Home » World Book Day: The Top 10 Bestselling books of all time

World Book Day: The Top 10 Bestselling books of all time

Woman reading book

World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright day or the International Day of the Book is globally observed on the 23rd of April. The objective is to promote the importance of reading, lifelong love of literature and integration into the world of work, to instil joy and foster the growth of readers but also to highlight the pleasure of reading. It was UNESCO who introduced the event, and it is now celebrated in over 100 countries.

Initially, the idea of World Book Day came from the Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andres. He wanted to pay homage to the brilliant author, Miguel De Cervantes known for his literary work Don Quixote. The author of Don Quixote had died on the 23rd of April. Following this, during the General Conference held in Paris, in 1995, the World Book and Copyright Day was finalized. The 23rd of April therefore bears witness to the birth and death of several distinguished authors around the world. Some of the authors known to have died on the 23rd of April are William Shakespeare, Cervantes, Josep Pla, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. 

To celebrate the World Book Day 2021, here is the top 10 best-selling books of all time: 

She: A History of Adventure Book Cover

10. She: A History of Adventure

At the 10th place, there is “She: A History of Adventure” by H. Rider Haggard. Published in 1887, it has sold above 100 million copies worldwide. The story is about a Victorian professor and his adopted son who travels Africa for a quest of a lost civilization. On finding the lost civilization, they realize that it is ruled by an immortal woman of extraordinary beauty, power, and cruelty. 

She: A History of Adventure was a huge success upon its initial release, receiving both critical and mainstream acclaim. The story has gained recognition for its depiction of racism and womanhood, as well as its thought-provoking themes.

Illustration of the Movie “The Hobbit” | New York TImes

9. The Hobbit

At the 9th place, there is “The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien, published in 1937. It sold more than 110 million copies and the book was also adapted into movies following the adventure of Bilbo Baggins. The story revolves around Bilbo Baggins who enjoys a comfortable, non-ambitious life, rarely traveling farther than his pantry or cellar. However his life is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive at his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure that includes raids, war with evil forces, giants and dragons. The Hobbit is set in the pre-timings of Lord of the Rings. 

Illustration of the TV Show “And Then There Were None” | TV Insider

8. And Then There Were None

“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie takes the 8th place with more than 115 million copies sold. First published in 1939, the novel has been seen as one of the best thriller novels of all time. The story follows ten strangers, each from different backgrounds, who receives an invitation from a Mr. or Mrs. U.N. Owen, or a Mrs. Constance Culming ton, to come to the island for a weekend. However, they soon realize that they are all alone facing death. The book has been adapted into a movie and also an HBO show. 

Robert Baden-Powell

7. Scouting For Boys 

Published in 1908, “Scouting For Boys” has sold above 120 million copies. Scouting for Boys is a handbook for instruction in good citizenship and Boy Scout training. Written by Robert Baden-Powell, the first publication started the Boy Scouts movement in England. The author was already well known to many English boys, and it resulted in thousands of them buying the handbook. By the end of April, the serialization of Scouting for Boys was completed and scores of impromptu Boy Scout troops had sprung up across Britain. 

Because of the popularity of Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell established a national Boy Scouts office, which enrolled new Scouts and created a uniform. At the end of 1908, there were 60,000 Boy Scouts, and troops started to pop up all over the British Commonwealth.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone

6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone

At the 6th place, there is the famous Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone by J.K Rowling. First of the series of seven books, it follows the journey of Harry Potter as a wizard. It is considered as one of the biggest young adult books of all time. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone introduces Harry Potter, his friends Ron and Hermione, Professor Dumbledore, the wizarding school Hogwarts, and Lord Voldemort. 

The book has been translated in 80 languages and was adapted into a series of movies. The first book has sold more than 125 million copies, however the series as a whole sold more than 500 million copies. 

The Little Prince Audio Book Illustration

5. The Little Prince

“The Little Prince”, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, sold more than 140 million copies. Published in 1943, the book was very well received by both kids and adults. 

Few tales are as widely read and beloved by children and adults alike as The Little Prince. The Little Prince reflects children’s open minds and their insatiable need to raise questions, engage the unseen, and unravel the mysteries of the world. The book has been translated into more than 300 different languages and dialects. They have also made the critically acclaimed Netflix film The Little Prince.

Lord of the Ring Books | Fox Business

4. The Lord of the Rings

Published in 1954 and written by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings is quite famous. It is an epic fantasy novel about Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring, which includes Gandalf the Wizard, the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Boromir of Gondor, and a tall, dark stranger named Strider. The readers’ first lines read, “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to search them, One Ring to bring them all and bind them in the darkness.” It has turned the book into a multi-million dollar film series of the same name. 

The Quran

3. The Quran

In 3rd place is The Quran, which sold more than 800 million copies. According to an article by BBC news, The Quran was written by the Prophet Muhammad from AD610 to 632, the year in which he died. 

The article reported that the evidence indicates that he recited the text and scribes wrote down what they heard. Some of the Prophet’s associates set out to collect into single volumes all the “suras” (chapters) that had been disseminated in this fashion according to BBC News.

Mao Tse-Tung

2. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung 

Also known as the “Little Red Book”, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung is in the 2nd place with over 1.1 billion copies sold worldwide. The book has 427 quotations from Mao Zedong (formerly translated as Mao Tse-Tung), the pioneer of China’s Communist revolution in 1949 and Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party of China. Because of this, Zedong remained China’s most influential man and leader until his death in 1976. His book of quotes was initially circulated only to military officials, but it was eventually distributed to the Chinese public as well. Zedong also temporarily suspended the sale of other books in order to prevent competition with his own work. Beginning in 1967, Chairman Mao Tse-Quotations Tsung’s were translated into several languages and sold to millions of people outside of China.

The Bible

1. The Bible

According to the Guinness World Record, the best selling book is The Bible with more than 5 billion copies sold. The organization however explains that it is impossible to obtain the exact figures but there is little doubt that The Bible is the world’s best selling and most widely distributed book. 

“A survey by the Bible Society concluded that around 2.5 billion copies were printed between 1815 and 1975, but more recent estimates put the number at more than 5 billion.” The Guiness World Record

At the end of 1995, total worldwide sales of the Today’s English Version (Good News) New Testament and Bible (copyright owned by the Bible Societies) have surpassed 17.75 million copies, and the whole Bible had been translated into 349 languages; 2,123 languages had at least one book of the Bible in their language.