Friday, July 27, 2012

My Favorite Author Wrote WHAT?

Have you ever had this happen to you? You pigeon-hole authors into genres - you know we all do this - and then, at some point, you're surfing through a list of their works or a list of books in other genres and realize that they wrote something pretty unexpected. Here are some examples:

My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl (1979)
Thank you to for pointing out this one. Personally, I think this would be a hilarious read, but it's definitely an adult book and not appropriate for the children reading the likes of Dahl's more famous books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, etc.

The Coming of the Fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle (1921)
We all know that Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes books. A lot of us may also remember that he wrote the Professor Challenger series as well as historical novels. Heck, some of us may even know that he was really into spiritualism and some of his works - like Professor Challenger #3, The Land of Mist - deal with his beliefs. But writing a nonfiction endorsement of the Cottingley fairy photographs, later proved to be a hoax, seems to be stretching it a bit too much.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (1909)
From the author of the classics A Passage to India, A Room with a View, and Howards End comes a dystopian novella. It's really good, too. Another unexpected novel from Forster is Maurice, which, being about a homosexual man, wasn't published until 1971.

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse (Sep. 2012)
Karen Hesse, author of fantastic historical novels in verse, is about to have her dystopian sci-fi novel published. Usually I think my dictum "every famous author wrote a speculative fiction book" applies just to Victorian novelists, but here we have it recurring in the modern world.

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)
(Cough cough, my favorite book.) Lewis is well-known for his satirical novels like Main Street and Babbitt that attack middle-class American social life, but this particular book is a terrifying vision of what could have happened to the country during the Great Depression. It is, by far, the most realistic and hard-hitting of the dystopias I've read.

Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov (1947)
From the author of Lolita and Pale Fire comes a dystopian novel.

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck (1976)
The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men...and an Arthurian retelling.

Love Among the Ruins by Evelyn Waugh (1953)
Like Brideshead Revisited and Waugh's other novels, this book is satirical. Unlike his other novels, this is a dystopia.

I apologize that this is so dystopia-heavy, but it's the genre I've researched the most. It's really amazing how many Victorian authors wrote at least one speculative fiction story or novel - Jack London, Anthony Trollope, Upton Sinclair, H. Rider Haggard (I know he wrote fantasy - duh - but he also had a couple more sf-oriented works), W.E.B. Du Bois, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (of "It was a dark and stormy night..." fame). And then there's other authors like Cyrano de Bergerac...but I'll stop there.

Do you have any examples?


  1. Very nice idea for a post. I'd love to see what others come up with to add to it. My own favorite example would have to be unusually good though very, very adult novel The Story of Harold, written under the pseudonym Terry Andrews, who in reality was the famous children's book author George Selden Thompson (author of A Cricket in Times Square).

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and could add to it! I'm not familiar with Thompson's books, but from glancing through his Wikipedia article it looks like The Story of Harold would be like a combination of Dahl's My Uncle Oswald and Forster's Maurice - quite unexpected from an award-winning children's author!