I'm a bit late on this, but I wanted to call your attention to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners. They were announced back in April by Columbia University. In any given year, I manage to read a couple of books that end up being nominated. This past year I only read one of the nominees.
Actually, I just now finished, and the book was Strout's novel Olive Kitterridge. I really must find more time to read. From the time I started her book to now, I read other books so it's not that I'm the slowest reader in the world. Some books just take more time and thought.
Pulitzer Prize in Letters
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout for Fiction
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham for Biography
The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin for Poetry
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon for General Nonfiction
Ruined by Lynn Nottage for Drama.
A quick way to take the cultural pulse is to see what is being nominated for literary prizes.