The Top Selling Books of the 20th century


We have always surrounded ourselves with books. Since we were young children, we have read a variety of fiction and occasionally nonfiction stories. Books have always existed and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, languages, colors, and patterns. Every book ever written presents a unique story entangled in various emotions, like love, hate, compassion, wrath, grief, excitement, fear, etc. [1]

Every fiction and nonfiction story has moved millions of hearts despite its various emotions and genres. Millions of individuals still like reading even in this day and age, when the majority prefers video games and online streaming. Every book is an escape from reality and a brand-new entrance into the world of imagination and creativity. [1]

Numerous outstanding books were sold during the 20th century. It was a tremendously literary-rich century, making it nearly hard to compile a concise list of the works that people read and found enjoyable. Everyone has a favorite book, and it might be challenging to reach a consensus on one. [2]

The top ten books of the 20th century ranked by the quantity of copies sold are listed below.

The Top 10 Best-Selling Books of the 20th century

The Top 10 Best-Selling Books of the 20th century




Year Published

No. of copies sold


Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien


150 million


The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.


140 million


Harry Potter and the Philosophers’s stone

J. K. Rowling


120 million


The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien


100 million


And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie


100 million


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis


85 million


Vardi Wala Gunda

Ved Prakash Sharma


80 million


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

J.K. Rowling


77 million


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

J.K. Rowling


65 million


The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho


65 million

1. Lord of the Rings – 150 million copies

J.R.R. Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien) wrote the sweeping high-fantasy book The Lord of the Rings. The novel, which takes place in Middle-earth, was first intended to be a sequel to Tolkien’s earlier book The Hobbit but later expanded into a much bigger work. The writing started in 1937, and the three volumes were published in 1954 and 1955. With over 150 million copies sold, The Lord of the Rings is among the best-selling books ever. [3]

The title of the book alludes to the major enemy of the narrative, the Dark Lord Sauron, who built the One Ring during a previous era to control the other Rings of Power given to men, dwarves, and elves during his effort to annex all of Middle-earth. The story begins in the Shire, a hobbit land resembling the English countryside, and moves throughout Middle-earth, mostly through the eyes of the hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin as they continue the quest to destroy the One Ring. [3]

The Lord of the Rings was turned into a magnificent film trilogy by New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) all enjoyed enormous success. The third movie earned a record-tying 11 Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. [4]

2. The Little Prince – 140 million copies

One of the most well-known books ever written is The Little Prince. It was chosen as the best book of the 20th century in France and is the most read and translated work in the French language. It has reportedly been translated into 300 different tongues and dialects. It has become one of the best-selling books ever produced, selling around two million copies annually, with over 140 million copies sold globally. [5]

Saint-Exupery was deported to North America after the outbreak of the Second World War. He created a tender story of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss in the form of a young alien prince who had fallen to Earth despite going through personal turmoil and declining health. The Little Prince tells about his journeys to 10 planets. The other little planets that circle the Sun between Mars and Jupiter are asteroids. Instead of names, asteroids have numbers. On one of these asteroids, The Little Prince resides and travels to the other ones. [5]

3. Harry Potter and the Philosophers’s Stone – 120 million copies

Dining Room (Harry Potter)

A best-seller by J.K. Rowling, is the first book in the seven-part Harry Potter series. 25 years have passed since Bloomsbury’s June 26, 1997, publication of J. K. Rowling. The fantasy novel, one of the best-selling books of all time, has sold more than 120 million copies and has been translated into 73 other languages. Around the world, the eight-part feature film series based on the Harry Potter books has made more than $7.7 billion. [6]

4. The Hobbit -100 million copies

The Hobbit is one of the most well-known and adored fantasy novels by J.R.R Tolkien. The Hobbit, which was first published by George Allen & Unwin in 1937, has been made available in more than 50 languages and has sold well over 100 million copies. [7]

One of Professor Tolkien’s own children, Christopher, later worked as the editor of Tolkien’s posthumous writings, such as The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales. Professor Tolkien authored The Hobbit for his own children to read.

Compared to The Lord of the Rings, this story is more lighter and features the iconic characters Bilbo, Gandalf, and Gollum. The Hobbit is a book that both adults and children may appreciate and authors David Gemmell and J.K. Rowling class it as an inspiration on their own work. [7]

The Shire, where the Hobbits live, could just as easily be a bygone England in this novel full of adventure, bravery, music, and joy. However, the Shire is soon abandoned, and our reluctant hero, Bilbo, comes into contact with Dwarves, Elves, Goblins, Eagles, and Wizards as the party travels through Rivendell, The Misty Mountains, and Mirkwood on the way to the Lonely Mountain in order to retrieve treasure that the great dragon Smaug has stolen.[7]

