Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Honor of the Nomination

It's been a rough couple of weeks in Book Land.  If you've been hiding under rocks, you might have missed the Department of Justice using anti-trust laws...to secure a monopoly in the e-book market.  No, really.  By suing five of the "big six" publishers for collusion with Apple in setting e-book prices--the Agency Model in publishing which has provided a level playing field for e-book retailers for the last two years and ending the price wars that were devaluing books and threatening the survival of bookstores and publishers alike--the DoJ has given Amazon the ability to undercut book prices once more.  (Random House, the sixth of the "big six," was not involved in the suit.  Several publishers have settled, but Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin are fighting.)

And then yesterday the Pulitzer Prizes were announced...and the board failed to select a fiction winner.  Apart from the travesty of not naming an outstanding book in a year that included some terrific books like Open City, The Art of Fielding, The Buddha in the Attic, Salvage the Bones, The Tiger's Wife, bookstores and the winning book's publisher have lost millions of dollars in book sales and readers have lost a focal point for book discussions. It's a shame.  The jury did select three finalists for the prize--Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, and Karen Russell's Swamplandia!  I (Liz) loved Swamplandia!, making it my second favorite book (and tops by an American) for 2011, so I'm a bit bitter. I really wanted it to win, but as one of my booksellers pointed out, Karen Russell is super-young (29 years old), this was her first novel, and she's going to be writing brilliant fiction for a long, long time to come.

So here's what I think we should do in this year of no winner.  Let's go back and read the finalists for the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction.  Unlike the National Book Award which names finalists in advance of the award, the Pulitzer finalists aren't announced until the award is given (or withheld).  The finalists selected each year are some of the best books written--and not just in the book's year of publication--but often are forgotten.  They don't receive seals on their covers stating "Pulitzer Prize finalist."  They become footnotes.

Here you go--the list since 2000.  Pick a book.  Read it.  Share it with a friend.  Let us know what you think.

  • The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (2012)
  • Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (2012)
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (2012) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (2011)
  • The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee (2011)
  • Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet (2010)
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (2010)
  • The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (2009)
  • All Souls by Christine Schutt (2009)
  • Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (2008) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • Shakespeare's Kitchen by Lore Segal (2008)
  • After This by Alice McDermott (2007)
  • The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (2007)
  • The March by E.L. Doctorow (2006) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • The Bright Forever by Lee Martin (2006)
  • War Trash by Ha Jin (2005) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • An Unfinished Season by Ward Just (2005)
  • American Woman by Susan Choi (2004)
  • Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins (2004) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • Servants of the Map: Stories by Andrea Barrett (2003)
  • You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett (2003) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2002) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead (2002) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates (2001) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams (2001)
  • Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx  (2000) Liz and Gianna recommend
  • Waiting by Ha Jin (2000) Liz and Gianna recommend
There are many other great books dating back further, and you can see the full list on the Pulitzer Prize website, here.  Happy reading, and let's celebrate these great books.  Sometimes it really is an honor just to be nominated.  And hopefully the Pulitzer board will get their act together next year.

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