The Pulitzer Prize for Letters - Fiction

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 No Award Given
2011 Jennifer Egan A Visit From the Goon Squad Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs confront their pasts in this powerful story about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn, and how art and music have the power to redeem.
2010 Paul Harding Tinkers On his deathbed, surrounded by his family, George Washington Crosby's thoughts drift back to his childhood and the father who abandoned him when he was twelve.
2009 Elizabeth Strout Olive Kitteridge At the edge of the continent, in the small town of Crosby, Maine, lives Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher who deplores the changes in her town and in the world at large but doesn't always recognize the changes in those around her.
2008 Junot Diaz The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fuku - the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim - until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.
2007 Cormac McCarthy The Road America is a barren landscape of smoldering ashes, devoid of life except for those people still struggling to scratch out some type of existence. Amidst the destruction, a father and his young son walk, always toward the coast, but with no real understanding that circumstances will improve once they arrive. Still they persevere, and their relationship comes to represent goodness in a world that is utterly devastated.
2007 Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird". A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.
2006 Geraldine Brooks March From Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, and has added adult resonance to portray the moral complexity of war and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism.
2005 Marilynne Robinson Gilead In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition. He tells of the tension between his father and grandfather and he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton.
2004 Edward Jones The Known World Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot maker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor--William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful white man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation as well as his own slaves. When he dies his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart.
2003 Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them--along with Callie's failure to develop--leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.
2002 Richard Russo Empire Falls In this droll, unsentimental, and occasionally hilarious novel, Richard Russo tells the story of a big-hearted man who becomes the unlikely hero of a small town with a glorious past but a dubious future.
2001 Michael Chabon The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay A stunning novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the twentieth century.
2000 Jhumpa Lahiri Interpreter of Maladies Traveling from India to New England and back again, the stories in this extraordinary debut collection unerringly chart the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations.
1999 Michael Cunningham The Hours Cunningham Draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair.
1998 Philip Roth American Pastoral American Pastoral presents a vivid portrait of how the innocence of Swede Levov is swept away by the times - of how everything industriously created by his family in America over three generations is left in a shambles by the explosion of a bomb in his own bucolic backyard.
1997 Steven Milhauser Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer Young Martin Dressler begins his career as a helper in his father's cigar store. In the course of his restless young manhood, he makes a swift and eventful rise to the top. His visions grow more and more fantastical as he plans his ultimate creation: the Grand Cosmo, in which he attempts to capture the entire world and its dreams.
1996 Richard Ford Independence Day Frank Bascombe hoped to spend the upcoming Fourth of July weekend with his son, but the holiday turns out nothing like Frank had planned.
1995 Carol Shields The Stone Diaries Born in 1905, Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography.
1994 E. Annie Proulx The Shipping News An unsuccessful newspaperman, his aunt, and his two young daughters experience delicately evoked changes in a poignant novel set in a Newfoundland fishing town.
1993 Robert Olen Butler A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain In his first book of short fiction, Butler offers a compelling chorus of voices that together depict the experiences of the many Vietnamese expatriates living in America.
1992 Jane Smiley A Thousand Acres When a proud Iowa farmer decides to retire and leave his large farm property to his three daughters, events unfold that threaten to tear the family apart.
1991 John Updike Rabbit at Rest In this final episode of the author's " Rabbit " saga, ex-basketball player Harry " Rabbit " Angstrom has acquired heart trouble, a Florida condo and a second grandchild. His son is behaving erratically and his wife decides in mid-life to become a working girl. Rabbit explores the bleak terrain of late middle age, looking for reasons to live.
1990 Oscar Hijuelos The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love It's 1949. It's the era of the mambo, and two young Cuban musicians make their way up from Havana to the grand stage of New York. The Castillo brothers, workers by day, become by night stars of the dance halls, where their orchestra plays the lush, sensuous, pulsing music that earns them the title of the Mambo Kings. This is their moment of youth--a golden time that thirty years later will be remembered with nostalgia and deep afection.
