Pick Your Pulitzer
Jewish professor hosts nightmare Israeli job candidate and his unexpected family.
Nose job precipitated by doorknob.
Mostly a quick read at 248 Pages or 8.5 listening hours with plenty of laughs. Satirical professorial ramblings can feel like a class you wished you cut.
Nightwatchman spends days fighting Congressional bill to terminate Native Americans rights.
Patrice performs underwater in a poisonous mermaid/ox costume.
451 pages or 13.5 listening hours, moves quickly either way.
Bright Black boy, wrongly arrested, sent to horrific “reform” school
Elwood is viciously beaten because he protected a little boy from bullies.
A short, riveting, emotionally demanding novel in 224 pages or 6 CDs.
Tree lover/eco activist stories converge; planet's destiny at stake
Couple lives atop a giant redwood for a year to protect it; helicopter arrives to destroy Mimas, the majestic 300-foot-tall tree.
Redwood-sized book at 512-pages or 20 CDs/23 hours.
Author travels world to avoid 50th, marriage of former lover
Less has outfit drama at Parisian dinner party populated with people who just met. Wishes he wore his signature blue suit.
272 delightful pages; Audio 8 ¼ hours
Enslaved woman escapes via actual underground railroad, finds other hells
Slave catcher Ridgeway discovers Cora hiding under a bed.
A fast but painful journey through 320 pages, 10+ hours.
Viet Cong spy operates in Siagon, LA, guerila mission
Narrator’s interrogation breakdown strategy: 27/4 in white room, white clothing, florescent lights on, continuous loop of Hank Williams “Hey, Good Lookin.’”
371 pages, 14 hours on CD. Not an easy read given disturbing content, double meanings/double life of the narrator, and when some key details about the narrator are revealed.
WW2 German radio savant connects with blind French resistance girl
Frederick, the nerdy vision-impaired weak link in a German boot camp, is the only person willing to stand up to prevent water torture.
544 engaging pages or 16 hours.
NYC teen with stolen master painting, BFF, drugs, and trouble
Boris and Popchix the Maltese reunite in NYC
Epically long 784 pages or 32+ audio hours of bad stuff happening is binge-inducing
Abused North Korean orphan assumes identity of high profile commander
Hmm, which trauma to choose? Shark attack, starvation, kidnapping, lobotomies performed with a nail? Let’s go with murder via blood harvesting.
Relentlessly heartbreaking content can make the 443 pages or 15 CDs (19 ½ hours) feel longer.
Triple down. Read all three finalists.
People in NY record producer's orbit connect over time
Dead fish wrapped in newspaper in a hipster NYC office.
Short and binge-inducing. 288 pages or 8 CDs/10 hours.
Dying old clock-fixer remembers his life, his epileptic dad's
Howard has a seizure at the dinner table; nearly bites off son George’s fingers
Watch the clock and see how long you savor the 191 pages or enjoy 5 hours of listening time.
Crotchety, big, old lady interacts with small town Maine neighbors
Daughter-in-law Dr. Sue trash-talks her mother-of-the-bride dress, so Olive trashes Sue’s sweater with a marker, steals one shoe and snags a piece of jewelry.
Quick read at 320 or 12 audio hours
Rutgers nerd boy falls in love; NJ, Santo Domingo trauma
Beli’s epic beatdown in the cane field is echoed years later with Oscar’s beating.
352 pages or 13 CDs/16 hours. Many snarky historical footnotes, lots of untranslated Spanish.
Father & son struggle to survive in post-apocalyptic world
Papa washes blood and brains out of his son’s hair after shooting man who threated his son with a knife
Riveting 287 pages, 6+ hours
"Little Women's" Mr. March is not the guy you imagined
Marmee rushes to DC and meets March's nurse
Way shorter than "LittleWomen"at 320 pages; 9 CDs (10 hours, 19 minutes)
Dying minister's letter to son about his Congregationalist extended family
John Ames Boughton tells John Ames about his the identify of his wife
Short novel, 247 pages or 7 CDs; go slowly so content sinks in fully
Fates of those from freed Black slave owner's plantation
A slave patroller vindictively eats the manumission paper – sole proof of free status – of a free man who is then kidnapped, abused and sold back into slavery.
432 or 14+ listening hours; non-linear, so take your time
Greek American family secrets lead to gender identity quest
Young Callie notices what’s between those legs, thinks of it as a crocus, doesn’t know if crocus is “normal” or not.
