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Pulitzer Prize Literature Guide

by Amy Jorgensen
Published April 29, 2010 | Updated June 16, 2015

The Pulitzer Prize is an award given to outstanding examples of writing in 21 different categories, including literature, journalism, and letters. The awards, which were established in 1917, were named for Joseph Pulitzer, a renowned and respected journalist. If you're looking for something to read, try one of the books from this list of winners from some of the literary categories.

Read a Pulitzer Prize Winner:

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  • Winning Novels

    From 1918 through 1947, a Pulitzer Prize was awarded for novels. The category was renamed "Fiction" in 1948. Notable winners of the award include such classics as The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

  • Winning Fiction

    The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded since 1948, although there have been years when no prize was awarded. Notable fiction winners are The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Rabbit at Rest by John Updike, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Beloved by Toni Morrison, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk.

  • Winning General Nonfiction

    The Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction has been awarded since 1962; a separate prize has been given for "History" since 1917. Past winners include Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan, and On Human Nature by Edward O. Wilson.

  • Winning History

    The Pulitzer Prize for History has been awarded since 1917. Popular winners include No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin, A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years by Carl Sandburg.

  • Winning Poetry

    Since 1922, Pulitzer Prize awards have been given out to books of poetry. Some of the most notable names in poetry are past recipients, including Carl Sandburg's Corn Huskers, Robert Frost's New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes, Marianne Moore's Collected Poems, Theodore Roethke's The Waking, and Sylvia Plath's Collected Poems.

  • Winning Drama

    The Pulitzer Prize for Drama has been awarded since 1917 and includes winners such as Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Harvey by Mary Chase, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry, and Rent by Jonathan Larson.

Interesting Facts about the Pulitzer Prize:

The awards are announced by Columbia University's president every April.

Entrants for all categories must pay a fee to enter the competition.

Since 1980, the finalists have also been announced each year. Finalists are announced at the same time as the winners, not in advance.

For a complete list of winners and finalists in all the categories, you can visit Pulitzer.org.