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Monday, February 18, 2008


I can't tell you why I thought up this challenge for myself, or why I accepted the challenge, or why I picked Pulitzer Prize winners, or why I picked fiction...but I did. My goal is to read every Pulitzer Prize winning fiction book published in my lifetime (I was born in 1949). The difficult thing was that, when I began the challenge, it took me longer than it should to get through a book, and initially I wondered if I would catch up to the present before I die. Nevertheless I plugged on, my reading speed increased, and I have now done it. It took about six years to catch up, and now I just look forward to the next winner. Some books, like Faulkner's A Fable, are downright painful to read; but others, like Taylor's The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, are a pure joy. Some are hard to believe they won a Pulitzer Prize, and one begins to wonder just what sort of politics are involved in this honor; but others are life-changing. I now challenge you to take on this reading list, beginning with your birth year. Here's the list from 1949. (Some years had no Pulitzer Prize winner.)

1949 Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens
1950 The Way West by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
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 winner
1955 A Fable by William Faulkner
1956 Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
1957 - no winner
1958 A Death in the Family by the late 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 winner
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 winner
1972 Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
1973 The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
1974 - no winner
1975 The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
1976 Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
1977 - no winner
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 the late 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: 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 Empire Falls 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 from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2012 - no winner
2013 The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
2014 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
2015 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
2016 The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
2017 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
2018 Less by Andrew Sean Greer
I have stopped with Greer's Less. I congratulate my fortitude of reaching as far as page 15. The homosexuality in more recent Pulitzer winners has just become boring and disgusting to me. It's best to be happy with having read all of them from 1949 to 2017. Now I've got several more of Clyde Brion Davis' books to read instead. They're out of print and didn't receive any Pulitzer prizes, but they're plenty good enough.

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