The 50 Best-Selling Novels of All Time

Best-Selling Novels of All Time

Table of Contents

Novels are now a dime a dozen. Therefore, to stand out among the ranks of writers and reach a broad audience, it takes a unique story, a distinctive writing style, or a previously unheard-of theme. We now present to you the 50 best-selling novels of all time, in which authors have achieved the feat of becoming the most commercially successful representatives of their guild. We wish you a lot of fun with our best list!

This is a dynamic list that may never meet certain standards of completeness.

1st place: Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities (200 million copies sold)

A tale of two cities
“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens shows us in a touching way how far people are willing to go once they have fallen in love. This outstanding work of world literature takes us directly to the turmoil of the French Revolution in the late 18th century. Century. In the process, we follow the characters Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie and her husband, Charles Darnay. After Charles is sentenced to death by the French revolutionaries, the Englishman Sydney sacrifices himself in his place to spare his secret love, Lucie, the expendable life of a widow.

This milestone in literary history, whose action takes place mainly in Paris and London, is considered the most successful novel of all time, with 200 million copies sold. Peppered with emotion, sadness, and hope, the work, published in 1859, is a timeless classic that inspires today.

2nd place: J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (120 million copies sold)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
When the hitherto utterly unknown author Joanne K. Rowling published her book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in 1997, no one could have guessed what a literary milestone had just hit the stores. The story of young Harry, who starts his school career as a sorcerer’s apprentice in the legendary Hogwarts Castle, immediately captivated the masses and became an international bestseller practically overnight. As we know, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is merely the prelude to a seven-volume journey into the world of witches, wizards, and the most fantastic settings. During his fight against the relentless Lord Voldemort, Harry can always count on the support of his friends Ron and Hermione.

The entire “Harry Potter” series captivates with its fairy-tale flair, its thrilling adventures, as well as numerous unforeseen twists and turns. The first part of the series sold a staggering 120 million copies, while the entire series sold as many as 500 million copies.

3rd place: C. S. Lewis – The King of Narnia (85 million copies sold)

The Wonder of Narnia / The King of Narnia: The Chronicles of Narnia
Before the series “The Chronicles of Narnia” appeared, “The King of Narnia” saw the literary light of day in 1950. Despite this, the original first part forms the second volume within the series’ chronology, while “The Wonder of Narnia,” published in 1956, represents the temporal prelude to the series. Within the fantasy book of the Irish author C. S. Lewis we follow the four siblings Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund, who seek refuge in the remote country estate of an old professor during World War II due to the numerous air raids on London. It doesn’t take long for the four tots to stumble upon a mysterious closet in the time-honored rooms of the mansion, which is the gateway to the fabled world of the kingdom of Narnia. The land populated by fantastic creatures has suffered for many years under the reign of terror of a tyrannical witch. Now it is up to the childlike title characters to free Narnia from the terror of the sorceress.

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The entire “Narnia” series is bursting with fairy-tale creativity and helps you escape from your stressful everyday life in your thoughts amidst centaurs, dwarves, and talking animals.

4th place: Sir Henry Rider Haggard – She (83 million copies sold)

Published in 1886, “She” by Sir Henry Rider Haggard has sold 83 million copies to date. The plot centers on the scholar Louis Horace Holly, who takes the son of his deceased friend Vincey under his care. The protagonist is entrusted with the request to be on the 25. The story is about a man who opens a mysterious suitcase on his son’s birthday and then travels to Africa. Inside the luggage, the two characters encounter some mysterious artifacts that lead them directly to a legendary legend.

“She” is regarded as the unofficial intro to the entire fantasy genre in professional circles. This classic of world literature is rightly considered one of the most commercially successful works in history because of its unique characters and breathtaking settings.

5th place: Carlo Collodi – Pinocchio (80 million copies sold)

Pinocchio: Wonderful read-aloud book for children aged 5 and older
Nowadays, everyone has probably heard of the little wooden character Pinocchio, whose most ardent wish is to become a real boy one day. The little man, created by the woodcarver Geppetto, also has a unique nose that starts to grow every time Pinocchio tells a lie.

