The Ultimate Pulitzer Reading Guide (2010-2018)
The globally recognized American award, the Pulitzer Prize, is one of the highest honors one could receive for journalism, writing, music and photography. Ever since 1917, when the Pulitzer was established, a series of prizes have been awarded every year for a vast variety of creative accomplishments and categories.
The man behind the award is the American newspaper publisher himself, Joseph Pulitzer. A prominent face in journalism in the late 1800s, Pulitzer has established himself as one of the most comprehensive and recognizable campaigners against corruption in private and public sectors. His skillful writing and critique have contributed to the rise of journalism to the highest levels a written word could achieve. Not to mention that Pulitzer was the first advocate to pay someone to write a research paper for university-educated journalists as well.
Today, the Pulitzer Prize is awarded in 21 categories, from reporting and newspaper news sites writing to music and photography. Over the years, thanks to Pulitzer, the world has witnessed some of the most spectacular photography, musical pieces, dramas and fiction, as well as outstanding reports from around the world.
However, today we are going to take a look into the Pulitzer recognized and awarded novels from 2010, onward. If you were looking for a Pulitzer reading guide, you are in the right place.
Tinkers by Paul Harding, 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction
Tinkers is the first novel by the American author Paul Harding. Following in the steps of his professor Marilynne Robinson, who also won a Pulitzer Prize, Harding has swept readers around the world off their feet. The novel’s heartbreaking dive into an old man’s memory of impoverished youth is what made Tinkers Pulitzer-worthy. Characterized as “Faulknersque,” Harding manages to present the story of protagonist George Crosby by evoking memory, transcending time, place and even the private geography of mind.
Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama
Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park is a drama that brought him not only a Pulitzer Prize, but also an Oliver Prize for Best New Play and a Tony Award too. The drama itself revolves around America’s struggle with race and class divisions that evokes a different feeling and interpretation when read and played out. Clybourne Park is a beautiful drama whose characters’ wittiness and perception of 1940s American society comes alive in the form of race and gentrification issues.
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, 2012 Nominee & Finalist in Fiction
Train Dreams is a historical novel centered around the life of a laborer in the Old American West. Robert Grainier, the protagonist of the story, leads a humble and innocent family life, when everything, all of a sudden, takes a peculiar turn in an irrational world full of terror—and glories too. The composure and calmness of Grainier’s personality help him dream in a tragic and surreal world. In 2012, Train Dreams was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, but Johnson did not win. As a matter of fact, no award was given for fiction that year.
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds, 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Poetry
Stag’s Leap, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poems, is Sharon Olds’ intimate and heartwrenching look into divorce, marriage, love, sex, sorrow and freedom. The final months of her marriage, and the memory of what it once was, Olds describes in a striking, reflective and emotional manner that leaves every reader in awe before her vulnerability and openness. Pain, love and self-knowledge have never before been approached in such an unsparing way.
Karl Marx: a 19th-Century Life by Jonathan Sperber, 2014 Nominee & Finalist in Biography
Historian Jonathan Sperber has created a comprehensive and immersive biography of one of the most notable political philosophers of the 1800s. Karl Marx’s life has been meticulously researched, which allowed Sperber to portray an entirely fresh outlook on Marx, his life and his ideas. Not only did Sperber look into the social and intellectual connotations in which Marx has set ground to his controversial political thoughts, notions and concepts, but he also observed the way these are addressed and discussed in the modern day too.
Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates, 2015 Nominee & Finalist in Fiction
Joyce Carol Oates’s collection of stories, under the name Lovely, Dark, Deep, was shortlisted as the finalist in the fiction category. The book comprises 13 stories, all of them centered primarily around middle-aged women struggling to deal with the transitoriness of youth. These women’s inability to handle rushed emotions and disorderly lives result in fascinating, feminine stories that showcase a disparity in wittiness, intelligence and language.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction
The Sympathizer is the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction, as well as the debut novel by the Vietnamese-American professor Viet Thanh Nguyen. The book and its author have been widely recognized, attracting success around the world and becoming The New York Times Editor’s Choice. The Sympathizer comprises several genres and portrays the life of an anonymous narrator who is residing in the United States after fleeing from South Vietnam during the war. The central themes of the novel are immigration, presentation of the Vietnam war in international literature, as well as the duality of one’s mind and voice in times of war.
In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi, 2017 Nominee & Finalist in Biography
Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom is a fascinating, conspicuous and utterly different family saga that deals with the notion of identity in modern times. The novel grasps issues that are historical, political, religious and sexual, following the story of a feminist writer who discovered her father had undergone a complete metamorphosis. Faludi has managed to ask and answer the question of identity by writing a gripping and riveting story about religion, gender and understanding.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman, 2018 Nominee & Finalist in Fiction
The Idiot was shortlisted as the finalist in the fiction category. The novel is a portrayal of a female artist who undergoes self-discovery and self-invention in the most pivotal years of her life. The book is a witty and delicate story about imminent adulthood, the uncertainty of life and self-knowledge, as well as emotional and intellectual sensitivity. The Idiot is remarkably relatable and meaningful, leaving the reader completely engrossed in the story.