One Hit Wonders

Posted on March 22, 2021

by Anne K

When people hear the term “one hit wonder,” they think of songs. In the literature world, some authors have achieved this status by publishing only one successful book or a novel that overshadowed all their other work.  

The following list features one hit wonders that are known in the literature world as masterpieces.  Check them out!

Cover of Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights
By Emily Bronte

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Catherine and Heathcliff’s intense love story is portrayed in this English classic of two lovers destined for heartbreak. Sadly, Bronte died about a year after the book was published so she never knew the success of her only novel.

Cover of Black Beauty

Black Beauty
By Anna Sewell

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Black Beauty recounts his life with different owners and the hardships and periods of happiness he endured. Having an animal as the narrator was a new concept in the 18th century and the novel went onto be one most beloved horse stories of all time. Sewell’s only novel inspired a stage play, mini-series, TV show and 8 movies.

Cover of The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray
By Oscar Wilde

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Dorian Gray becomes the subject of a portrait who ends up trading his soul for eternal youth. The universal fear of aging, the imaginative exploration of a variety of themes and Wilde’s masterful writing style made Dorian Gray a classic. Although Wilde wrote plays, poems and short stories, The Picture of Dorian Gray was his only novel.

Cover of Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell

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This Pulitzer Prize winning novel depicts the life of Scarlett O’Hara in the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction. It was adapted into a movie which has been considered one of the greatest films ever made. This was the only novel ever published by Margaret Mitchell.

Cover of The Help

The Help
By Kathryn Stockett

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This novel takes place in Jackson, MS in the 1960s and depicts the racial divide in a segregated South. Three women team up from diverse backgrounds to work on a groundbreaking project. Although Stockett has indicated she is working on another novel, The Help remains her only published book.

Cover of The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye
By J.D. Salinger

This classic depicts two days in the life of Holden Caulfield after he is expelled from prep school for academic failure. Given the immense status of the novel in American literature, it has never been produced as a movie. Salinger was hesitant to sell the movie rights and so far, nobody has been successful in purchasing them from the estate.

Cover of The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar
By Sylvia Plath

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This novel depicts the breakdown of Esther Greenwood as she struggles with future decisions while battling depression. Plath drew upon her own experiences with mental illness to write the novel and died at 30 years old after ending her own life.

Cover of Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha
By Arthur Golden

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This historical fiction novel depicts a geisha working in Japan around Word War II. Readers are introduced to the rigorous training and servitude of Sayuri after being sold to a geisha house at 9 years old. The novel was adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg that won 3 Academy Awards.

Cover of Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus

Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus
By Mary Shelley

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Dr. Frankenstein’s mother died in childbirth and as a result, he became obsessed with bringing the dead back to life. He eventually creates a monster that is rejected, so it seeks revenge through destruction. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only 18 years old.

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