The Pulitzer Prize: One Book at a Time

A year ago I was sitting upstairs at City Lights Books in San Francisco, paying a visit to a fellow bookseller, when a man came bounding up the precarious old stairwell with a white, hardcover book in hand. He exchanged a few words with my friend and handed him the book. I was introduced and it turned out that the man was an author from Massachusetts, not too far from my bookstore near Boston.

A writing instructor at Harvard, this was his first novel, and though it was released originally as a paperback, the book buyer at the venerated California bookstore Book Passage was so thrilled by it, she convinced the publisher to print a small, special run of 500 hardcover editions to commemorate such a beautiful work. The writer was Paul Harding, and his novel Tinkers was just awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

It is a testament to the enthusiasm of independent booksellers, small publishers, and energetic authors that stories like this occur more often than one might think, and certainly more often than we hear. Everything from A Confederacy of Dunces to The Kite Runner comes to mind. Around the country there are individuals who take giant chances with very little money because they love what they do and they believe in the power of books like Tinkers.

It often seems there are those who are driven to design models for how things should work and those who live for what they do, with passion and love. Those who make models end up playing with models while those with passion get to live in the world in the best way imaginable, making a positive mark on the lives of the people around them. Paul Harding's success is due to his powerful writing and his passionate work alongside passionate supporters. Kudos to them all. Their work is noticed, one book at a time, often through happenstance, in the most thrilling ways.