Books To Get You Thinking

Each year, April is abuzz with excitement and projections about the likely winners of Columbia University’s prestigious Pulitzer Prizes that are awarded in the field of journalism as well as in Letters, Drama and Music, covering the categories of fiction, nonfiction, drama, history and biography. A committee comprised of top luminaries from the world of writing spends months sifting through hundreds of manuscripts before honing down the finalists and the winners for the Pulitzer. In 2012 the Pulitzer Committee caused quite a stir by not awarding any winner in the fiction category. Needless to say it was with even greater anticipation that the literary world waited to hear about the 2013 Pulitzer for fiction this year. At the Mercer County Library we are excited to present readers with the full line of 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning books:

Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss  
Riveting and enthralling this book, a winner in the Biography Category, carries readers back to eighteenth century France to the true life story of the real Count of Monte Cristo, General Thomas Alexandre Dumas, who was the inspiration behind the books penned by his son, the famous author Alexandre Dumas. Based on extensive historical research in France, the book traces the life of the original Alex Dumas from his birth in 1762 in the French colony of Saint Domingue, the son of a French nobleman and a black slave. Tim Reiss takes us on a fascinating journey as we watch the young Dumas grow up in pre-revolutionary France, rising to the rank of swashbuckling general who successfully leads an army of 50,000 men on several missions in Europe. The dashing General Dumas’ illustrious military career was doomed, however, as Napoleon gradually rose to power and viewed him as a potential political rival, imprisoning him in a dungeon in Italy. He died a broken man, the only statue commemorating his achievements was torn down by the Nazis and today there is no memorial of any kind to remind people of this remarkable historical figure.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson                                                                                                              
The author Adam Johnson, an associate professor in creative writing at Stanford University, has crafted this haunting novel that won the Pulitzer in the Category of Fiction. The book is set against the backdrop of the authoritarian political landscape of North Korea, a country largely shrouded in mystery. The central character in the plot is Jun-Do who is separated from his young, beautiful mother when she is kidnapped. He grows up in an orphanage in a harsh environment during a period when much of the countryside was in the grip of a severe famine. Based on six years of research as well as a personal visit to North Korea, Johnson paints a vivid picture of the country through the story of Jun Do, his rise to success in the army, then his abrupt fall from favor and subsequent  transfer to a labor camp where the  prisoners were worked relentlessly under excruciatingly grueling conditions. Jun Do has an overriding desire to be reunited with his mother and be part of the elite group of which she had now become. In the saga that follows, readers catch a glimmer of the harsh realities of life faced by the people under the tyrannical regime of Kim Jong Il.

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King                                                                                                                                                                                    
A deeply researched and spellbinding narrative about Thurgood Marshall, one of America’s greatest lawyers and the first African American to hold the office of Supreme Court Justice. He was largely instrumental in ending legal segregation in America and put his life on the line defending Civil Rights.  This Pulitzer Prize winner in the Non-Fiction Category specifically singles out the 1949 legal case that Thurgood Marshall fought in defense of four young black men who were falsely accused of raping a seventeen-year-old white woman from Florida.  Gilbert King skillfully pulls together all the different players and events in this tragic story: the wealthy orange growers of Florida who depended on cheap black labor for their profits, the murderous and violent Sheriff of Lake County, Willis McCall who conspired with them, the vengeful Prosecutor, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Ku Klux Klan who wanted to preserve the old ways of the South.   Piece by piece King lays out the facts of this heart-wrenching saga of the dynamic Civil Rights lawyer.  Marshall fights to save the lives of these young boys who had dared to look at life beyond the Florida citrus groves. The book is an eloquent testimonial to the remarkable courage and resolve of Thurgood Marshall while, at the same time, bringing to the forefront one of the darker chapters in America’s history.

                                                                                                                                             -Nita Mathur 


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