 1917 | Like Bears to Honey

  5. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: 1920 | Like Bears to Honey

  6. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (1921) | Like Bears to Honey

  7. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: Alice Adams, Booth Tarkington (1922) | Like Bears to Honey

  8. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: One of Ours, Willa Cather (1923) | Like Bears to Honey

  9. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: The Able McLaughlins, Margaret Wilson (1924) | Like Bears to Honey

  10. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: So Big, Edna Ferber (1925) | Like Bears to Honey

  11. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: A Turning Point – 1926 | Like Bears to Honey

  12. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis (1926) | Like Bears to Honey

  13. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: Early Autumn, Louis Bromfield (1927) | Like Bears to Honey

  14. Pingback: #4-5 Whitman Wednesday: In Cabin’d Ships at Sea & To Foreign Lands | Like Bears to Honey

  15. Pingback: The Pulitzer Project: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder (1928) | Like Bears to Honey

  16. Pingback: Pulitzer Project: Laughing Boy, Oliver La Farge (1930) | Like Bears to Honey

  17. Pingback: Pulitzer Project: The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck (1932) | Like Bears to Honey

  18. Pingback: Pulitzer Project: The Store, T.S. Stribling (1933) | Like Bears to Honey

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