The 2020 Pulitzer Prize Winners

There are literary awards, and then there’s the Pulitzer Prize. Those winners are the books that open your eyes and shake you around a bit – stories by American authors that will forever linger in a reader’s subconscious. Recent winners for fiction include The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, and The Overstory, by Richard Powers – must read, heavy hitters that cut to the heart of humanity and American life. This year’s winners are:

In the category of Fiction – The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead.

“Colson Whitehead continues to make a classic American genre his own… with gravity and care, the steward of painful, suppressed histories; his choices on the page can feel as much ethical as aesthetic…” – The New York Times

This is the second Pulitzer for author, Colson Whitehead in 4 years – he also won the prize for Fiction back in 2017 for The Underground Railroad. This brilliant and blistering story of two boys in Jim Crow-era Florida was a BN Book Club pick last July – we also had the good fortune to sit down with Colson to talk imagination, courage, and The Nickel Boys on our B&N Podcast.

Fiction finalists include The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner (“Ben Lerner has redefined what it means for a writer to inhabit an American present by showing how a family reckons with its past… The Topeka School is brave, furious, and, finally, a work of love.” – Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous), and The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett, both fresh takes on classic coming-of-age stories. No one writes about sibling relationships as well as Ann Patchett; The New York Times goes further: “Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchett’s fiction.”

In the category of History – Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America, by W. Caleb McDaniel, which Tony Horwitz, author of Spying on the South, called “A chilling, inspiring, and timely examination of both the necessity and complexity of redressing historical crimes.”

In the category of Biography – Sontag, by Benjamin Moser. “Don’t be fooled by the length. This book is compulsive reading: moving, maddening, ridiculous and beautiful scenes from the life of Susan Sontag… Moser has a true and deep love for his subject, and it shows,” says Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers.

In the category of Poetry – The Tradition, by Jericho Brown. “These astounding poems…don’t merely hold a lens up to the world and watch from a safe distance; they run or roll or stomp their way into what matters… This is one of the most luminous and courageous voices I have read in a long, long time.” – U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith

This year, the Pulitzer for General Nonfiction is shared by two books: The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care, by Anne Boyer, “a profound and unforgettable document on the experience of life itself,” says Sally Rooney, author of Normal People, and The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, by Greg Grandin, which Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Twilight of the American Century, says is “written with insight, passion, and uncompromising moral clarity.”

And while tie-in books may not be available, we have to still give a big shoutout to the impressive works in the category of Music – The Central Park Five, by Anthony Davis which premiered last year at the Long Beach Opera, and in the category of Drama – A Strange Loop, by Michael R. Jackson, an original musical.


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