10 Pulitzer Winners Eveyone Should Have
Article source: BestCollegesOnline.net
Life’s too short to spend it on bad books. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with guilty pleasures and beach reads — we all need a mental health break now and again — but with so many books and so little time to read them, it’s important to make sure you don’t miss out on the good stuff, and Pulitzer winners are as good a place to start as any. This list is devoted to Pulitzer Prize winners in the fiction category, though awards are also given to biographies, nonfiction books, poetry collections, histories, and plays, not to mention a host of journalism fields. If you want to bone up on classics from all eras, explore some great stories, or just look smarter when people come over to visit, add these volumes to your bookshelf.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon: Michael Chabon’s sprawling tale of mid-century America revolves around a pair of young Jewish men — Sam, a native Brooklynite, and his immigrant cousin, Joe — who become major players in the Golden Age of comic books. Chabon creates a series of shifting romances and relationships as his characters rise to fame and fortune in pursuit of their art, and though the comic book character the boys create is fictional, the historic backdrop of post-World War II culture is utterly real. Chabon’s work also explores the history of Jews in America and their prominence in the comic book world. Although Chabon had been critically praised for his earlier works (including Wonder Boys), it was this work of dazzling historical fiction that won him the Pulitzer in 2001.
- The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer: Norman Mailer was a towering figure in American literature for much of his 84 years, thanks to works like the war novel The Naked and the Dead and the religious meditation The Gospel According to the Son. He won the Pulitzer in 1980 for The Executioner’s Song, a daring novel drawn from exhaustive research and based on real events. The book is the story of Gary Gilmore, who was the first criminal put to death after the Supreme Court upheld certain death penalty statutes in the late 1970s. The novel about real life recalls In Cold Blood in its subject matter and approach. In an interesting twist, it was later turned into a TV-movie directed by Lawrence Schiller, who appears in the novel when he persuades Gilmore to sign away media rights to his story.
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: Harper Lee only ever wrote one novel, but it’s a perfect one. Winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, this timeless classic deals with race and culture in America with honesty, grace, and poignancy. The book was as notable for its era of publication as the subject matter it attacked; in 1960, when it was released, the civil rights movement was only beginning to work itself into the powerhouse it would become. Told from the point of view of a young girl, the book follows a trial in which a black man is charged with raping a white woman in small-town Alabama. The frank language and racial epithets made the book one of the most challenged of the century, despite the fact that the book is a moral lesson against them.
- All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren: All the King’s Men wasn’t Robert Penn Warren’s first novel, but when it won the Pulitzer in 1947, it became destined to be his most famous. Narrated by a political reporter who becomes a campaign operative, the dense novel tells the tale of Willie Stark, a political figure based in part on Huey P. Long, who served as Louisiana’s governor and senator in the 1930s. The novel explores themes of action and consequence, and of the battle between taking responsibility and letting everything slide out of control. The book has been turned into a film twice, once in 1949 (when it won the Oscar for best picture) and again in 2006.
- A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy O’Toole: John Kennedy Toole lived a sad, short life that never saw the literary fame he deserved. The New Orleans writer and educator was unable to get his manuscripts published in his lifetime, and he also suffered from depression that contributed to his committing suicide in 1969 at the age of 31. A few years later, his mother passed the manuscript for A Confederacy of Dunces to author Walker Percy, who helped it get published and earn wider acclaim. The robust, comically adventurous novel centers on Ignatius J. Reilly, an overweight 30-year-old of gifted intelligence who lives with his mother. Reilly’s one of the most indelible and unforgettable characters in modern lit, and his tale is well worth your time.
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck: John Steinbeck’s got no shortage of classics to his name, but he only won the Pulitzer once, in 1940, for his epic The Grapes of Wrath. Don’t be put off by any bad memories you might of being spoon-fed this book in high school; it’s a sprawling, compelling look at poor workers in Depression-era America that’s one of Steinbeck’s very best. The Joad family abandons their Oklahoma home in the Dust Bowl and strikes out for a better life in California, only to find that everyone else has been suckered by the same dream, leading to a surplus of laborers in California who are in turn mistreated by cruel bosses. The novel is an indictment of unfair practices that earned Steinbeck the wrath of several groups who accused him of being a communist.
- The Stories of John Cheever, John Cheever: Although John Cheever published a number of novels throughout his career, he’s remembered and renowned for his stort stories. The 1979 Pulitzer went to this impressive collection of his short works that includes some of his most famous stories, including “The Swimmer,” a haunting look at happiness and despair through the lens of suburban America. It also features “The Enormous Radio,” an eerie genre piece about a radio that lets a couple hear the arguments being had by others in their apartment building, only to leave them torn apart by the weight of their own secrets. Cheever was a glorious chronicler of the conflict present in human nature between good and evil, and this story collection is a must-read for fans and newcomers alike.
- Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell: Published in May 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s gargantuan (it runs more than 1,000 pages) novel set during the Civil War and Reconstruction was a financial smash that was quickly turned into a major Hollywood production. The novel, understandably, goes into far greater detail than the film with its characters, weaving together relationships and politics and the onset of war to create a rich narrative tapestry. It remains one of the best-selling books ever, with more than 30 million volumes sold.
- The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara: Here’s another Civil War one: Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, which won the 1975 Pulitzer. The novel unfolds across the four days of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, shifting between the viewpoints of commanders and characters with the Union and Confederacy forces. Shaara’s historical tale is fantastically detailed but also rooted in emotion, exploring the motives behind the war and the cost it took on those involved. The book is regarded as one of the finest and most accurate war stories ever told, and inspired the 1993 film Gettysburg and a song by Steve Earle.
- The Color Purple, Alice Walker: Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is one of the most popular but challenged books about race relations ever to be published. The novel centers on a group of women in the 1930s in the Southern U.S. who deal with horrible violence and oppression in their pursuit of some semblance of happiness. It’s these stark depictions of sex and violence that have landed the book on lists of challenged library books across the country. In spite of that — perhaps because of it — it remains a powerful, vital look at a complex and dark part of American history, and definitely worth the honors it’s won.