Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize committees responsible for awarding journalists and newspapers have often been condemned for their liberal bias. Columbia University, the Prizes' sponsor, makes no bones about the "liberal heritage" of the awards. Named after Polish-American journalist Joseph Pulitzer (whom many accused of turning serious journalism into an entertainment-oriented free-for-all), the annual award goes to one recipient in each of 21 categories ranging from local reporting to music to short stories and poetry.

If the journalism categories are slanted too far left, the category for novels offers something of a balance. While there are plenty of liberals represented, there are also plenty of moderates and conservatives, and the prize is generally awarded to genuinely deserving authors. Each year, one writer gets $10,000 for a work evidencing fine craftsmanship, universal themes, and (generally) characters or situations characteristic of the American experience. Authors must be American, and their work must specifically be submitted to the judging committee for consideration.

Some of the best American novels of the last hundred years have won the Pulitzer Prize, though many excellent works have also been neglected. An award like this one is necessarily susceptible to the whims and accidents of human judgement and error, and though the committees are large, they're also collectively imperfect. Don't use this as an absolute guide for must-read American novels; instead, use it as a general reference, and you may be surprised by some of the little-known gems you discover.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Comprehensive List of Pulitzer Prize Winners

  • 1917: No award
  • 1918: His Family by Ernest Poole
  • 1919: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
  • 1920: No award
  • 1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • 1922: Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
  • 1923: One of Ours by Willa Cather
  • 1924: The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson
  • 1925: So Big by Edna Ferber
  • 1926: Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
  • 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 Lafarge
  • 1931: Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes
  • 1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  • 1933: The Store by T.S. 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 1955: A Fable by William Faulkner
  • 1956: Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
  • 1957: No award
  • 1958: A Death in the Family by James Agee
  • 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 Reivers by William Faulkner
  • 1964: No award
  • 1965: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
  • 1966: Collected Stories 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: Collected Stories by Jean Stafford
  • 1971: No award
  • 1972: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
  • 1973: The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
  • 1974: No award
  • 1975: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  • 1976: Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow
  • 1977: No award
  • 1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson
  • 1979: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
  • 1980: The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
  • 1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • 1982: Rabbit is Rich by John Updike
  • 1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • 1984: Ironweed by William Kennedy
  • 1985: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
  • 1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • 1987: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
  • 1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • 1989: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
  • 1990: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
  • 1991: Rabbit At Rest by John Updike
  • 1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
  • 1993: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
  • 1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • 1995: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
  • 1996: Independence Day by Richard Ford
  • 1997: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
  • 1998: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • 1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  • 2000: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • 2001: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  • 2002: EmpireFalls by Richard Russo
  • 2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • 2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • 2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • 2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
  • 2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • 2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • 2009: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • 2010: Tinkers by Paul Harding
  • 2011:A Visit for the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Did you find this review helpful?
12 Items found Print
Bridge of San Luis Rey
by Thornton Wilder
from HarperCollins
for 9th-Adult
1928 Pulitzer Prize Winner
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$11.99
Caine Mutiny
by Herman Wouk
from Back Bay Books
for 10th-Adult
1952 Pulitzer Prize Winner
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$12.79 $10.00 (1 in stock)
Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
from Pocket Books
Romance for 9th-12th grade
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$7.99
Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck
from Pocket Books
Historical Fiction for 8th-12th grade
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$5.59
Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
from Penguin Classics
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$13.60
Guns of August
by Barbara W. Tuchman
from Ballantine Books
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$14.40 $11.50 (1 in stock)
Guns of August
by Barbara W. Tuchman
from Ballantine Books
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$7.19
Killer Angels
by Michael Shaara
from Ballantine Books
Historical Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$6.39
Magnificent Ambersons
by Booth Tarkington
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$11.16
The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
1st edition from Vintage Classics
for 10th-Adult
Pulitzer Prize Winner 2007
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$11.96 $7.50 (1 in stock)
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
35 Anv from HarperTrophy
Realistic Fiction for 9th-Adult
1961 Pulitzer Prize winner
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$20.79
Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
from Charles Scribner's Sons
Realistic Animal Stories for 6th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$12.00