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Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The History of the Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize is possibly the best-known award given for excellence in journalism and the arts. Originally founded in 1917 after famed journalist Joseph Pulitzer, the winners of the seven categories of the Pulitzer Prizes are widely regarded as the most talented and esteemed professionals of their field.

Joseph Pulitzer built a reputation as an esteemed reporter and chess player, and became a publisher at the tender age of 25. After years exposing institutional injustice and encouraging literary achievements, Pulitzer died in 1911. But before he died, Pulitzer made sure to include in his will a gift to Columbia University for the amount of $500,000 to be "applied to prizes of scholarships for the encouragement of public, service, public morals, American literature, and the advancement of education". In accordance with his wishes, the Pulitzer Prizes were first awarded in 1917, and the first Pulitzer Prize for Novel was awarded in 1918 to Ernest Poole for his book, His Family.

Controversial Winners for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Since all literary awards are purely subjective choices made by a panel of judges, disagreement and controversy is inevitable. For many years, the Pulitzer Prize was not given to works that were overly morose or that contained particularly harsh language, even if the novel was brilliant. One good example of this phenomenon is Ernest Hemingway: He won the Pulitzer in 1952 for The Old Man and the Sea, but lost the Pulitzer in 1941 For Whom the Bell Tolls. Even though The Old Man and the Sea was arguably Hemingway's lesser work, it was not as violent as For Whom the Bell Tolls, so it made the judges a bit more comfortable.

Pulitzer was very clear that should no work be deemed significant enough to merit an award, the Pulitzer Prize may not be given that particular year. Although uncommon, there have indeed been years when the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has not been awarded.


By Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, Granta, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories . His other works include Emporium... read more


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Visit From the Goon Squad
By Jennifer Egan
Jennifer Egan is the author of The Keep, Look at Me, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, GQ, Zoetrope, All-Story, and Ploughshares, and he... read more


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2010 Winner. Tinkers
By Paul Harding

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Olive Kitteridge
2009 Winner. Olive Kitteridge
By Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge (2008) is a novel by American author Elizabeth Strout. It is a collection of 13 connected short stories about a woman named Olive and her immediate family and friends in the town of Crosby in coastal Maine. It is also known as On the... read more


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The Road
2007 Winner. The Road
By Cormac McCarthy
The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unnamed cataclysm that destroyed all civiliz... read more


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March
2006 Winner. March
By Geraldine Brooks
As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the war, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. ... read more


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Gilead
2005 Winner. Gilead
By Marilynne Robinson

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2004 Winner. The Known World
By T Coraghessan Boyle
The Known World is a 2003 historical novel by Edward P. Jones. It was his first novel and second book. Set in antebellum Virginia, it examines issues regarding the ownership of black slaves by free black people as well as by whites. A book with many ... read more


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Middlesex
2003 Winner. Middlesex
By Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides was born in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of an American-born father whose Greek parents emigrated from Asia Minor and an American mother of Anglo-Irish descent. After graduating from Brown University and Stanford University, ... read more


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Empire Falls
2002 Winner. Empire Falls
By Richard Paul Russo
Empire Falls is a 2001 novel written by Richard Russo. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002.


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The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by American author Michael Chabon that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. The novel follows the lives of the title characters, a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier and a Brooklyn... read more


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Interpreter Of Maladies
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Interpreter of Maladies is a 2000 collection of nine short stories by Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. It was also chosen as The New Yorker's Best Debut of the Yea... read more


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The Hours
1999 Winner. The Hours
By Michael Cunningham

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American Pastoral
1998 Winner. American Pastoral
By Philip Roth
American Pastoral is a Philip Roth novel concerning Seymour "Swede" Levov, a Jewish-American businessman and former high school athlete from Newark, New Jersey. Levov's happy and conventional upper middle class life is ruined by the dom... read more


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1997 Winner. Martin Dressler
By Stephen Millhauser

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Independence Day
1996 Winner. Independence Day
By Richard Ford
Richard Ford is the author of two story collections and five novels.


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The Stone Diaries
1995 Winner. The Stone Diaries
By Carol Shields
The Stone Diaries is a 1993 award winning novel by Carol Shields. It is the fictional autobiography about the life of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a seemingly ordinary woman whose life is marked by death and loss from the beginning, when her mother dies dur... read more


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The Shipping News
1994 Winner. The Shipping News
By Proulx E Annie
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News , won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. The novel centers on Quoyle, a third-rate hack journalist who lives an... read more


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A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain
By Robert Olen Butler

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A Thousand Acres
1992 Winner. A Thousand Acres
By Jane Smiley
A Thousand Acres is a 1991 novel by American author Jane Smiley. It won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was adapted to a 1997 film of the same name. The novel is a contemporary deconstruction of Shakespeare's King Lear and is set on a tho... read more