Epic tale of 544 pages or 17 CDs (21 hours). Humor and adventure temper the heavy content.
Life is complicated for single-dad diner manager in Maine
Outcast boy befriended by diner dad and his daughter loses it in the classroom.
483 pages, 20+ listening hours move fast.
Jewish cousins create cartoon empire with Hilter fighting hero
Tracy surprises Sammy at 1am on the 81st floor observation deck of the Empire State Building with wine and a gourmet meal and it’s love illuminated by lightning strikes.
Engaging throughout the epic 684-page novel or 22 CDs/26.5 hours
Title story: Indian medical clinic interpreter stretches talent during tour guide side-hustle
Mrs. Das confesses to tour guide that one of her sons is not her husband’s.
A short short story collection of 198 pages; 26 pages for the title story.
Connected days-in-life: Virginia Woolf, NYC editor; LA mom
Clarissa Vaughan’s friend Richard, a gay poet dying of AIDs, and the window.
Short at 240 pages or 6+ hours and, no coincidence, about the same length as Mrs Dalloway.
Newark jockstar bizman marries Miss NJ, spawn terrorist daughter
All-American rich, handsome, jock, marine dad sees his emaciated terrorist Jain daughter and the filthy hideout hovel where has been living and not stuttering.
Longish at 423 pages, 15 hours. Human and livestock beauty pageants, sports, marine training, and glove-making temper sad family drama and politics.
Big imagination creates turn-of-century empire, minus some important stuff
Wedding night nightmare: rejection, affair, tutorial demanded from mother-in-law.
Short at 293 pages, 8+ hours on audio, great if you’re into architectural detail.
Divorced realtor’s holiday weekend with son doesn’t go as planned
Vermonter wearing “ball-packer” shorts enchanted with house with visual and olfactory red flags; wife doesn’t want to live next to a prison.
400 pages or 20 hours; feels like a long holiday weekend
Family saga centered on stone-lover dad, gardener columnist daughter
Teenager repairs ceiling crack and realizes it’s also possible to change herself and become kind, thoughtful, and a good listener.
Longish, but easy reading. 361 pages; 13.5 CD hours.
Single dad moves to Newfoundland with daughters, aunt, family secrets
Reporter/inexperienced sailor rescued after his shoddy $50 boat capsizes.
352 pages or a long car ride (13 hours on 11 CDs)
Title Story: Dying old Vietnamese immigrant dreams of Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh appears in a dream smelling strongly of sugar, with sugar-sticky fingers.
Short collection of short stories: 269 pages for entire book; just 17 pages for the title story.
Father gives family farm and major emotional baggage to daughters
Father says horrible things to his daughters – calls them whores and more – then storms out of the Iowa farmhouse and into a violent storm.
384 or 14+ listening hours
Bigot flees to avoid heart issues, son's drug addiction
When a badly-piloted Sunfish capsizes, deaths are narrowly averted, in large part by a singing child.
Deep philosophical statements interspersed with comic descriptions of bad behavior take you through 608 pages or 19 listening hours.
Cuban American musician performs, drinks, womanizes, mournes in NYC
Cesar and Nestor Castillo meet Lucy and perform with Desi on “I Love Lucy.”
The 408 pages are an orgy of alcohol, sex, women treated like hell, food and music.
Ditzy wife, husband with broken dreams on funeral day trip
“Love is a Many Splendored Thing” funeral duet. Singers are old classmates because husband refuses to sing with his wife.
Quick 339-page read. Or a 10-CD road trip.
Former slave's unimaginable past, PTSD, ghost, intrusive visitor, and loves
Sethe describes infanticide.
12 hours narrated by Toni Morrison or 321 pages challenge the reader with shocking content that unfolds via “rememory” flashback fragments from several characters.
Adult siblings want to revenge-block elderly widow father’s remarriage
Father calls suitor Wyant a likely deceiver and ends his daughter’s marriage before it starts.
Short at 209 pages or 6+ listening hours
Ex-Texas rangers on epic Texas - Montana cattle drive/character test
Hanging of horse thieves/murders, one of whom was a former Texas Ranger and friend.
One of longest Pulitzer Fiction winners, weighing in at 864 pages; enough content for a 36+ hour from Texas to Montana round-trip drive (in a car).
American professors major in love during London sabbatical
Three quarts of watercress avocado soup spills; love ensues.
Short, easy to track book; 304 pages, 11 listening hours.
