|Yay! It's Pulitzer Time!|
The following books are all either books that I think are deserving of the committee's nod, or are likely to get the nod, or both. I hope that y'all will chime in with your favorite picks and the most likely contenders for this year.
But first, let's explore why the Pulitzer books generate so much speculation and debate. Why more so than the National Book Award or the National Book Critics Circle Award? My hunch is that, unlike other major awards for book published in the US, it comes down to two points: (1) Unlike those other free-for-all awards, the Pulitzer Prize is awarded to an American writer [which means that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's fine novel, Americanah, is ineligible. not that you'd know it from the various prediction lists on the interwebz.]. (2) More importantly, also unlike those awards, there is no longlist, much less no shortlist, published ahead of the award ceremony. The winner and the finalists are revealed at the same time.
Okay, so here goes (knuckles cracking)...My top pick for either the winner or one of the finalists is Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. I go on about it here, but it's earned tons of accolades from nearly everybody except the First Lady, who seemed to think that her review of the book was a platform for talking about nutrition in privileged families.
My other favorites would be, in no particular order, The Son by Philipp Meyer, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Woman Upstairs by Clair Messud, and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
There are other books I loved from 2014 that I think are worthy of the prize, but are total long shots: Flora by Gail Godwin and Benediction by Kent Haruf. I'd love for either of them to win, but I doubt it will happen.
Then there are the books out there that I haven't read, but which I think are strong contenders. Namely George Saunders' story collection The Tenth of December and The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. While I would prefer that the prize go to a book I've already read and loved, I wouldn't be either upset or surprised if one of these won.
And then there are the books that I am actively hoping will not win, because if they, I will probably have to slit my throat. Actually, in this case it comes down to just one book: Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers. I hate and revile that loathsome book. Seriously, I might have been exaggerating for effect, but this book was laughably bad, which is why it is so completely mysterious to me for it to be getting the kind of critical attention that it's been getting. Some betting operations have even listed this book as the odd-on favorite. Ugh.
Which brings me, at last, to the other categories. Other than the winners themselves, who really cares about the other Pulitzer winners beyond the fiction awards, or at least cares as much? Harsh but true. In a twist of irony, novels get all of the glory in a prize that was originally created to acknowledge outstanding journalism. I don't really have a stake in the other categories, other than general nonfiction, for which I'm hoping that Sheri Fink's excellent Five Days at Memorial puts in a good showing. It was without a doubt the finest nonfiction book I read last year. (Hint: I only read 17 works of nonfiction compared to the 100+ works of fiction, so it's not like I'm drawing from a wide base. Even so, Fink's book would stand out.)
What about you, gentle reader? Which books that you read from 2013 deserve to be recognized by the Pulitzer committee? Or if you want to be wicked, which books do not?
Edited on 14 April 2014 to