1989 Anne Tyler Breathing Lessons During a ninety-mile drive to her best friend's husband's funeral, Maggie and her husband, Ira, recall and revaluate the details of their twenty-eight-year marriage.
1988 Toni Morrison Beloved Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison's greatest novel, a dazzling achievement, and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade.
1987 Peter Taylor A Summons to Memphis A richly observed, finely tuned novel about how a charming, elderly widower's remarriage is foiled by his meddlesome, unmarried, middle-aged children, told by that master story-teller, Peter Taylor, against the backdrop he has made so distinctive--the society of urban Tennessee.
1986 Larry McMurtry Lonesome Dove A love story and an epic of the frontier, Lonesome Dove is the grandest novel ever written about the last, defiant wilderness of America. Richly authentic, beautifully written, Lonesome Dove is a book to make readers laugh, weep, dream and remember.
1985 Alison Lurie Foreign Affairs This flawless novel earned the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and once again illustrates Lurie's talent for capturing the subtle ironies of human relationships. Two professors are sent to London on research assignments but end up spending more time together than on their work!
1984 William Kennedy Ironweed Francis Phelan is a man trying to make peace with the ghosts of his past and present.
1983 Alice Walker The Color Purple This landmark work is Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that also won the American Book Award and established her as a major voice in modern fiction. The New York Times Book Review hailed its "intense emotional impact," and the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a work to stand beside literature of any time and place."
1982 John Updike Rabbit is Rich Rabbit, basically decent but no intellectual, is ten years down the road from Rabbit Redux. Updike's hero, now a middle-aged Toyota dealer, still seeks peace and contentment -- items not standard equipment in his life.
1981 John Kennedy Toole A Confederacy of Dunces A spectacular, Pultizer Prize-winning novel by a master of comedy, beloved by readers and critics alike. The place is the French Quarter, the characters, denizens of New Orleans's lower depths.
1980 Norman Mailer The Executioner's Song America's most heroically ambitious writer follows the short, blighted career of Gary Gilmore, an intractably violent product of America's prisons who---after robbing two men and killing them in cold blood--insisted on dying for his crime.
1979 John Cheever The Stories of John Cheever Here are sixty-one stories that chronicle the lives of what has been called "the greatest generation." From the early wonder and disillusionment of city life in "The Enormous Radio" to the surprising discoveries and common mysteries of suburbia in "The Housebreaker of Shady Hill" and "The Swimmer," Cheever tells us everything we need to know about "the pain and sweetness of life."
1978 James Alan McPherson Elbow Room A beautiful collection that explores blacks and whites today, Elbow Room is alive with warmth and humor. Bold and very real, these 12 stories explor e a world many find difficult to define.
1977 No Award Given
1976 Saul Bellow Humboldt's Gift An old friend acts from the grave to give a gentle but resilient middle-aged intellectual an opportunity for triumph over all that makes his life seem staid and superfluous.
1975 Michael Shaara The Killer Angels A sweeping journey to the heart of a country sundered by war--a dramatic and unforgettable novel that brings to life the Battle of Gettysburg.
1974 No Award Given
1973 Eudora Welty The Optimist's Daughter The story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her silly young stepmother go back still farther, to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Alone in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents.
1972 Wallace Stegner Angle of Repose The magnificent story of four generations in the life of an American family. A wheelchair-bound retired historian embarks on a monumental quest: to come to know his grandparents, now long dead. The unfolding drama of the story of the American West sets the tone for Stegner's masterpiece.
1971 No Award Given
1970 Jean Stafford Collected Stories
1969 N. Scott Momaday House Made of Dawn The story of a young American Indian struggling to reconcile the traditional ways of his people with the demands of the 20th century.
