Pulitzer Ambitions

Although we’re already heading out of January, I’ve still got New Year’s resolutions on my mind. One of those resolutions is literary. I aim to read at least half a dozen Pulitzer Prize-winning novels during the coming year. I’ve already
decided which ones they’ll be. The choices were made primarily because they’re
books already on my shelves that I’ve been meaning to get around to someday. The rest were selected by a book discussion group I’m part of.

Here, alphabetized by title, is my Pulitzer reading list for 2013. In parentheses are the author’s name and the year the prize was awarded.

“A Confederacy of Dunces” (John Kennedy Toole, 1981)

“Gilead” (Marilynn Robinson, 2005)

“The Killer Angels” (Michael Shaara, 1975)

“Middlesex” (Jeffrey Eugenides, 2003)

“The Reviers” (William Faulkner, 1963)

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” (Jennifer Egan, 2011)

This resolution–which required, of course, that I look up the list of Pulitzer
fiction winners–led me to try to figure out how many of those 85 books I’d
already read. The answer was unimpressive.

Only fourteen.

I confess that I never even heard of some of the books. Others, I have  absolutely no interest in reading. And I kind of think I ought to get double or triple credit
for the books I’ve read multiple times. I’m talking “Lonesome Dove” and “To
Kill a Mockingbird” and “Gone with the Wind.” Which are the three novels that
would top my BEST list if I were making such a list.

I intended to rank my already-read books from most favorite to least favorite but soon gave up. Too many ties. “The Shipping News” would have landed at the bottom of the pile simply because I don’t remember much about it. And though I would definitely put three of the books—“Nat Turner,” “Beloved” and “The Road”—on the list of the most disturbing literature ever written, I still can’t rank them.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s the list of Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction I’ve read,
again presented alphabetically by title. If you think it would be fun to make this an interactive activity, please visit my website to comment on my selections and to tell me about yours.

“All the King’s Men” (Robert Penn Warren, 1947)

“Beloved” (Toni Morrison, 1988)

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (Thornton Wilder, 1928)

“The Color Purple” (Alice Walker, 1983)

“The Confessions of Nat Turner” (William Styron, 1968)

“Gone With the Wind” (Margaret Mitchell, 1937)

“The Good Earth” (Pearl S. Buck, 1932)

“The Grapes of Wrath” (John Steinbeck, 1940)

“Lonesome Dove” (Larry McMurtry, 1986)

“The Old Man and the Sea” (Ernest Hemingway, 1953)

“Olive Kitteridge” (Elizabeth Strout, 2009)

“The Road” (Cormac McCarthy, 2007)

“The Shipping News” (E. Annie Proulx, 1994)

“To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee, 1961)

In next week’s column, I’ll tell you which of these books I just read for the fifth time.

(January 20, 2013)





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