Publication Order of Standalone Novels
|The Intuitionist||(1998)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|John Henry Days||(2001)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Apex Hides the Hurt||(2006)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Sag Harbor||(2009)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Zone One||(2011)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|The Underground Railroad||(2016)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
Publication Order of Collections
Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books
Colson Whitehead was born in 1969 to parents running an executive recruiting company. As a child Colson attended mainly white private schools, and only really spent time in an all-black environment during the summers, where he spent his holidays in an African-American beach enclave in Sag Harbor, N.Y. Colson, a true New Yorker, born and raised on the urban island of Manhattan, attended Harvard College and graduated in 1991. After his graduation he went on to work for The Village Voice, a free, weekly newspaper with focus on investigative journalism, music and the arts, and in-depth analysis of current affairs and culture.
It was to take another nine years before this African-American author would bless the world with his first piece of literary artistry. In 1999 however, his first novel called The Intuitionist, featuring intrigue and suspense in the Department of Elevator Inspectors was published, and very well received. It would take no longer than a couple years until Colson again was making waves with another novel, John Henry Days, published in 2001. This time Colson?s topic of choice covered a historical man and character from American folklore, John Henry, who died hammer-in-hand building the great American railways.
Colson Whitehead has received many awards over the years, and been very close to winning every prize that he hasn?t yet gotten his hands on. His personal honors include the Whiting Award in 2000, the MacArthur Fellowship in 2002, the Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars Fellowship in 2007, the Dos Passos Prize in 2012, and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013. Other notableachievements include being shortlisted, with his book John Henry Days, for the highest order a writer or journalist could hope to achieve: The Pulitzer Prize.
Colson?s writing can perhaps be best described as quirky, witty and gripping, with just the right touch of a little madness. Many of his novels include elements that you would not experience anywhere outside of a dream. At the same time, he manages to grapple with issues that are politically and socially relevant to the times in which he is living, often relating themto historical events. Even though many of Colson?s books handle the issue of race in some way or another, he is in no way a writer stuck on one theme. Most of the protagonists that the reader meets in his books are black, but it seems to be from more of a personal preference, rather than Colson following a set socio-political agenda.
Colson is a multi-faceted writer with published works ranging from historical dramas, with race in focus, to a joke riddled zombie apocalypse novel, to an autobiographical, mid-life crisis account of his experiences at the World Series of Poker in 2011. The poker-themed book is very different in the way that it is not fictional, it is merely his reflections on the event in which he partook as, perhaps notably, someone who had never played in a casino tournament ever before.
Now rather than going into a lengthy list of the published works of Colson Whitehead it is more useful to talk about some of his earlier works in greater detail. Looking at Colson?s first two books, The Intuitionist and John Henry Days, provides a useful backdrop to the works he has written later on.
Colson’s first book is set in New York, in a time before civil rights was a thing, and where the amount of dollars in your bank account directly correlates with the amount of power you hold over society. What sets this book apart from the rest is that the focusing is on a very niche group of people, namely elevator inspectors. The elevator in this book is seen as the sole biggest technological advance of the century, where vertical transportation in a jungle of skyscrapers is a must. The elevator inspectors are divided into two contrasting schools of inspection; the Intuitionists and the Empiricists. The former group, to which the heroine of the book, Lila Mae Watson, belongs, inspects elevators based on intuition and psychic feel of theelevators vibrations. The Empiricists, in this case the bad guys, rely heavily on inspecting the machinery for flaws. Without getting too much into the nitty gritty of the book, it largely reads like a suspense novel, but actively tackles the issues of racial struggle and social progress.
For his efforts with The Intuitionist, Colson received the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award, was a finalist in the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, and it got the New York Times Notable Book – title.
John Henry Days
Colson’s second novel follows an African-American freelance journalist, depicted as a media mercenary, called J Sutter. The main plot of the story is that the said journalist travels down to the South, specifically West Virginia, to cover the commemoration of John Henry, a folklore hero who worked and died as a ?hammer man? on the Chesapeake and Ohio railroads. In memory of this brave man who beat a steam drill in a contest of speed, a stamp has been made to honor his memory, and it is for the launch of this stamp that our black hero, J Sutter, braves the South. An idea that becomes evident in the novel is the parallel between the media industry in which J Sutter is so deeply immersed, and the industrial machine to which John Henry sacrificed his life. As mentioned before, Colson Whitehead is a very versatile writer who does not stick to one genre, or one way of telling a story. John Henry Days differs from The Intuitionist heavily in the ways of suspense and style of writing. Where Colson’s first novel was set much like a noir detective drama, his second book focuses more on the way stories are told, and on the powers of observation.
For this novel Colson received the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award for Honor Books, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Ultimately it was for this book that Colson was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002.
Needless to say Colson Whitehead is an established author and freelance journalist with many accolades to his name. His books have been featured in high places such as on the Oprah Winfrey show, and on President Barack Obama?s personal summer reading list. It is also notable to mention that he has taught at several prestigious universities including Columbia, NYU and Princeton. He lives in New York City, in Greenwich Village.Book Series In Order » Authors » Colson Whitehead