Being a nerd who has always taken pride in a self-proclaimed broad(ish) range of knowledge, a thought occurred to me among the shelves one day, "Wouldn't it be cool to read them ALL?" That thought was followed closely by this one, "Oh right! Who has the time?" I mean, let's get serious, that's a LOT of books. (85, to be exact.) Some of them are quite intimidating. (I'm looking at you, Norman Mailer.) And you know, I have a life. School, work, family, friends, boyfriend, yoga, cooking, napping, you name it! And although I put the thought aside at the time, it was always there in the back of my mind. Lurking. Waiting for just the right moment.
A few weeks ago I found myself in a familiar spot: the literature section of a local bookstore. I turned to my trusty smart phone to see who won the 2012 fiction category and was surprised to find that no award had been granted. Incredulous, I thought, "Can they even do that?" Well yes, as it turns out, they can. They have done it quite a bit actually. Eleven times in all, including this year. I figured that out because I ended up entering all of the prizewinning works into an ultra-nerdy Excel spreadsheet with other details about each book. Like the number of pages (nerd alert! I had to manually look those up), if I'd ever read it before, and if the author was a man or a woman. I learned some interesting things:
- Of the 85 winners, I've already read eleven (I am a literary genius!): Gone With the Wind, The Old Man and the Sea, To Kill A Mockingbird, Lonesome Dove, The Hours, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Middlesex, The Road, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Tinkers, and A Visit from the Goon Squad.
- An approximate total page count for all 85 works is just over 34,000. I had to guess at a couple that are out of print. To read them all in a year's time, you have to average 94 pages per day.
- The Pulitzer for fiction has only been awarded to women on 29 occasions, and no woman has ever won more than once - unlike Messrs. Tarkington, Faulkner and Updike, who've each won it twice.
The rules are simple: We will each read every book in chronological order and blog along the way. We start June 1, 2012 and have until May 31, 2013 to get through 34,000 pages of award-winning American literature. Please read along with us, share your thoughts on the books, and send words of encouragement. Or, you know, laugh at what could easily turn into a hair-ripping-out experience of unprecedented magnitude.