The 12 Best Selling Books Ever

No doubt like most authors I often find myself daydreaming at my desk, quill in hand, wondering what it would be like to have a global bestseller.  This week’s blog post is dedicated to 12 of the best-selling books of all time.

The Bible is omitted by design.  After all half of the World’s Bibles have been given away for free, and are currently gathering dust in hotel room drawers.  I have also ignored Mao’s Little Red Book for similar reasons.

The 12 books are:


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 65 million copies sold – Reclusive author J.D. Salinger’s seminal work was published in 1951.  The iconic book continues to sell at a rate of approximately 250,000 copies a year.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill 70 million copies sold – Published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich remains the best selling self-help book of all time.  It certainly made its author rich, though not sure the same could be said for its readers.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – 80 million copies sold – This Christian themed mystery thriller complete with conspiracy theories has become a global best seller.  I am probably merely one of millions who don’t like Dan Brown, but nevertheless own a copy of The Da Vinci Code.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 85 million copies sold – Published in 1950, this Christian themed children’s fantasy tale, which has been adapted for the stage and big screen, continues to sell well to this day, and no doubt will continue to do so.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James – 100 million copies sold – Published in 2011, this, the first instalment of the Fifty Shades erotic fiction trilogy, more than makes up for any perceived lack of literary merit with massive global sales.

She: A History of Adventure by H Rider Haggard – 100 million copies sold – Published in 1887, She is about two men who discover a lost kingdom in Africa.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be admitting this, but I had never even heard of it (I mean She) prior to writing this post.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – 100 million copies sold – Prior to inspiring an unnecessary incredible three films in consecutive years, all based on different sections of the book that inspired it, The Hobbit was known as the bestselling prequel to The Lord of the Rings.

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin – 100 million copies sold – Mao’s Little Red Book is not the only bestselling Chinese book with the word ‘red’ in its title.  Written in the 18th century, Dream of the Red Chamber is a semi-autobiographical account about the author’s family and friends.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 100 million copies sold – Best selling, prolific mystery writer Agatha Christie’s top selling book is about 10 people lured to an island and then murdered, following the pattern of the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians.

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – 140 million copies – Voted the best book of the 20th Century in France, this novella, complete with watercolour illustrations, tells the story of a pilot stuck in the desert, who meets a little prince.  

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – 150 million copies – Another Tolkien book, another Peter Jackson directed film.  The Lord of the Rings is the second best selling book ever.  Tolkien’s two entries on this list add up to 0.25 billion books sold.  That is more than the population of Brazil and Colombia combined (2014 estimate).

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – 200 million copies sold – A Tale of Two Cities is the best-selling book of all time.  This iconic piece of historical fiction set during the French Revolution continues to grace bookshelves around the globe, including mine, though I must confess I haven’t read it yet.


I am the author of the satirical black comedy Necropolis and the psychological thriller, Symbiosis.



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  • Excellent post! E.L. James & Dan Brown might be multimillionaire bestsellers but their books suck. Well Fifty Shades does. The Da Vinci Code isn’t that bad. I got a hardback copy of it in my stocking one Xmas. Santa really isn’t that imaginative is he?

    • I know what you mean about Santa. Haven’t read any of the Fifty Shades trilogy. Not sure erotic fiction is for me, but who knows, maybe it is yet another genre I would enjoy if I only tried it. Have a good weekend.

  • I’d guessed JK Rowling would’ve been up there. I read She when I was young and remember it being a good story but probably like the Narnia books didn’t understand it. I hadnt a clue they were religious until I started reading the Lion, etc to children. Nor did I much like these books- much preferred Enid Blyton, though again it was sadly only much later that I understood the stuff about class. Might have guessed Enid would have made the list. And all these years I thought the Hobbit was Tolkien’s first book. I’ve resisted Shades and da Vinci quite easily so shouldn’t comment. They do go cheap in supermarkets though.

    • You are not the only one to be surprised by the omission of JK Rowling Sue. I wasn’t a big fan of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Enid Blyton made the prolific authors list (see week before). The Hobbit was actually the prequel to Lord of the Rings. This was an error on my part. I dream of the day when my books grace the shelves of Tescos. Thank you for the comment. Hope all is well.

    • To the best of my knowledge these were the 12 best-selling books (all languages) at the time of writing. Karl May sold about 200m books (source: wiki), but don’t think any 1 of his titles sold enough to make this list Maximus.

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