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Rabbit At Rest
1991 Winner. Rabbit At Rest
By John Updike
Rabbit at Rest is a 1990 novel by John Updike. It is the fourth and final novel in a series beginning with Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, and Rabbit is Rich. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fi... read more


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The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love
By Oscar Hijuelos
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love is a 1989 novel by Oscar Hijuelos. It is about the lives of two Cuban brothers and musicians, Cesar and Nestor Castillo, who immigrate to the United States and settle in New York City in the early 1950s. The novel w... read more


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Breathing Lessons
1989 Winner. Breathing Lessons
By Anne Tyler
Breathing Lessons is a 1988 novel by American author Anne Tyler. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1989 and was also Time Magazine's book of the year. It describes joys and pains of the ordinary marriage of Ira and Maggie Moran as they tra... read more


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Beloved
1988 Winner. Beloved
By Toni Morrison
Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison. The novel is based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner. The slavery of the American south is bared in this transfixing tale.  Sethe was born a slave, and e... read more


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A Summons To Memphis
By Peter Taylor
A Summons to Memphis is a 1986 novel by Peter Taylor which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987. It is the recollection of Phillip Carver, a middle aged editor from New York City, who is summoned back to Memphis by his two conniving unmarried s... read more


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Lonesome Dove
1986 Winner. Lonesome Dove
By Larry McMurtry
An epic story of two retired Texas Rangers on a cattle drive to Montana that is loosely basedon historic events from the 19th century, the original Lonesome Dove story was written to be a screenplay called "The Streets of Laredo.” The 1970s film wa... read more


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Foreign Affairs
1985 Winner. Foreign Affairs
By Alison Lurie

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Ironweed
1984 Winner. Ironweed
By William Kennedy
Ironweed is a 1983 novel by William Kennedy. It received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is part of Kennedy's Albany Cycle. It placed at number ninety-two on the Modern Library list of the 100 Best Novels written in English in the 20th Ce... read more


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The Color Purple
1983 Winner. The Color Purple
By Alice Walker
The Color Purple is an acclaimed epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker. Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, this collection of letters weaves an intricate mosaic of women joined by their love for each other, the men who abuse them, and ... read more


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Rabbit Is Rich
1982 Winner. Rabbit Is Rich
By John Updike
Rabbit Is Rich is a 1981 novel by John Updike. It is the third novel of the four-part series which begins with Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux, and concludes with Rabbit At Rest. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered. Rabbit Is Rich wa... read more


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A Confederacy Of Dunces
By John Kennedy Toole
A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel written by John Kennedy Toole, published in 1980, 11 years after the author's suicide. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Percy (who also contributed a revealing foreword) and... read more


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The Executioner's Song
By Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer was born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. In 1955, he was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice . He is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked and the Dead ; The Armies... read more


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The Stories Of John Cheever
By John Cheever
The Stories of John Cheever is a 1978 short story collection by American author John Cheever. It contains some of his most famous stories, including "The Enormous Radio," "Goodbye, My Brother," "The Country Husband," &qu... read more


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1978 Winner. Elbow Room
By James Alan McPherson

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Humboldt's Gift
1976 Winner. Humboldt's Gift
By Saul Bellow
Humboldt's Gift is a novel by Saul Bellow that tells of the balance of art and power in an ever-increasingly materialistic America.  The tale is shown through a semi-autobiographical account of Bellow's friendship with a poet, Delmore Schwartz. ... read more


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The Killer Angels
1975 Winner. The Killer Angels
By Michael Shaara
The Killer Angels is a historical novel by Michael Shaara that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. The book tells the story of four days of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War: June 30, 1863, as the troops of both the U... read more


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The Optimist's Daughter
By Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty was born in Jackson, Mis-sissippi, in 1909. She was educated locally and at Mississippi State College for Women, the University of Wisconsin, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. Her short stories appeared in The Sout... read more


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Angle Of Repose
1972 Winner. Angle Of Repose
By Wallace Stegner
Angle of Repose is a 1972 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel by Wallace Stegner about a wheelchair-using historian, Lyman Ward, who has lost connection with his son and living family and decides to write about his frontier-era grandparents. It wo... read more


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1970 Winner. Collected Stories
By Jean Stafford

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House Made Of Dawn
1969 Winner. House Made Of Dawn
By N Scott Momaday
House Made of Dawn is a novel by N. Scott Momaday, widely credited as leading the way for the breakthrough of Native American literature into the mainstream. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969.


