For millennium, knowledge has been passed on to newer generations through the written cord. Old novels and books, as we know them, have been around for about 600 years stimulating the imagination and intellect of readers, and have contributed to both mass education and mass entertainment. Was Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith, blacksmith and publisher, aware of the impact he would have on the world by inventing the printing press around 1439? We can’t say it for sure. But, his invention had clearly opened the door to many novel writers in Europe and other parts of the world till the end of 16th century.
Literary scholars and intellects can debate endlessly over which novel is the “best” of all times, but finding out which ones have enjoyed being the top-seller or the best-seller should be a more concrete attempt. There is no central receptacle for total sales number to unravel “what novels are the best selling of all time”, or to measure the commercial success of a particular novel. Publishers and distributors may not share the sales figure for individual novels, their reported numbers are often inaccurate, and to cap it all, many novels come out in multiple editions over the years through entirely different publishers.
These problems are compounded when it comes to religious and political books like The Holy Bible, the Quran, Quotations from Mao Zedong, and many more. So, books like these which are often given away for free are not included in this list. For the record, these excluded books have a sales figure of hundreds of millions copies, a several billion in the Bible’s case.
With all those caveats in mind, here we run a countdown of “Top 10 Best Selling Novels Of All Time”. These top selling novels span multiple centuries, covering many genres and original languages. So, read on!
10. She: A History of Adventure
Written by- Henry Rider Haggard | Total sales- 83 million
“She” is a fantasy, adventure, romance and Gothic mixture of novel written by Henry Rider Haggard, one of the classic authors of imaginative literature. First published in 1887, the novel follows a first-person narrative tracing the journey of Horace Holly and his ward Leo Vincey to a lost empire in some African interior. Through this work, Haggard pioneered the Lost World sub-genre, which was emulated for years by many other authors.
With over 83 million copies sold around the world in 44 different languages, She remains on of the best-selling novels of all time. Extraordinarily popular upon its release, the book is claimed to have never been out of print till today!
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Written By- C.S Lewis | Total sales- 85 million
Written by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a religion-based fantasy novel for children published in 1950. It was the first of the seven novels in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. Most part of the story is set in Narnia, a mystical land where the characters travel to encounter all types of fantastical people, godly lion and other anthropomorphic semi-animals.
The novel, with over 85 million copies sold worldwide, led to an entire series of Narnia novels and films. It shows the classic example of a “magical/mystical doorway” by which one can enter to and from a normal world and a magical one. This formula was in the later years better adopted to a greater success by J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter series.
8. The Hobbit
Written By- J.R.R. Tolkein | Total Sales- 100 million
The Hobbit is a children’s book and fantasy novel by English author J.R.R. Tolkien. It follows the quest of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure kept under wraps by the dragon, Smaug. The novel is Tolkien’s second best-selling work after The Lord of the Rings, and many believe his own experiences during the World War I was fundamental in shaping the overall story in the novel.
Published on 21 September 1937, the novel has since received a wide critical acclaim, being awarded “The Best Juvenile Fiction” prize from the New York Herald Tribune and a nomination for the Carnegie Medal. With over 100 million copies sold worldwide, The Hobbit is regarded as a pioneer of modern fantasy novels and films, and is also considered a classic in children’s literature.