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May 01, 2024

50 Best Selling Books of All Time

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Every year, across the globe, millions of books are published, so, there are plenty to choose from when you fancy a new read, but it’s rare that a book is released that is so universally loved that it becomes a best seller. Each year there are various bestseller lists like the Amazon Best Sellers of 2023 and the Waterstones Best Sellers that focus on how well books sold recently, but what we wanted to know was what are the best-selling books ever. So, after a little bit of research, we have come up with a list of the best-selling books of all time, so far as we can tell.

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1. Don Quixote

Author: Miguel de Cervantes

Copies sold: 500 million

Regarded by many as the first modern novel, not only is this book most likely the bestselling novel of all time, but it has been the inspiration for countless authors since. It tells the tale of a young and eager Don Quixote as he sets out on a quest to become a knight-errant.

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2. A Tale of Two Cities

Author: Charles Dickens

Copies sold: Over 200 million

As one of Charles Dickens’s most well-known works, A Tale of Two Cities has touched the hearts of millions across the world. The story of that of an immensely complex event but compressed and told through the history of a single family.

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3. The Lord of the Rings

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Copies sold: 150 million

Originally written as one book and often presented as a trilogy, The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy that has inspired numerous novels, films, games, and TV series since its release in 1954. In this much-loved book, Tolkien tells of the return of the Dark Lord Sauron and the quest in which a group of mismatched heroes are entrusted with destroying the source of his power, The One Ring.

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4. The Little Prince

Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Copies sold: 140 million

Loved by millions of children and adults is the beautiful story of The Little Prince. This book presents a tale of curiosity, mystery, and whimsy. The book is told from the perspective of a pilot who is lost in the desert when he comes across a little boy, and together they uncover the secret of what is most important in life.

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5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Author: J.K. Rowling

Copies sold: 120 million

First in the ultra-popular Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) took the world by storm after its release back in 1997. The book introduces you to a world filled with magic and all the characters we have come to know and love.

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6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll

Copies sold: 100 million

This gloriously colourful and quirky story is well deserving of a place on this list, racking up approximately 100 million sales worldwide. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland follows Alice as her curiosity gets the better of her and she falls down a rabbit hole into a world of wonder and surprise.

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7. And Then There Were None

Author: Agatha Christie

Copies sold: 100 million

One of Agatha Christie’s greatest works, And Then There Were None, places ten strangers on an island together where their fates are sealed by the eccentric millionaire that invited them there. Since its release in 1939, this murder mystery has sold more than 100 million copies.

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8. Dream of the Red Chamber

Author: Cao Xueqin

Copies sold: 100 million

Considered by millions as the best novel to have ever been written in China, Dream of the Red Chamber is more than 230 years old and still revered as a pinnacle of literature. It is a tale of romance and a vivid depiction of one of the greatest civilizations to have stood.

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9. The Hobbit

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Copies sold: 100 million

The tale of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures to the Lonely Mountain has been loved by millions across the world. With themes of friendship, bravery, and loyalty, The Hobbit will most likely continue to have an avid fanbase for many years to come. The book follows a young hobbit, Bilbo, whose life gets rudely interrupted by a bunch of smelly dwarves which leads to a magnificent adventure featuring, giants, dragons, elves, and enough gold to fill a mountain.

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10. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Author: C.S. Lewis

Copies sold: 85 million

Most of you will be familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the tale of four children who discover the secret land of Narnia through a wardrobe. The first of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series has been enjoyed by 85 million children and adults around the world.

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11. She: A History of Adventure

Author: H. Rider Haggard

Copies sold: 83 million

She: A History of Adventure is a tale that masterfully blends themes of mystery, menace, and romance into a striking adventure. Selling more than 83 million copies worldwide, this book by H. Rider Haggard tells the tale of Horace Holly and his ward, Leo Vincey, as they uncover the legend of an African tribe led by a white sorceress after finding an account of it in a letter from his father.

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12. The Da Vinci Code

Author: Dan Brown

Copies sold: 80 million

The Da Vinci Code is a gripping story of mystery, power, and cunning that has captured the imagination of millions around the world. The story, written by author Dan Brown, follows the Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and French cryptologist Sophie Neveu as they follow and decipher a string of clues that lead from a dead museum curator all the way back to Leonardo da Vinci.

