One-Minute Book Reviews

April 11, 2009

Robinson, Updike or Roth Will Win the 2009 Pulitzer for Fiction, Statistical Analysis Shows — But Don’t Count on It

I’m on record as saying that the frontrunner for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction would seem to be Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy, which I haven’t read. Morrison is the only Nobel Prize–winner in the hunt. And I think it’s going to be tough for the judges to pass over a laureate, although the National Book Critics Circle board did it in March.

But a research scientist and a book collector have reached a different conclusion by using regression analysis, a statistical technique for evaluating variables. The two say that the books most likely to win the 2009 fiction prize are Marilynne Robinson’s Home, John Updike’s The Widows of Eastwick, and Philip Roth’s Indignation. They’ve also identified the 12 other candidates that, based on their analysis, are most like to win, all listed in order at You can read their 2008 predictions — and how they fared — on the same site. The Pulitzer Prizes honor books in five categories — fiction, poetry, history, biography, and general nonfiction — and will be announced on Monday, April 20, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Interesting…having just read Morrison’s A MERCY…I would surely say she is most deserving…but she has won before.

    Comment by David H. Schleicher — April 12, 2009 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  2. Dave —
    These two researchers might argue that having won before will work in her favor, not against. They found the most important predictor of winning a Pulitzer was having won in the past.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — April 12, 2009 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  3. Well, if Morrison wins, it would be the first time I read a Pulitzer prize winning book BEFORE it won that prize. That would be a nice ego boost for me, as if I was ahead of the curve for once, or at least on it.

    Comment by David H. Schleicher — April 12, 2009 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  4. I hope that Roth’s Indignation wins because then it would be MY first time reading a book before it won the prize. Anyway if you want to see some original thoughts on Roth’s newest work take a look at my blog. Who would have thought that Roth looked to Shakespeare for inspiration.

    Comment by jefferyngleaves — April 13, 2009 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

  5. If I were the tsar of prizes, I would have picked “Lavinia,” but oddly enough almost everyone ignored it. I guess they just didn’t like LeGuin stepping outside the world of sci fi, learning Latin, and presuming to add a few chapters to Virgil. So it goes.


    Comment by knightofswords — April 17, 2009 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

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