In “Pinocchio,” you can relive the numerous adventures of the iconic character. The book, which contains the stories of Pinocchio published in 1881 as a bundled collection, fascinates with its fairy-tale character. Thus, during his journey, the little wooden boy meets many fantastic characters who don’t always have the protagonist’s best interests in mind.

6th place: Dan Brown – Sakrileg (80 million copies sold)

Sacrilege - The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon 2)
“The Da Vinci Code was translated into 44 languages and released in 2006 under “The Da Vinci Code – Sacrilege,” starring Tom Hanks. The novel by Dan Brown is in no way inferior to the successful film in terms of suspense and complexity. At the center of the story is the symbol researcher Robert Langdon, who will already be familiar to fans of the books from the prequel novel “Illuminati.” In the book, published in 2004, the protagonist receives a strange phone call: His acquaintance Jacques Saunière, the chief curator of the famous Louvre in Paris, has been murdered in the museum. At the crime scene, Langdon finally discovers a puzzling code that is supposed to reveal a previously undreamt-of conspiracy. Thrilling, gripping, dramatic – “Sacrilege” is a literary must for every thriller fan!

7th place: Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist (65 million copies sold)

The Alchemist (detebe)
The remaining representatives of the “Harry Potter” series will be waiting for you at this point. However, since we’ve already introduced you to the series in the course of the second place of our best list, we’ll skip the other “Potter” spin-offs, which sold between 77 million and 65 million copies each, and continue with “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Published in 1988, the novel tells the story of young Santiago, who defies his father’s wishes and instead goes out into the world as a shepherd. When he meets a wise king during his journey, Santiago decides to turn over a new leaf in his life.

The captivating narrative is carried by the equally fluid and poetic writing style and comes with countless wisdom.

8th place: J. D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye (65 million copies sold)

The Catcher in the Rye
Although Holden Caulfield is just 16 years old, the teenager already looks back on an eventful time. In “The Catcher in the Rye,” the first-person narrator tells us about his personal experiences, which eventually lead to the protagonist finding himself in a psychiatric treatment center. Published in 1951, the novel covers three days, during which we learn how much the young adult struggles with the long-established social structures of his environment. When the rebellious behavior of the title character finally results in expulsion from school, he wanders through the urban jungle of Manhattan in search of himself.

“The Catcher in the Rye” sensitively shows us the inner conflict of young people and fascinates us with its socially critical approach.

9th place: Robert James Waller – The Bridges on the River (60 million copies sold)

The bridges on the river
The photographer Robert Kincaid only wanted to ask for directions to a time-honored bridge. But when he starts talking to Francesca, a farmer, they both suspect that this meeting will change their lives forever. Although the farmer’s wife leads a contented life by all appearances, including a happy marriage, her heart seems to be filled with a deep longing. The two title characters become closer and learn about entirely new sides of love.

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The touching story of the book was brought to the screen in 1995, with Clint Eastwood in the leading role. The novel, which hit the stores three years earlier, stands out for its emotional presentation, which takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions.

10th place: Lew Wallace – Ben Hur (50 million copies sold)

Ben Hur
Within the framework of “Ben Hur,” we travel back to the 1. Century n. Chr. In doing so, we follow the titular protagonist, a Jewish prince who the Roman occupiers unjustly sentence to a merciless galley punishment aboard a ship. After the protagonist regains his freedom, he returns to his ancestral homeland, where he plans to form a resistance against the Romans. When the title character learns of the teachings of Jesus Christ, he begins to have doubts about his bloodthirsty rebellion.

Shortly after its publication in 1880, “Ben Hur” became a highly regarded bestseller. The novel was even one of the most widely printed books – just behind the Bible. Many will be familiar with the story, not least thanks to the monumental 1959 film adaptation of the same name.

11th place: Gabriel José García Márquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude (50 million copies sold)

One Hundred Years of Solitude: Novel. Newly translated by Dagmar Ploetz (Fischer Klassik)
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells us the intergenerational story of the Buendías family, which makes its home in fictional Macondo. The writer Gabriel José García Márquez uses many time jumps within his world-famous novel; at the same time, the author gives us a deep insight into the ills of Latin American society.