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13. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Author: J.K. Rowling

Copies sold: 77 million

The second instalment of the Harry Potter series sees Harry, along with his teachers and fellow students, come under threat when several students are found petrified around the halls of Hogwarts with no witnesses. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has built on the success of the first book selling an incredible 77 million copies worldwide.

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14. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Author: J.K. Rowling

Copies sold: 65 million

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the series and sees Harry, Ron, and Hermione enter their third year at Hogwarts. Throughout the book, Harry comes face to face with dementors for the first time and learns of the existence of his godfather, whom he must save from the dementors.

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15. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Author: J.K. Rowling

Copies sold: 65 million

The fourth edition of the Harry Potter series revolves around the Triwizard Tournament, a competition hosted at Hogwarts whereby three wizards compete in a series of challenges to discover who is the most powerful. Harry, however, finds himself unknowingly entered as the fourth competitor into the games forcing him to compete in the challenges that test not only his magical capability, but his courage and wisdom too.

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16. Harry of Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Author: J.K. Rowling

Copies sold: 65 million

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth Harry Potter book and continues the trend set by the two books before it by getting a massive 65 million sales worldwide. This instalment in J.K. Rowling’s hit series sees Harry introduced to the secretive Order of the Phoenix, and eventually builds up to a confrontation between the forces of good and those of the Dark Lord.

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17. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Author: J.K. Rowling

Copies sold: 65 million

The sixth and penultimate book in the Harry Potter series sees the Dark Lords influence spread ever-further across the wizarding world meaning that not even Hogwarts is safe for Harry anymore. In this book Dumbledore and the alliance of wizards fighting for good, begin preparing Harry and his friends for the monumental battles to come.

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18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Author: J.K. Rowling

Copies sold: 65 million

In the final addition to the award-winning Harry Potter series, Harry realises that the only way to destroy the Dark Lord is to track down all his Horcruxes (items that have had a piece of the Dark Lord’s souls attached) and destroy them before he must face him in a final duel. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows achieved another 65 million sales making Harry Potter the bestselling book series in the world.

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19. The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Copies sold: 65 million

Coming in at number twenty-one on our list is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with approximately 65 million sales that we know of. The story follows the life of Santiago, a young Andalusian shepherd boy who desires nothing more than to travel the world in search of treasure. Eventually, his quest leads him to treasures with a very different value.

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20. The Catcher in the Rye

Author: J.D. Salinger

Copies sold: 65 million

The Catcher in the Rye is a landmark of modern literature, and this is more than evident in the 65 million sales that it achieved worldwide. The Catcher in the Rye speaks of the empty promises of a life of success and wealth in New York City as you see Holden Caulfield fleet his way through the streets, parks, and back alleys of the Big Apple trying to find his way in life.

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21. The Bridges of Madison County

Author: Robert James Waller

Copies sold: 60 million

The Bridges of Madison County tells the story of free-spirited photographer, Robert Kincaid, as he goes in search of the covered bridges of Madison County, and of Francesca Johnson, a farm wife who longs for the fulfilment of her childhood dream. The book defines without doubt what it is to truly love and be loved by someone. Since its release in 1992, The Bridges of Madison County has touched the hearts and millions across the globe reaching a massive 60 million copies sold so far.

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22. One Hundred Years of Solitude

Author: Gabriel García Márquez

Copies sold: 50 million

In the 57 years since its first publication, One Hundred Years of Solitude has been translated into 46 different languages and sold over 50 million copies. This is a tale that defines the entire genre of “magical realism” and tells of the endless struggle between the Buendia family’s desire for solitude and the need for human connection and love.

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23. Lolita

Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Copies sold: 50 million

Lolita tells the story of “Humbert Humbert” and his hopeless endeavour for love. He is a scholar, an aesthete, a romantic, and completely in love with his landlady’s 12-year-old daughter. Selling more than 50 million copies worldwide, this cleverly written piece has got fans from all corners of the earth.

