Top 5 Selling English Language Books of all time!

One of the best ways to improve your English language skills is by reading English language books. In honour of that… I’m giving you some information on the best selling English language books ever! Many of you will find these books are at a level that’s too difficult for you or find the English language used  archaic* but it’s good to know information about some of the best stories ever told and who knows….if you keep practising and studying English, you could be enjoying these books soon.

best selling book charles dickens1) A Tale of Two Cities (1859) Charles Dickens [Sold 200million+ copies]

This novel was first published in monthly installments from April 1859 to November the same year. Set in Paris and London, the story follows a number of characters both aristocratic* and peasantry, during the time running up to the French Revolution and also tells of the brutality* during the early years of the revolution. A Tale of Two Cities is one of only two novels of historical fiction that Dickens wrote. His other, better known novels, include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations.

2) The Lord of the Rings (1954) J.R.R. Tolkien [150million copies sold]

tolkien lord of the ringsThe Lord of the Rings is a fantasy novel written as a follow-up to Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit. Many of you may know the plot of the story because  the book has been translated into many languages and has also been made into a successful trilogy of films. The story revolves around ‘rings of power’ and one ring in particular that was created by Lord Sauron in order to have power over all of the rings which would help him to gain power over Middle-earth. The book also includes fantastical* characters such as the hobbits, elves, orcs and the wizard Gandalf.

tolkein the hobbit3) The Hobbit (1937) J.R.R. Tolkien [100million copies sold]

The Hobbit is a children’s fantasy book and received wide critical acclaim* after its first publication. The story was later the basis for The Lord of the Rings. The story follows hobbit Bilbo Baggins who is a conservative hobbit who likes his home comforts. In the story Bilbo goes to battle a number of dark magical creatures in order to try and win a share of treasure. Many believe Tolkien’s involvement in World War 1  was a great influence in his story which follows themes of battle, personal growth and triumph.

4) And Then There Were None (1939) Agatha Christie [100 million copies sold]

agatha christie best selling novelAgatha Christie is arguably* the world’s most famous detective novelist. Of all of her 66 detective novels her best-selling novel was And Then There Were None formally known as both ‘Ten Little Niggers’ and ‘Ten Little Indians’. The novel tells the story of ten individuals on an island who have all been responsible for the death of somebody in their past. One by one each of these ten characters is murdered. Agatha Christie is the only woman author to feature on this list. According to records, Christie is also history’s best-selling novelist. Her novels have sold roughly four billion copies worldwide.

c.s. lewis the lion the witch and the wardrobe5) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) C.S. Lewis [85 million copies sold]

Like many of the other books in this list, this story was also made into a big production film and like The Hobbit, the book was written as a fantasy novel for children. It is the second book in the series, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ which contained 7 novels altogether. The plot centers around 4 siblings who are evacuated* from London to escape the Blitz* during World War II. Whilst exploring their new country home they find a magical wardrobe that transports them into a magical land.


You may have noticed that all of these books were written at least 50 years ago. This is not surprising as reading books was a much bigger form of entertainment before playstations, HD films and internet downloading and streaming. However, it is still one of my favourite ways to pass a winter’s day. In case some of you feel that the above stories may be a little dated for you and you would like a much more modern story, I have discovered the bestselling book of the 21st century and unsurprisingly it is…..

The Da Vinci Code (2003) Dan Brown [80 million]

I say ‘unsurprisingly’ as I remember when this book was released, everybody was talking about it! I was travelling at the time and bought this book from a young street seller in India whilst waiting at a red light in a tuk tuk. I then read the book from cover to cover during a 36 hour train journey. To this date, it is the only book I have read in its entirety* in one sitting and is still one of the most gripping* books I have ever read.

The story tells of symbologist Robert Langdon’s investigation to find out who has murdered the Louvre curator who was found dead covered in religious symbolism*. His investigation leads him on a thrilling journey of discovery and danger which takes him all over Europe. I learnt much about art and religion from the book. The Da Vinci Code was made into a film starring Tom Hanks in 2006 and Dan Brown’s follow up novel Angels & Demons was also made into a movie in 2009.


Well I hope you enjoyed this rundown of some of the best-selling English language books of all time and that it has inspired you to do some English language reading of your own. As a final note, the bestselling book of all time is The Holy Bible but as this religious book was not originally written in English but in Hebrew and as there are no exact figures to the numbers of copies sold or even printed, it does not feature on this list.

Happy Reading!


Important Vocabulary from this Blog (marked in the blog with a *)

* archaic: old fashioned, no longer in everyday use (often used to describe words or language)

* aristocratic: belonging to a member of the ruling class or nobility

* brutality: extreme cruelty, viscious in action, purposely cause harm

* fantastical: bizarre or very strange in form or appearance

* acclaim: to recieve much praise or applause

* arguably: meaning ‘it could be argued that’

* evacuated: to empty or remove people of contents

* Blitz: an event in World War II where Britain and Ireland was strategically bombed by Nazi Germany.

* entirety: all of it, the whole of something

* gripping: able to take and keep hold of something (can be your attention)

* symbolism: symbols that represent ideas or qualities.


Blogger: Narelle


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