Earlier this week the Pulitzer prizes were announced and the Fiction committee declined to choose a winner in that category, setting off a firestorm of comment and criticism. Most observers were incredulous about the fact that that the committee could not find a book published in 2011 worthy of the prize. At any rate, book lovers all over were deprived of being steered towards a good book to read while publishers and libraries are left without the sales and circulation jumps that the award generates.
If you were looking forward to reading this year’s prize winner why not try a winner you might have missed. Here are five from years past (plus a bonus at the end):
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2008)
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fuku – the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2005)
As the Reverend John Ames approaches the hour of his own death, he writes a letter to his son chronicling three previous generations of his family, a story that stretches back to the Civil War and reveals uncomfortable secrets about the family of preachers.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2001)
In 1939 New York City, Joe Kavalier, a refugee from Hitler’s Prague, joins forces with his Brooklyn-born cousin, Sammy Clay, to create comic-book superheroes. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun.
American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1998)
A former athletic star, devoted family man, and owner of a thriving glove factory, Seymour “Swede” Levov finds his life coming apart during the social disorder of the 1960s, when his beloved daughter turns revolutionary terrorist out to destroy her father’s world.
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler (1993)
Bonus: Over at The Morning News they have been running the Tournament of Books to coincide with basketball’s March Madness since 2005. This year’s winner for books published in 2011 was “The Sisters Brothers” by Patrick deWitt, which I recommend very highly as a alternative to the nonexistent Pulitzer prize winner for fiction in 2011.
– posted by Sonia, Readers’ Services