The Most Popular One-Hit Wonder Novels

Posted by Hayley on June 13, 2018
Some of the most beloved novels ever written marked the beginning and end of a literary career. Today we're rounding up the most popular of these one-hit wonders.

For this list, we defined a one-hit wonder as the only well-known novel published by an author (which means they could have gone on to publish short story collections, works of nonfiction, or poetry and still be included in this roundup). Then we narrowed it down to the books that have been added the most to Goodreads members' shelves.

Take a look and add what piques your interest to your Want to Read shelves. Which ones have you read?

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What's your favorite one-hit wonder? Let's talk books in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-50 of 144 (144 new)


message 1: by Lablover (new)

Lablover The Help by Kathryn Stockett


message 2: by Marren (new)

Marren To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Go Set A Watchman is the original script of To Kill A Mockingbird. Therefore, in my stupid opinion, it should be featured on the above list.


message 3: by Kristen (new)

Kristen The Perks of Being a Wallflower :)


message 4: by Tessa (new)

Tessa So did JD Salinger.


message 5: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Laura wrote: "Mary Shelley wrote more than just 1 novel. Frankenstein just happened to be the only popular one."

Exactly, The Last Man was a pretty decent read,


message 6: by ✨ elsa ✨ (new)

✨ elsa ✨ Laura wrote: "Mary Shelley wrote more than just 1 novel. Frankenstein just happened to be the only popular one."

that's the point of being a one-hit wonder. it is not how many books you have written, but whether they are all popular or only one is.


message 7: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Ania The Night Circus!


message 8: by Andy (new)

Andy Samantha wrote: "The Night Circus!"

That was going to be my pick :-) Great Read


message 9: by Tonya (new)

Tonya Noirfifre wrote: "To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Go Set A Watchman is the original script of To Kill A Mockingbird. Therefore, in my stupid opinion, it should be featured on the above list."

I don't think that's stupid at all. I agree.


message 10: by Robyn (new)

Robyn Arend Watership Down by Richard Adams


message 11: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Samantha wrote: "The Night Circus!"
Shes releasing a new novel in 2020 so hopefully she wont be a one hit wonder for too long


message 12: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore Danielle wrote: "Samantha wrote: "The Night Circus!"
Shes releasing a new novel in 2020 so hopefully she wont be a one hit wonder for too long"


Good to know that--I loved Night Circus.


message 13: by Lady Clementina (last edited Jun 13, 2018 10:02AM) (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore Robyn wrote: "Watership Down by Richard Adams"

He's written a few others as well- I haven't read them though :) But I do love Watership Down.


message 14: by Amber (new)

Amber Robyn wrote: "Watership Down by Richard Adams"


Watership down was awesome too and the animated film was great too.


message 15: by Raluca (new)

Raluca Lupei The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


message 16: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore Raluca wrote: "The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde"

Good one--but many of Wilde's plays are excellent as are his children;s stories--the children's stories actually make me tear up.


message 17: by Raluca (new)

Raluca Lupei Lady Clementina wrote: "Good one--but many of Wilde's plays are excellent as are his children;s stories--the children's stories actually make me tear up."

Yes, but The Picture of Dorian Gray was his only novel, so it should still qualify? It says in the beginning that if the author went on to write short plays, the novel in question can still make it into this list, and I assumed (perhaps wrongly?) that the same goes for plays as well.


message 18: by Meghan (new)

Meghan The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite novels so I'm happy to see it on the list, though Salinger did write more that are still well-known (Franny and Zooey). Frankenstein and Memoirs of a Geisha were also fantastic. The only other one on the list I've read is Wuthering Heights and I wasn't as fond of it.

Did Harriet Beecher Stowe write anything other than Uncle Tom's Cabin? I would add that to the list.


message 19: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore Raluca wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "Good one--but many of Wilde's plays are excellent as are his children;s stories--the children's stories actually make me tear up."

Yes, but The Picture of Dorian Gray was h..."