Albany Depression-era baseball star becomes homeless alcholic, talks to dead
Dead infant son tells living father to atone and end his guilty, suicidal lifestyle.
240 pages, 8 listening hours of sadness
Black Georgia woman endures abuse, poverty; finds love, sisterhood, career
Shug Avery gives Celie a mirror and explains sex.
Comand performance 8-hour narration by Alice Walker or 304 addictive pages
Bad behavior of bigoted womanizer suburban Philly WASP Toyota dealer
Partner swapping on a Caribbean vacation.
544 pages or 19.5 listening hours of disgusting behavior served up as cringe-inducing satire that will make you laugh but feel guilty about doing that.
Wacky failure-to-lauch son tries on jobs in New Orleans
12” of Paradise Hot Dog cart sign.
405 fast-moving pages or a fabulous 13.5 hour spoken performance
Bio of Gary Gilmore, murderer who wants own execution
Horrific, graphically-rendered murders of Benny Bushnell, working a motel night shift, and Max Jensen, a cooperative gas station attendant, committed for $400 used truck payment.
Ridiculously long at 1136 pages/42 hours, including yucky explicit correspondence.
Short Story: "The Swimmer" Alcoholic man pool-hops WASPy neighborhood
Shorten memory hook: Drunk Neddy removes swim trunks to meet rich, elderly pool owners.
Neddy takes off his swim trunks before he cuts through the hedge and enters a property that screams enormous wealth because he believes the elderly owners prefer to swim naked. The dignified patriarch consoles Neddy about misfortunes which Neddy forgets/denies.
Reading Cheever stories one at a time – ten pages or so – is delicious. Reading 61 stories in a row as a book of 704 pages is gorging an entire buffet.
Title Story: Parents on both sides object to mixed-race marriage
Car full of children call Paul, who is White, “nigger.” His Black wife couldn’t understand why he was upset: “I just laughed at the little crumbsnatchers.”
The title story is 31 pages; entirety of Elbow Room is 288 pages; no spoken book version
No Pulitzer Fiction Award. Alex Haley wins Citation for “Roots.”
“Roots” is 704 pages; 30 listening hours.
Friendship blows up as one writer succeeds, other loses it
Charlie follows orders and hands-off a roll of $50s in the Playboy Club while chatting with a well-known gossip columnist, only to be told by gun-toting gangster that he screwed up and must turn over the money again in front of a different audience.
18 audio hours or 512 demanding pages. Endless intellectual winks, references and asides along with pop-up philosophical wonderings.
Why Lee loses Battle of Gettysburg
Fix bayonets and charge
368 pages or 13+ listening hours of historical backstory
No Award. “Gravity’s Rainbow” was recommended by Fiction jury.
…members of the 14‐member board, which makes recommendations on the 18 Pulitzer Prize categories in journalism, letters and music after jurors' reports, had described the Pynchon novel during their private debate as “unreadable,” “turgid,” “overwritten” and in parts “obscene.” One member editor said he had tried hard but had only gotten a third of the way through the 760‐page book.” – New York Times, May 8, 1974
Serious. “Gravity’s Rainbow” is 760 pages or 37+ listening hours.
Daughter, same-age step-mother tangle after Optimist's primitive surgery
After weeks of stillness and sandbags to promote recovery from eye surgery, wife gets rough with her much-older husband and tells him to “snap out of it.”
Very short at 180 pages with lots of white space; 4 audio hours
Historian with disability writes grandmother’s artsy wilderness heartbreak life story
Artist/writer wife tells mining engineer husband to invent hydraulic cement, so he does
Long, messy life story, long book: 672 pages or 22 listening hours
No Pulitzer Fiction Award.
“What is art but a way of seeing.” – Saul Bellow
Read three finalists instead of one winner: “Mr. Sammler's Planet” by Saul Bellow, “Losing Battles” by Eudora Welty, and “The Wheel of Love and Other Stories” by Joyce Carol Oates.”
Short Story: "The Interior Castle:" Disfigured car accident victim's hospital stay
ENT surgeon from the days of primitive anesthesia crams cocaine-soaked gauze pads up both of Pansy’s nostrils.
Read back-to-back, 31 stories told in 512 pages feels like a lot. An individual story like “The Interior Castle” feels, well, short at 20 pages.
WW2 vet returns to reservation with PTSD; alchol, reintegration issues
Defense at murder trial for murder via knife: killing-snake-in-sand.
Short at 212 pages or 6.5 listening hours, but challenging given depressing content and writing that fuses poetry, chants, journal entries, cultural mythology, and religious sermons.