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24. Heidi

Author: Johanna Spyri

Copies sold: 50 million

The well-known story of Heidi has been a household favourite for millions of families since its release on the first of January in 1880. The adoring story illustrates the life of Heidi, a young orphan who goes to live with her grumpy old grandfather in the Alps. As she grows up, she brings joy into the lives of everyone who knows her and when she moves to Frankfurt to work in the household of a wealthy family, she longs for nothing more than to be back in the luscious meadows of the Alps with her friend Peter and her beloved Grandfather.

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25. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care

Author: Benjamin Spock

Copies sold: 50 million

For over 50 years parents have been relying on the wise words of Benjamin Spock for best practices when it comes to raising their children. Since its publication in 1946, there have been many reiterations and redesigns of The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care releases, most bearing Spock’s name, but regardless of this, the original has managed to sell over 50 million copies.

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26. Anne of Green Gables

Author: L.M.Montgomery

Copies sold: 50 million

Since Anne of Green Gables was written by L.M. Montgomery and published by L.C. Page & Co. in 1908, it has been sold 50 million times in various countries. The story tells of Anne, a young feisty redheaded girl, who is sent to live on an old-fashioned farm in its own little corner of Prince Edward Island. She quickly learns that the family she is sent with would prefer a boy, so she makes it her mission to stay put and win over her new family.

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27. Black Beauty

Author: Anna Sewell

Copies sold: 50 million

Black Beauty is a tear-jerking yet heart-warming tale of a young black horse whose life seems perfect until his loving owner is forced to sell him, and from there he has a string of owners, some kind and some cruel, but all the while Black Beauty is determined to live life to its fullest. In its lifetime Black Beauty has sold over 50 million copies and served as inspiration for several movies.

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28. The Name of the Rose

Author: Umberto Eco

Copies sold: 50 million

Umberto Eco’s tale of mystery, philosophy, and theology, The Name of the Rose, has been a fan favourite since its launch in 1980. The story is that of Brother William of Baskerville after he is sent to a wealthy Italian abbey after a group of Benedictines are accused of heresy. What he finds, however, is a series of seven bizarre murders which force him to play detective and find out why and how they occurred and to seek out those that are responsible.

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29. The Eagle Has Landed

Author: Jack Higgins

Copies sold: 50 million

In 1943, a squad of elite Nazi paratroopers get dropped into England with the goal of kidnapping British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and destabilising the Allied war effort. The action-packed war fiction, The Eagle Has Landed, by Jack Higgins is well deserving of its place on this list racking up an impressive 50 million copies sold since its release.

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30. Watership Down

Author: Richard Adams

Copies sold: 50 million

Set in rural England, Watership Down is a tale about bravery, courage, and the bonds of family as it depicts the perilous journey that a family of rabbits must take to find a new safe place to live. This heat-wrenching tale of a family forced from their home has been admired by millions since its release over 50 years ago.

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31. The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality

Author: Shere Hite

Copies sold: 50 million

The groundbreaking studies and insights contained within The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality had managed to push its sales through the roof, leading it to attain at least 48 million copies sold by the time the author, Shere Hite, passed away in 2020. In short, the book is a study of female sexuality, gender, and social impacts.

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32. Charlotte’s Web

Author: E.B. White

Copies sold: 50 million

This beloved children’s book has been the vessel to convey valuable life lessons to millions all across the world, 50 million to be precise. Featuring themes of friendship, morality, and death, Charlotte’s Web tells the story of the blossoming friendship between a spider, a pig, and a little girl.

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33. The Ginger Man

Author: J.P. Donleavy

Copies sold: 50 million

Initially banned in America, The Ginger Man has since been recognised across the globe as a true masterpiece of modern literature. Set during the years following the Second World War, The Ginger Man is about the exploits of Sebastien Dangerfield, an endlessly charming American student with a distinct appetite for women and alcohol, studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Since its release, it has totalled around 50 million copies sold.

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34. You Can Heal Your Life

Louise L. Hay

Copies sold: 50 million

Possibly one of the most influential self-help books ever written, Louise L. Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, in fantastic clarity explains that if one has the will to do the mental work, then one can heal almost anything one chooses. So far, Hay’s words of wisdom have been read been read by at least 50 million people.

