Literary One-Hit Wonders

In the world of music, the one-hit wonder, a person or act that only has one successful single (or hit) that tops the chart, inspires fear and dread. Remember  The Rembrandts single hit from the 80s: “I’ll be There For You” (the theme for NBC’s sitcom, Friends)? Or A-Ha’s single hit, “Take on Me”? The world of literature is certainly not immune to the concept of the one-hit wonder. There are plenty of writers who wrote their magnum opus on the first attempt, and never again published any significant or successful literary work. But some writers could actually retire on their single literary hit: it is estimated that The Catcher in the Rye has sold more than 65 million copies; To Kill a Mocking Bird has sold more than 30 million copies. Below is a list of the author and their one-hit wonder:

Anne Sewell, Black Beauty
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Syliva Plath, The Bell Jar
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mocking Bird
J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

For further reading: The Ultimate Book of Top Ten Lists edited by Claire Chun, Ulysses Press (2010).

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