The Pulitzer Prize for Letters - Biography/Autobiography

The Pulitzer Prize is named in honor of Joseph Pulitzer a newspaper publisher in the late 19th century. The awards were established in 1917 and are governed by the Pulitzer Prize Board and awarded by Columbia University. Awards are given in 21 categories for journalism, drama, music, and letters.
Award Year Authors(s) Title
2012 John Lewis Gaddis George F. Kennan: An American Life A remarkably revealing view of how this greatest of Cold War strategists came to doubt his strategy and always doubted himself.
2011 Ron Chernow Washington: A Life In "Washington : a Life" celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation, dashing forever the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man, and revealing an astute and surprising portrait of a canny political genius who knew how to inspire people.
2010 T.J. Stiles The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt A gripping, groundbreaking biography of the combative man whose genius and force of will created modern capitalism. We see Vanderbilt help to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation.
2009 Jon Meacham American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy.
2008 John Matteson Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father Louisa May Alcott's name is known universally. Yet, during her youth, the famous Alcott was her father, Bronson - an eminent teacher and lecturer and an admired friend of Emerson and Thoreau. He desired perfection, both, for the world and from his family. Willful and exuberant, Louisa was anything but the model daughter. While her three sisters more readily won Bronson's favor, Louisa puzzled and appalled him with her mercurial moods and restless yearnings for money and fame, The other prize she deeply coveted - her father's understanding -seemed the hardest of all to win. ~Book jacket
2007 Debby Applegate The Most Famous Man in America No one predicted success for Henry Ward Beecher at his birth in 1813. The blithe, boisterous son of the last great Puritan minister, he seemed destined to be overshadowed by his brilliant siblings - especially his sister. Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned the century's bestselling book Uncle Tom's Cabin. But when pushed into the ministry, the charismatic Beecher found international fame by shedding his father Lyman's Old Testament-style fire-and-brimstone theology and instead preaching a New Testament-based gospel of unconditional love and healing, becoming one of the founding fathers of modern American Christianity.
2006 Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of Robert J. Oppenheimer The first full-scale biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, "father of the atomic bomb," the brilliant, charismatic physicist who led the effort to capture the awesome fire of the sun for his country in time of war.
2005 Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan de Kooning: An American Master Willem de Kooning is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, a true "painter's painter" whose protean work continues to inspire many artists. The first major biography of de Kooning captures both the life and work of this complex, romantic figure in American culture.
2004 William Taubman Khrushchev: The Man and His Era Drawing on newly opened archives in Russia and Ukraine, Taubman (political science, Amherst College) writes a thorough biography of one of the most complex and important political figures of the 20th century whose life and career spanned revolution, civil war, famine, collectivization, industrialization, terror, world war, the Cold War, Stalinism, and post-Stalinism.
2003 Robert Caro Master of the Senate This third installment of Caro's "The Years of Lyndon Johnson" presents an unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works, how the U.S. Senate works, and how Johnson mastered both on his way to the presidency. Caro relates how Johnson broke southern control of Capitol Hill to pass the first civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction.
2002 David McCullough John Adams Told by one of the country's greatest historians, here is the extraordinary history of the birth of the United States as seen through the lives of two men: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
2001 David Levering Lewis W.E.B. Dubois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919 - 1963 In this final, magisterial volume, fifteen years in the research and writing, the Pulitzer Prize -- winning biographer David Levering Lewis stunningly re-creates the second half of W.E.B. Du Bois's charged and brilliant career.
2000 Stacy Schiff Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) The story of the 52-year marriage between Vladimir Nabokov, one the 20th century's most original writers, and a woman with an intellect and devotion to literature equal to her husband's.
1999 A. Scott Berg Lindbergh From one of America's most acclaimed biographers comes the definitive account of the life of one of the nation's most legendary, controversial, and enigmatic figures: aviator Charles A. Lindbergh.
1998 Katharine Graham Personal History In this critically acclaimed memoir, the woman who piloted the "Washington Post" through the crises of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and a pressmen's strike and turned it into a great newspaper now tells her story with courage, candor, and dignity.
1997 Frank McCourt Angela's Ashes A beautifully written memoir full of Irish wit and pathos, making it stand out among the garden variety of youthful reminisces. Let's face it, a bad childhood is more interesting and McCourt had it in spades. He was born in Brooklyn, but his family went back to Ireland where he grew up on the dole exacerbated by alcoholism (his father's), near starvation, beatings by the schoolmasters, and a brief respite in clinic where he discovered Shakespeare.
1996 Jack Miles God: A Biography In this close, careful, and inspired reading of God's "life" as told in the Old Testament--book by book, verse by verse--God is seen from his first appearance as Creator to his last as Ancient of Days, variously powerful yet powerless, savage yet gentle, endlessly subtle yet mysteriously naive.
