10 of Literature’s Greatest Comeback Books

Though Tom Wolfe’s last novel, 2004’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, fell flat for many readers and reviewers — Michiko Kakutani called it “disappointingly empty” — some critics are heralding his new effort, Back to Blood, which hit bookstores this week, as his comeback book. Only time will tell, of course, but the idea got us thinking about a few other important books that have pulled some of our favorite authors back from the brink of oblivion (or worse, bad reviews). After the jump, read about the many ways authors have dusted off and recharged their careers with a well-placed tome, and as always, add any we’ve missed in the comments.

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

The 1940s were not good for Hemingway. He described himself as being “out of business as a writer” from 1942 to 1945, and fell into a depression fueled by physical problems and the fact that many of his friends — Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Max Perkins — were dying around him. In 1950, he published Across the River and Into the Trees, which was roundly panned. The following year, as if in furious revenge, he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which was to be his last book, and some say his best — in any event, it won a Pulitzer and firmly re-established his literary reputation.