Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is one of the seven American Pulitzer Prizes that are annually awarded for Letters, Drama, and Music. It recognizes distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, published during the preceding calendar year. As the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, it was one of the original Pulitzers; the program was inaugurated in 1917 with seven prizes, four of which were awarded that year.[1] (No Novel prize was awarded in 1917; the first was awarded in 1918.)[2]

Finalists have been announced since 1980, ordinarily a total of three.[2]


In 31 years under the "Novel" name, the prize was awarded 27 times; in its first 69 years to 2016 under the "Fiction" name, 62 times. In 11 years, no novel received the award. It has never been shared by two authors.[2] Three writers have won two prizes each in the Fiction category: Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, and John Updike.









Entries from this point on include the finalists listed after the winner for each year.




Repeat winners

Three writers to date have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction multiple times, one nominally in the novel category and two in the general fiction category. Ernest Hemingway was selected by the 1941 and 1953 juries, but the former was overturned and no 1941 award was given.[lower-alpha 2]


  1. First-time fiction juror Stuart P. Sherman initially recommended Joseph Hergesheimer's Java Head for the award; he rescinded his recommendation when the other jurors informed him that the word "whole" in a key phrase of the original description of the award, "the whole atmosphere of American life", had been subsequently been changed to "wholesome".[3]
  2. The fiction jury had recommended the 1941 award be shared by The Trees by Conrad Richter and The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. While the Pulitzer Board initially intended to give the award to the jury's third choice, Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, the president of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler, persuaded the board to reverse its judgment because he deemed the novel offensive, and no award was given that year.[3][4]
  3. Though Apartment in Athens by Glenway Wescott, The Wayfarers by Dan Wickenden, and Black Boy by Richard Wright were each championed by at least one juror, the jury as a whole could not reach a consensus; one point of contention over Black Boy specifically was that the book is a memoir, not a novel.[3]
  4. The two-man fiction jury could not agree on a single book to recommend to the Advisory Board, so no award was given; among the books recommended by juror Eric P. Kelly were Ramey by Jack D. Ferris, The Sands of Karakorum by James Ullman, The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, and The Four Lives of Mundy Tolliver by Ben Lucien Burman, while juror Harris F. Fletcher recommended The Street of the Three Friends by Myron Brinig and The Deep Sleep by Wright Morris[3]
  5. The fiction jury had recommended the 1957 award to Elizabeth Spencer's The Voice at the Back Door, but the Pulitzer board, which has sole discretion for awarding the prize, made no award.[4]
  6. "Among the books the judges most seriously considered were the following: (1) Norman Fruchter's Coat Upon a Stick…, (2) May Sarton's novella Joanna and Ulysses…, (3) Sumner Locke Elliott's Careful, He Might Hear You…, [and] (4) John Killens' And Then We Heard the Thunder… If a prize were to be awarded for a 1963 novel we felt these to be the most serious candidates." However, the fiction jury ultimately recommended that no award be given because "no one of them imposes itself upon us as demanding recognition as 'distinguished fiction'…."[3]
  7. The three novels the Pulitzer committee put forth for consideration to the Pulitzer board were: Losing Battles by Eudora Welty; Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow; and The Wheel of Love by Joyce Carol Oates. The board rejected all three and opted for no award.[5]
  8. The fiction jury had unanimously recommended the 1974 award to Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, but the Pulitzer board, which has sole discretion for awarding the prize, made no award.[4]
  9. The fiction jury had recommended the 1977 award to Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It, but the Pulitzer board, which has sole discretion for awarding the prize, made no award. That same year, however, Alex Haley's iconic family saga Roots was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize.[4]


  1. "1917 Pulitzer Prizes". The Pulitzer Prizes (pulitzer.org). Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  2. "Pulitzer Prize for the Novel". The Pulitzer Prizes (pulitzer.org). Retrieved 2008-08-19.
  3. Hohenberg, John (1974). The Pulitzer Prizes: A History of the Awards in Books, Drama, Music, and Journalism, Based on the Private Files Over Six Decades. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 55, 143–44, 198, 204, 258. ISBN 0231038879.
  4. McDowell, Edwin. "PUBLISHING: PULITZER CONTROVERSIES". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-04-19. [I]n 1941, after both the jury and the board voted to give the fiction prize to Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia and ex-officio chairman of the board, forced the board to change its vote because he found the book offensive.
  5. Fischer, Heinz Dietrich; Fischer, Erika J. (1997). Novel/Fiction Awards 1917–1994: From Pearl S. Buck and Margaret Mitchell to Ernest Hemingway and John Updike. The Pulitzer Prize Archive. 10 (in part D, "Belles Lettres"). München: K.G. Saur. pp. LX–LXI. ISBN 9783110972115. OCLC 811400780.
  6. "2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes (pulitzer.org). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  7. "The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction". The Pulitzer Prizes (pulitzer.org). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  8. "2017 Pulitzer Prizes". The Pulitzer Prizes (pulitzer.org). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
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