The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winners

Whenever you see a book review from me (Margot) here on Quirky Girls Read it will always be about a book that has won an award.

I love my book challenges and this is one I’ve happily set for myself. In the past I’ve avoided reading books that are touted as prize-winners. I thought they would be something I wouldn’t like – too many big words, too literary, too metaphorical, – in other words, too hard or too weird. But, by forcing myself to concentrate on prize-winners, I knew it would open up new worlds for me, book-wise. It has and I’m enjoying these “new” books.

Two weeks ago I read the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, Tinkers by Paul Harding. A week later the prize winners were announced for 2011. So I thought today I’d tell you which books won and a bit about each one.

The purpose of the Pulitzer Prize awards is to honor outstanding work in journalism, literature, and music composition. Within literature there are several categories, each with a specific goal. Here are the categories for literature and this year’s winners:

The awards for Fiction are for “distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.“  The 2011 prize:

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Alfred A. Knopf)

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. (From the publisher)

The award for History is to a “distinguished book on the history of the United States.”  This year’s winner is:

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner (W. W. Norton & Company)

Eric Foner gives us the definitive history of Lincoln and the end of slavery in America. Foner begins with Lincoln’s youth in Indiana and Illinois and follows the trajectory of his career across an increasingly tense and shifting political terrain from Illinois to Washington, D.C. Although “naturally anti-slavery” for as long as he can remember, Lincoln scrupulously holds to the position that the Constitution protects the institution in the original slave states.(From the publisher)

An award for Biography and Autobiography is for a “distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author.”  This year’s winner is:

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (The Penguin Press)

Chernow gives us a Washington who starts with limited education and means and, through a remarkable combination of timely deaths, an incredible capacity for hard work, a shrewd marriage, astonishing physical hardiness and courage, a propensity for land speculation, and a gift for finding influential patrons, transforms himself into a soldier, well-to-do planter, local official, and eventually the only real choice to command the Continental army, preside over the Constitutional Convention, and serve as the first president.(From Publisher’s Weekly)

An award for Poetry is for a “distinguished volume of original verse by an American poet.”  This year’s winner is:

The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan (Grove Press)

Kay Ryan, the current U.S. poet laureate, may well be the oddest and wisest poet to hold that prestigious post. Her tiny, skinny poems pack a punch unlike anything else in contemporary poetry, though not unlike haiku, if haiku could be cut with a dash of Groucho Marx. This, her first retrospective volume, which also contains a book’s worth of new poems, is a much-needed introduction to the work of one of our best and most accessible poets. (From Amazon)

General Non-Fiction is awarded for a “distinguished book of non-fiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category.”  For 2011 the winner is:

The Emperor of All Maladies: ABiography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)

An exhaustive account of cancer’s origins, The Emperor of All Maladies illustrates how modern treatments–multi-pronged chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, as well as preventative care–came into existence thanks to a century’s worth of research, trials, and small, essential breakthroughs around the globe. While The Emperor of All Maladies is also a meditation on illness, medical ethics, and the complex, intertwining lives of doctors and patients. (From Publisher’s Weekly)

These five award-winners all sound good to me. (I know, can you believe it?)  I’ve already downloaded A Visit From the Good Squad to my Kindle, although I haven’t started reading it yet. I also have The Fiery Trail on reserve at the library. I believe I have some good reading hours ahead of me.

Tell me what you think: Are you familiar with any of these books? Do you like reading the Pulitzer Prize winners or other award-winning books?

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About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Posts by Margot. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winners

  1. I got A Visit From the Goon Squad at the library, and looked through it, and decided it wasn’t the book for me! Too quirky, so to speak!

    • Margot says:

      Uh, oh, if you didn’t like it, I doubt I will. Did you notice that you’ve had recent reviews on two of these winners? Both the Lincoln book and the Washington book are ones you’ve read recently. When I first saw the announcement for the prizes, I thought of you. You’re an impressive reader.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I really want to read A Visit From the Goon Squad, so I’ll be watching for your review.

    • Margot says:

      Now that I see Jill’s comment above on the book, I don’t know how soon that will be. Of course, now she has me curious and I’ll at least have to open the book and take a look.

  3. Tea Norman says:

    Fantastic beginning, looking forward to your entries.

  4. I’ve heard great things about The Fiery Trial and will get to reading it eventually! Great post!

  5. izzybella says:

    Okay, looking forward the Margot reviews. The Goon Squad sounds promising. And I’ve already heard tons of great things about The Fiery Trial.

    • Margot says:

      Thanks IzzyBella, I’m glad there’s a positive note for The Goon Squad. I’m nervous about the book. It goes back to my old fear of prize-winners.

  6. What a great idea for a reading challenge. I waffle back and forth on Goon Squad so I look forward to your review to help me decide. Actually, I look forward to all your reviews for these books.

    • Margot says:

      Thanks Martha for your vote of confidence. I’m enjoying my self-inflicted challenge of reading the prize-winners. It doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.

  7. Oh, I need Civil War books for one of my challenges. I’ll have to take a look at The Fiery Trial.

    • Margot says:

      Joy, I was thinking of The Fiery Trial for the Civil War challenge too. There’s a big list at the library for the hardback (over a hundred) but they had it on cd with less people signed up. I signed up for that. My husband wants to read the book as well so this will make a good one for a road trip.

  8. jehara says:

    I’ve heard about Goon Squad and The Emperor of Maladies. I’ve been wanting to check them out.

    • Margot says:

      I’m also curious about the Emperor of Maladies. My family has had it’s share of cancer and, in addition to being curious about the book, I’ll admit to being a bit frightened by it.

  9. Staci says:

    I’m familiar with a few of the titles and I honestly can say that I’m really looking forward to your thoughts on these titles. I feel much the same way about “honor/prize books” and often wonder if I’ll get what I’m supposed to get out of them!! Bravo to you for reading these!! 😀

    • Margot says:

      I know, Staci. That’s what has always scared me. I don’t know if I’m getting what I’m supposed to get. But I figured I’d just take one book at a time and go for it. So far so good.

  10. Annie says:

    Most of the time I don’t read too much award-winning-books but I try to read litterature Nobel Prize : so I discovered happily Tony Morrison, Ohran Pamuk, etc.
    I don’t like the prizes “à la mode”, like “Prix Goncourt” in France !

    • Margot says:

      Hi Annie, I haven’t tried any of the Nobel award winners yet. Perhaps you could suggest a favorite. I’d ask for a favorite French award-winner but, I’m afraid I can’t read French. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. kaye says:

    I’m not familiar with any of those titles, but I do like to look for award winners.

  12. lemon123 says:

    I have read so many comments about the Goon Squad. These are good comments too.

  13. stacybuckeye says:

    I’m not familiar with any of these. I like reading award winners, but onlu if the story appeals to me. Too often if I start one because I ‘should’ it is a disappointment.

  14. Bumbles says:

    The Emperor of all Maladies is the one that stands out as most interesting to me. Thanks for highlighting all of them – that one in particular. Have added to my list!

  15. Heather says:

    These look good. I love expanding my horizons, and have had a few of these on my shelf before the winners were announced. Thanks for the this post!

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