7 Famous Authors who Wrote Outside the Box

July 2nd, 2012

True Blue is a step outside the norm for Deborah Ellis, who is known for empowering stories about kids in developing nations, not psychological thrillers about two teenaged camp counsellors with a murdered charge. True Blue was such a success that it made us wonder—what other famous authors have produced works outside of their normal genres?

Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey, circa 1798-99

NorthangerPersuasionTitlePageMany passionate Austen fans are turned off by Northanger Abbey, which seems so incongruous with her other works. The incongruity makes sense, though—it’s actually a parody of gothic literature, unlike her other novels, which can be better classified as comedies of manners. 

Lewis Carroll

“The Principles of Parliamentary Representation,” circa 1870

Fans of Charles Dodgson, alias Lewis Carroll, will know that the famous nonsense writer was a mathematician by trade, and that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Jabberwocky share space in his bibliography with titles like An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equations. Still, it may surprise even those well-informed fans to learn that this busy writer also found time to pen a number of political pamphlets regarding fairness in political procedures—a particular concern of his.

Beatrix Potter

On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricineae, 1897

Beatrix_Potter_wikiBeatrix Potter’s tales of rabbits, mice, hedgehogs and other animals of the British country garden began charming young readers in 1902 and are still beloved today. Less well-remembered is Potter’s passion for the natural sciences, especially mycology (the study of fungi). In 1897 she submitted a paper, On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricineae, to the Linnean Society—although, as a woman, she was not allowed to attend the proceedings and had to present it by proxy.

J.R.R. Tolkein

Mr. Bliss, circa 1938

Tolkein’s name is irrevocably linked with Middle Earth and mythology. In the children’s book Mr. Bliss, however, he tells the story of a man’s hapless first ride in a new automobile—apparently inspired by Tolkien’s own experience.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The First Four Years, circa 1940

Laura_Ingalls_WilderOf Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous “Little House” books, The First Four Years is the only one that remained unpublished at her death, the only one not edited by her daughter Rose or by a professional editor, and the only one that seems to be directed at adults. The story of Laura’s trouble-fraught early years of marriage lacks the rosy glow of nostalgia that infuses the other books, where hardship is tempered with happiness and idealism overwhelms distress. The manuscript was found among Rose’s possessions at her death, and neither mother nor daughter seem to have pursued its publication.

J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, 1951

Salinger’s most famous work is actually his greatest anomaly. The American writer began publishing short stories in the early 1940s and has several novellas and anthologized stories to his name; The Catcher in the Rye, however, is his only novel.

J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy, 2012

This still-to-come novel will be Rowling’s first adult book after her sensational Harry Potter series for children and teens—although, of course, a remarkable number of adults read those books as well.

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