Pulitzer Prize: A Reading List

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 11:54am -- baglio

Pulitzer Prize: A Reading List would like to highlight some of the past Prize winners, both for Fiction and Non Fiction. In this reading list we will see some of the best books over the last twenty five years, including a book about Pulitzer himself.

 

Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power

By, James McGrath Morris

In nineteenth-century industrial America, while Carnegie provided the steel, Rockefeller the oil, Morgan the money, and Vanderbilt the railroads, Pulitzer ushered in the modern mass media.

James McGrath Morris chronicles the epic story of Joseph Pulitzer, a Jewish Hungarian immigrant who amassed great wealth and extraordinary power during his remarkable rise through American politics and journalism. Based on years of research and newly discovered documents, Pulitzer is a classic, magisterial biography. It is a gripping portrait of the media baron who transformed American journalism into a medium of mass consumption and immense influence, and of the grueling legal battles he endured for freedom of the press that changed the landscape of American newspapers and politics.

 

The Underground Railroad

By, Colson Whitehead

Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him. In Colson Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman's will to escape the horrors of bondage—and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

 

The Sympathizer

By, Viet Thanh Nguyen

A profound startling and beautifully crafted debut novel The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties It is April 1975 and Saigon is in chaos At his villa a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and with the help of his trusted captain drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles unaware that one among their number the captain is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong The Sympathizer is the story of this captain a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother a man who went to university in America but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause A gripping spy novel an astute exploration of extreme politics and a moving love story The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature film and the wars we fight today.

 

Gilead

By, Marilynne Robinson

Nearly 25 years after Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. In the words of Kirkus, it is a novel "as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering." Gilead tells the story of America and will break your heart.

 

All the Light We Cannot See

By, Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

 

Tinkers

By, Paul Harding

"This compact, adamantine début dips in and out of the consciousness of a New England patriarch named George Washington Crosby as he lies dying on a hospital bed in his living room, 'right where they put the dining room table, fitted with its two extra leaves for holiday dinners'...In Harding's skillful evocation, Crosby's life, seen from its final moments, becomes a mosaic of memories, 'showing him a different self every time he tried to make an assessment.'"-The New Yorker "Harding's interest is in the universalities: nature and time and the murky character of memory...The small, important recollections are rendered with an exactitude that is poetic...Harding's prose is lyrical and specific...Tinkers is a poignant exploration of where we may journey when the clock has barely a tick or two left and we really can't go anywhere at all."-The Boston Globe "Tinkers is truly remarkable... It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls."-Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Home and Gilead "In astounding language sometimes seemingly struck by lightning, sometimes as tight and complicated as clockwork, Harding shows how enormous fiction can be, and how economical. Read this book and marvel."-Elizabeth McCracken, author of Niagara Falls All Over Again "Tinkers is a remarkable piece of work...fascinating-and sometimes horrific-to read, and is cumulatively moving because it is woven together into the single quilt of our humanity."-Barry Unsworth, Booker Prize-winning author of The Ruby in Her Navel An old man lies dying. As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.

 

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

By,  Hisham Matar

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY 

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Guardian • Financial Times

When Hisham Matar was a nineteen-year-old university student in England, his father went missing under mysterious circumstances. Hisham would never see him again, but he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. Twenty-two years later, he returned to his native Libya in search of the truth behind his father’s disappearance. The Return is the story of what he found there.

The Pulitzer Prize citation hailed The Return as “a first-person elegy for home and father.” Transforming his personal quest for answers into a brilliantly told universal tale of hope and resilience, Matar has given us an unforgettable work with a powerful human question at its core: How does one go on living in the face of unthinkable loss?

 

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

By, David I. Kertzer

From National Book Award finalist David I. Kertzer comes the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This groundbreaking work, based on seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini’s spies inside the highest levels of the Church, will forever change our understanding of the Vatican’s role in the rise of Fascism in Europe.

