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What are the Top Selling Books of All Time?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Listing the top selling books of all times is a bit challenging. For example, some might list the top selling novels of all time, or include all types of writing as a book. Several reputable list makers, including Amazon, say that the two best selling books are The Bible and as Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung.

Most agree that both books belong on the best sellers list. Neither book has data that can be precisely verified. It is estimated that the Bible has sold about six billion copies, and Chairman Mao’s book about a billion copies.

The American Spelling Book is listed as a top selling book in some lists. While one can still purchase this book, it is not currently very frequently purchased. Some tie this book with the series The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Other lists include these as children’s books. What can be said is that they have each sold in excess of 100 million copies.

Other lists show the Harry Potter series as third of the top selling books with 400 million copies. The debate about whether a series constitutes a book in terms of listing is still raging.

Book lists for the top-selling books have included the following books:

  • The Bible
  • Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung
  • The Harry Potter series
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series
  • The Guinness Book of World Records
  • The World Almanac
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • The McGuffey Readers
  • American Spelling Book
  • A Message to Garcia
  • Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care
  • Valley of the Dolls
  • In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?

Some of the top selling books are notably absent. For example, two publications by the Jehovah’s Witnesses have sold over 100 million copies, suggesting that they should be somewhere in the top ten. In addition, many believe that The Three Musketeers may belong in the list, but counting copies sold may be impossible. Gone with the Wind ranks about 15th or 20th, depending upon the list. The Little Prince also may be among the top sellers, but it is also difficult to get an accurate count of how many copies it has sold.

The Qur’an may also need to be included in the count of top selling books, and may have sold copies in the hundred millions. It has been printed since about 1000 CE, so many copies cannot obviously be counted. The list is thus imperfect and debatable. Without a time machine, it may be impossible to verify actual counts of books.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon160651 — On Mar 16, 2011

Scouting for Boys; Koran.

By anon101260 — On Aug 02, 2010

Your list seems to have missed Baden-Powell's book "Scouting for Boys" which is 4th.

By cafe41 — On Jul 13, 2010

Great article- I just want to add that JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter Series was initially rejected by nine publishing companies and now is recognized as one of the most famous author’s of our time.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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