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My Bold Prediction Was Wrong! Night Watch Takes the Pulitzer for Fiction, 2024

Picture of book cover for Night Watch by Jayne Anne Phillips, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction

Certainty is always dangerous!

I was so sure! Enthralled by walking through three centuries of American History on a single piece of land, (via reading,) I believed that Daniel Mason's North Woods would win the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Admittedly, I was a little cocky because the previous year, I had predicted that Barbara Kingsolver's Demon Copperhead would win, and it did.

Keep in mind that it was crazy for me to predict anything. I am not a Pulitzer Prize expert, nor am I a literary insider. I'm simply an avid reader who is passionate about books and who thought that North Woods would win.

The problem with my prediction, however, is that the public doesn't know which books have been nominated, so there is no way to read all the nominated novels BEFORE the judging. I didn't even know which books were possible winners. The two finalists Wednesday’s Child, by Yiyun Li, and Same Bed, Different Dreams, by Ed Park, weren't on my radar, and I hadn't written them down in my notebook of the titles of books that I hope to read. (Currently a list of 106!) No doubt, I'll have to live a long time and keep my eyesight to enjoy my To Be Read (TBR) list!

About Night Watch

Keep in mind that I haven't read the novel, Night Watch. The novel takes place right at the end of the Civil War and into the years after. It centers around a traumatized mother and her daughter who end up in a lunatic asylum in West Virginia.

The early review from the New York Times was not a glowing one. (Another writer about books who may have to eat his words!) Dwight Garner wrote in October of 2023 that the Jayne Anne Phillips' novel, Night Watch, was...

"sludgy, claustrophobic and pretentious. Each succeeding paragraph took something out of me."

Needless to say, I didn't feel compelled to take another look after reading this review.

Obviously, not everyone shared this reviewer's opinions!

Reading the Pulitzer-Prize-Winners for Fiction

One of my ongoing goals is to read the prize-winning Pulitzers in Fiction for the last twenty-five years. I am way behind, but I am adding Night Watch to Jayne Anne Phillips to my TBR.

If you, too, would like to read the fiction winners, here's an easy guide:

Infographic of Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction since 2000

On a different note: The Pulitzer Prize for Biography

As soon as I read the review on Master, Slave, Husband, Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo, I knew I had to read it. It's the true tale of a slave couple in the 1840s who traveled openly to freedom because the wife "passed" as white, and the husband pretended to be her slave. Only the twist in the story is that wife disguised herself as a wealthy disabled man. They made it to Boson, where they became Abolitionist speakers, until the Fugitive Slave Law forced them to flee to Canada

I promptly ordered Master Slave Husband Wife, and it's been patiently biding its time on my shelf.

The time is now! Master, Slave, Husband, Wife was one of the two Pulitzer Prize winners in the Biography category. The other winner was King: A Life by Jonathon Eig, a portrait of Martin Luther King.

So many books...

One of my favorite nightshirts is an oversized cotton t-shirt with a picture of a woman sitting on a stack of books. The caption reads, "So many books. So little time."

So true!

Isn't it wonderful to have all these great books to look forward to? Pulitzer prize winner or not, books entertain, educate, soothe, and amuse me, and I'm blessed by the phenomenal stories waiting to be read!


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Buy Night Watch from Amazon 

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David Houser
David Houser
5 days ago

I have read six of the books on the Pulitzer Prize list. All excellent books. I have recently joined a Book Club and will share your newsletter with them. Thank you for the list and commentary.


Melissa Gouty
Melissa Gouty
3 hours ago
Replying to

Wow! David, please tell me how you knew which six were going to be on the list! I'd love it if you'd share that with me. 😂 I just finished Night Watch. Didn't like it nearly as well as North Woods and felt it wasn't nearly as imaginative or interesting a story, but that's just me! I appreciate you sharing my newsletter and just talking books with me and others. My next read is "Husband, Slave, Master, Wife." I look forward to the day when I can quit working full-time and read more. "So many books. So little time," indeed. Thanks again for your interest.

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