Pulitzer Problems

May 14, 2009 at 9:17 am | Posted in Book Blather, Challenges | 6 Comments

Reading all the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction has been a long-time goal of mine.  I decided I’d do it this year, figuring I only had 67 left to read.  It should be a cinch.  Well, if you have a similar goal, let me tell you that it’s more complicated than it looks at first.  That’s why I’ve only read four in five months.

The biggest issue is pure size.  Many of these books are quite large – for instance, The Executioner’s Song is a thousand-pager.  Of the 63 remaining on my list, the average page count is 411.  With nearly 26,000 pages to go, I’ll have to read 812 pages a week.

The next issue is availability, for various reasons.  Some titles have fallen out of favor and are hard to come by – there are at least four that aren’t available at my library.  The other problem is that reading the Pulitzers is a fairly common literary challenge, so there’s competition.  Many of these books are represented by only one volume in my library system, most at far-flung branches around the county.

The upshot is that I’m going to have to revise my intention of reading through the Pulitzers in chronological order.  Right now it’s just taking too long to get the books.  It looks like I’m going to have to read The Able McLaughlins in e-book format.  It’s okay, though – most of the ones I’ve already read are pretty randomly distributed through the list.  I’ll just cherry-pick a little and work on both the older and the newer ends of the stack.


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  1. I’ve had this goal for myself for a while too! It has definitely turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. I got The Executioner’s Song for Christmas and actually got about 400 pages in before getting distracted by other pretty books. Then I read Gone with the Wind, another thousand pager. I’m thinking this challenge will be perpetual for me – at least for a while.

    Good luck to you!

    • Wow, was GWTW really that long? I remember reading it when I was 13, the first time I ever stayed up until sunrise reading. It was summer vacation and I had a book light. I used it so long I actually melted the plastic shade! I would hear my dad’s alarm go off for work and quickly hide the book and pretend to be asleep. I remember it was really long, but still…

  2. I suspect that many of the books less popular by now are ones that haven’t held up so well over time. Reading AbeBook’s great list regarding the top ten most underrated Pulitzer winners was enlightening and interesting. I wish you luck and am curious to see what gems (and pieces of coal) you find.

  3. Wah…I hate hearing that my goals are common!
    Glad to hear that some are available on e-book, though I am trying to collect them all in book form.
    The executioner’s song is a chunkster, but it’s not hard reading…

    • You can basically get any book published through the 1920’s in electronic format. Quite a number are available through Google Books, and you can just read them on your computer monitor. There’s also Project Gutenberg. I download things into my old Palm via manybooks.net.

  4. I’m reading all the Pulitzers too! I’m impressed that you were considering reading in order.

    I sell books online, so don’t have trouble getting hold of any of them – all you have to do is be prepared to spend a little bit of money initially- you can then almost always get all/most of your money back by selling the book once you’ve read it – ebay/amazon are the ones I use. I could never rely on my library for things like this – I’m impressed by how many you have manged to get that way.

    Good luck!

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