I have read a few novels which have won the coveted Pulitzer Prize. So far, reading these novels has left me scratching my head as to why they won. Because of this, I have looked up and read several accounts of how these books are chosen. One account was written by one of the jurors on the 2012 jury, which was extremely interesting because the panel decided not to award a prize that year.
The process, as it stands today, is this: 3 fiction jurors are selected. They change yearly, and are tied closely to the world of books. Sometimes they are authors, critics, professors, editors, etc. Over the course of the year, the jurors each receive over 300 books, shipped in increments of about 30. These books are culled from books published that year which meet the criteria of the Pulitzer for Fiction: “for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.” This criteria has changed over the course of years, and there is a wonderful summary on JW Rosenzweig's blog found here.
Pulitzer winners I have read:
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - 1937
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - 1961
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole - 1981
Beloved by Toni Morrison - 1988
Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser - 1997
Empire Falls by Richard Russo - 2002
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - 2005
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - 2009
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan - 2011
Of these books, I would recommend all simply based on the fact that they are winners. However, I can only recommend based on my personal feelings only four of them. Four out of the nine that I have read. Not a very good average, I'd say.
More coming on my Pulitzer Progress.