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I suppose when you've written one absolutely perfect book, you don't have much more you need to say. This Sunday marks Harper Lee's 86th birthday, a gal who wrote a brilliant classic (To Kill a Mockingbird) and never wrote a second novel.

So in honor of her birthday, I've pooled together my five favorite books by women writers who, like Harper Lee, I wish wrote more.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926, this Alabama lady stuck to her roots while writing this Southern Gothic novel. Much like the characters of Scout and Dill, Harper and childhood friend Truman Capote used to discover items left in the hollow of their favorite tree. Over 50 years later, this 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel remains a bestseller with over 30 million copies in print.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: Originally published as a two volumes in a three volume set (the third volume was Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte), this novel was often condemned for the amoral passion portrayed in its pages.

In 1850, Charlotte Bronte posthumously edited and published her sister’s novel under the author’s real name. Prior to that, Wuthering Heights was published under the nom de plume “Ellis Bell.”

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Until a literary scholar can unearth the mystical lost novel The Big Four, Margaret Mitchell can be included among these fabulous one-book wonders.

Mitchell began writing Gone With the Wind in 1926 while recovering from an automobile injury. Think about that the next time you get rear-ended.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Plath saw this novel as a romanticized and fictionalized version of a moment in her own life.

As a junior at Smith College, Plath dated Yale senior Dick Norton. Norton contracted tuberculosis and was treated at the Ray Brook Sanatorium. While Plath was visiting Norton, she broke her leg skiing. It’s incredible to think that this look at the isolation of suffering a mental breakdown was inspired by a college romance.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell: Sewell’s health was declining as she dictated the text of Black Beauty to her mother Mary Wright Sewell. Upon publication in 1877, the novel became an immediate bestseller. Sewell died of hepatitis or tuberculosis just five months after the novel’s publication. With over fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time.


Danielle Mohlman's picture

Danielle Mohlman

Danielle Mohlman is a playwright, bookworm, and library connoisseur. You can find her on Twitter and Tumblr. (She has a lot to say.) And on Instagram. (She never foodstagrams.) When she grows up, she wants to be Leslie Knope.