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Pulitzer-Prize Winning Fiction from 1970 through 1999

Content last modified May 2012

Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911) is best remembered for the prize that bears his name, but the impetus for the award came from his experience as a newspaper publisher and editor. As owner and editor of the New York World, Pulitzer crusaded against corruption in government and business. After becoming blind in 1890, Pulitzer resigned as editor but maintained administrative control over the newspaper.

Pulitzer established the Pulitzer Prize in his will as an incentive for journalists and other writers to strive for excellence. He specified that the prizes would be awarded for journalism, letters, drama, and education, with an advisory board empowered to make any changes conducive to the public good and to withhold an award if no competitors in a category met the Pulitzer Prize board's standard of excellence.

Established in 1917, the category for fiction was called Novel and was to be awarded to the novel " . . . which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood." The award has gone through several changes since then. In 1947 the category was renamed "Fiction" and opened up to collections of short stories. The standard today is "For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."

This minibibliography lists the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction from 1970 through 2002 and is arranged according to the year of the award, with the most recent books first. Titles are available in braille and/or audiobook formats. Recorded titles are available on cassette (RC), digital cartridge (DB), and the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) at https://nlsbard.loc.gov, which allows registered patrons to download digital talking books and audio magazines. (Some digital titles may be available only for download.) Patrons who wish to use BARD must have a blank cartridge, a USB cord, a digital player, a computer, and a high-speed Internet connection. Braille (BR) titles are available to registered patrons on NLS Web-Braille at www.loc.gov/nls/braille.

1999

The Hours

by Michael Cunningham
The spirit of Virginia Woolf permeates the lives of several American readers in this trio of tales about the author Woolf, a New Yorker planning a party to honor a writer, and a young mother reading Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (DB 58332, BR 15586). Some strong language. Bestseller. 1998.

RC 47310

1998

American Pastoral

by Philip Roth
After military service in World War II, handsome, athletic "Swede" Levov weds Miss New Jersey, takes over the family business, and moves to the posh suburbs. His dream life unravels in the late 1960s, when daughter Meredith joins an antiwar terrorist group bent on undermining all that Swede lives for. Strong language. 1998.

DB 45488
RC 45488
BR 16733, volume 1
BR 16733, volume 2
BR 16733, volume 3

1997

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer

by Steven Millhauser
From a boy working in his father's New York City cigar shop in the late 1800s, Martin Dressler rises to the pinnacle of entrepreneurial success during the early 1900s. His vision leads him to build the Grand Cosmo, the ultimate hotel, retail center, and theme park. Only later does he realize that "he had dreamed the wrong dream." 1996.

DB 43648
RC 43648

1996

Independence Day

by Richard Ford
Frank Bascombe, from Sportswriter (RC 37166), got divorced seven years ago, yet he is still in his "existence period." Perhaps things will change this Fourth of July weekend. After a brief trip to see his longtime girlfriend, who may take him into a "permanent period," Frank plans to take his son Paul, fifteen and recently arrested for shoplifting, to visit several sports halls of fame. But fate steps in along the way. Strong language. Bestseller. 1995.

DB 44192
RC 44192

1995

The Stone Diaries

by Carol Shields
A fictional biography about the life of Daisy Stone Goodwill, which begins on the Canadian prairies, moves south to the American Midwest, and ends in Florida. Daisy's tale is that of an ordinary woman, resigned to her lot, but aware that her internal views don't quite match what those around her assume. Her diary records the facts, but her heart feels real joy and sadness. Some strong language. 1994.

RC 39129

1994

The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx
Story centers around Quoyle, a lowly newspaper reporter. When his wife Petal Bear runs off with another man and gets killed, Quoyle's aunt persuades the distraught man to move with his two daughters to an abandoned family home in Newfoundland. Quoyle goes to work for a newspaper covering the shipping news and learns to fit right in. Strong language. 1993.

RC 37883
BR 09612, volume 1
BR 09612, volume 2
BR 09612, volume 3

1993

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain: Stories

by Robert Olen Butler
A community of Vietnamese immigrants near New Orleans is the subject of fifteen short stories in which characters narrate tales set in their adopted and native lands. In the title story a weary old man prepares his family for his death and imagines himself talking to Ho Chi Minh. Bestseller. 1992.

