Picture it: teenage Mary Shelley was on a vacation getaway, with her husband Percy and some of his rambunctious poet friends, like that rogue Lord Byron… and out of the group of legends, it’s Shelley herself who arguably published the greatest work of all at the ridiculous age of 20: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, a book that has penetrated our human consciousness. In honor of Shelley’s birthday this month, here’s a list of 25 other writers who created heartbreakingly beautiful work before they could get a discount on a rental car or have their publishers demand an active Twitter account. If you’re 26, get on out of here. (However, interestingly enough, 26 seems to be a magic age for a lot of writers, starting with Thomas Pynchon, which is a whole other list.) Enjoy the depressingly youthful visages and luminous skin below.
Norman Mailer — The Naked and the Dead
Mailer became a star when this book was published. A fictional account of being a solider during WWII, it immediately established the writer’s themes: manliness, misogyny, and war.