Oh- yes- I assumed other writings would also count- sorry I missed reading that intro properly. I guess this will fit.


message 20: by Jess (new)

Jess A couple of these authors are alive and have at times been said to be working on future novels. Not sure seeing their first work in a "one-hit wonder" list will encourage them, lol.


message 21: by Toraaki (new)

Toraaki Villalpando Laura wrote: "Mary Shelley wrote more than just 1 novel. Frankenstein just happened to be the only popular one."

Laura wrote: "Mary Shelley wrote more than just 1 novel. Frankenstein just happened to be the only popular one."

that's the definition of one hit wonder. One artist who is mostly known for one piece of work, and whose other pieces of work remain unknown in general. :)


message 22: by Eva (new)

Eva Schroyen memoirs of a geisha was wonderful


message 23: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Noirfifre wrote: "To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Go Set A Watchman is the original script of To Kill A Mockingbird. Therefore, in my stupid opinion, it should be featured on the above list."

I agree with your stupid opinion! Also, the author didnt want Watchman published apparently


message 24: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Ania Lady Clementina wrote: "Danielle wrote: "Samantha wrote: "The Night Circus!"
Shes releasing a new novel in 2020 so hopefully she wont be a one hit wonder for too long"

Good to know that--I loved Night Circus."


I hadn't heard that! I can't wait!


message 25: by Janet (new)

Janet Tessa wrote: "So did JD Salinger."

And I was made to read them all in college.


message 26: by Merry (last edited Jun 14, 2018 02:14PM) (new)

Merry Amber wrote: "I loved The Night Circus , The Last Unicorn , The Neverending Story and The Eyes of the Dragon . Those are some great stand-alone books I hav..."

I think considering The Neverending Story a one hit wonder is quite an anglocentric view - Ende's other books (Jim Knopf, Momo, Wunschpunsch) are all rather famous and considered children's classics in Germany.

[EDIT:] Jim Knopf even has been turned into a movie recently.


message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 13, 2018 12:18PM) (new)

Robyn wrote: "Watership Down by Richard Adams"

He wrote several after that, mostly better, too.


message 28: by Linn (last edited Jun 13, 2018 12:19PM) (new)

Linn Browning Amber wrote: "I loved The Night Circus , The Last Unicorn , The Neverending Story and The Eyes of the Dragon . Those are some great stand-alone books I hav..."
The Last Unicorn remains one of my all-time favorite books.


message 29: by Allie (new)

Allie Wonderer wrote: "Um, wasn't "Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole published posthumously--like 12 years after his death?

Not really fair to call his book a one-hit-wonder because it's reputed to be difficu..."


Agreed. Same with Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - that one was also published posthumously.


message 30: by Kristin (new)

Kristin The magical me Jess wrote: "A couple of these authors are alive and have at times been said to be working on future novels. Not sure seeing their first work in a "one-hit wonder" list will encourage them, lol."

My thoughts exactly... Can’t be fun seeing your debut touted as the beginning and end of your career. And it’s not as if it’s uncommon for authors not to be prolific in their writing. It strikes me as a bit callous by goodreads.


message 31: by Haley (new)

Haley Tessa wrote: "So did JD Salinger."

he wrote a whole family, i don't see why he is on this list


message 32: by Elias (last edited Jun 13, 2018 12:42PM) (new)

Elias Amber wrote: "I loved The Night Circus , The Last Unicorn , The Neverending Story and The Eyes of the Dragon . Those are some great stand-alone books I hav..."

Peter S. Beagle isn't a one hit wonder. Tamsin was a pretty big deal as well. Also-- The Eyes of the Dragon? REALLY? Not only is Stephen King as far from a one hit wonder as possible, that's not even one of King's twenty biggest sellers. It's a good book but no one will name it first when asked to list King's books. That's like saying that Shakespeare is a one-hit wonder and then saying his only hit was Coriolanus.


message 33: by Khadija (new)

Khadija Ali Room by Emma Donoghue


message 34: by Elias (last edited Jun 13, 2018 12:42PM) (new)

Elias Raluca wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "Good one--but many of Wilde's plays are excellent as are his children;s stories--the children's stories actually make me tear up."

