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. (No Novel prize was awarded in 1917; the first was awarded in 1918.)
Finalists have been announced since 1980, ordinarily a total of three.
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. Three writers have won two prizes each in the Fiction category: Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, and John Updike.
- 1920: no award given
- 1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
- 1922: Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
- 1923: One of Ours by Willa Cather
- 1924: The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson
- 1925: So Big by Edna Ferber
- 1926: Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis (declined prize)
- 1927: Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield
- 1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
- 1929: Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin
- 1930: Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge
- 1931: Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes
- 1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
- 1933: The Store by Thomas Sigismund Stribling
- 1934: Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller
- 1935: Now in November by Josephine Winslow Johnson
- 1936: Honey in the Horn by Harold L. Davis
- 1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- 1938: The Late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand
- 1939: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
- 1940: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- 1941: no award given
- 1942: In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow
- 1943: Dragon's Teeth by Upton Sinclair
- 1944: Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin
- 1945: A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
- 1946: no award given
- 1947: All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
- 1948: Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
- 1949: Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens
- 1950: The Way West by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
- 1951: The Town by Conrad Richter
- 1952: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
- 1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- 1954: No award given
- 1955: A Fable by William Faulkner
- 1956: Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
- 1957: No award given
- The Voice At The Back Door by Elizabeth Spencer
- 1958: A Death in the Family by James Agee (posthumous win)
- 1959: The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor
- 1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
- 1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- 1962: The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
- 1963: The Reivers by William Faulkner (posthumous win)
- 1964: No award given
- 1965: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
- 1966: The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter by Katherine Anne Porter
- 1967: The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
- 1968: The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
- 1969: House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
- 1970: The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford by Jean Stafford
- 1971: No award given
- 1972: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
- 1973: The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
- 1974: No award given
- 1975: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
- 1976: Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
- 1977: No award given
- 1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson
- 1979: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
Entries from this point on include the finalists listed after the winner for each year.
- 1980: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
- 1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (posthumous win)
- 1982: Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
- 1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- 1984: Ironweed by William Kennedy
- 1985: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
- 1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
- 1987: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
- 1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
- 1989: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
- 1990: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
- 1991: Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
- 1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
- 1993: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
- 1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
- 1995: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
- 1996: Independence Day by Richard Ford
- 1997: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
- 1998: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
- 1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
- 2000: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
- 2001: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
- 2002: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
- 2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
- 2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
- 2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
- 2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
- 2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- 2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
- 2009: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
- 2010: Tinkers by Paul Harding
- 2011: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
- 2012: No award given.
- 2013: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
- 2014: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- 2015: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- 2016: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
- Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link
- Maud's Line by Margaret Verble
- 2017: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
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.
- Booth Tarkington, 1919, 1922
- William Faulkner, 1955, 1963 (awarded posthumously)
- John Updike, 1982, 1991
- "1917 Winners". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
- "Pulitzer Prize for the Novel". The Pulitzer Prizes (pulitzer.org). Retrieved 2008-08-19.
- Among the titles the fiction jury considered this year was Joseph Hergesheimer's Java Head. However, one juror strongly objected to the novel, arguing that it was not "wholesome" enough for Pulitzer distinction. Fischer, Heinz Dietrich, and Erika J. Fischer. Chronicle of the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction: Discussions, Decisions and Documents, Munich, K. G. Saur, 2007. 4.
- The fiction jury had recommended the 1941 award go to Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. Although the Pulitzer Board initially agreed with that judgment, 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. McDowell, Edwin. "Publishing: Pulitzer Controversies." New York Times 11 May 1984: C26.
- 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. Source: McDowell, Edwin. "Publishing: Pulitzer Controversies". The New York Times, 11 May 1984: C26.
- 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. Source: Fischer, Heinz-Dietrich. The Pulitzer Prize Archive, Volume 10, "Novel/Fiction Awards 1917-1994". Munich: K.G. Saur, 1994. LX-LXI.
- 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. Source: McDowell, Edwin. "Publishing: Pulitzer Controversies". The New York Times, 11 May 1984: C26.
- 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. Source: McDowell, Edwin. "Publishing: Pulitzer Controversies". The New York Times, 11 May 1984: C26.
- "The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Fiction," The Pulitzer Prizes official website. Accessed Dec. 8, 2015.
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