Best selling books of all time – Pt. 1

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Lists, Lists and More Lists
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I can’t resist a good book list. Surprised? This one’s courtesy of Wikipedia, but let’s pretend it has  no reputation for potential unreliability, because I want to have some fun with this without any associated guilt. I don’t get out often, so this is pretty much the highlight of my life. Don’t take that away from me.

First, let’s look at the books that have sold over 100,000,000 since their publication:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – over 200 million

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – 150 million

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – over 100 million

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xuequin (Chinese) – over 100 million

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 100 million

I’ve read the top three, never heard of the fourth, and may or may not have read the last during my Christie phase in high school.

These top sellers of all time surprise me, aside from The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings.  For Dickens, why this particular novel? I don’t think it’s his best. In fact, it’s difficult to get into, and in my experience a very big percentage of readers have little patience with getting through the first 100 pages of a book before the “good stuff” starts.

Were people just that interested in the French Revolution? Guess so. It is a great book, but definitely not Dickens’s masterpiece. My opinion is that honor goes to either Bleak House or Our Mutual Friend.

Here’s what The Red Chamber is about:


“For more than a century and a half, Dream of the Red Chamber has been recognized in China as the greatest of its novels, a Chinese Romeo-and-Juliet love story and a portrait of one of the world’s great civilizations. Chi-chen Wang’s translation is skillful, accurate and fascinating.”

Sounds pretty good, and at 352 pages not too daunting. Onto the reading list it goes! Maybe I’ll throw the Christie on there, too. I’m curious to see what’s so special about this title, since she wrote so many.

Now, books between 50 million and 100 million sales:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – 85 million

She by H. Rider Haggard – 80 million

Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French) – 80 million

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – 80 million

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 65 million

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Portuguese) – 65 million

Steps to Christ by Ellen G. White – 60 million

Heidi’s Years of Wandering and Learning by Joanna Spyri – 50 million

The Common Sense Guide to Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock – 50 million

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – 50 million

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – 50 million

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (Italian) – 50 million

All but She and The Name of the Rose don’t really strike me as surprising, though the article at Wikipedia states religious books – specifically the Bible, Koran, etc.) aren’t included. So I’m not sure why Steps to Christ is on there. Seems a little like cheating to me, but what do I know? 

From this group I’ve read:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Le Petit Prince

The Catcher in the Rye


Anne of Green Gables

Black Beauty

The Name of the Rose

And onto my TBR list goes She by H. Rider Haggard. I may even have a copy floating around at home.

To be honest, I have no idea what I own, which has resulted in an embarrassing number of multiple purchases. Nothing is organized, not everything is catalogued, and since I did my big Library Thing sweep I haven’t deleted a thing I’ve gotten rid of.

Being a librarian you’d think I’d have everything organized by Dewey and author classification. Unfortunately, being disorganized and incredibly busy trumps that by about a thousand miles.

I wonder what percentage of librarians are organized enough to put their own books in even reasonable order? That may depend on whether they have kids or not, how frantic life is. Maybe once my kids move out I’ll find that magical period when I suddenly have all the time in the world. Hey, it could happen…

I’ve already told them the minute they’re out the garage door, packed up to move to school, I’ll have their rooms turned into my library annex. I have just over a year until my oldest is off to college, and another five years for my youngest. Is it too early to buy Billy bookcases from Ikea and set them outside my daughter’s door? You think?

I’ll split out the rest of these bestsellers of all time into several posts. There are too many titles to cram them all into one or two. In the meantime, I welcome any thoughts on the lists, if anything strikes you as odd or unsurprising. Also, opinions on how soon is too soon to take over my kids’ rooms would be very helpful. Should I let the car leave the driveway before I make my first move, or is that waiting too long?

Back soon with the next set of lists.


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