1995 Joan D. Hedrick Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life The first biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe in over fifty years tells the absorbing story of this gifted, complex and contradictory woman. Hedrick takes readers into the world of 19th century morals, exploring the influence of then-popular ideas of "true womanhood" on Stowe's upbringing as a member of the outspoken Beecher clan, and her eventful life as a writer and shaper of public opinion.
1994 David Levering Lewis W.E.B. DuBois: Biography of a Race 1868-1919 Presents the life story of the towering and controversial civil rights leader, focusing on a crucial 50 year period in his--and the nation's--life.
1993 David McCullough Truman An epic masterpiece of the century's most pivotal president captures the emotion, grit and innovation that was Harry S. Truman.
1992 Lewis B. Puller Fortunate Son: The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Lewis B. Puller, Jr., the son of the most decorated Marine in the Corps' history, volunteered for duty in Vietnam after college. He came home a few months later missing both legs, his left hand, and two fingers of his right hand. He would never walk again, though he would complete law school, serve on President Ford's clemency board, and run for Congress. He would also live with the nightmares of Vietnam, and his growing dependence on alcohol.
1991 Steven Naifeh, Gregory White Smith Jackson Pollock: An American Saga Based on family letters and documents, lengthy interviews with his widow, Lee Krasner, as well as his psychologists and psychoanalysts, this book explodes the myths surrounding his death in 1956.
1990 Sebastian Grazia Machiavelli in Hell
1989 Richard Ellmann Oscar Wilde The biography sensitive to the tragic pattern of the story of a great subject: Oscar Wilde - psychologically and sexually complicated, enormously quotable, central to a alluring cultural world and someone whose life assumed an unbearably dramatic shape
1988 David Herbert Donald Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe In this biography, Donald dismantles the myths surrounding the life of Thomas Wolfe.
1987 David J. Garrow Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Garrow provides a thorough and controversial inside look at both the sacred and profane aspects of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's life. Based on more than 700 recorded conversations, this is a powerful portrait of King and the movement for which de dedicated himself.
1986 Elizabeth Frank Louise Bogan: A Portrait A prolific writer in her youth, Bogan was overcome by demons she could not master, and as this book reveals, struggled with a temper, paranoia and jealousy greater than anyone might have guessed.
1985 Kenneth Silverman The Life and Times of Cotton Mather The biography of the most celebrated of all New England Puritans, at once a sophisticated work which succeeds admirably in presenting a complete portrait of a complex man and a groundbreaking study that accurately portrays Mather and his contemporaries as the first true Americans rather than European expatriates.
1984 Louis R. Harlan Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915 This, the second volume, completes one of the most significant biographies of this generation. Booker T. Washington was the most powerful black American of his time, and here he is captured at his zenith.
1983 Russell Baker Growing Up Describing what it was like to come of age in the 1930s and '40s, Baker recalls the tension and love of a family surviving disaster with strength, courage, and good cheer.
1982 William S. McFeely Grant: A Biography From his boyhood in Ohio to the battlefields of the Civil War and his presidency during the Reconstruction, this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography traces the entire arc of Grant's life.
1981 Robert K. Massie Peter the Great: His Life and World Against the monumental canvas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Russia, unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great. He brought Russia from the darkness of its own Middle Ages into the Enlightenment and transformed it into the power that has its legacy in the Russia of our own century
1980 Edmund Morris The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt The story of seven men--a naturalist, a writer, a lover, a hunter, a ranchman, a soldier, and a politician--who merged at the age of 42 to become the youngest President in history.
1979 Leonard Baker Days of Sorrow and Pain: Leo Baeck and the Berlin Jews
1978 Walter Jackson Bate Samuel Johnson
1977 John E. Mack A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence
1976 R.W.B. Lewis Edith Wharton: A Biography
1976 Robert Caro The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Robert Moses was one of the most powerful men in New York City during the 20th century. He was an appointed official who mobilized banks, contractors, labor unions, insurance firms, the press and even churches to succeed.
1974 Louis Sheaffer O'Neill, Son and Artist
1973 W.A. Swanberg Luce and His Empire
1972 Joseph P. Lash Eleanor and Franklin The story of their relationship based on Eleanor Roosevelt's private papers.
1971 Lawrence Thompson Robert Frost: The Years of Triumph, 1915-1938
1970 T. Harry Williams Huey Long This work describes the life of one of the most extraordinary figures in American political history.
