Infographic: The 20 Most Popular Books Throughout History

Although the term “blockbuster book” has only been coined recently, certain books have captured the public’s imagination well before Fifty Shades of Grey.

Going back as far as the 10th Century BC, when I Ching was nothing more than thoughts scribed onto bamboo, we’ve been captivated by brilliant writing and story telling.

In the following infographic, editing service Global English Editing presents its list of the 20 most popular books throughout history.

From religious texts such as The Holy Bible to revolutionary texts such On the Origin of Species to the pure literary genius found in War and Peace, the following timeline not only highlights the history of blockbuster books, but also some of the most significant dates in human history.

What do you think of their list?

(click to enlarge)


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Mackay Bell29 May, 2017

    It appears the list was skewed to be inclusive to serious women authors. “Beloved” (according to the NY Times Best Seller lists) never reached #1 in 1987. It briefly hit #3 before being eclipsed consistently by Bonfire of the Vanities. That’s on the NYT list which favors literary fiction. While it might have sold nicely, it was undoubtedly not the best selling book that year. Steven King (Misery), Tom Clancy (Patriot Games) and others sold more. If you you want to focus on women, it’s more likely Jackie Collin’s Hollywood Husbands sold many more that year and that decade, if (unlike the NYTimes list) you include supermarkets and drug store paperbacks.

  2. poiboy29 May, 2017

    50 shade of abusive literature crud being on this list makes me weep.. 🙁

  3. blendenzo30 May, 2017

    Personally, I find this list rather skewed, though it does reveal some interesting things about humanity. The list claims to be depicting the “20 Most Popular Books”, yet it doesn’t list Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, nor does it include the Catholic devotional work The Imitation of Christ, which has been more widely translated and published than any other book in history besides the Bible. It seems that after listing the Quaran, the author of the list forgot that it was about the most popular books and started sprinkling in books they considered influential or thought should have been more popular than they were.

  4. Max30 May, 2017

    [citation needed]

    1. Nate Hoffelder30 May, 2017

      Exactly hy I called it out as “their” list.

  5. MKS30 May, 2017

    Where’s Romance of Three Kingdoms? Pilgrim’s Progress? Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Sorrows of Young Werther? Sherlock Holmes? Amadis of Gaul? Grapes of Wrath?

  6. […] Infographic: The 20 Most Popular Books Throughout History […]


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