First-person fictionalized account leader of uprising of enslaved people
Nat strikes first blow with hatchet, fails to draw first blood in the revolt.
Styron accepted James Baldwin’s dare to write his 480-page novel in the first person.
Innocent man framed for boy’s murder by pre-Revolutionary Russian anti-Semites
Deputy Warden’s body search.
352 pages or 10 listening hours. Compelling; you might just read it in one or two sittings.
Short Story: "Flowering Judas" Young American woman teacher/volunteer deals with Mexican revolutionary's advances
Laura comes home exhausted after a long day’s work and, yet again, must listen to the awful serenades of the besotted married physically unappealing guy who is paying her salary.
26 stories told in 495 pages. Reading that many stories back-to-back is not the best way to enjoy them.
Three generations respond to racial prejudice in their Alabama town
Rich guy meets love of his life after hunting for a moonshine still in a swamp.
Relatively short at 320 pages or 9+ listening hours.
No Pulitzer Fiction Award.
Can you identify the 1964 Pulitzer Fiction finalists?
“And Then We Heard the Thunder" is 495 pages.
Southern boy grows up: unauthorized road trip, bordello, horseracing hijinks
Grandfather’s car gets stuck in a mudhole in Hell Creek bottom.
320 pages or 11 listening hours
Hard times for Boston parish and its alcoholic priest
Priest lies about his father to a wealthy, pitiless elderly man on his deathbed. Old man lives on believing the priest’s father liked and respected him.
664 pages of sadness.
Black man wrongly accused of murder; children lose innocence.
Courtroom defense of Tom Robinson.
Short, straight-forward 296 pages; 11 CDs (12.5 hours)
Dirty politics, communism, Senator's personal life, shape Senate confirmation hearing
Supreme Court justice finds/steals envelope that contains a secret which reveals the prejudice of the day as well the integrity of all privy to the contents of that envelope.
Long book at 616 pages or 33+ hours. Slow-ish narrator might trigger play-back speed-up. Feels like a filibuster at times
Father, son make BFFs, fight bad guys on Gold Rush trail
Jaimie realizes the identity of the gold-swindler couple.
Long but lively 548 pages.
Sudden death underlines family’s differences in religion, class, emotional IQ
Phone call requesting a man in the family to come because there’s been a serious accident.
Short, gripping 310 pages or 10.5 listening hours.
No Fiction Pulitzer. JFK’s “Profiles in Courage” wins biography category.
“Profiles in Courage” is mini bios of eight U.S. senators.
“Profiles in Courage” is 272 pages; 3 listening hours.
Abuse of Union soldiers in notorious Georgia POW stockade
Union soldiers arrive in stockade prison and find no shelter, clean water, or sanitation
A lot at 768 pages or 37 listening hours, but it’s hard to get away from Andersonville
Corporal and dozen followers mutiny and stop French WWI battle
Corporal found with a crown of barbed wire.
Earn a literary battlefield medal if you make it through either 512 pages or 20 listening hours.
No Fiction Award. Lindbergh’s “The Spirit of St. Louis” wins Biography category.
1932 Lindbergh kidnapping.
Lindbergh’s “The Spirit of St. Louis” is 576 pages.
Old Cuban fisherman fights marlin, mentors boy, loves NY Yankees
Keep the shark imagery out of your head. Remember when the Old man thrills at his first sight of the marlin leaping from the sea.
Very short, completely captivating. 127 pages; 3 CDs
Captain Queeg steers his crew toward disaster and court-martial
Ship’s towline is cut because Captain Queeg is too busy dressing down a sailor with a sloppy shirttail.
Max page-turning speed throughout the 560 pages or 26.5 hour cruise
Family’s pre-Civil war transition from log cabin settlers to townies.
Little feller Chancey runs away to his “real parents,” gets lost on the river.
448 pages or 13.5 hours that can feel a good piece longer cause of how people are a talkin’
Missouri to Oregon wagon train pioneers struggle to be decent humans
Lovestruck teen pioneer chisels Mercy McBee Brownie Evens July 2, 1845; meets Sioux.
352 pages; 12 hours. You’ll feel sucker-punched early and several times later.
Bigotry toward Tuskegee airman; abuse cover-up on Florida Air base
Black U.S. Air Force officers – Tuskegee airmen -- enter the Officer’s Club and are arrested.
642 pages summarize three days. It reads quickly. Not found as a spoken book.