Last year, I wrote about my ambitious - if not obsessive - project to read all the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners going back in time (I knocked out 2017 – 1994). I’ve picked up the pace a since then. 1993 – 1953 (40 years of Updike, Faulkner and a whole heap of slavery) is officially in the books. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the obvious pun. Here are the best page-turners of the bunch:
1990 – The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love – Oscar Hijuelos
The story of Cesar and Nestor. Cuban-born performers who become famous in NYC playing Mambo in dance clubs in the '50s. Some scenes are sexually explicit if you’re into that.
1986 – Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurty
Texas rangers Woodrow and Augustus go on a cattle drive from southern Texas to Montana in the 1870s Old West. Few novels should be 1000 pages. This is one.
Then, a big jump until the next great book (with the exception of Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song in 1980 about Gary Gilmore who’s on Death Row. I’m leaving it off because it’s pretty much a non-fiction story. Although it’s a compelling read if you have a free month…1100 pages). Just like music, the 1970s were mostly forgettable. Let’s skip to 1961. For the best three-year stretch of novels in American history.
1961 – To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Hard to argue with this classic about racial tension, hard work and responsibilities of parenthood during the Great Depression. Atticus Finch is one of the most iconic literary characters ever conceived.
1960 – Advise and Consent – Allen Drury
Drury was a Washington correspondent so he used his knowledge to write a captivating story about the internal workings of DC. The President nominates a polarizing candidate for Secretary of State. Lies, deceit, paranoia, corruption and blackmail ensue. Totally unrelatable today, right?
1959 – The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters – Robert Lewis Taylor
Jaimie and his father venture from Kentucky to California during the mid-19th Century gold rush. En route…tornados, fires, famine, outlaws and Indians. Lots of Indians. Epic, unforgettable story.
30ish books to go. Why are they getting longer? Why can’t I understand anything William Faulkner writes? Why doesn’t the library circulate books pre-1950? This project is making me tired. But why stop now?