Through the use of paper, the invention of printing, the reduction of manufacturing costs and the spread of literacy, books slowly became the worldwide mass medium for spreading education, stories and propaganda. Of course, this raises an interesting question that which books are the greatest best-sellers of all time, regardless of genres, countries, languages and cultures and measured exclusively by distribution or sales figures. Our list below presents the best selling books of all time, including the respective sales figures.
Criteria and sorting
The list of best selling books of all time is purely based on sales figures, starting with most sales presented in a descending order. For books with the same sales figures, sorting is done alphabetically.
It should be noted that sales of books do not always necessarily coincide with their distribution. In particular, religious works such as the Bible or the Quran, but also political writings of ideologies such as Hitler or Mao were and are often copied and distributed free of charge. Regarding these exceptions, where actual distribution was estimated, this list could be called The Most Popular Books Ever or The Most Successful Books Ever.
LIST OF THE BEST SELLING BOOKS OF ALL TIME
1. The Bible – 2-3 billion
Bible is the most sold and distributed book since it was first printed almost 600 years back. Moses is credited with writing the first five books that now are a part of the Bible.
2. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung – 1-1.5 bn
Being the second most best selling book of all time, it consists of speeches and writings by Chairman of the communist Party of China, Mao Zedong. It was first published in 1964 and has been widely distributed since then.
3. The Quran – 800 million
Muhammad wrote the Quran orated by Jibril and was originally revealed by god. It was written about 1400 years back.
4. Don Quixote – 500 million
Don Quixote was written by the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes and was published in 1605.
4. The Communist Manifesto – 500 million
It was the manifesto of the communist party that was published in 1848. It was written by communist philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
5. The Poems of Mao Zedong – 400 million
The Poems of Mao Zedong was published in 1966. It contains the poems written by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the communist party of China.
5. Xinhua Zidian – 400 million
Xinhua Zidian is a Chinese dictionary published in 1953. This book helped the world to connect with China.
6. Mao Tse-tung – Selected Works – 252 million
This book contains the writings of Mao Tse-tung and was published in. It contains Mao Tse-tung’s thoughts on the Chinese Society.
7. The Tale of Two Cities – 200 million
The tale of two cities was written by Charles Dickens and was published in 1859. It combines both political and personal events.
8. Boy Scout Handbook- 150 million
It was a book published by the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. There have been several editions of the book since then.
8. The Lord of the Rings – 150 million
It was out of this book that the movie of the same name was adapted from. It was written by J. R. R. Tolkien and was first published in 1954.
9. The Little Prince – 140 million
The Little Prince was written by the french novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and was first published in 1943. All of the authors works including The Little Prince was banned by the Vichy Regime back in the 1940’s.
10. Book of Mormon – 120 million
Book of Mormon is the compilation of the ancient writings by prophets between 2200 BC to 421 AD. It was published in 1830.
11. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 107 million
The Harry Potter series is written by J. K. Rowling. The first book was published in 1997.
12. The Hobbit – 100 million
The Hobbit was written by J. R. R. Tolkien and was published in 1937.
12. The dream of the Red Chamber – 100 million
It was written by Cao Xueqin during the Qing Dynasty in China and was published in 1791.
12. And then there were none – 100 million
The Novel is great work of the famous writer Agatha Christie. It was published in 1939 in the United Kingdom.
12. The Three Represents – 100 million
The three represents is a guiding socio-political theory written by Jiang Zemin. It was published in 2002.
13. The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe – 85 million
It is the first amongst the seven novels written by C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia. It was first published in 1984.
14. You – 83 million
The book is written by Caroline Kepnes and was originally published in 2014. Since then it has been translated into 19 languages.
15. The Alchemist – 65 million
The Alchemist is a novel written by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho and was first published in 1988. It was first written in Portugeese.
15. The catcher in the rye – 65 million
The catcher in the rye was written by author J. D. Salinger and was published separately between 1945-1946 and as a single novel in 1951.
16. Think and Grow rich – 60 million
It was written by Ben Holden-Crowther and Napoleon Hill in 1939. It is a personal development and self-improvement book.
16. The Way to Christ – 60 million
The Way to Christ was written by Jakob Böhme in 1622. The book talks about pleasing God through education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development.
17. Sacrilege – The Da Vinci Code – 57 million
It was written by Dan Brown in 2003 and it created controversy as soon as it was published.
18. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary – 55m
Since 1806, when the first was Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary was published, it has been the most famous American Dictionary of the English Language.
19. Anne of Green Gables – 50m
It was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery and was published in 1908. It is a classic children’s novel.
19. Black Beauty – 50m
Black Beauty was written by Anna Sewell and was published in 1877. She wrote it in the final years of her life just because of her writing skills this book comes under the best selling books of all time.
19. The Eagle has landed – 50 million
It was written by the British writer Jack Higgins and was published in 1975. The novel is based on World War 2.
19. The name of the rose – 50 million
Umberto Eco wrote this novel in 1980. It was a murder mystery linking fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory to the murder.
19. Heidi: Her Years of Wandering and Learning – 50 million
Johanna Spyri wrote the children’s fiction novel that was published in 1881. It was first published in two parts – Heidi: Her Years of Wandering and Learning and Heidi: How She Used What She Learned.
19. The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas – 50 Million
The book was written by Thor Heyerdahl about his travels across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa tree raft. It was published in 1948.
19. Lolita – 50 million
Lolita was written by Vladimir Nabokov and was first published in 1955. Its a novel about the controversial subject of a 12 year old’s affair with an aged professor.
19. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care – 50 million
It was written by Benjamin Spock and was published in 1946. It has been translated into 39 languages since then.
19. Watership Down – 50 million
Richard Adams wrote this survival-adventure novel and it was first published in 1972.
20. The Hite Report: A National Study of Female Sexuality – 48 million
Last but not least in the race of best selling books worldwide, this book was written by Shere Hite about the unexplored and often ill considered female sexuality. It was published in 1982.
So, these were the best selling books of all time across the globe. Many got inspired by the books or some have a different kind of impact on themselves.