Catch Up On the Past 10 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novels

These books caught the world’s eye with their dazzling characters and rich interpretations of American life.

1

Underground Railroad, by Carson Whitehead

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This reimagining of the story of the Underground Railroad follows Cora, a strong and independent teenager, as she escapes her abusive plantation and journeys north. In the America Whitehead creates in the novel, each state Cora travels through is its own distinct world. Through vivid descriptions he touches on the racial horrors that freed slaves once went through, and the connection this period in time has to the racial divides in America today.

To buy: $16; amazon.com.


2

The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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This debut novel from Viet Thanh Nguyen, a story about love, friendship, and betrayal set during the Vietnam War, took the nation by storm with its suspenseful prose. The tale is told from the perspective of a communist double agent, a French-Vietnamese spy who comes to America following the Fall of Saigon. While he appears to be building a life with other refugees in America, he’s secretly in touch with the communists in Vietnam. Through this thrilling tale, Nguyen addresses the struggles of identity, love, and loyalty in a post-war world.

To buy: $20; amazon.com.


3

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

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This masterful novel about empathy, history, and the repercussions of choices beyond our control, tells the story of two seemingly disconnected children during the outbreak of World War II: Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who lives with her father in Paris, and Werner, a German orphan recruited into the Nazi Youth. Though they do not know each other, a precious jewel inevitably intertwines their stories in an enthralling mystery. Doerr’s short and sparse chapters and vivid scenes create a thrilling page-turner that will stay with you for years to come.

To buy: $14; amazon.com.



4

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

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At 13, Theo Decker visits a New York art museum with his mother. Then a terrorist attack hits, leaving his mother dead. Though Theo survives, he somehow stumbles out from the debris with a small painting by Carel Fabritius in hand. In this expansive coming-of-age story, Tartt details how this casual decision upends Theo’s life and sends him onto a listless track of crime, addiction, and anxiety. Spanning decades, Tartt’s exciting take on the bildungsroman explores the ideas of loss, adventure, and the resiliency of humans.

To buy: $18; amazon.com.


5

The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson

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While the Pulitzer typically goes to stories that illustrate the meaning of living an American life, this thrilling tale brings readers into the government of one of the most mysterious nations in the world: North Korea. Pak Jun Do is given a taste of power at a young age at the orphanage his father runs. Through the years, he ascends the government ranks until he becomes a professional kidnapper, who must do whatever he is told in order to stay alive. Set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most corrupt nations, Johnson tells of ordinary human struggles—love, pushing the limits, and lost innocence.

To buy: $18; amazon.com.


6

A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

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In this clever novel that reads smoothly, almost like a song, Jennifer Egan tells the tale of Bernie, an aging punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the troubled young woman who works for him. Egan introduces readers to their lives through a collection of creative stories, including one that is told entirely through a Power Point presentation, centered around the two protagonists and the colorful characters they meet throughout their lives and careers.

To buy: $18; amazon.com.



7

Tinkers, by Paul Harding

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Harding’s award-winning novel is a meditation on the fragility of life and the passing of time. While George Washington Crosby, a clock repairer, sits surrounded by friends and family as he takes his last breaths, memories of growing up in a poor family in Maine come to the forefront of his mind. This moving tale intertwines the stories of his father, an epileptic, and his grandfather, a preacher, to tell about the complex journeys all three men took through life.

To buy: $10; amazon.com.


8

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

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A collection of short stories that all take place in a small town in Maine are tied together by one main character—the retired school teacher, Olive Kitteridge. Olive despises change and, through each story in this book, is forced to reckon with the changing world and people around her, plus the inevitable feelings of hope, loneliness, despair, and love.

To buy: $7; amazon.com.


9

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

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Things are far from perfect for Oscar Wao, a nerdy boy from New Jersey who loves to read J.R.R. Tolkien, learn Dominican history, and yearns for love. With hilarious prose and countless Lord of the Rings allusions, Diaz brings the reader along with Oscar on his journey to find love, despite the generations long curse that Oscar’s family attributes to their misfortunes. This heartwarming story is a perfect read for anyone who has searched for love and held onto hope throughout the way.

To buy: $7; amazon.com.



10

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

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In The Road, McCarthy brings the reader into a different America than the one we know—a post-apocalyptic world that’s been burned to the ground. A father and son walk together with nothing but a pistol and some scavenged food, aiming for the coast, even though they are not sure what they will find there. Throughout the moving story, McCarthy uses the duo to address the best and worst of human tendencies—the ability to love despite all odds and the ability to completely destroy.

To buy: $10; amazon.com.