Pirates of Venus
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Some authors, such as To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, are legitimately literary one-hit wonders, in the truest sense of the word, and never publish another book. But even in the case of successful and prolific authors, it's generally true that one or two of their books get most of the attention, while others fade into comparative obscurity. In some cases, that may be for good reason - perhaps a writer blows his whole stake on one excellent book, and spends the rest of his career chasing the dream of another like the first. But oftentimes, word of mouth and bestseller lists help to fan the flames for one title, while others, still deserving of attention, languish.
This is for those lesser-known titles, dwarfed by the magnum opus from the same author, waiting patiently, forever in shadow, for their turn in the sun. An excellent example is J.D. Salinger. Salinger’s famed reclusiveness and only novel The Catcher in the Rye steal the vast majority of Salinger-themed headlines, but many readers feel that Salinger’s other works, including Franny and Zooey, were actually literarily stronger than Catcher. To stop one's Salinger education before encountering the Glass family would be a travesty and a shame. And the same is true of so many authors, whose best book may not always be their bestselling book.
Read on for a list of titles you may not have heard of, from authors you definitely have, and get to know the writers behind the blockbusters a little bit better.
John Goldfarb, Please Come Home
by William Peter Blatty
A far cry from the terror and dry-mouth inducing chills of The Exorcist
, this comedic Cold War spoof has some of William Peter Blatty’s finest writing and was adapted to a film starring Shirley MacLaine.
The Story of Sylvie and Bruno
by Lewis Carroll
One Miss Alice undoubtedly hogs the Lewis Carroll limelight, but for those who liked Carroll’s style of eloquent nonsense, riddle, rhyme and strange character, Sylvie and Bruno is a further treat not to be missed.
by Peter Benchley
If you loved the spine-tingling, campy, edge-of-your-seat horror of Jaws
, then The Island
, Benchley’s novel about the Bermuda Triangle and pirates, is sure to be right up your alley. It’s a lot of fun.
The Dragon in the Sea
by Frank Herbert
Many fans of the Dune
books have never ventured beyond them into Herbert’s other work, but they’re missing out. Start with this futuristic tale of oil, psychology and religion from 1956.
A Man of the People
by Chinua Achebe
Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart
, is the best-known book of African literature in the world. His fourth novel, A Man of the People
is equally powerful, and a first-person account of a school teacher in a fictional African country.
The Girl in a Swing
by Richard Adams
While extremely different from Watership Down
, (ghosts, no rabbits) Adams’ The Girl in a Swing
is a riveting and affecting story the reader won’t soon forget, reminding us that Adams' talent was widely varied.
The Trumpet of the Swan
by E.B. White
White is most famous for his fictional tale of farmyard courage and his exploration of language with William Strunk. But fans of excellent kids' literature would be remiss to not read The Trumpet of the Swan
, about a mute cygnet.
by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut was lucky and talented enough to have several well-known novels: Cat’s Cradle
, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions
and more. But lesser-known titles like 1979’s Jailbird
should not be overlooked.
Coming Up for Air
by George Orwell
While some were put off by its negativity and bitter, weary tone, many Orwell fans consider Coming Up For Air
among his finest literary works – nearly on par with 1984
or Animal Farm
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
by Douglas Adams
This won’t be news to true connoisseurs of Adams, but in case you’ve only delved into the Hitchhiker books, Adams also wrote a mean detective novel, chock full of the silly, clever wit that makes his readers happy.
The Diamond Smugglers
by Ian Fleming
Fleming. Ian Fleming. Yes, that
Ian Fleming, the creator of 007 himself. But Fleming was a talented and versatile writer. This is his first non-fiction book, a detailed and expertly-outlined account of the diamond smuggling trade in South Africa.
Farmer Giles of Ham
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Best known by far for The Hobbit
and The Lord of the Rings
trilogy, Tolkien’s creative and imaginative writing extended far beyond Middle-earth. Farmer Giles of Ham
is the delightful story of a most unlikely would-be dragonslayer.
The Golden Age
by Kenneth Grahame
Before there was Badger, Ratty or Toad, Kenneth Grahame wrote The Golden Age
, a loose, Ancient Greece-themed compilation of his childhood memories. Excellently creative and an adventure for children.
A Case of Need
by Michael Crichton
(as Jeffrey Hudson)
While it’s tough to beat the concept of genetic meddling resulting in a dinosaur theme park, there was much more to Crichton. His earlier works such as A Case of Need
may show less polish than Jurassic Park
, but the creative genius is alive and well.
by Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov’s magnum opus was certainly his third English-language novel Lolita
. But Bend Sinister
, his grueling dystopian novel written eight years earlier is beautiful, worthy prose.
The Fortunate Pilgrim
by Mario Puzo
Clearly the exploits of the Corleone family captured the public’s interest more than any other of Puzo’s works, but Puzo fervently believed that The Fortunate Pilgrim
was his finest work and far outshone The Godfather
That Was Then, This is Now
by S.E. Hinton
Most famous for The Outsiders,
Hinton set several of her books in Oklahoma, in the same universe as that first novel. That Was Then This is Now
, published four years after The Outsiders, retains the same dramatic teen style.
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
by Richard Bach
People remember Bach's feel-good 1970 fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull
, whose messages of self-acceptance and perseverance were well worth celebrating. But thirsty souls looking for inspiration and affirmation should explore Bach’s other works, such as Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.
The Shoulder of Shasta
by Bram Stoker
By far most famous for his eponymous fanged fiend Dracula, Bram Stoker was actually quite prolific. The Shoulder of Shasta,
published two years before Dracula,
is a gripping and well-written romance, which arguably never received the acclaim it deserved.
by Stephenie Meyer
Most people either love or hate Meyer’s staggeringly popular Twilight
series. But The Host
, her 2008 novel, was aimed at a more adult audience, and the writing shows it – it’s more sophisticated, less angsty, and even has a hefty dose of good science fiction. Well worth a read.
In the Night Kitchen
by Maurice Sendak
Max and his wild rumpus are hard to top. But fans of Where the Wild Things Are
may find their best bet for more Sendak is In the Night Kitchen
, another magical story about a little boy’s night-time adventure.
by Margaret Mitchell
Many people aren’t even aware that Margaret Mitchell wrote anything besides Gone with the Wind
, but her earlier romantic novella Lost Laysen
, written when she was only a teenager, is worth exploring especially for Mitchell fans.
Good as Gold
by Joseph Heller
Most famous for his darkly funny debut novel Catch-22
, Joseph Heller was extremely talented at satirical writing. Good As Gold
was his third novel, and adored by fans as being among his best and most engaging works.
by Roald Dahl
While Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
may be Roald Dahl’s best-known book, it is not necessarily his best. The Witches
, about a little boy, his dear grandmamma with the missing thumb, and their fight against evil is fantastic.
Franny and Zooey
by J.D . Salinger
Salinger’s famed reclusiveness and only novel The Catcher in the Rye
steal the vast majority of Salinger-themed headlines, but many readers feel that Salinger’s other works, including Franny and Zooey
, were actually literarily stronger than Catcher