If people are buying a book, it must be good, right? Or when it comes to modern ones, they could just have a good marketing campaign, in which case we should reward those who came up with it anyway. Let's have a look on top ten books that made a killing and sort them based on the number of sold copies:
1. The Lord of the Rings
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien# of sold copies: 150 millionFirst edition: 1954
Although this series has become even more famous after being filmed, it's fair to say that the tale of Middle Earth is an ingenious work of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. It reaches deep inside of us and plays on our imagination, wishes and inspiration.
The story of one little hobbit named Frodo Baggins succeeding where immortal elves or noble kings have failed gives us a very truthful message that literally nothing is impossible. Tolkien did a wonderful job in creating a living world and it will take a long time before his legacy is forgotten - if it will ever come to that.
2. Dream of the Red Chamber
Author: Cao Xueqin# of sold copies: 100 millionFirst edition: 1759
Let's not forget that China is indeed a big country and consequently, so being successful on the Chinese market has its charms. Although I personally never heard about this book in particular before, the numbers do not lie and over one hundred million sold copies seized the second place in our list.
Dream of the Red Chamber is one of the Four Great Classical Novels, as they call them in China. It depicts traditional Chinese cuisine, mythology, proverbs etc. It is based on the author's own experience with the Chinese aristocracy in the 18th century.
3. And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie# of sold copies: 100 millionFirst edition: 1939
It's hardly a surprise that Agatha Christie as one of the best authors of detective novels out there made it to our top ten books list. She is well known for her excellent plots and surprising endings. She created a bit of a fuss by originally calling this book "Ten Little Niggers" - the name was changed to the current And Then There Were None so that it is not offensive towards Afro-Americans.
And what's going on in this book? Simply put, ten people of different social classes are invited to an island where they are accused of murders and they start dying, one by one - but you'll have to read it yourself, we all know it's a bad idea to talk about plots too much when it comes to detective stories.
4. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Author: C. S. Lewis# of sold copies: 85 millionFirst edition: 1950
C. S. Lewis has provided us with another grand tale of unusual heroes. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is but one part of a gigantic masterpiece describing a strange world full of magic and strange creatures somehow co-existing with our own.
4 siblings named Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy enter the world of Narnia through a wardrobe, only to find out that they are both persona non grata and expected saviors. In case you were thinking that Chronicles of Narnia and LOTR are a bit similar at times, keep in mind that Lewis and Tolkien were very close friends, in fact Lewis helped Tolkien with a few passages in LOTR.
5. The Da Vinci Code
Author: Dan Brown# of sold copies: 80 millionFirst edition: 2003
Having a successful book release in the 21st century no longer depends simply on writing a good book, but also on the marketing and distributing channels. Dan Brown and his team obviously managed that, because selling 80 million copies over 7 years is simply remarkable.
The Da Vinci Code is a mysterious story depicting a cohesion between Catholic religious beliefs and the modern world. You should fasten your seat belts before you start reading it, because the pace is quick and you could easily get off track!
6. The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho# of sold copies: 65 millionFirst edition: 1988
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it". I don't know how does the original in Portugese sound, so the translation will have to suffice. The point is that Paulo Coelho tells us that if you want something real badly, you shall have it.
The Alchemist tells a story of a young shepherd boy who overcomes love and danger on his quest for a treasure. Apparently, the story is so good that it had to be translated into 67 languages and breaking a Guiness record in translations for a living author.
What might especially young people find very appealing is that Paulo Coelho encourages people to use peer to peer networks, because he perfectly understands that people are honest and they will pay for good work - eventually.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J. K. Rowling# of sold copies: 44 millionFirst edition: 2007
Yet another fairy tale made it to our list, I'm beginning to think that people might like fairy tales after all... anyway, a lot of children around the world grew up on the stories about Harry, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and Hogwarts. As expected, the final piece of the Harry Potter puzzle with its quite original name Deathly Hallows was quite successful.
Only time will tell whether the Harry Potter series has the qualities of say Lord of the Rings or it will fade with the upcoming seasons. On the other hand, no one can deny Miss Rowling a great impact on both children and their parents - that has to count for something...
8. War and Peace
Author: Leo Tolstoy# of sold copies: 36 million (in the USSR)First edition: 1869
Leo Tolstoy, a Russian writer, decided to demonstrate his beliefs that there is some greater power forming our history. Along with the fact he didn't like popular history and being a war veteran, he then wrote one of the largest and most popular novels in the world literature, War and Peace.
This jewel among books is divided in four volumes, each being a follow up of the previous one. War and Peace has indeed a lot of characters, both fictional and real historic figures. The plot is set in the beginning of the 19th century when Napoleon invades Russia.
Interesting fact is that although War and Peace is clearly a Russian literature from a Russian author, parts of the book are written in French - probably because most of the story is focused on 5 noble families and nobility in Russia used to speak French in that particular era.
9. Think and Grow Rich
Author: Napoleon Hill# of sold copies: 30 millionFirst edition: 1937
There are tons of motivational books these days. Some are better, some are worse and it's up to you to choose the one that can really help you. Think and Grow Rich is probably a safe bet, because it takes a bit of ingenuity to write something everybody knows these days - only 70 years ahead.
The best way how to become successful is to find out what others did before success came to them - and that's exactly what Napoleon Hill did. According to his mentor's (A. Carnegie) advice, he studied the life paths of 16 wealthy individuals and pointed out their steps to victory.
If you're looking for personal development tools, Think and Grow Rich should be on the top of your priorities.
10. Nineteen Eighty-Four
Author: George Orwell# of sold copies: 25 millionFirst edition:1949
History has shown us that mankind is capable of both terrible and good things and it's a matter of conscience which side prevails. George Orwell took the liberty to tell us how what the world look like if despotic and oppressive regimes took the upper hand.
In the imaginary year 1984 the Earth is divided among three major nations which constantly wage war against each other. The main character named Winston Smith lives in Oceania ruled by one party - called The Party. Everything is scarce, basic human right and emotions are constantly being twisted and above all, The Big Brother is always watching.
Although 1984 is quite gloomy and despairing, we have to acknowledge that it's still in our "grasp" to create such a scenario. It needed to be said out loud in order to realize how absurd and sick such totalitarian practices are.
Reading good books makes our lives better, because it brings us new perspectives and knowledge. Wise man knows that he never knows enough and reading several of the most popular books out there is almost a cultural necessity.
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