Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

What Are Humanity’s Most Popular Books?

I’m always happy when I can write a blog post that deals with all three of the major topics I cover—Reading, Writing, and Publishing.

Most Popular Books

Image Courtesy of Brendan Gogarty ~

I’m sure readers want to know about popular books, even if they often love books that aren’t popular.

I’m sure writers need to know about popular books, even if they have no intention of writing a bestseller.

I’m sure publishers are ravenously interested in what makes a book popular.

Still, there are fleetingly popular books and enduringly popular books.

So along comes a site in Australia called Women’s Weekly that takes the data and orders it a bit in an article called, The 30 biggest selling books of all time might surprise you.

I imagine Readers can enlarge their horizons by checking out these books

I’m sure Writers would improve their craft by reading these books

I honestly wonder what Publishers think about all this

Here’s a list of those books (ranked by total sales):

The Holy Quran

The King James Bible

Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

She: A History Of Adventure by H.Rider Haggard

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Odyssey by Homer

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Anderson’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson

Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Are any of your favorites in the list?

Are there some you’d consider reading?

Why do you think these particular books became the Most Popular?

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11 responses to “What Are Humanity’s Most Popular Books?

  1. Salvatore Pope Ritondo August 10, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    I am going to put these lists on the bulletin board at work and have the inmates give feedback so stay tuned. I was floored in a good way. I assumed the Bible would be first. I’m glad I was wrong. I need to have tasty reality sandwiches as often as they are offered and especially when they are free.


  2. Jane Watson August 10, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Yes, many of my favourites are on this list. I will single out: Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin (anyone interested in attempting this may also like to watch the fabulous series: It contains many reality sandwiches :-) Also, The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen and…The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – just to name a few :-)

    I think all these books became popular because they tapped into a universal consciousness, dealing with some archetypal figures and some profound truths.


  3. MarinaSofia August 11, 2015 at 4:49 am

    Humanity’s favourite books is a bit of a grandiose title though…
    It’s always interesting to note the differences between what people report that they liked most and what the sales figures tell you.


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 11, 2015 at 11:43 am


      Please, do say more about those differences?


      • MarinaSofia August 11, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        Perhaps sometimes people claim to have read and enjoyed books perceived as ‘worthy’, while the sales figures (for instance of 50 Shades of Grey) show that they actually buy or consume something else. They might not read it all the way to the end, though.


        • Alexander M Zoltai August 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm

          Thanks for expanding on your thoughts, Marina.

          I agree that a Purchase doesn’t, necessarily mean a Read…

          Still, many purchases might mean many reads…

          Which brings to mind today’s ability to track pages read on e-readers…

          In any case, over the centuries, humanity progresses…

          Perhaps, one day, we will know global reading habits like we know the weather—realizing both will still be somewhat unpredictable :-)


  4. juliecround August 14, 2015 at 10:45 am

    I think I have read 20 of these books but they were by no means my favourites. Some of them may have been books chosen for pupils to read in school. I couldn’t finish The Lord of the Rings or the last Harry Potter and the only one I possess is ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.’
    It does look as though they are books people would admit to reading rather than books they would like to keep. I wonder?


  5. Pingback: Our Blog Conversation Stays in the Realm of Charming and Surprising Books | Notes from An Alien

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