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Reading Lists

Literary One-Hit Wonders

Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind
Not many authors have the distinction of winning the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for a first novel. The Civil War was an abiding interest from Margaret Mitchell's childhood; she grew up on stories told to her by relatives and admitted that it was quite a while before she realized that the South had lost! She spent 6 years researching and writing, interlacing stories from her childhood and basing some characters on real people. Mitchell and her novel enjoyed a resurgence of fame when the 1939 film was released, featuring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh as Rhett and Scarlett. She never wrote anything again and was tragically killed by a drunk driver in 1949.

Doctor Zhivago

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 and was highly regarded in Russia as one of the country's greatest modern poets. He did not achieve worldwide fame until his only novel, Doctor Zhivago, was published. Hailed as a literary masterpiece in the United States and Europe, it was banned in the USSR as being anti-Soviet and not published there until 1988. Pasternak's story portrays the suffering and injustice that he had witnessed before, during and after the Revolution while weaving in a very personal and moving love story.

Raintree County

Raintree County
This epic novel was Lockridge's first and only publication as the author committed suicide 2 months after the book's release. It was the literary sensation of 1948. Set in a fictional Indiana County, it chronicles the life of the main character by weaving it into major events in America's history. Most critics agreed that it was a superior literary achievement and mourned Lockridge's loss as a potentially great American writer.

"...And Ladies of the Club"

Her first two novels, published in the 1920's, were not well known. But this Wellesley and Oxford educated woman worked off and on throughout the next five decades on "...And Ladies of the Club". First published in 1982, it became and bestseller in 1984 when Miss Santmyer was 88 years old. It tells the story of several families and their lives in a rural Ohio town between 1868 and 1932; the interlocking thread is the activties of the women's literary club.


She published two novels, some short stories and a travel book, but these later writings never equaled the originality of Frankenstein. The novel was the result of a challenge that Mary, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and their friend, Lord Byron, set for themselves. Who could write the best horror story? Mary's tale centers on Dr. Frankenstein who constructs the semblance of a human being and gives it life. The creature inspires loathing in all who see it and eventually it turns on its creator. The novel achieved the author's goal - to "make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart."

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights
A volume of poetry by the three Bronte sisters was published in 1846. Aside from that, Emily's only writing was this haunting novel. It interweaves the story of two families and focuses on the love story of Heathcliff and Cathy. Cruelty and revenge play a major part and Bronte's description of the desolation, wildness and isolation of the Yorkshire moors add to the atmosphere. Much of her own character remains enigmatic and it was only after her death from consumption at the age of 30 that u>Wuthering Heights became known as a masterpiece.

Confederacy of Dunces

Toole wrote his first novel, The Neon Bible,at the age of 16 and it never realized its potential. His second novel, The Confederacy of Dunces, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 (posthumously). He had written it in the early 1960's and it remained unpublished when he committed suicide at 32 in 1969. This story of a misfit who considers himself a genius and aspires to be a reformer was finally published in 1980 and has been called one of the funniest books ever written. Sadly, Toole's literary career is a "might have been".

Love Story

"Love means never having to say you're sorry" was on everyone's lips as this 1970 novel by Segal took popular fiction by storm. The romance of preppie Oliver Barrett and liberal Jenny Cavalleri was full of joy and tears. Segal wrote other books which he felt were better written and about important issues, but the reviews were always mixed. Nothing equaled the popularity of Love Story .


Since he came from a literary family (grandson of humorist Robert Benchley and son of writer Nathaniel) one publisher took a chance on Benchley's first novel which turned out to be Jaws. This menacing tale kept readers riveted and became a hit movie. None of his other adventure novels ever came close in sales or public interest.

Forever Amber

This epic tale is set in England's Restoration Period- complete with the plague, the Great Fire and that wonderful heroine, Amber St. Clair. It became a bestseller in the 1940's, and though she wrote seven more novels, Winsor was unable to repeat the success of this - her first book.

To Kill a Mockingbird

With the enormous popular and critical success of her novel, Miss Lee has established herself as a leading figure in American literature. The theme of racial prejudice drives the main plot that centers on Atticus Finch's defense of a black man accused of raping a white woman. Childish prejudice against a local recluse carries the theme into a subplot featuring Atticus's thoughtful daughter, Scout. Although Lee has said that her novel is not autobiographical, she did draw on her experiences as the daughter of a southern lawyer. Aside from a few articles written in the early 1960's, Harper Lee effectively "retired" from writing after To Kill a Mockingbird.

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