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The Confessions Of Nat Turner
By William Styron
The Confessions of Nat Turner is the title of two books: The Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrections in Southampton, Va. , an 1831 book written after Nat Turner's trial by his lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray The Confessions of ... read more


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The Fixer
1967 Winner. The Fixer
By Bernard Malamud
Bernard Malamud was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was an author of novels and short stories. His novel, The Eighth Day was the winner of the National Book Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1967. In this fictionalized account of... read more


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The Collected Stories Of Katherine Anne Porter
By Katherine Anne Porter
Katherine Anne Porter born as Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas, was the fourth of five children of Harrison Boone Porter and Alice Porter. Her family tree can be traced back to American frontiersman Daniel Boone. She was a Pulitzer Prize... read more


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The Keepers Of the House
By Shirley Ann Grau
Keepers of the House is the debut novel of Lisa St Aubin de Terán, published as The Long Way Home in the US. The novel is autobiographical and set in a Venezuelan valley beset by drought. First published in 1982 by Jonathan Cape it won the Somerset ... read more


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The Reivers
1963 Winner. The Reivers
By William Faulkner
The Reivers, published in 1962, is the last novel by the American author William Faulkner. The bestselling novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1963. Faulkner previously won this award for his book A Fable, making him one of only three... read more


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1962 Winner. The Edge Of Sadness
By Edwin O'Connor
The Edge of Sadness is a novel by the American author Edwin O'Connor. It was published in 1961 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1962. The story is about a middle-aged Catholic priest in New England.


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To Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was instantly successful and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of... read more


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Advise and Consent
1960 Winner. Advise and Consent
By Allen Drury
Advise and Consent is a 1959 political novel written by Allen Drury which explores the reactions of those in and around the United States Senate to the controversial nomination of Robert Leffingwell, a former Communist Party member, to be United Stat... read more


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A Death In the Family
By James Agee
A Death in the Family is an autobiographical novel by author James Agee, set in Knoxville, Tennessee. He began writing it in 1948, but it was not quite complete when he died in 1955. It was edited and released posthumously in 1957 by editor David McD... read more


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1956 Winner. Andersonville
By McKinlay Kantor

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A Fable
1955 Winner. A Fable
By William Faulkner
A Fable is a novel written in 1954 by the American author William Faulkner, which won him both the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award in 1955. Despite these recognitions, however, the novel received mixed critical reviews and a reputation as ... read more


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The Old Man and The Sea
By Ernest Hemingway
This novella, only 140 pages, was first printed in it's entirety in Life Magazine Sept 1st 1952, inspiring a buying frenzy selling over 5 million copies of the magazine in just 2 days. The story about an aging Cuban fisherman wrangling a large mar... read more


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The Caine Mutiny
1952 Winner. The Caine Mutiny
By Herman Wouk
For the Broadway play, see The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. The Caine Mutiny is a 1951 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Herman Wouk. The novel grew out of Wouk's personal experiences aboard a destroyer-minesweeper in the Pacific in World War II and... read more


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The Town
1951 Winner. The Town
By Conrad Richter
The Town is a novel written by Conrad Richter in 1950. It is the third installment of his Awakening Land trilogy, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1951.


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Way West
1950 Winner. Way West
By A B , Jr Guthrie
The Way West is a western novel by A. B. Guthrie, Jr. , published in 1949. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1950. The book became the basis for a film starring Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, and Richard Widmark.


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Guard Of Honor
1949 Winner. Guard Of Honor
By James Gould Cozzens
for the ceremonial guard see Guard of honour Guard of Honor is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by James Gould Cozzens published in 1948. The novel is set during World War II, with most of the action occurring on or near a fictional Army Air Forces bas... read more


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Tales Of the South Pacific
By James a Michener
Tales of the South Pacific is a Pulitzer Prize winning collection of sequentially related short stories about World War II, written by James A. Michener in 1946. The stories were based on observations and anecdotes he collected while stationed as a l... read more


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All the King's Men
1947 Winner. All the King's Men
By Robert Penn Warren
All the King's Men is a novel by Robert Penn Warren, first published in 1946. The novel's title is drawn from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. In 1947 Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men. It was adapted for film in 1949 a... read more


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A Bell For Adano
1945 Winner. A Bell For Adano
By John Hersey
A Bell for Adano is a film directed by Henry King starring John Hodiak and Gene Tierney. The film was adapted from the novel A Bell for Adano by John Hersey, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945. The story concerns Italian-American U.S. Army Major Jo... read more


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1944 Winner. Journey In the Dark
By Martin Flavin
Journey in the Dark is a 1943 novel by Martin Flavin. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1944.


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Dragon's Teeth
1943 Winner. Dragon's Teeth
By Upton Sinclair

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In This Our Life
1942 Winner. In This Our Life
By Ellen Glasgow
In This Our Life is a 1942 American drama film directed by John Huston. The screenplay by Howard Koch is based on the 1941 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title by Ellen Glasgow.


