All-Time Bestsellers


Here’s a good exercise. Not counting books such as the Bible, what do you think the top ten best selling books are? We’re talking about books that have sold the most copies and ignore retail price, literary quality, or subliminal cover art.

Jeffrey Somers has posted the surprising statistics on (Jeffrey is their Bestsellers expert).

I have listed the bestsellers below but you should read the original article on for a much further discussion of each entry.

  1. A Tale Of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, 1859; 200 million copies.
  2. The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937,140.6 million copies.
  3. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943; 140 million copies.
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by EL James, 2011; 125 million copies.
  5. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, J. K. Rowling, 1997; 107 million.
  6. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie, 1939; 100 million copies.
  7. Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin, 1754–1791; 100 million copies.
  8. She: A History of Adventure, by H. Rider Haggard, 1887; 100 million copies.
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis, 1950; 85 million copies.
  10. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, 2003; 80 million copies.

Any surprises? Any disappointments? Not even one WTF?

Personally, I understand most of the selections but there are a couple that must be representative of a dip in the public’s literary acumen. I am also wondering how the availability of digital versions of the books will effect the numbers as the years go by?

Take the Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities, Being in the public domain there are multiple editions available, including online digital editions that anyone can access for free and then freely redistributed to friends and starving students. Are these additional copies accounted for? Or do they not count because in order to be a “best seller” a book must be “sold.”

What are your thoughts on this?

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