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The 10 best-selling books of all time

These are the top ten best-selling books of all time — all read and often re-read by millions of people around the world.

Often passed down through generations, they are in many cases as popular today as when they were first published — and all are classics of their times.

We have not included books like the Bible and the Quran, as although they may have been read by more people they are mostly handed out for free so cannot be considered best-sellers.

Without further ado, let’s look at the ten best-selling books of all time counting down to number one.

10 The Catcher In The Rye

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The Catch in The Rye – one of the most iconic books of all time

Author: J.D. Salinger
Published: 1951
Sold: 65 million copies

Originally published as an adult book, The Catcher In The Rye has since become extremely popular among teenagers.

It is still selling 250,000 copies a year, thanks to the fact that there is a never-ending stream of adolescents who can identify with the hero Holden Caulfield as they come face-to-face with adulthood.

The storyline follows Holden as he struggles with his sexuality, feelings of alienation and his difficulties in connecting with others. Things almost all of us have felt at one time or another.

9 The Da Vinci Code

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Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code – the most recent book on the list

Author: Dan Brown
Published: 2003
Sold: 80 million copies

The Da Vinci Code caused quite a controversy when it first came out — and it became an immediate worldwide bestseller as everybody wanted to read it as a result.

It tells the story of symbologist Robert Langon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu investigating a murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris when they discover a battle between the Priory of Scion and the Opus Dei over whether Jesus might have been married to Mary Magdalene, with the possibility that they had a son.

It is entirely fictional but there was a lot of opposition to the storyline from religious groups.

8 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

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The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – the first Chronicles of Narnia book

Author: C.S. Lewis
Published: 1950
Sold: 85 million copies

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was the first of seven novels published in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and is the most famous of them all.

It is a fantasy set in the fictional world of Narnia, which four evacuee children stumble upon through the back of a wardrobe in the spare room of the country house they are sent to stay in during World War II.

The storyline is so full of imagination that it is timeless, and many parents who read it as a child end up passing it on to their own children.

7 She: A History of Adventure

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She: A History of Adventure has not been out of print in 130 years

Author: H. Rider Haggard
Published: 1887
Sold: 100 million copies

She: A History of Adventure has never been out of print since the first edition, as it is as popular today as when it was published.

It is an adventure story told in the first person and follows Horace Holly’s journey with his ward Leo Vincey to a lost kingdom in Africa.

There they meet the She of the title, the mysterious White Queen Ayesha — also known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.

6 The Hobbit

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The Hobbit, the first of two J.R.R. Tolkien books on this list

Author: J.R.R Tolkien
Published: 1937
Sold: 100 million copies

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again tells the story of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins on his adventure to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon Smaug.

It is a fantasy set in a time between the Dawn of Faerie and the Dominion of Men — and is pure escapism from the humdrum of daily life.

It is a children’s and adult’s classic alike, popular since the day it was published. It will without doubt continue to capture the imagination of generations to come.

The Hobbit has been turned into a blockbuster trilogy of films with release dates starting in 2012 and ending in 2014.

5 Dream of the Red Chamber

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The Dream of the Red Chamber is often called China’s greatest ever novel

Author: Cao Xueqin. Translated by Chi-Chen Wang.
Published: 1791
Sold: 100 million copies

Claimed to be China’s greatest ever novel, the Dream of the Red Chamber  is a Chinese Romeo and Juliet love story and is set in the Qing Dynasty in the middle of the 18th century.

It gives an insight into a time long gone, and is believed to be semi-autobiographical, chronicling in many ways the  rise and downfall of the author’s own family. It makes fascinating reading.

4 Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None

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Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, first published as Ten Little Indians

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1939
Sold: 100 million copies

Because of political correctness, more recent reprints of this crime novel have had to have the original name Ten Little Indians changed to And Then There Were None.

The new title is the last line of a British nursery rhyme which features in the book. People will always love thrillers, which is why Christie’s books are so popular and this is a classic.

It sees ten guests invited to a house on a lonely island before they gradually diminish in number as they are murdered one-by-one.

Everyone loves to be a detective and see if they can guess the murderer before their identity is revealed.

3 Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)

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The Little Prince, the best-selling children’s book of all time

Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Published: 1943
Sold: 140 million copies

First published in 1943 as a novella, Le Petit Prince is the work of a French aristocrat and aviator who never lived to see its overwhelming success as he died a year after it was published.

It is the most read and most translated French book ever written and it appeals equally to both adults and children.

The Little Prince is a boy from another planet, and the storyline — which captures the imagination from the start — tells of his adventures including intergalactic travel.

2 The Lord of the Rings

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The Lord of the Rings, now even more famous after the movies based on the novel

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Published: 1954-1955
Sold 150 million copies

Originally written as a sequel to Tolkien’s The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings has a darker tone and is more high fantasy than children’s fairy tale.

It is usually published in three volumes, although it is also sometimes published as a single book. The Lord of the Rings was an immediate success because of its fantasy world offered escapism to the masses after the dreary days of World War II.

It has an enduring appeal to both adults and children alike, as they follow the hobbits and their companions on their adventures across Middle-earth.

Those who have read the Hobbit will already be familiar with many of the characters in The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien wrote the books as a sort of pre-history for England and this ‘historical’ depth is what gives the story much of its appeal.

1 A Tale of Two Cities

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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – the best-selling book of all time

Author: Charles Dickens
Published: 1859
Sold: 200 million copies

It is not surprising that A Tale of Two Cities is the best-selling book of all time, because it has everything.

Set during the excitement of the French Revolution, in two beautiful cities, London and Paris, it also has one of the most romantic heroes ever in Sidney Carton.

Carton loves Lucie, the daughter of top physician Dr Manette, but so does French aristocrat Charles Darnay.

Carton nobly gives up his life to spare Darnay from the gallows so his rival can marry Lucie. In doing so, Carton gives his own life meaning.

James has worked for Monsters and Critics since it started back in 2003. He oversees the business and technical side of things. You can contact... read more
James Wray

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