1968 William Styron The Confessions of Nat Turner Set in 1831, The Confessions Of Nat Turner tells--in his own words--of a black man who awaits death in a Virginia jail cell. His name is Nat Turner and he is a slave, a preacher, and the leader of the only effective slave revolt in the history of that 'peculiar institution.'
1967 Bernard Malamud The Fixer Yakov Bok is an ordinary man accused of "ritual murder" and persecuted by agents of a remote and all-powerful state. But when he is at last pushed too far, he triumphs over almost incredible brutality and becomes a moral giant.
1966 Katherine Anne Porter Collected Stories Four complete stories from one of America's most anthologized writers. Includes: "The Cracked Looking Glass", "The Grave", "Magic", and "Flowering Judas".
1965 Shirley Ann Grau The Keepers of the House The Keepers of the House is a novel of immense power that builds slowly, in layers, to an overarching realization both terrible and satisfying. It is the story of William Howland and Margaret Carmichael and their love for each other, told by William's granddaughter, Abigail.
1964 No Award Given
1963 William Faulkner The Reivers This grand misadventure is the story of three unlikely thieves, or reivers: 11-year-old Lucius Priest and two of his family's retainers. In 1905, these three set out from Mississippi for Memphis in a stolen motorcar. The astonishing and complicated results reveal Faulkner as a master of the picaresque.
1962 Edwin O'Connor The Edge of Sadness
1961 Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird". A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.
1960 Allen Drury Advise and Consent Advise and Consent is the story of the nomination of Robert Leffingwell for Secretary of State, and the battle within the Senate to both defeat him and confirm him.
1959 Robert Lewis Taylor The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters A story set during the California gold rush.
1958 James Agee A Death in the Family In its lyrical, sorrowful account of a man's death and its impact on his family, Agee has created an overwhelmingly powerful novel of innocence, tenderness, and loss that should be read aloud for the sheer music of its prose.
1957 No Award Given
1956 MacKinlay Kantor Anderson This is a story about the infamous Andersonville prison of Civil War fame, into which tens of thousands of Northerners were inhumanely confined under obscene conditions.
1955 William Faulkner A Fable An allegorical story of World War I set in the trenches in France and dealing ostensibly with a mutiny in a French regiment.
1954 No Award Given
1953 Ernest Hemingway The Old Man and the Sea A triumphant yet tragic story of an old Cuban fisherman and his relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream combines the simplicity of a fable, the significance of a parable, and the drama of an epic.
1952 Herman Wouk The Caine Mutiny When the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Caine is transferred, a new captain, strict disciplinarian Philip Francis Queeg, replaces him. But Queeg's actions go beyond strictness into psychopathology as he brings the ship and its crew to the brink of destruction. This necessitates a brutal shipboard court-martial that threatens by turns to clear or condemn him.
1951 Conrad Richter The Town The final chapter in The Awakening Land triology; it concludes the saga of Sayward Wheeler and her family as they finish turning the Ohio wilderness into a bustling city.
1950 A.B. Guthrie, Jr. The Way West Finely crafted and timelessly entertaining, The Way West won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished fiction in 1950. Dick Summers returns to guide a group of settlers on the hazardous wagon train to Oregon...
1949 James Gould Cozzens Guard of Honor Balances a vast cast of intricately enmeshed characters as they react over the course of three tense days to a racial incident on a U.S. Air Force training base in Florida in 1942.
1948 James A. Michener Tales of the South Pacific Enter the exotic world of the South Pacific, meet the men and women caught up in the drama of a big war. The young Marine who falls madly in love with a beautiful Tonkinese girl. Nurse Nellie and her French planter, Emile De Becque. The soldiers, sailors, and nurses playing at war and waiting for love in a tropic paradise.
1947 Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men This classic book is generally regarded as the finest novel ever written on american politics. It describes the career of Willie Stark, a back-country lawyer whose idealism is overcome by his lust for power.