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35. In His Steps

Author: Charles M. Sheldon

Copies sold: 50 million

Even though it was originally published over 100 years ago, people still find In His Steps relatable to this day. Written by Congregational minister Charles M. Sheldon, In His Steps is the novelisation of his weekly sermons where he would tell members of his small-town stories of how one should first consider “what would Jesus do?” before committing to an action.

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36. The Curse of Capistrano

Author: Johnston McCulley

Copies sold: 50 million

For years, the legendary character, Zorro, has been gracing our pages and screens, it has become a name synonymous with opposing tyranny and corruption worldwide. Written by Johnston McCulley and published by Simon & Schuster in 1919, The Curse of Capistrano has gone on to sell around 50 million copies worldwide.

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37. The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Author: Beatrix Potter

Copies sold: 45 million

This beautifully written and illustrated book has become a mainstay of childhood literature. With its pastel colours and adorable storytelling, it’s no wonder that The Tale of Peter Rabbit has managed to sell approximately 45 million copies to date. The story is about Peter Rabbit himself and his habit of going to the only place he is told not to go, Mr McGregor’s Garden.

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38. Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Author: Richard Bach

Copies sold: 44 million

This is a tale that follows the emotional and physical journey that a very special seagull goes on while he learns to fly. Jonathan Livingston Seagull speaks to those that find joy in their personal achievements, especially those that achieve great things for themselves, it promotes self-realisation, personal reflection, and freedom. Despite launching without any marketing and relying solely on word of mouth, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was met with astounding success reaching around 44 million sales to date.

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39. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Author: Eric Carle

Copies sold: 43 million

The story that has been passed down from generation to generation, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been enjoyed by more than 43 million people worldwide. This universally recognised introduction to reading is about a tiny caterpillar that eats and eats until it can eventually undergo the process of transforming into a beautiful butterfly.

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40. A Message to Garcia

Author: Elbert Hubbard

Copies sold: 40 million

First published as an inspirational essay in 1899, A Message to Garcia is an expression of the value of individual initiative and conscientiousness in one's work. The piece itself is about a soldier who takes the initative and completes a difficult task without objection or questions. Often used by businesses as a tool to inspire success, this work by Elbert Hubbard has sold around 40 million copies altogether.

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41. To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Copies sold: 40 million

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, To Kill a Mockingbird has been revered by many as a masterful commentary on human behaviour and an unmissable read. It follows the proceedings of a court case from the perspective of the defence lawyer's children as he fights to free a black man that has been wrongfully accused of rape. In its lifetime, To Kill a Mockingbird has totalled around 40 million sales.

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42. Flowers in the Attic

Author: V.C. Andrews

Copies sold: 40 million

Written by V.C. Andrews and published in 1979, Flowers in the Attic is a gripping tale of cruelty, love, jealousy, and deceit that lasts for years. The story follows a group of siblings whose mother attempts to hide their existence away from her father, the children’s grandfather, in order to be written back into his will. Initially promised that this situation would only be temporary, a few days maximum, the secret of the children’s existence and their confinement within the attic eventually drags on for years.

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43. Cosmos

Author: Carl Sagan

Copies sold: 40 million

Cosmos is a book that explores 15 billion years of cosmic evolution from the very first origins of life to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Described and explained with astonishing clarity, author Carl Sagan manages to dive into the complex science of the universe and deliver it in a way that everyone can understand. There’s no wonder it has sold around 40 million copies worldwide.

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44. Sophie’s World

Author: Jostein Gaarder

Copies sold: 40 million

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder tells the tale of fourteen-year-old Sophie after she finds two mysterious letters in her mailbox addressed to Hilde. From this discovery, she embarks on a philosophical adventure under the guidance of the mysterious philosopher who keeps writing the letters. Throughout the book, you follow Sophie as she learns of European philosophy from the teachings of Socrates to the existentialist philosophies of Sartre.