RC 36356

1992

A Thousand Acres

by Jane Smiley
Larry Cook owns a thousand acres of Iowa farmland that is unmortgaged and some of the richest soil around. At a party given to celebrate the return of Jess Clark, a local man, after an absence of thirteen years, Cook announces that he is retiring and dividing the land among his three daughters. But the gift soon begins to tear the family apart and secrets, long hidden, begin to surface. Some strong language. 1991

RC 33926

1991

Rabbit at Rest

by John Updike
Fifty-five-year-old retiree Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is winding down just as his wife Janice finds new strength and purpose. Midlife sex and death issues are complicated by their son Nelson's expensive cocaine habit. Sequel to Rabbit Is Rich (winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize). Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. 1990.

RC 31964
BR 16872, volume 1
BR 16872, volume 2
BR 16872, volume 3
BR 16872, volume 4
BR 16872, volume 5
DB 63882 Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy
RC 63882 Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy

1990

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

by Oscar Hijuelos
It's a hot summer night and Cesar Castillo, in the Hotel Splendour at 125th and Lenox in Harlem, pours himself another drink and remembers his life thirty years ago. He and his brother Nestor had fled Batista's Cuba and formed The Mambo Kings, a jazz group playing the clubs of Harlem. Now Cesar is dying, drinking, and mourning the loss of his youth, past loves, and his brother. Strong language and explicit descriptions of sex. 1989.

DB 30259
RC 30259
RC 46979 (Spanish language)

1989

Breathing Lessons

by Anne Tyler
As Maggie and Ira Moran drive from Baltimore, Maryland, to Deer Lick, Pennsylvania, for the funeral of Maggie's best friend's husband, they reflect upon their own twenty-eight-year marriage, the lives of their children, and their hopes for the future. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1988.

DB 27019
RC 27019
BR 17125, volume 1
BR 17125, volume 2
BR 17125, volume 3

1988

Beloved

by Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize laureate's novel of slavery's aftermath. In post-Civil War Ohio, ex-slave Sethe hides a terrible secret about her past that alienates her children and community and threatens her burgeoning romance with another former slave, Paul D. Some violence, some strong language, and some descriptions of sex. 1987.

RC 26026
BR 16707, volume 1
BR 16707, volume 2
BR 16707, volume 3

1987

A Summons to Memphis

by Peter Taylor
Philip, an editor, has a new life in New York and shares an apartment with coworker Holly. He returns to Memphis and to the petty meddling of his family when his two spinster sisters summon him to help them ruin their eighty-one-year-old father's wedding plans. 1986.

RC 25807

1986

Lonesome Dove

by Larry McMurtry
A three-thousand-mile cattle drive, from the banks of the Rio Grande to Montana's Big Sky Country, is the setting for this epic that describes the developing American West and the ranchers, cowboys, prostitutes, and adventurers who attempt to make a new life for themselves in its vast reaches. Violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1985.

DB 22959
RC 22959
BR 13696, volume 1
BR 13696, volume 2
BR 13696, volume 3
BR 13696, volume 4
BR 13696, volume 5
BR 13696, volume 6
BR 13696, volume 7
BR 13696, volume 8

1985

Foreign Affairs

by Alison Lurie
Two English professors, both Americans, from the same university are on leave in London to do research. Vinnie Miner is fifty-four, unmarried, and happy to be back in the city she loves. Fred Turner is twenty-eight and separated from his wife. Both Vinnie and Fred indulge in affairs with unlikely persons and learn more about themselves from the experiences. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. 1984.

DB 21440
RC 21440

1984

Ironweed

by William Kennedy
Depression era. Aging Francis Phelan, a former mechanic, major-league third baseman, lush, and murderer, is back in Albany after twenty-two years on the lam. He encounters crooks, bums, cons, gamblers, and working stiffs. Sequel to Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (RC 21042). Strong language and explicit descriptions of sex. National Book Critics Circle Award. 1983.

DB 20612
RC 20612

1983

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker
Follows two black sisters: Nettie, a missionary, and Celie, who was raped by her father and is married to a cruel man. Nettie's letters do not reach Celie, and Celie's shame is so great that she writes only to God. Anniversary edition includes Walker's 1992 preface. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. 1982.

