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Auction of Pulitzer-winning books supports Literacy Council

Posted on Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 9:00 am


Elena Cawley


The Book Shelf is offering bibliophiles a chance to add a library of award-winning titles to their collection while also supporting the community.

The used bookstore located inside Northgate Mall, will hold an event on Thursday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to offer book lovers a chance to bid on a collection of all the books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Dot Watson, vice chair of the Coffee County Literacy Council, peruses of the 90 Pulitzer Prize-winning books The Book Shelf will auction off as a collection to benefit the council’s adult literacy programs. Bidding will begin on April 27 and continue through the end of May.
– Staff Photo by Chris Barstad

The minimum bid for the set of 90 titles is $350, according to Dot Watson, vice chair of the Literacy Council, which operates the Book Shelf. The Literacy Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting adult literacy education in Coffee County. Bidding will continue until the end of May.

The Book Shelf is staffed entirely by Literacy Council members and volunteers and every penny collected from book sales goes directly to support the Literacy Council’s effort to help adults prepare for the GED.

Most of the books in the set were donated by author April Kelly, according to Watson.

“She lives in Lynchburg, and she was downsizing, so she gave us a large number of books, most of which were Pulitzer Prize winners,” Watson said.

For almost 40 years, Kelly has written for comedy clubs, Vegas acts and TV shows. Among other nominations and awards, Kelly has earned two Emmy nominations. In 2000, she moved from Los Angeles to Lynchburg.

“April Kelly had collected those books, and we’ve been blessed she donated them,” Watson said. “We have gotten the few books we were missing otherwise to complete the set.”

The 2017 Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday, with “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead winning the award in the fiction category. In his book, Whitehead tells the story of young slave, Cora. In the book, engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tunnels beneath the Southern ground. Cora embarks on a journey seeking freedom and encounters different worlds on each stage of her trip, according to the National Book Foundation.

Watson said she’s excited to add “The Underground Railroad” to the set.

The Pulitzer Prize has recognized exceptional literary work since 1918. The award in the fiction category distinguishes fiction by an American author, dealing with American life, published in the preceding year.

“We think it’s appropriate to have a celebration at the start of the second century of the Pulitzer Prizes,” Watson said. “We will have an all-day event at the Book Shelf. We will have all the Pulitzer Prize winners out, and we’re going to take bids on them as a whole.”

Some of the books are hardback and some are paperback. Most of them are in great condition, according to Watson.

Watson mentioned some of her favorite books that are among the set of 90 Pulitzer Prize winners.

One is “Beloved” by Tony Morrison,” she said. “People really love that one.”

“Beloved” is set in 19th century and tells the story of a slave, Sethe. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, which won in 1961, and “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, awarded in 1939, are also among the books in the set.

“Of course, there’s Robert Penn Warren, who wrote ‘All the King’s Men,’” Watson said. “That book received the award in 1947. The book was also made into a movie. Robert Penn Warren is also one of the noted people of Vanderbilt.”

Born in Kentucky in 1925, Warren entered the Vanderbilt University when he was 16. While at Vanderbilt, he was tutored by some of the most renowned literature teachers of the time. Later, when he was an established poet, critic and novelist, he taught at Vanderbilt University. As a poet, he was appointed the first U.S. Poet Laureate. The first film version of “All the King’s Men” was released in 1949, according to www.robertpennwarren.com.

“Among the books in the set are also “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, awarded in 1953, and two William Faulkner’s books,” Watson said. “’A Fable’ won in 1955, and ‘The Reivers’ won in 1963.”

Though the Pulitzer Prizes’ centennial was last year, only 90 books have received the award for fiction because 11 years the fiction jury determined the provided options were equal and didn’t designate a winner.

Pulitzer Prizes recognize incredible work in the fields of journalism, literature, music and drama. The lasting influence of the Pulitzer Prizes is attributed to Hungarian-born Joseph Pulitzer’s vision. Pulitzer was a skillful newspaper publisher and fought against dishonest government. His innovative work reshaped newspaper journalism.

Watson said, the goal of the event is not making a lot of money. She hopes the book collection gets in the hands of someone who will really love and appreciate the books.

For more information, call Watson at (931) 273-8001.