1. F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby"
Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" is often heralded as the great American novel (though some are less praising) and read in almost every high school English class. Though Fitzgerald did write other stories and novels, this is the one he will forever be remembered for for its portrayal of upper-class life in the 1920's and its critical look at the concept of the "American Dream."
Fitzgerald's other novels include "Tender Is the Night" and "The Beautiful and the Damned." His short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" had its moment in the limelight when the movie starring Brad Pitt came out in 2008, though the film departs greatly from the story.
2. J.D. Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye"
J.D. Salinger is one of the most beloved American authors of all time, and the public reaction was huge when he died in January. However, though Salinger has written other novels and short stories, he is by far best known for "The Catcher in the Rye" and its protagonist Holden Caulfield, whose distinctive style of speech and way of looking at the world are particularly memorable.
3. Herman Melville, "Moby-Dick"
Though almost everyone can identify Herman Melville as the author of the tome "Moby-Dick," few have likely read the (depending on your edition) 700+ page novel. Still, "Moby-Dick," the story of a giant white whale and the captain determined to hunt it down, is generally thought of as one of the first great American novels. Its first line, too -- "Call me Ishmael" -- is one of the most recognized in English literature. Melville also wrote a number of short stories and a novella called "Billy Budd," but they are far lesser known outside of the English-major crowd.
4. Margaret Mitchell, "Gone with the Wind"
"Gone with the Wind," the 1937 Pulitzer Prize winner, is one of the bestselling books of all time, and the 1939 movie based on it is widely recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. The novel, which follows Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara during the Civil War as she falls in and out of love with rogue Rhett Butler, is controversial because of its White Southern-oriented depiction of slavery, but most admit that the views of the characters were in fact very typical of the time.
"Gone with the Wind" is Margaret Mitchell's only book.
5. Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Another classroom standard, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is widely known as one of the most enduring novels to deal with race. Also set in the deep South, the book takes place during the Great Depression and follows two children as they watch their lawyer father Atticus Finch defend a black man in a trial.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and it is Harper Lee's only book -- she started two others, but left them both unfinished.
6. Ralph Ellison, "Invisible Man"
Ralph Ellison is best known for his novel "Invisible Man," which won the National Book Award in 1953. The novel (one of Bill Clinton's favorites) deals with the central issues of race facing African Americans in the early 20th century. "Invisible Man" won the National Book Award in 1953, and is Ellison's only book that was published during his lifetime
7. Jack Kerouac, "On the Road"
Jack Kerouac did write a number of other books, but he is by far best known for "On the Road" as well as his prominent role in the Beat Generation. The 1957 largely autobiographical novel details Kerouac's trips around the country with a group of friends as they did drugs, listened to jazz and read and wrote poetry. The dissatisfaction with mainstream American culture expressed in the book helped to start a counter-cultural movement.
Kerouac wrote other Beat-style novels, in particular "Dharma Bums," but he is best known for "On the Road."
8. William Golding, "Lord of the Flies"
Another classic of the English classroom, William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is a classic example of allegory -- though it is about a group of boys trying to survive on a deserted island, the novel really tackles larger issues of human society, complete with Jesus metaphor and all.
William Golding won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, and a few of his other books were actually quite successful -- his novel "Rites of Passage" won the Booker Prize in 1980 -- but because of its popularity in high school curricula, "Lord of the Flies" will always be the most famous of Golding's novels
9. Charlotte and Emily Bronte, "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights"
The Bronte sisters may be swinging back into popularity and surpassing Jane Austen, but they will go down in history as being known only for Charlotte's "Jane Eyre" and Emily's "Wuthering Heights." Their sister Anne is hardly ever recognized, though she did write two novels -- "Agnes Grey" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" (the latter of which is actually really great!).
Charlotte, at least, was also more prolific than history remembers her for -- she wrote three other novels, the most acclaimed of which is "Villette." Emily's "Wuthering Heights" was, however, her only book.
(On a somewhat unrelated note, any Bronte fans should make sure to watch this fake commercial for Bronte Sisters action figures.)
10. Anna Sewell, "Black Beauty"
Black Beauty" has for a long time been a classic of children's literature. Written in 1877, it is a heartbreaking story of a horse that is sold from owner to owner and treated with varying degrees of kindness. The novel is one of the bestselling books of all time, but it was the only one that author Anna Sewell wrote. Sewell died five months after the book was published, probably due to hepatitis.
11. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "The Little Prince"
The Little Prince," titled "Le petit prince" in its original French, was so successful that it is a classic not only in its original language, but in translation all around the world as well. Saint-Exupery was not only a writer but also an aviator, and an attempt to fly from Paris to Saigon in 1935 resulted in a crash in the Sahara, an inspiration for the beginning of "The Little Prince." The novella, which follows the adventures of a young boy who lives alone on his own planet, is often thought of a children's book, though it can be read for its greater philosophical commentary on human nature.
Saint-Exupery also wrote a few books about aviation, but he is best known for "The Little Prince," which is one of the bestselling books of all time.
12. Joseph Heller, "Catch-22"
Catch-22" is so widely recognized that its title has worked its way into the modern lexicon for no-win situations. The satirical novel, which takes place among soldier in World War II, is recognized as one of the greatest depictions of the absurdities of modern war. Joseph Heller did write other books -- his 1974 novel "Something Happened" was well-received by critics -- but "Catch-22" is the one that has lasted.
The 12 Greatest Literary One-Hit Wonders (PHOTOS, POLL)
Not really a great list though......but I thought I'd post it anyway. This section doesn't get enough attention.