To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
by Harper Lee
Harper Lee is the most successful artist of all time. She wrote...one book...it's one of the most popular AND critically acclaimed novels of all time, and it is essentially taught in every school in the United States, and read world-wide. The very idea that an author could write a single novel and be set for life is itself novel. Even successful authors never sold enough books to never NEED to work again. In that way, Harper Lee is the beginning of the rock star economy, the blockbuster economy, where single works of art could provide a livelihood for one or more people over a period of decades.
Lee's recent death, and the nearly contemporaneous decision to publish what was essentially an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird as a "new" work, also represents an opportunity to look at the role of the publishing industry itself in the fashioning of Lee's tremendous success. One revelation from Go Set a Watchman is that the original book that Lee wrote was a much darker iteration of To Kill a Mockingbird. Specifically, Scout was not the narrator. Having an admittedly precious nine year old girl narrate this dark tale of race and justice in the deep south was a decision that was forced by the publisher. That is an excellent example of the positive role that the art-industrial complex played in the history of arts and letters.