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The Grapes Of Wrath
1940 Winner. The Grapes Of Wrath
By John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath stands as a pivotal piece of American literature. The story follows the Joad family (and thousands of others) as they are driven from the Oklahoma farm where they are sharecroppers during the Great Depression. ... read more


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The Yearling
1939 Winner. The Yearling
By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Yearling is a 1938 novel written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1939. Rawlings's editor was Maxwell Perkins, who also worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and other literary luminaries. S... read more


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By John Phillips Marquand

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Gone With the Wind
1937 Winner. Gone With the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell only published one complete novel, but it was quite the book - Gone With the Wind earned her the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and National Book Award for 1936. The epic romance tale set in and around Atlanta, Georgia during the American C... read more


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1936 Winner. Honey In the Horn
By Harold L Davis
Honey in the Horn is a 1935 novel by Harold L. Davis. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1936.


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1935 Winner. Now In November
By Josephine Winslow Johnson

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1934 Winner. Lamb In His Bosom
By Caroline Miller
Lamb in His Bosom is a 1933 novel by Caroline Miller. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1934. It also won the Prix Femina in 1934 and became an immediate best-seller. Many names and historical parts of this book were contributed by William A... read more


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1933 Winner. The Store
By Stribling T S
The Store is a 1932 novel by Thomas Sigismund Stribling. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1933. It is the second book of the Viadan trilogy, comprising The Forge, The Store, and Unfinished Cathedral.


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Good Earth
1932 Winner. Good Earth
By Pearl S Buck
The Good Earth is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Pearl S. Buck , an American writer who spent the bulk of the first part of her life in China. Set in the Anhui Province where Buck once lived, it chronicles the rise and fall of Wang Lung and his... read more


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1931 Winner. Years Of Grace
By Margaret Ayer Barnes
Years of Grace is a 1930 novel by Margaret Ayer Barnes. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1931.


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Laughing Boy
1930 Winner. Laughing Boy
By Oliver La Farge
Laughing Boy is a 1929 novel by Oliver La Farge about the clash between American culture and that of southwestern Native Americans. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1930.


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1929 Winner. Scarlet Sister Mary
By Julia Peterkin
Scarlet Sister Mary is a 1928 novel by Julia Peterkin. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1929. It was called obscene and banned at the public library in Gaffney, South Carolina. The Gaffney Ledger newspaper, however, serially published the c... read more


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Bridge Of San Luis Rey
By Thornton Wilder
The Bridge of San Luis Rey is American author Thornton Wilder's second novel, first published in 1927 to worldwide acclaim. It tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse of an Inca rope-fiber suspension bridge in Peru, and... read more


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Early Autumn
1927 Winner. Early Autumn
By Louis Bromfield
Early Autumn is a 1926 novel by Louis Bromfield. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1927.


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Arrowsmith
1926 Winner. Arrowsmith
By Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University in 1908. His college career was interrupted by various part-time occupations, including a period working at the Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair&rsquo... read more


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So Big
1925 Winner. So Big
By Edna Ferber

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The Able McLaughlins
By Margaret Wilson
The Able McLaughlins is a 1923 novel by Margaret Wilson first published by Harper & Brothers. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1924.


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One Of Ours
1923 Winner. One Of Ours
By Willa Cather
One of Ours is a novel by Willa Cather which won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize. It tells the story of the life of Claude Wheeler, a native of Nebraska around the turn of the 20th century. The son of a successful mid-western farmer and an intensely pious mo... read more


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Alice Adams
1922 Winner. Alice Adams
By Booth Tarkington
This compelling satire details irresistible characteristics of social status in a small Midwestern town. Mr. and Mrs. Adams and their two children are members of the lower middle-class. Their daughter, Alice, wrestles with this economic classificatio... read more


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The Age Of Innocence
By Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence is set in upper-class New York City in the 1870s, during the so-called Gilded Age. The novel, which takes its title from artist Joshua Reynolds’ 1785 painting of a little girl, focuses on impending marriage o... read more


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The Magnificent Ambersons
By Booth Tarkington
Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons is the second novel in the Growth trilogy, which includes The Turmoil (1915) and The Midlander (1923, retitled National Avenue in 1927). The novel and trilogy trace the growth of the United States throu... read more


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His Family
1918 Winner. His Family
By Ernest Poole
His Family is a novel by Ernest Poole published in 1917 about the life of a New York widower and his three daughters in the 1910s. It received the first Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1918.


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The Travels Of Jaimie McPheeters
By Robert Lewis Taylor
The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Robert Lewis Taylor, which was later made into a short-running television series on ABC from September 1963 through March 1964, featuring Kurt Russell as Jaimie.


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