By Amanda Cleveland • May 09, 2023
For over 100 years, Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded by Columbia University to honor American achievement in journalism, books, drama, and music. Often considered the most prestigious award an author can receive, the winners each year in the books category offer up a fantastic reading list for those interested in literary fiction and history. Here are the 2023 Pulitzer prize winners in books and drama.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Praised since publication and making best of lists already, Kingsolver's David Copperfield-esque story of a young boy born to a single mother in Appalachia has won hearts for its frank and true depictions of poverty and addiction. In addition to the win for the Pulitzer, Demon Copperhead has also been nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction. Kingsolver herself is no stranger to acclaim, having previously been awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her well-regarded and meaningful body of work.
Trust by Hernan Diaz
Hernan Diaz's latest work is about power, money, intimacy, and perception, playing with the reader’s expectations and assumptions throughout. In addition to its 2023 Pulitzer win, Diaz's novel won the 2022 Kirkus prize, and was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. Author Hernan Diaz has previously been nominated for a Pulitzer for his novel In the Distance.
The other finalist in this category was The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara, a story set in a future where Earth is run by the powerful "Board of Corporations."
This comedic and empathic play about four adults preparing for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in Iran had its debut February 2022. The play explores the relationship between language and identity.
Freedom's Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power by Jefferson Cowie
In this nonfiction focused on Barbour County, Alabama, prize-winning historian Jefferson Cowie traces the history of racially motivated clashes with the federal government throughout in the 19th and 20th century.
Other finalists in this category were Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, American Expansion, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America by Michael John Witgen and Watergate: A New History by Garrett M. Graff.
G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage
Deeply researched, Gage's biography of the longtime and notorious FBI director gives anyone interested in American history a complete look at one of its most pivotal figures. This book has previously been awarded the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2023 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy, and was a finalist for the 2023 PEN/ Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.
The other finalists in this category were His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, as well as Mr. B: George Balanchine's 20th Century by Jennifer Homans.
Stay True: A Memoir by Hua Hsu
Called "exquisite and excruciating" by Rachel Kushner, this memoir from the author of Floating Chinaman deals with friendship, grief, coming-of-age, and the power of art. In addition to its Pulitzer win, Stay True has also won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
The other finalists for this award were Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones and The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras.
Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020 by Carl Phillips
Celebrated poet Carl Phillips's latest collection chronicles the current culture and struggles of the US after COVID and through increasing political division. Then the War includes a large selection of Phillips's writing from the last thirteen years, as well as his recent lyric prose memoir, "Among the Trees."
The other finalists in contention for the win were Still Life by Jay Hopler and Blood Snow by dg nanouk okpik.
His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Toluse Olorunnipa and Robert Samuels
Nominated for two categories this year, Olorunnipa and Samuels work gives a portrait and history of the man whose name came to mean so much after his death at the hands of police officers sparked nationwide conversations on race and political demonstrations across the country.
The other two finalists in this category were Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern by Jing Tsu and Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution's Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction by David George Haskell.
What an amazing list of books to get started on. Congratulations to all the nominated authors for their outstanding work!
Let us know in the comments if you have ready any of these Pulitzer winners yet, and if you have, what did you think?