DB 58842
RC 58842
BR 12265, volume 1
BR 12265, volume 2
RC 40883 (Spanish language)
RCF00571 (French language)
RCF03090 (Greek language)
RCF02874 (Serbo-Croatian language)

1982

Rabbit Is Rich

by John Updike
1979. Forty-six-year-old car dealer Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom lives in comfortable affluence with his wife and mother-in-law in Brewer, Pennsylvania. But his son's return and unresolved issues about sex and death threaten Rabbit's contentment. Sequel to Rabbit Redux (RC 34888, BR 10982). Prequel to Rabbit at Rest (winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize). Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. 1981.

DB 17315
RC 17315
BR 16731, volume 1
BR 16731, volume 2
BR 16731, volume 3
BR 16731, volume 4
DB 63882 Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy
RC 63882 Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy

1981

A Confederacy of Dunces

by John Kennedy Toole
Slovenly, obese Ignatius Reilly is forced to seek employment in New Orleans after his tipsy mother has a car accident. Reilly, a medievalist who hates everything modern, runs through a succession of jobs in which he wreaks havoc. Some strong language. 1980.

DB 50482
RC 50482

1980

The Executioner's Song

by Norman Mailer
Obscure criminal Gary M. Gilmore, who is sentenced to die for two murders, rejects any attempts at reprieve and becomes the first man executed in America in more than a decade. Novel is based on an actual case and its outcome. Strong language. Bestseller. 1979.

DB 13985
RC 13985

1979

The Stories of John Cheever

by John Cheever
Sixty-one short stories about marriage, suburbia, the middle class, Manhattan, families, theology, and decency. Cheever's preface describes them as "stories of a long-lost world . . . when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationery store . . . when almost everybody wore a hat." Some strong language. 1978.

DB 65170 (Read by Jack Fox)
RC 65170 (Read by Jack Fox)

DB 12496 (Read by Burt Blackwell)
RC 12496 (Read by Burt Blackwell)

1978

Elbow Room: Stories

by James Alan McPherson
Collection of twelve short stories dealing with African American life. In "Why I Like Country Music," an urban husband enjoys hillbilly music—much to his wife's disdain. In the title story a biracial couple struggles to find an identity. Some strong language. 1977.

RC 16996
BR 12600, volume 1
BR 12600, volume 2

1977

No award

1976

Humboldt's Gift

by Saul Bellow
Explores the relationship between poet Von Humboldt Fleisher, who enjoyed a brief glimpse of fame, and his young friend Charlie Citrine, a playwright and biographer whose star is rising. Strong language. Bestseller. 1975.

DB 41046
RC 41046
BR 2936

1975

The Killer Angels

by Michael Shaara
Fictionalized version of the Battle of Gettysburg portrays many actual participants, such as Generals Lee, Longstreet, and Meade, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who led the 20th Maine Regiment in a pivotal defense of Little Round Top. Sequel to Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals (DB/RC 43292). Some strong language. 1996.

DB 45457
RC 8688

1974

No award

1973

The Optimist's Daughter

by Eudora Welty
Middle-aged Laurel Hand, a widow since World War II, returns home to a small Mississippi town after the death of her beloved father, a judge. There she confronts her past to gain a better understanding of herself and her parents. 1973.

RC 31668
BR 08186, volume 1

1972

Angle of Repose

by Wallace Stegner
Historian Lyman Ward, immobilized by illness and deserted by his wife, has retired to his ancestral California cabin to research his family's past. The loveless marriage of his grandparents—a cultivated eastern artist and a pragmatic mining engineer—mirrors the troubled expansion of the American West. Some strong language. 1971.

DB 54215 (Read by Roy Avers)
RC 54215 (Read by Roy Avers)
BR 18718, volume 1
BR 18718, volume 2
BR 18718, volume 3
BR 18718, volume 4
BR 18718, volume 5

1971

No award

1970

The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford

by Jean Stafford
A collection of short stories centering on the individual and his or her relation to time and place, frequently set during the cocktail party and the dinner party afterward. 1969.

RC 25833


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Posted on 2014-12-02