The Sunday Salon: Should I Give up on the Pulitzer Prize?

I like lists.  And I like to finish things.  If I can check something off a list when I finish it, so much the better!  And better still:  finishing a list.  But this week, I decided there’s one list I’m no longer interested in finishing:  winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Way back in 2007, I started a long-term project to read all of the Pulitzer winners.  I’m tracking my progress, and have read 28 of the 82 (correction: 84) winners, including all from the past decade.  But in 2010, I’ve only read 2:  Gilead (2005), and Tinkers (2010).  Even though I was hoping to read 6 Pulitzer winners this year, nothing on the list is grabbing me.

This is very strange, because I’ve enjoyed all the winners I’ve read.  Five are on my list of all-time favorites (links will take you to reviews, all at my previous blog address):

My literary prize reading has been more focused on the Booker and Orange Prizes, and I’m thinking about starting long-term projects for other prizes like the Giller Prize (Canadian), the Miles Franklin Prize (Australian), and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (British).

But should I give up on the Pulitzer? What am I missing?  I’m open to your recommendations!


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32 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Should I Give up on the Pulitzer Prize?

  1. I’m sorry I can’t help you with your decision. I’ve been meaning to start reading some prize-winning lists myself, but I’m afraid the same that’s happening to you will happen to me: that after spending a lot of time on one list I’ll lose my interest.

    • Iris, I know what you mean. Nevertheless, prize lists are an excellent source of inspiration if you’re in need of a good book!

  2. 28 of 82 is still an impressive list (and 28/82 is a pleasing palindrome). I wouldn’t read just to complete a task that has lost the essential element of pleasure.

    I loved Beloved, The Shipping News, The Stone Diaries, and Middlesex. Why no reviews of those?

    • Good on you for spotting the palindrome, Rob. I, too, found that pleasing! As for the books you mentioned, there are no reviews because I read them before my blogging & LT days.

    • Oh dear, Rob, I just re-counted. There are 84 winners, not 82. So I won’t really achieve the pleasing palindrome unless I read 48 of them!

  3. Oh, you are missing Lonesome Dove! The Hours! The Color Purple!

    You know me – I say stay with it if it’s feeding you. If it feels like a struggle let it go.

  4. Don’t give up on the Pulitzer! I haven’t read as many as you, but I have loved most of the ones I’ve read. I loved Kavalier and Clay (or though I suspect you might not!) Middlesex, Gone with the Wind, The Color Purple…

    Perhaps don’t give up on it, but read it at a slower pace?

  5. I just think the beauty of a perpetual challenge is that it never ends. You don’t have to think of it as stopping, just picking the ones that appeal to you while on hiatus. I have found the Pulitzer’s are a real mixed bag, and they certainly don’t guarantee a great read.

  6. Laura,

    The Pulitzer is like any other literary prize in that the winners are picked by human beings who don’t always do everything, er, error free. But still, I think the Pulitzer committee gets it right more often than they get it wrong and what is offered up is generally a worthy read and sometimes (Lonesome Dove, Gilead, etc.) spectacular. Why not just slow down on your consumption since you’ve set up an open-ended challenge? Let it go until you feel the urge, yet don’t completely discontinue the challenge. That said, the Giller has been calling my name since I’ve read so many great Canadian authors.

    • Bonnie, yours is the second recommendation for Lonesome Dove here! And coming from both you and Terri … well, on to the list it goes!

  7. Re: Terri’s comment: The Hours is really good, if you’ve read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I also, surprisingly, liked Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (the only Roth I’ve ever read). I should read Russo’s Empire Falls; I loved his Bridge of Sighs, for many of the same reasons that you liked Empire Falls. Reading it is like becoming a part of the characters’ lives.

    • Rob, thanks for recommending The Hours. I’ve been unsure about this one. I’ve read the Woolf. And every time I’m in a used bookshop, there are about a million copies of The Hours, which has made me wonder whether it’s rubbish.

      • Laura–the Hours is wonderful! One of my all-time favourite books, and a rare adult book that I’ve read more than once. The movie is also one of my all-time favs.

  8. I have read far fewer Pulitzer winners than you but I’ve loved every one. I realized this after the fact one day when I made a list of the Pulitzer books that I’d read and found that I’d given each one a five-star rating – before I realized that they’d won a Pulitzer.

    Anyway, I’d say read what calls out to you. 28 books is not a failed effort in my estimation.

    • Thanks ! I agree, 28 out of 82 is not a failure and I haven’t given up entirely. I’ve just lost steam, but all of these comments have helped me come to terms with that!

  9. I agree with the above — don’t give up! Put the project on hold and come back to it when you suddenly feel the urge. No pressure.

    You’ve inspired me to step up my Booker and Orange prize reading and I’ll be keeping my eye on the Pulitzers now as well! (Reading To Kill a Mockingird as we speak.)

  10. Pultizer Prize winners that I have absolutely loved, and I definitely recommend :

    The Road
    The Hours
    The Color Purple
    The Old Man and the Sea

    I do want to read Olive Kitteridge and Kavalier Clay soon as well.

    • Cookie, I’ve read some of those but have yet to read The Hours and The Color Purple. And there are several “votes” for these in the previous comments as well! This has been such a helpful post. Thank you!

  11. You know…I’ve never really felt compelled to read award winners, which is funny because I love lists and checking things off them so much. 😉 I joined the Booker Challenge this year (to just read 6), but I haven’t made as much progress on it as I expected…there are so many other things calling out to me!

    That being said, your posts about the Orange Prize have made me toy with the idea of deliberately winning some of those winners!

    • Eva, I know what you mean about other things calling you — that’s partly why I haven’t made as much progress on this project as I’d hoped. But I’m glad I’ve tempted you with my Orange Prize posts!

  12. No!! You are not allowed to give up! I love reading your reviews, Laura, and your reviews on the Pulitzers are no exception.

    Yes, I second the others and say you must read The Hours, Beloved, and The Color Purple. All are must reads. Even if you only read 2-3 or so a year it’s still making progress.

    Just so you know, this is the first comment on someone else’s blog I’ve made in MONTHS, so that tells you how strongly I feel about it!


    • Michelle, it’s soooo good to hear from you! I feel honored. And the comments on this post have been great re-motivators. I now have The Hours and The Color Purple on my Pulitzer tbr pile (I’ve already read Beloved). Thanks for stopping by !

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