1969 Benjamin Lawrence Reid The Man From New York: John Quinn and His Friends
1968 George F. Kennan Memoirs
1967 Justin Kaplan Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain
1966 Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House As special assistant to the president, Arthur Schlesinger witnessed firsthand the politics and personalities that influenced the now legendary Kennedy administration. Schlesinger's close relationship with JFK, as a politician and as a friend, has resulted in this authoritative yet intimate account.
1965 Ernest Samuels Henry Adams Shows how the actual events of Adams' life differ from those of the protagonist in his autobiography.
1964 Walter Jackson Bate John Keats The life of Keats provides a unique opportunity for the study of literary greatness and of what permits or encourages its development.
1963 Leon Edel Henry James
1961 David Donald Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil Ward
1960 Samuel Eliot Morison John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography It vividly portrays the illustrious career of John Paul Jones, from his early training at sea in the British West Indian merchant trade, to his exploits in the newly independent American navy, to his appointment as an admiral in the Russian navy and command of a squadron in the Black Sea.
1959 Arthur Walworth Woodrow Wilson, American Prophet
1958 Douglas S. Freeman George Washington Volumes I-VI
1958 John Alexander Carroll, Mary Wells Ashworth George Washington Volume VII
1957 John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage John Kennedy's spirited words and devotion to courage live on in this commemorative edition of his Pulitzer Prize-winning portraits.
1956 Talbot Faulkner Hamlin
1955 William S. White The Taft Story
1954 Charles A. Lindbergh The Spirit of St. Louis This is Lindbergh's own account of his historic transatlantic flight in 1927.
1953 David J. Mays Edmund Pendleton, 1721-1803
1952 Merlo J. Pusey Charles Evans Hughes
1951 Margaret Louise Coit John C. Calhoun: American Portrait
1950 Samuel Flagg Bemis John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy
1949 Robert E. Sherwood Roosevelt and Hopkins This book has the inside story of the final triumph and how FDR organized and used the men and tools at his disposal to bring about defeat of the Axis and to end fascism to the world.
1948 Margaret Clapp Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow
1947 William Allen White The Autobiography of William Allen White
1946 Linnie Marsh Wolfe Son of the Wilderness
1945 Russell Blaine Nye George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel
1944 Carlton Mabee The American Leonardo: The Life of Samuel F.B. Morse
1943 Samuel Eliot Morison Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus "A condensation of my two-volume Admiral of the ocean sea, published at the same time. All the notes have been omitted, and a good many pages of navigational data; a chapter on ships and sailing and one on the origin of syphilis have been summarized. Otherwise the two editions are identical."--p. xx.
1942 Forrest Wilson Crusader in Crinoline
1941 Ola Elizabeth Jonathan Edwards
1940 Ray Stannard Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters, Volumes VII and VIII
1939 Carl Van Doren Benjamin Franklin Extensive collection of Benjamin Franklin's autobiographical writings and some fifty letters written by Franklin.
1938 Marquis James Andrew Jackson, 2 Volumes
1938 Odell Shepard Pedlar's Progress
1937 Allan Nevins Hamilton Fish
1936 Ralph Barton Perry The Thought and Character of William James
1935 Douglas S. Freeman R.E. Lee
1934 Tyler Dennett John Hay
1933 Allan Nevins Grover Cleveland
1932 Henry F. Pringle Theodore Roosevelt
1931 Henry James Charles W. Eliot
1930 Marquis James The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston "This is the stuff of which legend is made, this story of the making of Texas, and Houston is one with those semilegendary characters--with Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, with Marion the Swamp Fox and Ethan Allen. . . . In a sense he is too good to be true, this man who wrought such mighty deeds within the lifetime of our fathers and grandfathers; in a sense if he had not existed we should have had to create him."--from the introduction by Henry Steele Commager
1929 Burton J. Hendrick The Training of an American: The Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H. Page
1928 Charles Edward Russell The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas
1927 Emory Holloway Whitman
1926 Harvey Cushing The Life of Sir William Osler, 2 Volumes
1925 M.A. DeWolfe Howe Barrett Wendell and His Letter
1924 Michael Idvorsky Pupin From Immigrant to Inventor
1923 Burton J. Hendrick The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page
1922 Hamlin Garland A Daughter of the Middle Border
1921 Edward Bok The Americanization of Edward Bok
1920 Albert J. Beveridge The Life of John Marshall, 4 Volumes
1919 Henry Adams The Education of Henry Adams His political ideas shaped by two presidential ancestors - great-grandfather John Adams and grandfather John Quincy Adams - Henry Adams was one of the most powerful and original minds to confront the American scene from the Civil War to the First World War.
1918 William Cabell Bruce Benjamin Franklin, Self-Revealed
1917 Laura E. Richards, Maude Howe Elliott, Laura E. RichardsMaude Howe ElliottFlorence Howe Hall Julia Ward Howe