5 Short Must-Read Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novels

You’d like to be more well-read, but you don’t have a lot of time – or perhaps you just get intimidated by the so-called classics. If you want to read a great book that doesn’t take weeks to finish or if you’ve always meant to read an award-winning novel but tend to get bored and not make it through the whole thing, have I got a list for you. Here are five short, easy-to-read Pulitzer Prize-winning novels that you can finish in no time.

1. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

The Bridge of San Luis Rey coverThis 1928 Pulitzer Prize winner, set in Peru, deals with the collapse of a bridge and the intertwined lives of the people who die in the tragedy. That’s no spoiler; the bridge collapses on page one. Wilder doesn’t waste any time getting to the point in this book. Metaphors, connections, divinity, the human condition – it’s all here, but the book is never weighty, and even editions with a fleshed-out introduction and notes are well under 200 pages. What’s more, for those who seek I-read-classic-authors bragging rights, Thornton Wilder didn’t just win in the Fiction category. He’s a multiple Pulitzer winner, having also received the award twice for Drama for his famous plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth.

The Old Man and the Sea cover2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Authors don’t get any more famous than Hemingway, have you actually read any of his famous books? I thought so. You can change that today with The Old Man and the Sea, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. It’s a very short but very famous novel about a man in Cuba who struggles to catch a fish, but it’s also about so much more. Deep thoughts, powerful metaphors (some would say they’re a bit heavy-handed), and Hemingway’s famously stripped-down language combine to tell a simple story that’s surprisingly complex beneath the surface.

House Made of Dawn cover3. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

House Made of Dawn is a breakthrough for Native American fiction. After N. Scott Momaday won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969, an increasing number of Native American authors found mainstream success writing about the experiences of American Indians caught between cultures. This story of a returning World War II soldier and his grandfather depicts indigenous traditions and the changes brought by industrial society. Although it’s a short novel, there are layers of meaning worth exploring.

The Optimist's Daughter

4. The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

This 1973 Pulitzer Prize Award winner is a thoughtful look at family ties and grief. It’s the thought-provoking, introspective tale of a woman who goes back to her hometown to bury her father has been called sad, eloquent and bittersweet. Eudora Welty, a native of Mississippi, is known for capturing the nuances of the language, customs and relationships of the South. The Optimist’s Daughter is one of her most famous works.

Tinkers cover

5. Tinkers by Paul Harding

They don’t come much shorter than this – or more heartfelt. Paul Harding’s Tinkers is a reflection on a man’s life, a quiet and almost puzzling story that invites the reader to ponder the backwoods of New England, the family dinner table, the cart of a traveling salesman, epilepsy, and the inner workings of a clock, among other things. This debut novel won the Pulitzer in 2010.

You can actually read any one of these books in just one sitting. And with five Pulitzer winning novels under your belt, you’ll surely impress the literati next time you’re hobnobbing at a dinner party – and you might even be inspired to take the next step and tackle a few winners that go over 200 pages.

What’s the last great novel you’ve read. Recommend it to the Community in the Comments section below.


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