The Guardian and the Washington Post shared a Pulitzer Prize Monday for their coverage of the National Security Agency's surveillance of public communications while Donna Tartt's novel The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer for fiction.

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Donna Tartt's novel The Goldfinch has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. (Little, Brown and Company/Associated Press)

The British and U.S. papers shared top honours in the public service journalism category for their revelations of widespread state surveillance.

The Guardian was awarded for "helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy."

The Washington Post was cited for its "authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security."

Tartt's novel about a young New Yorker whose fate becomes intertwined with a mysterious 17th-century painting was described as "a beautifully written coming-of-age novel … that stimulates the mind and touches the heart" in a release from Columbia University, which hands out the awards.

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The Guardian U.S. and Washington Post won the award for Public Service in the journalism half of the Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of the NSA surveillance, based on documents from Edward Snowden.

The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer prize for breaking news reporting for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, including its use of multiple platforms such as photography and social media "to capture the full impact of the tragedy."

Tartt's novel, a sweeping, Dickensian tale about a young orphan set in modern Manhattan, was published last fall to high praise and quick commercial success that has not relented. The Goldfinch has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle prize and an Andrew Carnegie Medal and on Monday was in the top 40 on Amazon.com's best seller list even before the Pulitzer was announced.

Annie Baker's The Flick won the Pulitzer for drama, a play set in a movie theatre that was called a "thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters" which created "lives rarely seen on the stage."

All prizes presented to individuals include a $10,000 US award.

with files from the Associated Press