The Pulitzer Prize

A tribute to literature’s most distinguished award, in celebration of its anniversary.


Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power
By James McGrath Morris

Each year, the best of the written word is honored in Joseph Pulitzer’s name, but the man behind the award is little known. James McGrath Morris brings the media mogul to life in his revealing portrait of Pulitzer, detailing his swift trajectory from immigrant beat reporter to the owner of the groundbreaking New York World newspaper. Pulitzer was famously accused of promoting “yellow journalism” — sensationalism — in his papers, but Morris argues that while he may have prized hyperbole in headlines, Pulitzer was dedicated to pursuing the truth in stories, while working doggedly to secure the freedom of the press. See a full review of this telling biography here.

The Age of Innocence
By Edith Wharton

In an early progressive display, the Pulitzer Prize Board awarded Edith Wharton “Best Novel” in 1921 for her brilliant The Age of Innocence – the third award given in the category and the first to a woman. This turn-of-the-century New York masterpiece profiles the distinguished yet restless lawyer Newland Archer, trapped in an unforgiving society who “dreaded scandal more than disease” and his doomed romance with the beautiful and disreputable Countess Olenska. Wharton’s fine-tuned, elegant prose captures Archer’s spiraling social tragedy with stark poignancy.

New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes
By Robert Frost

Becoming one of the most respected American poets of the twentieth century is no small feat, but Robert Frost also accumulated four Pulitzers throughout his lifetime, tying playwright Eugene O’Neill for most awards won. First winning in 1924 for the volume New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes, then in 1931 with Collected Poems, followed by A Further Range in 1937 and 1943’s A Witness Tree, Frost captured in his spare, colloquial verse the existential frets and wonderments of modern life while employing his signature New England milieu.

Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam
By Frances FitzGerald

Considered one of the most influential critiques on the Vietnam War, Fire in the Lake is Frances FitzGerald’s Pulitzer- and National Book Award–winning social commentary on Vietnamese lifestyle and tradition, written from the vantage point of our former foes. FitzGerald ventured into both ancient villages and bustling, conflict-ridden cities to highlight the cultural differences — and similarities — between the Vietnamese and Americans and to better illustrate the obstructive, stagnant nature of our country’s most notorious failed war.

The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election
By Haynes Johnson and Dan Balz

Haynes Johnson had a long and productive career covering pivotal historical events for The Washington Post, from the civil rights movement of the 1960s through the Carter administration. He won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1966 for his daring coverage of the riots in Selma, Alabama. Turns out, winning Pulitzers runs in the family: Johnson’s father, Malcolm, won back in 1949 for On the Waterfront, his record of rampant corruption taking place on the New York City docks — forming the basis for the 1954 film starring Marlon Brando. The Battle for America 2008 is one of Johnson’s most recent books; collaborating with fellow newsman Dan Balz, he offers a captivating picture of one of the most polarizing and riveting presidential elections in history.