The book, which was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, is one of the most important representatives of Spanish-language novels ever written. In complex yet comprehensibly described scenarios, we learn about the consequences of bitter defeats, false pride, and blind rage. The work of art, which reached up to approximately 50 million readers today, should be missing accordingly in no well-sorted book collection.

12th place: Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita (50 million copies sold)

Lolita (Nabokov: Collected Works, Volume 8)
Due to its sensitive subject matter, which sometimes drifts into the realm of lived pedophilia, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” remains one of the most discussed books in history to this day. The plot centers on the forbidden desire of a 37-year-old literary scholar who marries the mother of twelve-year-old Lolita. After the protagonist’s wife is killed in an accident, he approaches his daughter on a sexual level.

The scandalous content of the novel, published in 1955, brought the Russian author’s work to international attention. If you want to get your impression of the sensitive subject matter, you should join the ranks of the 50 million buyers of the work so far.

13th place: Johanna Spyri – Heidi (50 million copies sold)

Heidi: Heidi's Years of Learning and Wandering (insel taschenbuch)
Enchanting Alpine panoramas, lush meadows, unspoiled nature – the home of the protagonist described in the “Heidi” stories played a significant role in Switzerland being considered by many people to this day as one of the most beautiful countries on our planet. The shallow tales of the childlike title heroine show us how Heidi copes with her new life on her grandfather’s mountain pasture. The orphan girl, characterized by her fun-loving and robust character, meets many new friends in her adventures and learns to grow from the new tasks of her everyday life.

The “Heidi” books, which were published in 1880 and 1881, were to become hugely successful in the world of children’s books. The bright girl quickly became at home away from the literary world and has been the subject of several movies and television series over the decades.

14th place: Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne in Green Gables (50 million copies sold)

Anne on Green Gables: Contains the volumes "Anne on Green Gables' and "Anne in Avonlea" - children's book classics from 11 years onwards
Speaking of absolute children’s book classics: For more than a century, “Anne in Green Gables” has been one of the stories that the youngest children love to listen to. The book’s first edition was published in 1908, centers on the petite redhead Anne Shirley. The young orphan girl ends up on the farm of the siblings Matthew and Marilla, where she throws the adult world into chaos with her imaginative nature. We follow the protagonist over a good five years. While Anne still resembles a dreamy, sometimes naive youngster, she matures into a responsible young woman in the course of the story.

If, while reading “Anne in Green Gables,” you discover certain parallels to Astrid Lindgren’s “Pippi Longstocking,” this circumstance is no coincidence. By her admission, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work was one of the Swedish author’s absolute favorites.

15th place: Anna Sewell – Black Beauty (50 million copies sold)

Anna Sewell, Black Beauty: Complete, Unabridged Edition (Anaconda Classic Children's Books, Volume 2)
With Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty,” we can expect an animal adventure in the truest sense of the word. The entire book is written from the point of view of the eponymous stallion, Black Beauty. We learn how the little foal’s sheltered life develops into a real odyssey as the story progresses. After fate has some terrible stations in store for the horse, it faces the bitter end of its life. Fortunately, however, life has a final, happy turn for Black Beauty.

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Within her novel, which saw the literary light of day in 1877, the British author draws attention to the grave abuses of horse husbandry. From the perspective of a stallion, an emotional, moving work shows us what bitter consequences the careless behavior of us humans has for the four-legged friends affected.

16th place: Umberto Eco – The Name of the Rose (50 million copies sold)

The Name of the Rose
An Italian Benedictine abbey in 1327: the venerable Franciscan monastery is haunted by a mysterious series of murders. The high-ranking friar William of Baskerville is called in for help to get to the bottom of the horrific deaths. In his investigations, the protagonist soon realizes that the insidious murders are based on a much larger conspiracy.

The novel is one of the most significant works of modern world literature. The work of art, which reached about 50 million readers, is full of philosophical wisdom, authentic flair, and dramatic moments of suspense.

17th place: Jack Higgins – The Eagle Has Landed (50 million copies sold)

The Eagle Has Landed: Novel (Liam Devlin)
Jack Higgins’ “The Eagle Has Landed” from 1975 takes us directly into the turmoil of World War II. After a German special commando freeing the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from his captivity, Adolf Hitler forges a cunning plan. He wanted to control the British statesman Winston Churchill to obtain an effective means of pressure against the hated enemy. The leading Nazis, therefore, do everything in their power to ensure that the project, called “Operation Eagle,” succeeds.