1946 No Award Given
1945 John Hersey A Bell for Adano Presiding over the small Sicilian village of Adano during World War II, an Italian-American major wins the love and admiration of the natives when he searches for a replacement for the 700-year-old town bell that had been melted down for bullets by the Fascists.
1944 Martin Flavin Journey in the Dark
1943 Upton Sinclair Dragon's Teeth
1942 Ellen Glasgow In This Our Life
1941 No Award Given
1940 John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath Forced from their home, the Joad family is lured to California to find work; instead they find disillusionment, exploitation, and hunger.
1939 Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings The Yearling A young boy living in the Florida backwoods is forced to decide the fate of a fawn he has lovingly raised as a pet.
1938 John Phillips Marquand The Late George Apley
1937 Margaret Mitchell Gone With the Wind A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.
1936 Harold L. Davis Honey in the Horn
1935 Josephine Winslow Johnson Now in November
1934 Caroline Pafford Miller Lamb in His Bosom A young couple begins their married lives on the eve of the Civil War. The story of the poor people of the American South who never owned a slave nor planned to fight a war.
1933 T.S. Stribling The Store
1932 Pearl S. Buck The Good Earth This great modern classic depicts life in China at a time before the vast political and social upheavals transformed an essentially agrarian country into a world power. Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life--its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, and rewards. Includes biographical and historical information and more.
1931 Margaret Ayer Barnes Years of Grace
1930 Oliver La Farge Laughing Boy Captures the essence of the Southwest in the early 1900s -- and depicts a young Native American couple experiencing all the uncertainties and joys of first love.
1929 Julia Peterkin Scarlet Sister Mary Scarlet Sister Mary is the story of a sexy, independent, and outspoken woman who lives to please herself. Abandoned by her husband, the heroine takes many lovers, loses her firstborn son, and eventually "finds peace" as a church member, although she refuses to give up her love charm and her gold hoop earrings.
1928 Thorton Niven Wilder The Bridge of San Luis Rey "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" opens in the aftermath of an inexplicable tragedy-- a tiny foot-bridge in Peru breaks, and five people hurtle to their deaths. For Brother Juniper, a humble monk who witnesses the catastrophe, the question in inescapable. Why those five? Suddenly, Brother Juniper is committed to discover what manner of lives they led-- and whether it was divine intervention or a capricious fate that took their lives.
1927 Louis Bromfield Early Autumn
1926 Sinclair Lewis Arrowsmith Lewis portrays the medical career of Martin Arrowsmith, a physician who finds his commitment to the ideals of his profession tested by the cynicism and opportunism he encounters in private practice, public health work, and scientific research. The novel reaches its climax as its hero faces his greatest challenges amid a deadly outbreak of plague on a Caribbean island.
1925 Edna Ferber So Big The unforgettable story of Selina Peake Dejong, her marriage, widowhood, eventual success as a truck farmer, and of her son, Dirk. In So Big, Ferber simultaneously created a vivid picture of turn-of-the-century Chicago and dealt with the (still) contemporary issues of poverty, Americanization, family tensions, sexism, and success.
1924 Margaret Wilson The Able McLaughlins
1923 Willa Cather One of Ours
1922 Booth Tarkington Alice Adams Social climber Alice tries to push her clodhopper family to the background and assumes airs to win the love of an amiable, wealthy young man.
1921 Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence When the Countess Ellen Olenska returns from Europe, fleeing her brutish husband, her rebellious independence and passionate awareness of life stir the educated sensitivity of Newland Archer, already engaged to be married to her cousin May Welland. As the consequent drama unfolds, Edith Wharton's sharp ironic wit and Jamesian mastery of form create a disturbingly accurate picture of men and women caught in a society that denies humanity while desperately defending "civilization".
1921 No Award Given
1920 No Award Given
1919 Booth Tarkington The Magnificent Ambersons The haunting story of a wealthy Midwestern family's struggle to adapt to the rapidly changing world at the dawn of the 20th century.
1918 Ernest Poole His Family