April 15, 2013

7 books that should win the Pulitzer for fiction this year


The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced today, and after last year’s absurd refusal to award the prize for fiction, the engine of anticipation is running hot. With that in mind, I’ve picked seven books that should, in a just world, win the prize this year.

The Pulitzer for fiction is an eminently silly prize. It is awarded “for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.” That’s right: American books by Americans. If we don’t hear screaming eagles and raining carpetbombs when we read your prose, it’s flat out. If the Pulitzer board could stipulate that every author change their name to Francis Scott Betty Ross Hamilton Jefferson Key on receipt of the award, I believe they would. Which makes it all the more unbelievable that last year’s finalists—books about trains, the IRS, and hokey showmanship—somehow didn’t deserve the prize.

The problem is, in spite of its eminent absurdity, the Pulitzer for fiction, and to a lesser extent those for nonfiction (sorry poetry, not you) means big money for booksellers and publishers. When no fiction winner was chosen last year stores could make do with the three excellent finalists, and were likely still doing well with A Visit from the Goon Squad, the previous year’s winner, but sales from a Pulitzer winning novel can be the tentpole for an entire season. It’s certainly the case for smaller bookstores, if not the national chains.

So while the prize is ridiculous, it remains, for the time being, useful, and problematic if not awarded. Lest the Pulitzer Board run into the same impass as last year, let me proffer these, the most American books of the last year.


Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.