I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Refined Reader (14) The Top Best-Selling Novels

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

Are you having trouble deciding what your next read is?  Look no further than this post since I am pleased to present the top best-selling novels of all time!  So they have to be good right?  (Best-selling means over 100 million in sales.)

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)
by Antoine de Saint Exupéry
First published in France in 1943

This poetic novella is otstensibly a children's book while also making quite profound comments on life in general.  I'm sorry to say I have not read this one yet though I do have the book to read on my bookshelf!

Approximate Book Sales: 200 Million

A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
First published in England in 1859

Charles Dickens's complex tale of love, sacrifice and revolution is truly a masterpiece.  I read this book in high school and after getting through the dense first few chapters, I was in complete awe of how well Dickens meshed the stories of two different casts of characters in two very different cities.  This is well worth a read, especially for it's heartbreaking conclusion.

Approximate Book Sales: 200 Million

The Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien
First published in England in 1954-1955

It is no wonder that The Lord of the Rings is such a blockbuster bestseller - the sheer scope and genius of the world and the characters demand it.  It's a truly breathtaking achievement in writing, and it definitely helps that the film adaptations were just as brilliant!

Approximate Book Sales: 150 Million

I should add that The Hobbit also reached more than a 100 million in sales, but I'm just going to let Tolkien take up one space in this post!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J. K. Rowling
First published in England in 1997

It's kind of ridiculous how many of J.K. Rowling books are big bestsellers, but it is fitting because this is an amazing series.  I first read them when I was in college as well, and devoured each book as it came out.  This is the most recent book on this list to hit such a milestone in book sales which is a testament to it's enduring popularity.

Approximate Book Sales: 107 Million

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
First published in England in 1939

Oh this book.  I'd seen the film adaptation a few years before I actually read it, and I still couldn't put it down.  It's compelling character study and suspenseful page-turner and if you haven't read it, you really need to!  Ten people are stuck on an island and someone is killing them off one by one...

Approximate Book Sales: 100 Million

Dream of the Red Chamber
by Cao Xuegin
First published in China in 1791

This is one of two books in this list that I was completely unfamiliar with.  This Romeo and Juliet type story is a soap opera-ish narrative of courtly intrigue, romance and drama.  It is complex and episodic and it is one of the great novels of Chinese literature.  This is a book I want to read someday!

Approximate Book Sales: 100 Million

by H. Rider Haggard
First published in England in 1887

The main characters in this novel journey to a lost African kingdom and encounter the mysterious white queen "She" or "She-who-must-be-obeyed."  Such a strange story to be a best seller.  And incidentally the other book I've never even heard of!  This sounds really interesting though and I hope to read it one day as well!

Approximate Book Sales: 100 Million

It's interesting that all the English language books are all by English authors!  At least France and China have a showing to make this list more international.  It's also interesting how varied this list is - two children's books, one mystery, two Classics, and two speculative fiction.  Of the books listed I've only read 4 (or 5 including The Hobbit) -

How many of the top best-selling novels have you read?


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  1. I've read most of these, but there's a few that I haven't gotten to yet, like She by Haggard. It will be interesting to see if Fifty Shades of Grey ends up on this list at some point-the trilogy together has sold over 100 million copies, and with the movies coming out that number will continue to rise. That would be wild to see Fifty Shades next to great classics like The Lord of the Rings and A Tale of Two Cities, lol.

  2. I have to admit I've only read Tolkien and the Harry Potter series. It's such an interesting list because I never would have expected some of these books to be on it. Dickens kind of intimidates me though. I still haven't made it all the way through Great Expectations and I started that in like February or something.

  3. Hmm, well I hope I get more out of The Little Prince! I really want to like it! Actually I bought it in French so that is why it's taking me so long to read it - I need to prepare to sit with it with dictionary in hand!

    All I remember from TOTC was how emotional I got over it - so I think I really liked it, but I know the first part was hard to get through. Serialized fiction must have been hard to write though!

    I actually didn't love The Hobbit! I think because I read Lord of the Rings first so it was more epic and serious, that Hobbit seems just okay to me. I am curious to know what you will think of it!

    Oh wow, okay, I'm glad I have a soundtrack now to listen to when I read Dream of the Red Chamber - this is a really pretty and haunting song!

  4. Oh... Fifty Shades has sold that much huh? Well it would be very strange to see it up there with this list - definitely it will showcase the wide variety of reading tastes!

  5. Dickens does write a lot! I hope you get through Great Expectations, though it's not the best Dickens book for me - actually my favorite is David Copperfield. The variety in this list is really interesting!

  6. I love these posts! I have been so sick this week and so I am just finally up to reading blogs and loved seeing this. I hadn't heard of She before. Looks interesting.

