2013 Pulitzer Prize winners: 4 excellent books

Yes, each one of these four books has now been officially anointed with a 2013 Pulitzer Prize. But that's not the only reason we are recommending them to you. Months before the Pulitzer Prize committee got there, the Monitor's book critics had already let readers know that these books were something special. Here's why.

1. "The Orphan Master's Son," by Adam Johnson

A thriller set in North Korea? It may seem an unlikely concept for a work of fiction by a Western author, but Adam Johnson – who teaches creative writing at Stanford University – made it work and now has the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction to show for his efforts.

David Holahan, reviewing "The Orphan Master's Son" for the Monitor last year, calls this novel "wonderfully written and gripping, rich in symbolism, and replete with quirky characters, from the Dear One (leader Kim Jong-il, who died last year) to the latest apple of his eye, a naked American nighttime rower."

This is a book, Holahan says, "worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence with 'Darkness at Noon' and '1984.' It is a reminder of our potential for depravity, our capacity for deliberate, institutional evil."

Holahan was already predicting – last February – that Johnson would be turning students away in his next semester. And that was before yesterday's Pulitzer Prize announcement. Just imagine the rush next fall!

You can read the Monitor's full review of this book here.

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