1. Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
Year published: 1997
Arthur Golden spent six years researching and writing Memoirs of a Geisha. Upon its release, the novel was an instant hit, spending two years on The New York Times Best Seller list and going on to sell over four million copies.
Why no follow-up: Reportedly, Golden has a follow-up book coming out next year.
2. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Year published: 1963
Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical The Bell Jar, was her one and only novel, and was originally published under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas.”
Why no follow-up: Tragically, Plath committed suicide less than a month after The Bell Jar was published.
3. Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Year Published: 1936
Margaret Mitchell’s epic Civil War-era novel is one of the best-selling books of all time. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937, and was adapted into the classic film in 1939.
Why no follow-up: Mitchell reportedly disliked the attention that came with writing the novel and refused to write a sequel. She died in 1949 after being struck by a car.
4. J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Year Published: 1951
This modern classic about adolescent angst and alienation was J.D. Salinger’s only novel.
Why no follow-up: The success of The Catcher in the Rye led Salinger to become a notorious recluse. He did publish a short story collection Nine Stories in 1953, and the novella Franny and Zooey in 1961. In 1965, his last published work, the short story “Hapworth 16, 1924,” appeared in The New Yorker.
5. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Year Published: 1847
The third eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, Emily Brontë published her now-classic novel under the pseudonym Ellis Bell.
Why no follow-up: A year after the novel’s publication, Brontë died of tuberculosis caused by a severe cold she got during the funeral of her brother Branwell.
6. Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
Year Published: 1877
Anna Sewell’s classic children’s novel was written during the last years of her life, which she spent confined to her bed. The book was an instant success and has gone on to sell over 50 million copies since its publication.
Why no follow-up: Sewell died five months after the book’s publication.
7. Ross Lockridge Jr., Raintree County
Year Published: 1948
Ross Lockridge Jr.’s Raintree County was a critical success and is considered among one the “Great American Novels.” The book also topped The New York Times Best Seller list and was adapted into a film in 1957.
Why no follow-up: Lockridge suffered from depression and committed suicide three months after the novel’s publication.
8. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Year Published: 1952
Ralph Ellison’s classic novel about racial alienation The Invisible Man won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. It’s considered one of the great novels of the 20th century.
Why no follow-up: A fire at Ellison’s home in 1967 destroyed the manuscript for his uncompleted second novel.
9. Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Year Published: 1997
The God of Small Things is Arundhati Roy’s highly praised, semi-autobiographical debut novel. The book received the 1997 Booker Prize for Fiction, was named one of the five best books of 1997 by Time, and was listed as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year.
Why no follow-up: In 2007, Roy said that she was writing a follow-up, but there’s currently no release date.
10. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Year Published: 1960
This seminal novel, which deals with the issues of racial injustice in the Deep South, continues to be one of the most popular and enduring books in modern American literature.
To Kill a Mockingbird was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. And in 2007, Lee received the Presidential Medal of Freedom of United States for her contributions to literature.
Why no follow-up: Lee has never revealed why she never wrote another book.