Sunday, September 23, 2007

Top Ten Rarest Pulitzer Prize Books

This list might surprise some who would expect To Kill a Mockingbird or Gone With the Wind to appear. In fact, most people never heard of the books listed below. But Pulitzer collectors will immediately recognize them, and they know all too well that these books are extremely difficult to find in first printings with dust jackets. We have listed them here with links to photos of original dust jackets and copyright pages.

1. So Big by Edna Ferber

2. Lamb in his Bosom by Caroline Miller

3. The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson

4. The Store by T.S. Stribling

5. His Family by Ernest Poole

6. Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin

7. Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes

8. Honey in the Horn by H.L. Davis

9. Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington

10. Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Red Herring

For years Pulitzer collectors were looking for the first state, first edition of John Marquand's The Late George Apley, but they could only find the second state on the market. According to several guidebooks, the difference between the states was found one page 19, line 1. The first state of the first printing said “Pretty Pearl” while the second state said “Lovely Pearl”.

The idea of a first and second state was accepted as fact. But then Pulitzer collectors began to realize two things:

1. Nobody had ever seen an actual first edition in the first state (“Pretty Pearl” instead of “Lovely Pearl”.)

2. But they did see “Pretty Pearl” in all later printings. And that didn’t make much sense. It didn’t seem likely that the publisher started with “Pretty Pearl”, changed it to “Lovely Pearl”, and then changed it back to “Pretty Pearl”.

Recently, collectors started to suspect that perhaps there never was a first state of the first printing, and many have concluded that the guidebooks were wrong. So it seems that for years Pulitzer collectors were looking for a red herring, and book dealers were charging a discount because they thought they had the second state (when in fact there was no first or second state.) Now I have observed that the price of The Late George Apley has increased significantly as people realize the true value of their first editions.

For first edition points of The Late George Apley and a further explanation of the supposed first and second state click here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Top Ten Most Popular Pulitzer Prize Books

Like the Oscars, the Pulitzer Prize has many award categories, and most of these categories are journalistic – Breaking News Reporting, Investigative Reporting, Feature Writing, Commentary, etc. There are also a few book categories – Fiction, General Non-Fiction, History, Biography, and Poetry. But when people talk about collecting Pulitzer Prize books, they are generally talking about the Fiction Category.

With that in mind, here is the top ten most popular Pulitzer Prize for Fiction books:

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

7. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

8. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

9. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener

10. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

In addition, there are few books in the other categories that have particularly popular. They are:

Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy (For Biography)

The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh (For Autobiography)

Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter (for General Non-Fiction)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Caroline Miller

Caroline Miller was an American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1934 for her novel Lamb in his Bosom. She was born August 26, 1903, in Waycross, Georgia, a few miles from where the Suwanee River rises. She grew up in Waycross, and moved to Baxley, Georgia in the late 1920’s. Miller never attended college. After graduating high school, she married William D. Miller, who was her English professor, and who ultimately became superintendent of schools in the Baxley area. The couple had three children – all boys - two of whom were twins.

She wrote Lamb in his Bosom while staying at home with her three young children. Upon it’s publication, the N.Y. Evening Post declared it a “first-rate candidate for the Pulitzer Prize.”

To see a first edition of Now In November click here:

First Edition of Lamb in his Bosom

Miller gathered much of the material for Lamb in his Bosom while she was buying chickens and eggs ten miles in the backwoods. “Almost every incident in Lamb in His Bosom actually occurred. Some of them I heard from my uncles and aunts, some from my mother. I got most of the local color from hereabouts, but the facts from family history and history of other families. I could hardly tell where fact left off and fancy began.”

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Now In November

On May 7th, 1935, President Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia University announced: "For the best American novel published during 1934, Now In November, by Josephine Winslow Johnson." The place was the Commodore Hotel in New York City, the occasion was the annual award of the Pulitzer Prize. Johnson was just twenty-five at the time.

Now In November was published on September 12, 1934. It is the story of a drought, which destroys a midwestern farm in the midst of the Great Depression. It deals with the life of the Haldmarnes – three daughters, father and mother – on a small Midwestern farm which the father is working as a last resort in an effort to provide some security for his children. The story is set down from the point of view of Marget Haldmarne.

From Now in November first edition dust jacket:

She writes of her novel: "I wanted to give a beautiful and yet not incongruous form to the ordinary living of live – to write, as I once said, poetry with its feet on the ground. I have tried to make life into art instead of making art seem alive. I have tried to show things as they are, but to show more also: the underground part of life that is unseen, and the richness which, though visible, is not noticed. I wanted to sketch these characters in a sort of plain idyl, beautiful only insofar as life itself is beautiful."

To see a first edition of Now In November click here:

First Edition of Now In November

Josephine Johnson wrote Now In November while living in her mother's attic in Webster Groves, Mo. She remained on her farm in Webster Groves and completed a book of short stories under the title Winter Orchard. She married Grant G. Cannon, editor in chief of the Farm Quarterly, in 1942. They had three children: Terence, Ann, and Carol. She died on February 27, 1990, in Batavia, Ohio at the age of 79.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Years of Grace

Written in 1930, Years of Grace is a chronicle of American life beginning with the Gay Nineties (1890's that is) and ending in the late Roaring Twenties, at the threshold of the stock market crash of 1929. It covers the life of Jane Ward, from when she was a girl in Chicago, through an aspiring youth, a marriage with Bostonian Stephen Carver, World War I, and the post war boom years. The book is an illustration of American society during this fascinating time period.

Years of Grace won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1931. To see a first edition of the book click here:

First Edition of Years of Grace .

From the first edition dust jacket:

"Margaret Ayer Barnes might never have written anything more than a letter if it had not been for a serious automobile accident in France which occurred about three years ago on the road from Rouen to Paris. This misadventure kept her flat on her back for months, and during this time she began to write short stories and plot out scenes for novels and plays. Harper’s, the Pictorial Review, and the Red Book published her stories as fast as they were written, and later they were brought together in book form under the title 'Prevailing Winds.' Katherine Cornell played in her dramatization of 'The Age of Innocence' and in her 'Dishonered Lady,' written in collaboration with Edward Sheldon. 'Years of Grace' is her first novel."

"Mrs. Marnes is a prominent Chicagoan, a sister of the novelist Janet Fairbank, and was for three years a director of Bryn Mawr College."

"…It definitely places Mrs. Barnes with that little group of American women writers who can be depended upon always to give us keen fictional entertainment and that tingling sense of recognition which is the reader’s deepest pleasure."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hard-to-find dust jackets

There are certain Pulitzer books with dust jackets that are impossible to find; and there are some where I have not seen even a picture. Willa Cather’s One of Ours is a good example. You can’t even buy a photo copy of it. The only thing I know about it is that it’s blue and black.

Scarlet Sister Mary and Now in November used to fall into this category until I saw photos at

Scarlet Sister Mary First Edition Points
Now in November First Edition Points

Stribling’s The Store is a difficult jacket, but at least offers a facsimile at this Link.

They also offer a facsimile of the Alice Adams dust jacket here.

I’m not sure why some jackets are impossible to find while other are not. There are dozens of offerings on eBay and AbeBooks for first edition dust jackets (along with the books) for works like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath,and Gone With The Wind- they simply cost a fortune. But there is currently not one listing for the other books mentioned above. I think it is because these novels are not household names, and when people find these books, they throw them out not realizing how valuable they could be.

More tomorrow...