The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more different. One was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and “Il Duce” had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism. Both were prone to sudden fits of temper and were fiercely protective of the prerogatives of their office. (“We have many interests to protect,” the Pope declared, soon after Mussolini seized control of the government in 1922.) Each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals.

In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, in which a heroic Church does battle with the Fascist regime, Kertzer shows how Pius XI played a crucial role in making Mussolini’s dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the Church had lost and gave in to the pope’s demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life—as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler—the pontiff’s faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini’s anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican’s inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the Church and the dictator for many years.

The Pope and Mussolini brims with memorable portraits of the men who helped enable the reign of Fascism in Italy: Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, Pius’s personal emissary to the dictator, a wily anti-Semite known as Mussolini’s Rasputin; Victor Emmanuel III, the king of Italy, an object of widespread derision who lacked the stature—literally and figuratively—to stand up to the domineering Duce; and Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, whose political skills and ambition made him Mussolini’s most powerful ally inside the Vatican, and positioned him to succeed the pontiff as the controversial Pius XII, whose actions during World War II would be subject for debate for decades to come. 

With the recent opening of the Vatican archives covering Pius XI’s papacy, the full story of the Pope’s complex relationship with his Fascist partner can finally be told. Vivid, dramatic, with surprises at every turn, The Pope and Mussolini is history writ large and with the lightning hand of truth.

 

A Visit From the Goon Squad

By, Jennifer Egan

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.


The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

By, T.J. Stiles

In this groundbreaking biography, T.J. Stiles tells the dramatic story of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, the combative man and American icon who, through his genius and force of will, did more than perhaps any other individual to create modern capitalism. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, The First Tycoon describes an improbable life, from Vanderbilt’s humble birth during the presidency of George Washington to his death as one of the richest men in American history. In between we see how the Commodore helped to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation. Epic in its scope and success, the life of Vanderbilt is also the story of the rise of America itself.

 

AMERICAN LION: Andrew Jackson in the White House

By, Jon Meacham

Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson's election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson's presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama-the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers-that shaped Jackson's private world through years of storm and victory. One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will-or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House-from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman-have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.

 

The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

No one predicted success for Henry Ward Beecher at his birth in 1813. The blithe, boisterous son of the last great Puritan minister, he seemed destined to be overshadowed by his brilliant siblings—especially his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned the century’s bestselling book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But when pushed into the ministry, the charismatic Beecher found international fame by shedding his father’s Old Testament–style fire-and-brimstone theology and instead preaching a New Testament–based gospel of unconditional love and healing, becoming one of the founding fathers of modern American Christianity. By the 1850s, his spectacular sermons at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights had made him New York’s number one tourist attraction, so wildly popular that the ferries from Manhattan to Brooklyn were dubbed “Beecher Boats.” 

Beecher inserted himself into nearly every important drama of the era—among them the antislavery and women’s suffrage movements, the rise of the entertainment industry and tabloid press, and controversies ranging from Darwinian evolution to presidential politics. He was notorious for his irreverent humor and melodramatic gestures, such as auctioning slaves to freedom in his pulpit and shipping rifles—nicknamed “Beecher’s Bibles”—to the antislavery resistance fighters in Kansas. Thinkers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Twain befriended—and sometimes parodied—him.

And then it all fell apart. In 1872 Beecher was accused by feminist firebrand Victoria Woodhull of adultery with one of his most pious parishioners. Suddenly the “Gospel of Love” seemed to rationalize a life of lust. The cuckolded husband brought charges of “criminal conversation” in a salacious trial that became the most widely covered event of the century, garnering more newspaper headlines than the entire Civil War. Beecher survived, but his reputation and his causes—from women’s rights to progressive evangelicalism—suffered devastating setbacks that echo to this day.

Featuring the page-turning suspense of a novel and dramatic new historical evidence, Debby Applegate has written the definitive biography of this captivating, mercurial, and sometimes infuriating figure. In our own time, when religion and politics are again colliding and adultery in high places still commands headlines, Beecher’s story sheds new light on the culture and conflicts of contemporary America.

