The Pulitzer Prize winners for 2014 were announced on Monday, April 14, and among them was this year’s Fiction prize winner Donna Tartt for her novel The Goldfinch. The list of winners through the years since the inception of the Pulitzers in 1917 is an interesting one and seems to vary a great deal from many “great books” lists such as Modern Library’s 1oo Best Novels or TIME Magazine’s ALL-TIME 100 Novels. Many of the older Pulitzer winners are titles we recognize and still read today such as Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Other titles are less well known such as Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin, which won in 1929 and is set among the Gullah people of South Carolina, or Conrad Richter’s pioneer saga The Town.
The first Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded in 1918 and you’ll find a complete list of winners here. If you want to learn more I recommend The Pulitzer Prize Thumbnails Project site, which is full of interesting facts about the prize and has a neat link that will take you to the author Harry Kloman’s brief descriptions of each and every winning book.
Of course so much of this awarding of prizes has a large measure of subjectivity operating within the process and in the ultimate decisions. I expect plenty of people over the years have disagreed with the Pulitzer panel’s choices. I know I have. I tried to reread John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, which won the prize in 1981, a few years ago and just could not get through it.
Do you pay attention to prize winners? Have you ever read a prize winner and been disappointed?