Yes, but The Picture of Dorian Gray was h..."


Yes but that doesn't necessarily make you a proper one hit wonder. Don't one hit wonders come out of nowhere and disappear? Using the original musical term, that would be like saying that Jennifer Lawrence is a one-hit wonder for "The Hanging Tree" despite being an Oscar winning actress.


message 35: by Elias (new)

Elias How about Dracula? It wasn't Stoker's most popular novel in his lifetime but it's the only one that's lasted today.


message 36: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Amber wrote: "I loved The Night Circus , The Last Unicorn , The Neverending Story and The Eyes of the Dragon . Those are some great stand-alone books I hav..."

Oh, I dunno about The Eyes of the Dragon.

I'd say Stephen King might have had a couple of other popular books.

Only maybe though.


message 37: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Jess wrote: "A couple of these authors are alive and have at times been said to be working on future novels. Not sure seeing their first work in a "one-hit wonder" list will encourage them, lol."

Yes!!! Lol. I've been waiting for Stockett to come out with another!


message 38: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Tonya wrote: "Noirfifre wrote: "To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Go Set A Watchman is the original script of To Kill A Mockingbird. Therefore, in my stupid opinion, it should be featured on the above list."
..."


I agree also.


message 39: by Tadek (new)

Tadek dumbass list

nearly all those authors have multiple other successful novels


message 40: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Haley wrote: "Tessa wrote: "So did JD Salinger."

he wrote a whole family, i don't see why he is on this list"

Because The Catcher in the Rye is the only book he ever wrote that reached that kind of success. "One-hit wonder" doesn't refer to people who only wrote one book, it's about people who only got one huge hit.

janetandjohn wrote: "Robyn wrote: "Watership Down by Richard Adams"

He wrote several after that, mostly better, too."

Yeah, but none of them even came near the success of Watership Down.


message 41: by Monica (new)

Monica The dark heroine; Dinner with a Vampire


message 42: by Sara (new)

Sara Raluca wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "Good one--but many of Wilde's plays are excellent as are his children;s stories--the children's stories actually make me tear up."

Yes, but The Picture of Dorian Gray was h..."


Raluca wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "Good one--but many of Wilde's plays are excellent as are his children;s stories--the children's stories actually make me tear up."

Yes, but The Picture of Dorian Gray was h..."


The title of this discussion does say "One-Hit Wonder Novels" rather than one-hit wonder authors so Portrait of Dorian Gray fits the criteria.


Victor *True Unagi Master* Wuthering Heights is my favorite of the three that I've read :)


message 44: by Sara (new)

Sara Haley wrote: "Tessa wrote: "So did JD Salinger."

he wrote a whole family, i don't see why he is on this list"


Catcher in the Rye was really his only full novel, and this is "a One-Hit Novels" list. He wrote several short novels and many stories but most people would only recognize Catcher in the Rye.


message 45: by Logan (last edited Jun 13, 2018 07:32PM) (new)

Logan C. High Rollers, Logan C. Kane

Novel about student loan debt and guys chasing girls in Miami.


message 46: by Arensb (new)

Arensb A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Yes, I'm aware that there's at least one other book in print with Miller's name on it, but it doesn't count as a hit.


message 47: by Darrel (new)

Darrel 'Flowers For Algernon' by Daniel Keyes is definitely one that fits the mold of one-hit-wonder. 'The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love' by Oscar Hijuelos, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, can also be considered here. He did write several other novels but none were as revered as his Pulitzer Prize winner and only a select few people could name any titles of the other novels by him.


message 49: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Memoirs of a Geisha.


message 50: by Tomasz (new)

Tomasz As always, Goodreads didn't stick its head out of the English language. Only Pasternak was lucky enough to get included.
To balance this list a little bit, here are four great novels from other countries.

1. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Italy)
2. Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti by Elias Canetti (Bulgaria/Austria)
3. The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki by Jan Potocki (Poland)
4. Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier by Alain-Fournier (France)


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