Remember those days in school when your parents and teachers would urge you to hit the books? All those requests, commands, and orders have fortunately allowed us to devour as much knowledge from as many books as possible.
But which books are the most popular? Which books have had the most copies sold? Unfortunately, there is no way of ascertaining the exact numbers for books like the Christian Bible or the Muslim Qu’ ran. The little red book entitled Quotations from Chairman Mao from China must have surely sold hundreds of millions, as the Chinese were waving it around like their bible during the height of Mao Tse Tung’s reign. However, no official numbers have been released, and there may be no way of knowing for sure.
But the following books do have the numbers to back them up. Here is a list of the top ten most popular books of all time and the number of copies they have sold.
10 A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (1859) – 200 million
This book ranks among the most famous works of fictional literature. Dickens set it with the French Revolution as a backdrop. It showed the fate of French peasants who were demoralized by the aristocracy and the brutality of the revolutionaries during the early part of the revolution. It also showed a lot of parallels with life in London during those same years. It was originally published in 1859 in 31 weekly installments.
9 The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943) – 200 million
This was originally published in French, and it has become the most translated French-language book. It was also voted the best book of the 20th century in France. It has been translated to over 250 languages and dialects. The book is about the loneliness, friendships, loves, and loss of a young prince who had fallen to Earth.
8 The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (1955) – 150 million
This is an epic fantasy novel that started out as a sequel for Tolkien’s 1937 book The Hobbit. When it became much larger than originally intended, it was then planned to be the first of a two-volume set, with the other one being The Silmarillion. Eventually, it was released in three volumes. It depicted the struggle for Middle Earth between the forces of good and evil. Its influence has been such that a movie trilogy based on the book became a blockbuster hit half a century after the book’s initial release.
7 The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (1937) – 100 million
The complete title of the book is The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. It is considered a classic in children’s literature. It shows the personal growth and heroism of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who had joined a quest for a share of the treasure in a kingdom guarded by a dragon. Tolkien used his experience in World War I to shape the story. The book has never been out of print, thus reflecting its enduring popularity.
6 Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin (1754) – 100 million
This is a masterpiece in Chinese literature, and is considered as one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels. There is even a field of study, called Redology, which deals exclusively with this work. The book provides an exact and detailed observation of life and the social structures in 18th century Chinese aristocracy. It features the rise and fall of the Qing Dynasty by using the author’s own family as benchmark.
5 And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (1939) – 100 million
Originally entitled Ten Little Niggers, it was changed to And Then There Were None when it was published in the United States. It was about ten people who were complicit in the murder of others, and who were then lured to an island. Each one was then murdered in the same manner as the deaths of each person in the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians. It remains the best selling mystery book ever.
4 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (1950) – 85 million
The book was the first one published, albeit considered the second volume in the seven-novel set called The Chronicles of Narnia. The book is about the adventures of four English kids who visit the land of Narnia with its talking animals and mythical beings. They do so by wearing a wardrobe located in a spare room of their old country house.
3 She, H. Rider Haggard (1887) – 83 million
The complete title is She, A History of Adventure. It is about the journey of Horace Holly and Leo Vincey to a lost kingdom in Africa. A white queen named Ayesha ruled the kingdom, and she must be obeyed at all times. The book is a classic in imperialist literature, and it reflected the racial concepts of the late Victorian age.
2 The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003) – 80 million
This is a mystery and detective novel about alternative religious history. The book explored the possibility of Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene and even having direct descendants. Among the descendants are the Merovingian kings of France. The title took off from the murder at the beginning of the story that showed a man posed like da Vinci’s Vitruvian man. While the book is a work of fiction with several historical and scientific inaccuracies, Christian denominations have nevertheless denounced the book for attacking the church and expanding the role of Magdalene in the history of the faith.
1 Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill (1937) – 70 million
The book aims to help people succeed whatever work or field they are in. Hill wrote this personal development and self-help book upon the suggestion of the American-Scottish businessman Andrew Carnegie. It urges its readers to do or be anything they want to be. Eliminating negative energy and focusing on the bigger picture and goals are the keys to becoming a better person and richer man.