It is impossible to know the exact number of copies that have been sold of each best-seller, especially when it comes to the best-selling books in history. Therefore, in this list we refer to the approximate number of copies that have been sold worldwide.
The point is that there are no reliable sources to determine the sales of some titles, and that is why you will miss some classics of literature such as The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas or A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. However, surely you have ever come across one of the books on this list.
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The 13 best-selling books throughout history
Each of these copies has sold close to 100 million copies, although many of the authors did not live long enough to enjoy fame.
13. Triple Representativeness (Jiang Zemin, 2001)
Perhaps it is the least known among the best-selling books in history, but Triple Representativeness, which emerged from the mind of Jiang Zemin, president of China between 1993 and 2003, is essential to understand in which the Communist Party of China is based today.
This political theory legitimizes the presence of capitalist agents in a communist system and captures the philosophical legacy of Jiang Zemin. If you’re thinking of checking it out, you should know that it’s not an easy read, and the differences in translation don’t help either.
12. I Dream of the Red Chamber (Cao Xueqin, 1759)
An autobiographical work recounting the rise and fall of the Qing dynasty . It is considered one of the four classic Chinese novels along with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, At the Water’s Edge, and Journey to the West.
The first chapters were written by Cao Xueqin, although a later edition includes 40 more chapters by his colleague Cheng Weiyuan. It is surprising for the wide cast of characters that appear (many of them female) and an insightful observation of the life of the Chinese aristocracy.
11. The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien, 1937)
A classic of fantastic literature that sneaks into the list of best-selling books with more than 100 million copies. It was Tolkien’s first work and was conceived to be a nice children’s story for his children , although as we will see later that was only the beginning of his legacy.
It tells the story of a group of dwarves who, with the unexpected help of the hobbit Bilbo and the wizard Gandalf, try to recover their kingdom on the mountain of Erebor, which is under the domination of the fearsome dragon Smaug.
10. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (JK Rowling, 1997)
The first volume of the Hogwarts wizard’s wanderings has sold a whopping 120 million copies, making JK Rowling the most successful woman of letters in history. all times .
In this first installment we witness the first steps of a boy who discovers that he has magical powers and is pushed to attend Hogwarts school. There things will go wrong and Potter will discover that he is called to be one of the most powerful wizards who have ever existed.
9. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943)
In The Little Prince, an airline pilot ends up lost in the Sahara and meets a young prince who comes from another planet. Together they begin a magnificent journey through the universe, which serves as a pretext to ask ourselves existential questions.
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Although it has been raised as a story for children, the book is full of philosophical reflections , which is why it is a must read for anyone who wants a good dose of self-reflection. It’s among the best-selling books of all time for a reason.
8. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien, 1954) Tolkien
‘s great epic, the book to which he dedicated much of his life and on which all his work about him revolves . Not only is it worthwhile that this British genius was able to write it, but that he devised a whole diegetic world for the adventures of Frodo, Aragorn and company.
For editorial reasons, the work was divided into three parts that we all know: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Peter Jackson took them to the cinema with great success.
7. Book of Mormon (1830)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) claims that there was a civilization of wise men who populated America in the centuries after Christ’s death.
The religious Joseph Smith assures that Moroni, son of Mormon and glorified human, visited him in a dream on September 21, 1823, telling him about an ancient writing and the secrets to translate it. From there was born this volume that collects the visit of Jesus Christ to the American continent after his resurrection, as well as his teachings. Just as you heard.
6. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens, 1859)
In position number six we find another genius of literature: Charles Dickens, author of many other classics such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol or Hard Times. Despite such an distinguished repertoire, his best-selling book is A Tale of Two Cities.
The novel shows the development of Paris and London at the dawn of the French Revolution , through the prism of various children and adolescents. In some way, it is an acid criticism of the British society of the time. The work was published over 31 installments in the magazine All the Year Round.
5. What Does the Bible Really Teach
Published in 2005 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the main source of financing for Jehovah’s Witnesses. It may have ended up in your mailbox, because the followers of this Christian sect constantly distribute copies.
The book has a fairly direct and concise style, and seeks to resolve some of the fundamental questions that the Bible raises , such as what is the truth about God or why does God allow suffering.
4. Don Quixote de la Mancha (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605)
It is not known for sure how many copies of this novel have been sold, but it is estimated that between 200 and 400 million copies. The only thing certain is that it is the best-selling fiction novel in history .
This chivalric novel recounts the misadventures of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, which is also the title under which the first part was published. I set a precedent for medieval European literature, although it is inspired by other earlier novels such as Tirante el Blanco (1409) by Joanot Martorell.
3. The Koran (VI century)
Among the best-selling books can not miss the Koran, the holy book of Islam that contains the word of God Allah through his prophet Mohammed . If it does not occupy second place, it is because this specimen is transmitted from father to son.
Muslims try not to change the text over the years, so it is transmitted in ancient Arabic. Despite being an incorrupt and divine text, there are many interpretations about it, depending on the branch of Islam to which the expert belongs.
2. Mao’s Red Book (1964)
It is not surprising that it is one of the best sellers, since it has been compulsory reading in China since the year of its publication. It is also an essential volume if you want to know in depth the ideology of this communist leader.
Broadly speaking, the Little Red Book is a compendium of vitas and speeches delivered by Mao Tse-Tungand collected by the government of the People’s Republic of China. As a curiosity, his learning was not only imposed in schools but also in workplaces.
1. The Bible
The best-selling book in history could not be other than the Bible, a set of canonical texts that is still considered “the absolute truth” by a large part of society.
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There are very few people on the entire planet who do not know what this collection is about. It consists of two parts: one that deals with the origin of the Universe and its first inhabitants (Old Testament), and another that collects the teachings of Jesus Christ as well as his legacy in the world (New Testament).
If you are not very convinced of the creationist theory, you can always take it as a good fiction book.
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