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The Pulitzer Prizes were established in 1917 with an endowment from Joseph Pulitzer to Columbia University to recognise significant achievements in journalism, letters, drama, and music. In the latter years of the 19th century, Joseph Pulitzer stood out as the very embodiment of American journalism. Hungarian-born, an intense indomitable figure, Pulitzer was the most skillful of newspaper publishers, a passionate crusader against dishonest government. Each winner receives a $10,000 cash award.
Fiction: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Alfred A. Knopf), an inventive look at growing up and growing old in the digital age. Finalists: The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (Random House) and The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead Books).
Drama: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, about America's sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness. Finalists: Detroit by Lisa D'Amour and A Free Man of Color by John Guare.
History: The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, by Eric Foner (W.W. Norton & Co.), about Lincoln's changing views of slavery. Finalists: Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South by Stephanie McCurry (Harvard University Press) and Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson (Harvard University Press).
Biography: Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press), a portrait of an iconic leader learning to master his private feelings in order to fulfill his public duties. Finalists: The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century by Alan Brinkley (Alfred A. Knopf) and Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon by Michael O'Brien (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Poetry: The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, by Kay Ryan (Grove Press), a body of work spanning 45 years. Finalists: The Common Man by Maurice Manning (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Break the Glass by Jean Valentine (Copper Canyon Press).
General Nonfiction: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner), an inquiry into the long history of an insidious disease. Finalists: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain by Nicholas Carr (W.W. Norton & Co.) and Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne (Scribner).
Music: Zhou Long for Madame White Snake, which the Boston Opera premiered on Feb. 26, 2010. It's an opera that draws on a Chinese folk tale. Libretto by Cerise Lim Jacobs (Oxford University Press). Finalists: Fred Lerdahl for Arches, which premiered on Nov. 19, 2010, at Columbia University, and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon for Comala, a recording released in June by Bridge Records
Letters, Drama, and Music
Fiction: Tinkers by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press)
Drama: Next to Normal, music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey
History: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed (The Penguin Press)
Biography or Autobiography: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf)
Poetry: Versed by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press)
General Nonfiction: The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman (Doubleday)
Music: Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon (Lawdon Press)
Awarded to Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories, by Elizabeth Strout (Random House), a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins), a haunting novel that explores racial discord, loss of land and changing fortunes in a corner of North Dakota where Native Americans and whites share a tangled history; and
All Souls by Christine Schutt (Harcourt), a memorable novel that focuses on the senior class at an exclusive all-girl Manhattan prep school where a beloved student battles a rare cancer, fiercely honest, carefully observed and subtly rendered.
Awarded to American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham (Random House), an unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat but a pivotal president, written with an agile prose that brings the Jackson saga to life.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, by H.W. Brands (Doubleday), a richly textured and highly readable exploration of the inner Roosevelt, presented with analytical acuity and flashes of originality;
The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, by Steve Coll (The Penguin Press), an epic tale extending far beyond Osama Bin Laden and the calamity of 9/11, rooted in meticulous research and written with an urgency, clarity and flair that entertains as easily as it educates.
Awarded to Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday), a precise and eloquent work that examines a deliberate system of racial suppression and that rescues a multitude of atrocities from virtual obscurity.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age, by Arthur Herman (Bantam Books), an authoritative, deeply researched book that achieves an extraordinary balance in weighing two mighty protagonists against each other;
and The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europee, by William I. Hitchcock (FreePress), a heavily documented exploration of the overlooked suffering of noncombatants in the victory over Nazi Germany, written with the dash of a novelistand the authority of a scholar.
Awarded to The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company), a painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, by Drew Gilpin Faust (Alfred A. Knopf), a deeply researched, gracefully written examination of how a divided nation struggled to comprehend the meaning and practical consequences of unprecedented human carnage;
and The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s, by G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot (The Penguin Press), an elegantly written account of a brief period in American history that left a profoundly altered national landscape.
Awarded to The Shadow of Sirius, by W. S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of luminous, often tender poems that focus on the profound power of memory.
"Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Watching the Spring Festival, by Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a book of lyric poems that evinces compassion for the human condition as it explores the constraints that limit the possibility of people changing the course of their lives;
and What Love Comes to: New and Selected Poems, by Ruth Stone (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of poems that give rich drama to ordinary experience, deepening our sense of what it means to be human.
For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Awarded to “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage, a searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “Becky Shaw,” by Gina Gionfriddo, a jarring comedy that examines family and romantic relationships with a lacerating wit while eschewing easy answers and pat resolutions; and “In The Heights,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, a robust musical about struggling Latino immigrants in New York City today that celebrates the virtues of sacrifice, family solidarity and gritty optimism.
For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Awarded to “Double Sextet,” by Steve Reich (Boosey & Hawkes), premiered on March 26, 2008 in Richmond, VA, a major work that displays an ability to channel an initial burst of energy into a large-scale musical event, built with masterful control and consistently intriguing to the ear.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “7 Etudes for Solo Piano,” by Don Byron (nottuskegeelike music/BMI), premiered on March 15, 2008 at Hallwall’s Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo, NY, a deft set of studies that display rhythmic inventiveness and irresistible energy, charm and wit; and “Brion,” by Harold Meltzer (Urban Scrawl Music Company), premiered on April 23, 2008 at Merkin Hall, New York City, a sonic portrait of a cemetery in northern Italy painted with the touch of a watercolorist and marked by an episodic structure and vivid playfulness that offer a graceful, sensual and contemplative experience.