A highly entertaining novel that skillfully combines historical events with fictional sequences. Some 50 million copies have been sold, testifying to the special status that “The Eagle has Landed” still enjoys today in the ranks of world literature.

18th place: Richard Adams – Down by the River (50 million copies sold)

Down by the River - 'Watership Down': A poignant reflection of society and the compelling story of a long road to freedom
Published in 1972, Watership Down follows a group of rabbits who, as a result of a grim prediction, are forced to leave their ancestral home to find a new home in the wilderness. But until the new abode is reached, the brave long ears must face a wide variety of adventures and overcome terrible dangers.

British writer Richard Adams brilliantly mastered the art of creating an authentic world. Thus, the animal protagonists have their way of speaking and possess coherent mythology. Once again, we readers are impressively shown that even the smallest creatures are capable of great heroic deeds.

19th place: Elwyn Brooks White – Wilbur and Charlotte (50 million copies sold)

Wilbur and Charlotte
Sometimes children have that deep compassion that we adults are not capable of. When a sow’s litter contains a stunted piglet, farmer John Arable kills the pitiful creature. However, Fern’s daughter begs her father to spare the little pig; he then allows his daughter to keep the piglet as a pet. The girl names her animal friend “Wilbur,” and they experience numerous adventures together. When the time comes for Wilbur to move to Fern’s uncle’s farm, he is plagued by terrible loneliness. However, when the pig meets Charlotte, the spider, the joy of life returns to the hitherto dreary everyday life on the farm.

The children’s book by the U.S. author captivates with its sugary sweet characters. It is also one of the absolute bestsellers in young people’s literature outside the borders of the United States.

20th place: J. P. Donleavy – Ginger Man (50 million copies sold)

Ginger Man
“Ginger Man” was penned by the American-Irish author J.P. Donleavy. The 1955 literary classic tells an episode from the life of Sebastian Dangerfield. The U.S. man becomes involved with the Englishwoman Marion in Dublin, but Sebastian’s constant escapades mar their love affair. “Ginger Man” does not shy away from openly pillorying the ills of Irish society at the time—an entertaining reading pleasure with depth.

The ranks 21-50 of the most successful novels of all time:

Place:Novel:Author:Sales figures:Link to the book:
21.The story of Peter HareBeatrix Potter45 million
22.Jonathan the seagullRichard Bach44 million
23.The little caterpillar gluttonEric Carle43 million
24.A Message to GarciaElbert Hubbard40 million
25.Who disturbs the nightingaleHarper Lee40 Million
26.Flowers of the nightV. C. Andrews40 million
27.Sophie’s worldJostein Gaarder40 million
28.IlluminatiDan Brown39 million
29.Cain and AbelJeffrey Archer37 million
30.How the steel was hardenedNikolai Alexeyevich Ostrovsky36.5 million
31.War and peaceLev Nikolaevich Tolstoy36 million
32.The thorn birdsColleen McCullough33 million
33.Kite RunnerKhaled Hosseini31,5 million
34.Valley of the DollsJacqueline Susann31 million
35.The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald30 million
36.Gone with the WindMargaret Mitchell30 million
37.RebeccaDaphne du Maurier30 million
38.1984George Orwell30 million
39.The Revolt of Mamie StoverWilliam Bradford Huie30 million
40.InfatuationStieg Larsson30 million
41.The Lost SymbolDan Brown30 million
42.The Tributes of Panem – Deadly GamesSuzanne Collins29 million
43.James and the giant peachRoald Dahl28 million
44.The Young GuardAlexander Alexandrovich Fadeyev26 million
45.Paul and VirginieJacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre25 million
46.Lust for LifeIrving Stone25 million
47.The wind in the willowsKenneth Grahame25 million
48.New territory under the plowMikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov24 million
49.The prophecies of CelestineJames Redfield23 million
50.Fate is a lousy traitorJohn Green23 million

By the way: According to Guinness World Records of 1995, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed.

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