Part of why I love reading books is because I love talking about books with other people. And Pulitzer Prize winning books are always thought-provoking, of course, but even more so, they give us all a reason to all get on the same page. This year's winners are all excellent, and track such a wide range of issues that we should all be talking about anyway. Here are the books to add to your reading list, ASAP.
FOR A NOVEL
The Nickel Boys
This is Whitehead’s second Pulitzer win. His first, The Underground Railroad, is excellent as well of course, but The Nickel Boys tracks Elwood Curtis in the 1960s. Based on a real story of a reform school that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is fiction at its finest, and most devastating.
FOR A BIOGRAPHY
If you needed an excuse to read this definitive biography on Sontag, here it is: it just won a Pulitzer. No writer is as associated with the American twentieth century as Sontag, and this biography not only tracks her mythologized and misunderstood life, but also delves deeply into the work upon which her reputation was ultimately based on. It’s the first book based on the writer’s restricted archives, and on access to people who have never before spoken about Sontag, including Annie Leibovitz.
FOR A HISTORY LESSON
Sweet Taste of Liberty
This book is an extraordinary true story of a black woman, Henrietta Wood, who escaped slavery not once, but twice, and who went on to acheive much more. This book tracks Wood’s fight for justice, and through eight years of litigation and reparations for damages inflicted. Sweet Taste of Liberty isn’t just about slavery, in fact, it details the connections between it and the prison system that would rise up to take its place.
Jericho Brown is concerned with questions core to humanity: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Poems of fatherhood, blackness, and queerness, are propelled into clarity by Brown’s new invention of the duplex—a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues.
The End of the Myth
Since America was founded, the frontier has been forever on the horizon. In a full sweep of U.S. history Grandin examines America’s constant expansion as a guise to deflect the country’s outward facing problems. In the end, the border wall, real or metaphorical, serves as a rallying cry for Trump supporters that marks the end of American exceptionalism.
FOR NONFICTION PT. 2
After being diagnosed with triple breast cancer, Boyer, living paycheck to paycheck as a single mother, set off on an examination of the gendered politics of illness. A genre bending memoir ideal for the times we’re living in now, Boyer intervenes in our discourses about sickness and health, art and science, and mortality in death, right when we need it most.
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