The history of publication is old. However, there are books that were published only later but are more popular compared to the traditionally published books long ago in history. When it comes to deciding the popularity of books in terms of the number of copies being sold, it becomes very clumsy. It is difficult to determine books that have sold the highest number of copies, as it depends on the time period and the specific criteria used to define the “highest number of copies.” We have tried to gather data from open-source platforms as well as articles by individuals writing for newspapers and records. We have decided to include books that are genuinely popular so that our list looks familiar to readers from different parts of the world. Here are the books that have sold well over time (in no order):
- The Bible – This religious text has been translated into many languages and is estimated to have sold billions of copies worldwide. (Exact numbers cannot be known. Bible is distributed for free as well.)
- Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung – Also known as the “Little Red Book,” this collection of quotations from the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong is believed to have sold over 900 million copies. These are only estimated numbers. However, a very high estimation and the book is indeed popular.
- A Tale of Two Cities – This famous novel by Charles Dickens is one of the best-selling books of all time, with estimates of its worldwide sales ranging from 200 million to over 2 billion copies. Though the popularity still exists, the numbers look hyped and liberally over-estimated.
- Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda – This famous book in which Paramahansa Yogananda, the seer and seeker, the Guru and the Disciple, shares his experiences and realisations has had a massive impact on readers over time. Published in 1946, the book still sells well around the world with an estimated number of 50-70 million copies worldwide in different languages.
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes – This classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes has been translated into numerous languages and is estimated to have sold over 500 million copies worldwide. Published in 1605 (first part) and 1615 (the second), the novel has seen a surge in popularity in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – Coelho has been widely popular among modern readers for his writing style and stories. This novel by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, has been translated into 67 languages and is estimated to have sold over 150 million copies worldwide.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling – The wonder pen of Rowling redefined literature (for young adults and teenagers) in the 21st century! The first book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has sold over 120 million copies worldwide. The estimates might match the reality for many because the book’s popularity is unmatchable among youths.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien – Fantasy! First published in 1954, the novel has seen worldwide translations and successful film adaptations that entertained the masses. It is widely believed that this fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien has sold over 150 million copies worldwide.
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – Mystery fiction reached its peak with Agatha Christie on the scene. Published in 1939 in the UK and 1941 in the US, this mystery novel by Agatha Christie is the best-selling mystery novel of all time, with sales estimated at over 100 million copies worldwide. The estimates might or might not meet the real numbers but it’s highly improbable to assume the numbers are not very close to the original sales. Christie is still popular even after numerous publications of Bonds and Clancys.
- The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – Who’s the boss? Many should many times before the real boss arrives! Dan Brown, the father of contemporary popular fiction in the world, raised the bar for suspense and adventure very high with his publications. The Da Vinci Code published in 2003 has entertained people in both forms – book and movie. This thriller by Dan Brown has sold over 80 million copies worldwide. And the numbers are mostly true because of modern techniques and tools used to calculate the numbers of sales. It will only increase with time.
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger – This novel by J.D. Salinger has sold over 65 million copies worldwide and the work still remains very popular and relatable because of its psychological appeal.
While it is important to note that these estimates are approximations and may vary depending on the source, this list does offer an idea of a few popular books in the world. And also, the trends do come out explicitly – what do people read? We can put The Bible at the top just to showcase the impressive numbers or remove it from there because it is not a leisure publication as many read it religiously. At the same time, it is also a distinct marker that many modern readers use their digital devices to read books rather than reading conventional physical copies. Apple iBooks, Amazon Kindle Books, PDF books, Mobi, Epub and various other formats are available on the internet for sale. Do these numbers count? Who calculates these numbers? Free downloads? Pirated copies? There are many questions we need to address in order to calculate the contemporary number of popular books in the world. Nevertheless, we can safely assume that there are books traditionally popular because of their timeless appeal and it is heartening to see names like Charles Dickens on the lists!
By Alka for Literature News