Book enthusiast dedicates herself to reading 100 award-winning books in a single year

Published 8:18 am Thursday, December 13, 2018

Authors have been receiving Pulitzer prizes for their work in fictional literature for 100 years, and many people have attempted to read all of these award-winning pieces within their lifetime. One Elizabethton resident, however, wants to read all 100 of them in a single year.

Leana Charleigh Holman was taking a university class when she heard about Norway’s “Library of the Future,” in which one author would write a novel for that particular year, and then someone else would write a novel the next year, until 100 years had passed, and Norway would then open its new library in 2114. This would allow people to see the evolution of language and how the novel as an art form had evolved through the years.

“I thought that was so weird,” Holman said. “Imagine if the library had been built in 1914. Then I realized, if I could not time travel, why don’t I go back and read these books instead?”

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Holman said she is certainly not the only person to decide to read all 100 Pulitzer-winning books of fiction, but said her determination led her to create a specific schedule of how she would accomplish her goal in just one year instead of merely during her lifetime.

“I wanted a definitive start and end date, so I decided to do it within a year,” she said.

Her dedication to the task led her to purchase the books from websites and other stores so she could read all of them physically instead of online or on a Kindle.

Technically, she said only 89 fictional books received Pulitzer prizes. Of those 100 years, 11 of them featured no true winner. For the 11 odd years, she purchased the runners-up instead.

She said her strategy is to determine the number of pages she would need to read per month and go from there, as opposed to reading a certain number of books, since the page lengths can vary between small novellas to 1,000-word novels or longer.

“If we say each book is about 500 pages, I decided I needed to read about 3,000 pages a month, or about two books a week,” Holman said.

As the project continued, she partnered with the Elizabethton/Carter County Library to develop a list of 12 books from the list to feature in the library throughout 2019, so those interested could participate as well, selecting the first and last Pulitzer winners as well as 10 other books in between.

“We wanted them to be at least nine years apart,” Holman said. “The library ordered between five to 10 copies of each book, and they said they will be there by at least December 15.”

She said this will give people the chance to see how the English language and art of writing have evolved through the years without having to read every single one of them.

Holman said she has always had a love of reading, owning her own expansive bookshelf in her home. She said she made it a point to read these books outside of any academic endeavors.

“When you are reading in an academic environment, you’re looking for research value,” Holman said. “When you read for pleasure, I think something happens. You are more open to the story-telling and the language.”

She said reading for pleasure allows the reader to build connections with the characters and ideas that will never happen if people read simply because a teacher told them to.

“You begin to understand how [the themes] are relevant for you,” she said.

Holman has her own blog, in which she said she plans to chronicle her adventures as she reads the 100 books on her list, located at The website also lists the 12 Pulitzer books the county library will have available next week so those interested can follow along.

“I want people to not be afraid of ‘serious’ literature,” Holman said. “Don’t shy away from reading them. There is something in these books for everyone. They are not scary, voluminous books.”