5. And Then There Were None100 million copies

And Then There Were None

And Then There Was None was first released in Great Britain in 1939 before being released in the US in January of 1940. It is the best-selling book by Agatha Christie. It has been produced in more than 100 million copies and is still among the ten best-selling books of all time. It has been adapted into a number of movies and plays. As ten characters are called to the enigmatic Indian Island by a Mr. U.N. Owen, the story follows their predicament. As each visitor starts dying in suspicious ways, they all come to the conclusion that a crazy man who brought them to the island is out to get them all. [8]

6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 85 million copies

The book the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (Clive Staples Lewis) was initially published in 1950, and 85 million copies have been sold globally. The book, which is the first of a series of seven, has also been adapted into a successful movie called The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The novel takes place during World War II, when the four siblings Peter, Suzan, Edmund, and Lucy are evacuated from a London suburb to Professor Digory Kirke’s country estate, where they discover the magical wardrobe and the undiscovered land of Narnia . [9]

7. Vardi Wala Gunda – 80 million copies

Hindi novels and screenplays were written in Hindi by Indian author Ved Prakash Sharma. He was raised in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, and graduated from NAS Degree College there. He started out as a ghost writer before moving on to create 176 novels (ghostwriting around 23 novels of them). The first novel Sharma was given credit for was Dahekte Shaher (1973). [10]

His most well-known works, Kalyug ki Ramayan and Vardi Wala Gunda, were detective novels. His detective stories featured Vijay, Vikas, Raghunath, Alphanse, Vibha Jindal, Keshav Pandit, and Raina as the major characters. His 1992 book Vardi Wala Gunda smashed all sales records and sold 15 lakh copies on the first day of its release, according to his Times of India obituary, while the Hindu reported overall sales of 80 million copies .[10]

8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – 77 million copies

On July 2, 1998, in the United Kingdom, and on June 2, 1999, in the United States, the second book in the Harry Potter series was released. It rapidly topped bestseller charts in both nations and has since been rewritten in 65 different tongues. Chamber of Secrets, like its predecessor, received numerous awards, including the Nestle Smarties Book Prize, the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults, and the Scottish Arts Council’s first-ever children’s book award. The book has been translated into 72 languages and has sold 77 million copies worldwide as of 2012. [11]

9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 65 million copies

The third book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is a fantasy book. Scholastic, Inc. released the book on September 8th, 1999 in the United States. The day after finishing The Chamber of Secrets, Rowling began work on The Prisoner of Azkaban. In just three days after its release in the UK, the book sold 68,000 copies, and it has since sold over three million copies there. The book sold about 65 million copies and was the 14th best-selling individual book worldwide. [12]

10. The Alchemist – 65 million copies

Paulo Coelho, a best-selling author from Brazil, holds the Guinness World Record for the most books by a living author that have been translated. In 1988, the author released The Alchemist, a book about a shepherd looking for gold. The fact that it didn’t sell was the only issue, though. His first failed novel later found success abroad and is now the work by a living author that has been translated the most. The Alchemist has garnered 65 million sales and spent more than 315 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. There are 80 translations of the book available.[13]


Two of the most popular fantasy books of recent years are Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Both of these fantasy epics lead to blockbuster films as well.

Harry Potter and Lord of the rings share a lot of themes, such as the struggle between good and evil, bravery, and friendship. Both films, which are based on enormously popular books, deal with magic as well as the weird and amazing, and both earned insane amount of money at the box office.

Harry Potter is leading when it comes to the big screen, whereas Lord of the Rings was the best-selling book of the 20th century. The eight-film adaptation of the seven-book Harry Potter series has made $7.7 billion worldwide, compared to $2.91 billion for the Lord of the Rings movies.

J.K. Rowling (Joanne Kathleen Rowling), the author of the Harry Potter book series, is now the second richest author in the world. As of August 2022, J.K. Rowling’s net worth is estimated to be $1.1 billion.


  1. Desk, I. T. W. (2019, June 11). Here are the 10 best-selling books of all time. India Today. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  2. Almeida, S. (2019, January 31). Books of the 20th century (List of the XX bestselling books). Knoow. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  3. Tolkien Gateway. (2022, September 12). The Lord of the Rings. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  4. The Lord of the Rings | Overview & Summary. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  5. Little Prince: Antoine de Saint-Exupery: 9789752566286: Books. (n.d.). Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  6. Desk, T. (2022, June 28). #HarryPotter25: Potter fans celebrate silver anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The Indian Express. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  7. Tolkien, J. (2021, April 20). The Hobbit. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  8. Christie, B. A. (2022, February 8). And Then There Were None Study Guide. Copyright GradeSaver, 1999 – 2022. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  9. Desk, I. T. W. (2019b, June 11). Here are the 10 best-selling books of all time. India Today. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  10. Vardi Wala Gunda by Ved Prakash Sharma. (n.d.). Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  11. Atkin, J. (2020, January 7). The Most Popular Harry Potter Book (According To Sales). Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  12. Sajith. (2021, September 8). 1999, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Published. On This Day. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from
  13. News18. (2014, October 14). Paulo Coelho creates a Guinness World Record for being the most translated living author for his book ’The. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from


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