 

Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris

By, Richard Kluger

Ashes to Ashes is a monumental history of the American tobacco industry's  ironicsuccess in developing the cigarette, modern society's most widespreadinstrument of self-destruction, into the nation's most profitableconsumer product.  Starting with its energized, work-obsessed royalfamilies, the Dukes and the Reynoldses, and their embattled successorslike the eccentric autocrat George Washington Hill and the feisty Joseph F. Cullman, the book vividly portrays the cigarrettemakers generationsof entrepreneurial geniuses.  Their problematic achievement was based on cunning business strategies and marketing dazzle, deft political powerplays, and a relentless, often devious attack on antismoking forces inscience, public health, and government.  Enabling the whole process tounfold was the weirdly symbiotic relationship of an industry geared atany cost to sell, sell, sell cigarettes, and an American publichabituated to ignore all health warnings and buy, buy, buy.

At the center of this epic is thecontinuing drama of the Philip Morris Company and the crafty men at itshelm.  The youngest, once smallest entry in the business, it remained an underdog until the marketing brainstorm that transformed the Marlborobrand from little more than a woman's fashion accessory to the ultimateemblem of hairy-chested machismo (and made it America's - and theworld's - #1 smoke).  Remarkably, the company's global prosperitymounted steadily even as the news about cigarettes and health grew moredire by the year.

Caught up in the Philip Morris story is the whole sweep of America's cigarette history, from the glory days oframpant hucksterism - when smokers would "walk a mile for a Camel,"Winston tasted "good like a cigarette should," and most of the nationcould decipher "L.S. / M.F.T" - to the bombshell 1964 Surgeon General'sReport that definitively indicted smoking as a killer, to the age of the massive mergers that spawned RJR Nabisco and Philip Morris-KraftGeneral Foods.

Here we learn how the leaf that was the New World's most passionately devoured gift to the Old grew intohumankind's most dangerous consumer product, employing a vast ruralcorps of laborers, fattening tax revenues, and propagating a ring offiercely competitive corporate superpowers; how tobacco's peerlesspublic-relations spinners applied their techniques to becloud theoverwhelming evidence of the cigarette's lethal and addictive nature;and finally, how the besieged industry and the aroused public-healthforces nationwide collided over whether to outlaw the butt habitaltogether or bring it into ever more withering social disdain and under ever tighter government control.

 

Independence Day

By, Richard Ford

The Pulitzer-Prize Winning novel for 1996.In this visionary sequel to The Sportswriter, Richard Ford deepens his portrait of one of the most unforgettable characters in American fiction, and in so doing gives us an indelible portrait of America.Frank Bascombe, in the aftermath of his divorce and the ruin of his career, has entered an "Existence Period," selling real estate in Haddam, New Jersey, and mastering the high-wire act of normalcy. But over one Fourth of July weekend, Frank is called into sudden, bewildering engagement with life.Independence Day is a moving, peerlessly funny odyssey through America and through the layered consciousness of one of its most compelling literary incarnations, conducted by a novelist of astonishing empathy and perception.

 

William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic

By, Alan Taylor

William Cooper and James Fenimore Cooper, a father and son who embodied the contradictions that divided America in the early years of the Republic, are brought to life in this Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

William Cooper rose from humble origins to become a wealthy land speculator and U.S. congressman in what had until lately been the wilderness of upstate New York, but his high-handed style of governing resulted in his fall from power and political disgrace.  His son James Fenimore Cooper became one of this country’s first popular novelists with a book, The Pioneers, that tried to come to terms with his father’s failure and imaginatively reclaim the estate he had lost.

In William Cooper’s Town, Alan Taylor dramatizes the class between gentility and democracy that was one of the principal consequences of the American Revolution, a struggle that was waged both at the polls and on the pages of our national literature.  Taylor shows how Americans resolved their revolution through the creation of new social reforms and new stories that evolved with the expansion of our frontier.