Beloved Books That Almost Weren't

Erin Kodicek on October 31, 2019
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Where would Stephen King be had his wife not fished the first few pages of Carrie out of the trash, the novel that would eventually put him on the literary map? There are so many stories such as this, beloved books that almost never found readers but for a twist of fate or extraordinary feat of tenacity. Here are a handful of examples below.


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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

It's hard to imagine a world without Harry Potter, but thanks to the good eye and impeccable taste of Alice Newton, the then eight-year-old daughter of the chief executive of Bloomsbury Publishing, the boy wizard is now a household name (as is J.K. Rowling). Her pops handed her the manuscript to see if it had any potential and the rest is history.


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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird was rejected ten times before a publisher called Lippincott decided to take a chance on it, but not without serious misgivings. Lee herself doubted it would sell (it still does, to the tune of one million copies/year).   


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A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Struggling with mental illness and distraught that an interested publisher wasn't satisfied with the manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole committed suicide before it ever saw the light of day. Thanks to the dogged determination of his mother, and an assist from Walker Percy, it was finally released and posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize. 


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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Before Madeleine L'Engle's insta-classic A Wrinkle in Time took home the Newbery Medal, and countless children's hearts, it was rejected no less than 26 times, sighting its dark subject matter that some feared was not appropriate for the book's targeted age group.


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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig

Twenty-six rejections seems pretty dispiriting, but try 121! That's what Robert M. Pirsig and his famed pop-philosophy book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, endured before finally being published in 1974 to critical and popular acclaim.

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