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45. Angels & Demons

Author: Dan Brown

Copies sold: 39 million

The first of the world-renowned Robert Langdon series, Angels and Demons was originally published in 2000. The story is that of Robert Langdon after he discovers a plot by the Illuminati to bring down the Catholic Church by blowing up the Vatican. In its lifetime Angels and Demons has totalled around 39 million sales worldwide and it even got its own film back in 2009.

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46. Kane and Abel

Author: Jeffrey Archer

Copies sold: 37 million

Born on the same day a whole world apart, Kane and Abel one day come together in their ruthless struggle to build an empire. Since Kane and Abel was published back in 1979 by publishing company Hodder & Stoughton, it has racked up an impressive 37 million sales worldwide.

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47. How the Steel was Tempered

Author: Nikolai Ostrovsky

Copies sold: 36.4 million in USSR

Published back in 1936, How the Steel was Tempered follows the gruelling life of Pavel Korchagin as he fights on the side of the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War and goes on to live with his injuries in the years following the war. According to figures, it is estimated that the book has sold at least 36.4 million copies worldwide with most being purchased in the USSR.

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48. War and Peace

Author: Leo Tolstoy

Copies sold: 36 million in Russia

War and Peace is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Russian literature so it’s no surprise that it has made its way onto this list, racking up a massive 36 million sales. The story follows three individuals and their contrasting lives during the height of the Napoleonic War.

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49. The Adventures of Pinocchio

Author: Carlo Collodi

Copies sold: 35 million

This children’s storybook, written by Italian author Carlo Collodi, was originally published all the way back in 1883 and has since made the rounds across the globe selling an immense 35 million copies. The story is that of Pinocchio, a small wooden marionette that can talk. The tale begins when a carpenter finds a talking piece of wood in the forest and gives it to his poor neighbour Geppetto who carves him into the shape of a boy and gives him the name Pinocchio. With a new ability to move and eventually walk, he quickly begins to feel trapped, so he runs away beginning The Adventures of Pinocchio.

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50. The Diary of a Young Girl

Author: Anne Frank

Copies sold: 35 million

The Diary of a Young Girl (often referred to as The Diary of Anne Frank) is a vivid depiction of what life was like for her and her family during the Second World War while they were hiding from German prosecution. Originally entitled Het Achterhuis which translates into The Annex, The Diary of a Young Girl has sold around 35 million copies since its official publication just after the war in 1947, since then, it has served as a reminder of the trials that normal people faced under a reign of tyranny.

Honourable Mentions

Before we finish off, we thought we would give a few honourable mentions, books that we thought wouldn’t quite qualify to be on our list either because they are a religious text, the number of copies sold is a little too vague, or they are frequently updated and rereleased. So, let’s take a look at our 5 honourable mentions:

The Bible

Copies sold: 5-7billion

The book around which Christianity is based, the Bible, takes the title as the most-sold book ever, with an astonishing 5-7 billion copies sold across the globe.

The Quran

Copies sold: 800 million-300 billion

The Quran is the central text of the Islamic religion, with Muslims believing it to be a revelation from God.

Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

Copies sold: 900 million-6.5 billion

Produced and published by the Chinese government in 1964, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung is a book containing a series of statements from the speeches and writings of the former chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Tse-Tung.

The Book of Mormon

Copies sold: 150 million

The Book of Mormon is a religious text of the Latter-day Saints movement and was first published around the year 1830. Since then, it is estimated to have sold around 150 million copies.

Scouting for Boys: An Instruction in Good Citizenship

Author: Robert Baden-Powell

Copies sold: 150 million

Originally written as a guide to help the reader master skills like tracking, woodwork, self-discipline, and how to generally be a good citizen, Scouting for Boys: An Instruction in Good Citizenship has been released in various editions over the years, amounting to a total of around 150 million copies sold.

Guinness World Records

Copies sold: 115 million

Every year a new Guinness World Records book so we thought it wouldn’t be right to add it to the main list. Each edition of the book is crammed full of the newest and weirdest world records from the last year.

So, that concludes our list of the top 50 best-selling books from around the world. How many of these have you read? Enjoy this read? Check out our blog to discover some other great topics from tips on how to make money fast to a guide on what books to read for every month of the year.

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