Books were historically the most important and widely used sources of information, education, and entertainment. And even now, in the day of the internet and television, books remain widely popular, with many millions of buyers every week. But what are the top 10 best-selling books of all time? The following updated 2020 ranking will show you this historic bestseller list.
The 10 Best-selling Books in History
1. The Bible
The Bible is the best-selling book of all time, having sold around 5 billion copies to date. The book had several authors and can be roughly divided into two parts: The Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible was written somewhere in the period between the 8th BC and the 1st Century CE. Most of it was written in Hebrew, though parts were also in Aramaic. The Bible now is also the most translated book in human history. It primarily serves as the basis of the world’s largest religion: Christianity.
2. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung
a.k.a. The Little Red Book
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tsung, also known as the “Little Red Book”, is the world’s second best-selling book, having sold around 1.1 billion copies worldwide. The book contains 427 quotes on 33 different topics made by Mao Zedong (formerly translated as Mao Tse-Tung), the leader of the Communist revolution in China in 1949 and the original Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. The latter fact made Zedong the most powerful man and leader of China until his death in 1976.
His book of quotations was first only distributed among military leaders, but soon after got distributed to the Chinese public as a whole. Zedong even halted the distribution of other books for a while in order to avoid competition for his own work. Beginning in 1967, ‘Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tsung’ was translated into many languages and then sold to millions of people outside of China.
3. The Quran
The Quran is another religious book that finds itself within the Top 10 of best-selling books of all time. It sold around 800 million copies to date. The Quran was written in the 7th Century AD, originally in Arabic, and serves as the basis for the world’s second-largest religion: Islam. Practicing Muslims understand the book as a revelation from God (“Allah”) delivered by his earthly prophet Muhammad and use the book for guidance and as the basis for their religious customs and behavior. Several authors, many of whom are contemporary witnesses, contributed to the book.
4. The Lord Of The Rings
Coming in fourth in the ranking of Top 10 best-selling books of all time, The Lord of the Rings by English author John Tolkien (a.k.a. J.R.R. Tolkien) is the best-selling novel in history. To date, it sold around 155 million copies all over the world. The book is sometimes misrepresented as a book series since it technically includes three parts (“The Fellowship of the Ring“, The Two Towers” & The Return of the King“), but the book is actually written as one story, not a trilogy. The decision to market three books was made by the original publishing house Allen & Unwin.
Tolkien’s fantasy novel has succeeded far beyond the book market. Many decades after the author’s death in 1973 it amassed a worldwide cult following and the three movies based on the book were a huge success as well.
5. The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince)
French aristocrat, aviator, journalist, and book author Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote the fifth best-selling book in history. The Little Prince (original title “Le Petit Prince“) is also still by far the best-selling children’s book of all time having sold around 140 million copies all over the world. Saint-Exupery published the book in 1943 while living in exile in the United States after France’s surrender to Nazi Germany’s invasion in 1940. The Little Prince would become the French multi-talent’s most successful, but also his last book. He died after rejoining the French military and crashing over the Mediterranean Sea in 1944.
6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
a.k.a. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, also known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in some countries, is a fantasy novel written by British author J. K. Rowling and published in 1997. It is the first novel in the world-renowned Harry Potter series and Rowling’s debut novel, followed by seven sequels. The book follows Harry Potter, a young wizard who discovers his magical heritage as he makes close friends at “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” while facing an evil wizard who intends to become immortal.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is now the sixth best-selling book of all time and has been translated into almost 100 languages. It has also been made into several blockbuster films, thus making the original Harry Potter not only one of the most popular books of all time, but also the starting point for one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
7. Scouting for Boys
Scouting for Boys is a handbook on the outdoors, specially written for young boys. The book was originally written and published in 1908 by British Army officer and founder of the Scout Movement Robert Baden-Powell and is still in print to this day. The book is divided into six parts: Scoutcraft, Woodcraft, Camp life, Endurance and Chivalry, Saving Life and Patriotism, and lastly Notes for Instructors.
The book serves as an instructional guide for young Scouts and youths interested in joining the Scout movement.
8. And Then There Were None
a.k.a. Ten Little N*ggers
‘And Then There Were None’ is a mystery crime novel by British author Agatha Christie, first released in 1939 under the title “Ten Little N*ggers” (later changed to “Ten Little Indians” and then to its current title). It comes in eighth place among the best-selling books of all time and is still the most successful mystery crime novel of all time. The book also managed to become the first ever novel to break the one million mark when it comes to sold copies.
The novel follows ten people who are invited to an island by the host Mr. U.N. Owen for unknown reasons only to find that they are all suspects in the murder of Mr. U.N Owen himself who dies at the beginning of the story with none of them knowing who did it or why they were invited in the first place. Christie’s story served as an inspiration for many other popular crime and mystery novels over the years.
9. The Hobbit
The Hobbit is another fantasy novel written by British author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published in 1937, and is set in the world of Middle-earth, which was introduced in Tolkien’s later novel ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (1954), which takes place in the same fantasy world.
The book tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a so-called hobbit who lives in peace with his friends in his home, Bag End, until he is recruited by a wizard named Gandalf to help reclaim the lost Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain from Smaug, a dragon who stole their treasure.
10. The Dream Of The Red Chamber (Honglou Meng)
a.k.a. The Story of the Stone
The Dream of the Red Chamber is a novel written by Cao Xueqin in the 18th century and first published in 1791. Xuequin wrote the novel for around 20 years, starting in the 1740s and finishing right before his death in either 1763 or 1764. The novel’s original title was “The Story of the Stone”, later renamed to its current title. It is considered one of China’s four great classical novels and is the most popular book among them.
The story revolves around the lives of a family living in Beijing during the Qing dynasty and in the most circulated version, the novel contains 120 chapters. The book now also belongs to the best-selling books of all time, having been translated and read by millions of readers even outside of China.
The 10 Best-Selling Books of All Time
(as of January 2020)
|Top 10 Best-Selling Books of All Time:|
|1. THE BIBLE|
~ 5 billion copies sold
|2. QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN MAO TSE-TUNG|
~ 1.1 billion copies sold
|3. THE QURAN|
~ 800 million copies sold
|4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS|
~ 155 million copies sold
|5. THE LITTLE PRINCE|
~ 140 million copies sold
|6. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE|
~ 125 million copies sold
|7. SCOUTING FOR BOYS|
~ 120 million copies sold
|8. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE|
~ 115 million copies sold
|9. THE HOBBIT|
~ 110 million copies sold
|10. THE DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER|
~ 105 million copies sold
Top 10 Best-Selling Books of all Time by the estimated number of copies sold. All types of books are included in the ranking. The most popular books of all time oftentimes get published under different types of media such as films, plays or audiobooks. These versions are not included in this ranking of best-selling books.