  7. Ahhh The Little Prince!♡ It's such a slim book but a very enjoyable read. Made me feel like such a child! XD I've heard so many people talk about Agatha Christie but have never read any of her books! I keep hearing title after title from her and I feel so out of the loop. :/

    I really enjoy New York Times bestseller compared to any other title deal or whatevrr you are supposed to call it. They are better than new releases or the others out there. Probably other good ones are the silver stickers NOT the gold sticker for Nobel Prize

  8. The Little Prince! I loved that book when I first read it as a child, but mostly because of the illustrations. I didn't really understand it until I reread it later in life, then the symbolism clicked in my head.

    Ah, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I think that was the first book I reviewed for my blog reboot, and it is truly hardly to put down!

  9. I'm sorry that you were sick! I hope you got lots of rest and book reading time! :) I am intrigued to know why She has sold so much - it seems very 'of it's time', I wonder if it is very relatable today.

  10. I hope to read it soon! It seems like the kind of book that would fill you with wonder! And Agatha Christie writes awesome mysteries, I highly recommend them! And Then There Were None is a great one to start with! :)

    I can understand why the NYT bestsellers are more appealing because they indicate popularity, and in my mind, if a book is popular it is probably good... um for the most part... Some of the other accolades are based on critics views and they can be a bit narrow sometimes.

  11. I am glad I will have the chance to read The Little Prince now that I'm older then - it is awesome when a children's book can still have so much meaning when you are an adult.

    I'm glad to know that you read And Then There Were None too! (such a long title... preferable to the original though!) It's been a long time since I've read it, but I think a reread is due - with some tea and a dark stormy night preferably. :D

  12. I highly recommend The Little Prince, Charlene- it's one of my all time favourite books and just so beautiful. There's a musical movie with Gene Wilder which is both hilarious and fantastic, and I love it too, but the book is just wonderful, I think.

    I'm adding She to my tbr- I'd never heard of it, either, and am really intrigued. I think it sounds like just my kind of book, so I hope it reads well!

    I really enjoyed this feature! It's the first time I've seen it and it's so good.

  13. Like you, I had never heard of She or Dream of the Red Chamber before, but now I'm intrigued. I loved all of the other books, except for And Then There Were None, which sadly I have yet to read. I need to get on that pronto because I've heard such good things! Wonderful post!

  14. I'm glad this post spurred you on to read And Then There None! It's fantastic. :D And of course I'd be interested in reading your review of She and Dream of the Red Chamber if you do get to read it!

  15. Hmmm I haven't heard of those last two. "She" sounds really interesting. I'm surprised it was published in 1887

  16. It is such a long title, but the original makes me go "Errr... Uh... No, probably not." I'd be so chicken to read it on a dark stormy night! That book has such great subtle creep factor. :D

  17. I am too actually - I thought She would be a more recent book since I hadn't heard of it - I'm guessing it's popularity was more of it's time though.

  18. LOL, that's true - but it's a nice creep factor for me - not like watching a horror movie (I'm too chicken for that! :))

  19. of COURSE Lord of the Rings series and Harry Potter =)

  20. Rinn (Rinn Reads)July 5, 2014 at 4:48 AM

    I'm quite surprised by some of these! Rowling, Dickens, Tolkien and Christie are not surprising, but I didn't realise the Little Prince sold so well, nor She. That cover of She is gorgeous!

  21. I was surprised by The Little Prince as well - but it is great that it has gotten such acclaim - I definitely need to read it soon to find out what it is all about.

    So you've heard of She then! Have you read it? I do love that cover of She - all the elements of the illustration are integrated so well!

  22. 1. I read the Little Prince in junior high---and hated it. The symbolism just flew right over my head. Granted, junior highers aren't the most perceptive people; but at that time nothing in the book made much sense to me.
    2. I read the Tale of Two Cities in high school. The beginning and ending chapters are some of the most beautiful prose I've ever seen. It's just that he was probably paid by word during the rest of the book and he made sure he got his money's worth. There's a great story in there, though.

    3. Loved the Hobbit! :) But I really need to get around to reading the LoTR.
    4. Also really liked the Harry Potter series.
    5. Haven't read anything by Agatha Cristie; I'll definitely add her to my to-read list.

    6. I've been wanting to read this ever since I heard the theme song of the mini-series adaptation of the book. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uusqzMqrTc) I want to find a good English translation of the entire book, though. I've come across some poetry from it that was just beautiful.
    7. How come I've never heard of this book? He wrote King Solomon's Mines, which I have heard of. But it sounds like an interesting story. Though s/he-who-must-be-obeyed sounds like a great name for Voldemort. Too bad it was already taken ;)

    4ish out of 7 for me as well.

  23. And also the most popular Christie mystery! It's interesting that a Poirot or Marple novel didn't make that distinction! I am glad you are interested in reading those two!

  24. Yes they totally deserve to be up there!!

  25. Oh, I had suspected that And Then There Were None was a "hit", but didn't know it was a Best Seller of best sellers. ;) Makes me happy. Have never heard of Dream of the Red Chamberor She, BUT they both sound really, really interesting. Thanks for putting them on my radar :)

  26. What, I didn't know there was a musical adaptation made of this book! And Gene Wilder seems like he would be perfect for the role, so great casting there! I have to check it out once I read this book! Thank you Romi!