Famous authors who only wrote one book
Wednesday marks the would-be birthday of Anna Sewell, a 19th century English novelist who penned only one book throughout her 58 years of life: the beloved Black Beauty. Fortunately for Sewell, it was an outstanding one that became one of the best-selling books of all time with more than 50 million copies sold. Sewell died only five months after its publication, but she lived to see its initial success. In honor of her legacy, here are eight authors — Sewell included — who wrote only one novel in their lifetimes, but they were excellent ones.
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty (1877)
Due to a disability, Sewell was relegated to the confines of her home during the final years of her life. It was during this time that she wrote Black Beauty, a best-selling children’s book told from the perspective of a horse as he navigates the sometimes cruel, sometimes kind animal kingdom.
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)
Though controversial when published, poet Brontë’s tumultuous love story has since soared to literary’s highest echelon.
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago (1957)
Set amid the perilous Russian Revolution, Pasternak’s 1957 epic had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union to make it to print, but it earned him a Nobel Prize and a 1965 film adaption. He wrote many collections of prose and poetry too, but Doctor Zhivago was his only novel.
Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind (1936)
During its 80-year reign, Mitchell’s timeless tale of a young girl struggling to survive in the American South has landed her a Pulitzer Prize and inspired one of cinema’s most beloved films. Mitchell also penned a best-selling novella, Lost Laysen, and a handful of unpublished works, but Gone with the Wind is the only full-length novel that made it to print.
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher In the Rye (1951)
Delving into the coming-of-age themes of angst, alienation, and rebellion, Salinger’s much-praised novel has become an essential read for teens coming to grips with adulthood. Salinger also wrote a number of novellas and short story collections, but none were nearly as successful.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)
Though Plath inked plenty of poetry throughout her lifetime, The Bell Jar is her only book. The semi-autobiographical account chronicles the mental breakdown of Esther Greenwood.
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
Often lauded as a literary milestone, Ellison’s book about an African American man whose skin color renders him invisible pierced the early century racial divide with unprecedented candor. Ellison drew in equal praise for his critical essay collections, Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory.
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (1997)
Roy’s debut novel follows two twins in Ayemenem, India, and the indelible aftermath their cousin’s accidental death hurls at their lives. Roy has gone on to release an extensive list of articles, essays, and non-fiction.