Ah, the big award for American fiction (oh, and journalism too). Officially the award goes to the most distinguished fiction by an American author (yes, you must be an American citizen to win), preferably dealing with American life.

That last bit, “dealing with American life,” often serves to limit the prize, in my opinion. Consequently, many distinguished books by American authors are not really eligible. Then again, the “preferably” language allows the committee to broaden the scope of the prize. I don’t think one can say Cormac McCarthy’s The Road fits the typical definition of American life.

  • 2015 — Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See
  • 2014 — Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
  • 2013 — Adam Johnson: The Orphan Master’s Son
  • 2012 — no award given (this year the fiction jury recommended Denis Johnson’s Train Dream, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, or David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, but the Pulitzer board couldn’t reach a majority on any book required to name a winner)
  • 2011 — Jennifer Egan: A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • 2010 — Paul Harding: Tinkers
  • 2009 — Elizabeth Strout: Olive Kitteridge
  • 2008 — Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • 2007 – – Cormac McCarthy: The Road
  • 2006 — Geraldine Brooks: March
  • 2005 — Marilynne Robinson: Gilead
  • 2004 — Edward P. Jones: The Known World
  • 2003 — Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesex
  • 2002 — Richard Russo: Empire Falls
  • 2001 — Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
  • 2000 — Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies
  • 1999 — Michael Cunningham: The Hours
  • 1998 — Philip Roth: American Pastoral
  • 1997 — Steven Milhauser: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
  • 1996 — Richard Ford: Independence Day
  • 1995 — Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries
  • 1994 — Annie Proulx: The Shipping News
  • 1993 — Robert Olen Butler: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
  • 1992 — Jane Smiley: A Thousand Acres
  • 1991 — John Updike: Rabbit at Rest
  • 1990 — Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
  • 1989 — Anne Tyler: Breathing Lessons
  • 1988 — Toni Morrison: Beloved
  • 1987 — Peter Taylor: A Summons to Memphis
  • 1986 — Larry McMurtry: Lonesome Dove
  • 1985 — Alison Lurie: Foreign Affairs
  • 1984 — William Kennedy: Ironweed
  • 1983 — Alice Walker: The Color Purple
  • 1982 — John Updike: Rabbit Is Rich
  • 1981 — John Kennedy Toole: A Confederacy of Dunces
  • 1980 — Norman Mailer: The Executioner’s Song
  • 1979 — John Cheever: The Stories of John Cheever
  • 1978 — James Alan McPherson: Elbow Room
  • 1977 — no award given (this year the fiction jury recommended Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It, but the Pulitzer committee made no award)
  • 1976 — Saul Bellow: Humboldt’s Gift
  • 1975 — Michael Shaara: The Killer Angels
  • 1974 — no award given (this is the year the fiction jury had unanimously chosen Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow only to have the Pulitzer Board disregard their recommendation)
  • 1973 — Eudora Welty: The Optimist’s Daughter
  • 1972 — Wallace Stegner: Angle of Repose
  • 1971 — no award given
  • 1970 — Jean Stafford: The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
  • 1969 — N. Scott Momaday: House Made of Dawn
  • 1968 — William Styron: The Confessions of Nat Turner
  • 1967 — Bernard Malamud: The Fixer
  • 1966 — Katherine Anne Porter: The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
  • 1965 — Shirley Ann Grau: The Keepers of the House
  • 1964 — no award given
  • 1963 — William Faulkner: The Reivers
  • 1962 — Edwin O’Connor: The Edge of Sadness
  • 1961 — Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
  • 1960 — Allen Drury: Advise and Consent
  • 1959 — Robert Lewis Taylor: The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters
  • 1958 — James Agee: A Death in the Family
  • 1957 — no award given
  • 1956 — MacKinlay Kantor: Andersonville
  • 1955 — William Faulkner: A Fable
  • 1954 — no award given
  • 1953 — Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
  • 1952 — Herman Wouk: The Caine Mutiny
  • 1951 — Conrad Richter: The Town
  • 1950 — A.B. Guthrie, Jr.: The Way West
  • 1949 — James Gould Cozzens: Guard of Honor
  • 1948 — James A. Michener: Tales of the South Pacific

Before 1948, the prize was called the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel

  • 1947 — Robert Penn Warren: All the King’s Men
  • 1946 — no award given
  • 1945 — John Hersey: A Bell for Adano
  • 1944 — Martin Flavin: Journey in the Dark
  • 1943 — Upton Sinclair: Dragon’s Teeth
  • 1942 — Ellen Glasgow: In This Our Life
  • 1941 — no award given
  • 1940 — John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • 1939 — Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: The Yearling
  • 1938 — John Philips Marquand: The Late George Apley
  • 1937 — Margaret Mitchell: Gone with the Wind
  • 1936 — Harold L. Davis: Honey in the Horn
  • 1935 — Josephine Winslow Johnson: Now in November
  • 1934 — Caroline Miller: Lamb in His Bosom
  • 1933 — Thomas Sigismund Stribling: The Store
  • 1932 — Pearl S. Buck: The Good Earth
  • 1931 — Margaret Ayer Barnes: Years of Grace
  • 1930 — Oliver La Farge: Laughing Boys
  • 1929 — Julia Peterkin: Scarlet Sister Mary
  • 1928 — Thornton Wilder: The Bridge of San Luis Rey
  • 1927 — Louis Bromfield: Early Autumn
  • 1926 — Sinclair Lewis: Arrowsmith (declined prize)
  • 1925 — Edna Ferber: So Big
  • 1924 — Margaret Wilson: The Able McLaughlins
  • 1923 — Willa Cather: One of Ours
  • 1922 — Booth Tarkington: Alice Adams
  • 1921 — Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence
  • 1920 — no award given
  • 1919 — Booth Tarkington: The Magnificent Ambersons
  • 1918 — Ernest Poole: His Family
  • 1917 — no award given