8 Authors Who Got Famous Thanks to Just One Book

7 months ago

There isn’t a writer out there who doesn’t dream about the deafening success of their own book. However, sometimes authors become hostages of this success and turn into the writer of only one memorable book or series for their readers.

One of the authors on this list only had one book become famous, and all of his other work remained in the shadows. One of the worst case scenarios happened when the author of Winnie-the-Pooh, Alan Milne, stopped being taken seriously after writing this series. You can find more authors who found their way into the trap of big success in our article.

Bright Side learned more about the works of writers who got famous by writing just one book. We also found many other worthy works from these authors that can be added to your to-read list.

1. Emily Brontë and Wuthering Heights

Unlike her sister, Charlotte, poet Emily Brontë only wrote one novel. It was published in 1847 and stayed almost unnoticed during the author’s life. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the Gothic novel got universal recognition and took a strong place in English literature. The writer herself only lived to be 30 years old.

The novel has been screened many times in the 20th century. The 1939 version, starring Laurence Olivier, one of the most famous Hollywood actors, as Heathcliff, is considered to be one of the best. Another popular screen adaptation is the one with Juliette Binoche in the main role.

What else to read:

  • her poetry

2. Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray turned out to be the only published work of the playwright Oscar Wilde.

It was written in just 3 weeks and released in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine and it brought an enormous amount of fame to the author instantly. One year later, the work was published as a separate book. After the publication of the novel, a huge scandal erupted in society. People called it amoral and tried to ban it. Wilde himself would say that each person sees his own sins and evils in this book.

What else to read:

3. Bram Stoker and Dracula

The bibliography of the Irish writer, Bram Stoker, includes many short stories and several novels. But he is most well-known for his book about the vampire aristocrat Count Dracula, which was published in 1897.

It’s Bram Stoker who we can thank for the popularization of the “vampire myth” and the many high-rated movies and TV series on this topic. However, though critics were quite kind to this novel, it didn’t bring much success during the first years of its existence. Its author died after suffering strokes.

The movie from the year 1922 made the image of Dracula popular.

What else to read:

  • The Lady of the Shroud
  • The Lair of the White Worm

4. J.D. Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye

In the second half of the 1940s, Salinger gained a reputation of a skillful novelist. However, the author faced real success after he released his novel The Catcher in the Rye in 1951.

The book, written about a 17-year-old teenager, experienced deafening popularity and earned the love of readers all around the world. Even today, about one million copies of this book are sold annually around the world.

Surprisingly, the author forbade any adaptations of the book into movies or theatrical performances. Salinger believed that “The Catcher in the Rye is a very novelistic novel. There are readymade ‘scenes’ — only a fool would deny that — but, for me, the weight of the book is in the narrator’s voice, the non-stop peculiarities of it, his personal, extremely discriminating attitude to his reader-listener, his asides about gasoline rainbows in street puddles, his philosophy or way of looking at cowhide suitcases and empty toothpaste cartons — in a word, his thoughts. And Holden Caulfield himself, in my undoubtedly super-biased opinion, is essentially unactable. A sensitive, intelligent, talented young actor in a reversible coat wouldn’t nearly be enough.”

What else to read:

  • Nine Stories
  • Glass family short stories

5. Alexander Griboyedov and Woe from Wit

Mikhail Lenin as Chatsky (in the right picture), 1915.

Griboyedov is first of all known as the author of the comedy in verse Woe from Wit, which is still being adapted in various theatrical performances. This comedy was written in 1823. It sharply satirizes high society during the times of serfdom and is literally torn into quotes. Woe from Wit is the peak of Russian playwriting.

Alexander Griboyedov was an extremely talented person: a diplomat, a poet, a piano player, and a composer.

What else to read:

  • The Young Spouses

6. Edmond Rostand and Cyrano de Bergerac

Rostand experienced his first success in 1894, after staging his comedy Les Romanesques. But the author then attained widespread fame thanks to the play Cyrano de Bergerac about a Parisian poet and duelist.

What else to read:

  • La Princesse lointaine
  • Les Romanesques

7. Colleen McCullough and The Thorn Birds

The Australian writer became famous thanks to her novel The Thorn Birds that was released in 1977. The book met a deafening success. Just think about it: over 30 million copies of her novel have been sold. The family saga is based on the legend of the bird, which sings only once in a lifetime, but is more beautiful than anything else in the world. She sings a song, while rushing at the sharpest thorns of all thorns. Thus, she sings a song of incomparable beauty for the price of her life and unbearable pain. However, before the appearance of the book, there has never been any confirmed record of this myth, although it might be Celtic in origin.

It’s interesting to know that McCullough wrote her first novel Tim when she was 37, but attained true success at the age of 40 with the release of The Thorn Birds.

What else to read:

  • Tim
  • The Touch

8. Alan Milne and his stories about Winnie-the-Pooh

Alan Milne was quite a famous playwright before releasing the stories about Winnie-the-Pooh. But the success of the books about a bear with sawdust in his head became so famous that all of his other works went far into the shadows and became almost unknown to readers. At the same time, Milne was a famous columnist whose essays were published regularly.

Milne didn’t like that he was exclusively considered a children’s writer and found that publications he used to write for started to not take him seriously. Milne eventually gave up writing for children after feeling his work gave his son, who was the inspiration for the fictional Christopher Robin, too much attention and publicity, which became a source of humiliation for him as he got older. As sad as it might sound, his works for kids tuned out to be like Frankenstein’s monster: the creature that swallowed its creator.

What else to read:

Are you familiar with any of the other works of these writers who became famous thanks to just one book?

Preview photo credit East News


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I as an Indian read this short story of Oscar Wilde ‘The Canterville Ghost’ in class 8. The story was spooky yet humorous. After reading this I’ve even watched the 1985 movie adaptation.


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