Donna Tartt's huge book, 11 years in the writing, wins the honour for "beautifully written ... novel with exquisitely drawn characters".
The Sun Sentinel has taken the top award at the 97th Pulitzer Prizes, the most prestigious prizes in the fragmented US journalism industry.
Photographer Massoud Hossaini has won a Pulitzer for what was called a "heartbreaking image of a girl crying in fear after a suicide bomber's attack".
Newcomers and smaller publications have surpassed big-name media organisations this year as winners of the coveted Pulitzer Prize.
John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, died of lung cancer on Tuesday at age 76.