If the Bible and the Quran have remained untouched for centuries, other novels have quickly made a place in the ranking, and this is just a few years. Likewise, there are many classics of literature.
The classification below is based, in part, on a document published by the English site Lovereading.co.uk. This infographic (“The most popular books of all the time”) highlights some forty essential works from world literature.
Also, the play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare is not included in this list, but it should be noted that there are 902 editions and more than 80 translations worldwide.
1 – The Bible (4 billion copies)
A sacred book for the Jewish religion and Christianity, the Bible remains to this day the best-selling book of all time. It contains the New Testament and the Old Testament, the latter being related to the Hebrew Bible. This one is named “TaNaKh”, coming from the contraction of the title of three of its parts: the “Torah”, the “Neviim” and the “Ketuvim”. Furthermore, the Bible differs according to religious trends. Thus, the Protestant version has 66 books, when the Ethiopian Orthodox canon has 81.
Likewise, one of the most edited versions is an English translation titled “The King James Bible”. This was carried out from a Greek text written by Erasmus. According to the English site Love Reading, more than 2.5 billion copies have been published worldwide.
2 – The Quran (more than 3 billion copies)
Considered by Muslims as the first manuscript in the Arabic language, the Koran is said to have been written by the Prophet Muhammad following the instructions of the Archangel Gabriel. It is also called “Al-kitâb” (“The book”) or “Adh-dhikr” (“The reminder”). If belief is that Muhammad wrote it entirely before his death in 632, the facts differ from a historical point of view.
Le Grand Larousse encyclopédique specifies that “certain parts of the Koran orally transmitted are noted in writing in Medina by relatives of Muhammad; tradition reports that palm branches, flat stones, papyrus leaves, even camel shoulder blades were the first supports of the Koranic text. In the years 650-655, under Uthman, the third caliph, the definitive version of the Koran was established”. Also, more than 398 editions have since been published and the texts have been translated into more than 50 languages.
3 – “ Quotes from Chairman Mao Tse-Toung ” (800 million copies)
Also called “Little Red Book” outside of China, this book was published in 1964 by the government of the People’s Republic of China. He compiles various quotes taken from speeches, oral and written interventions by Mao Zedong, having ruled the country. Translated into 20 languages and has more than 34 editions, it was compulsory in the school curriculum from primary to higher education. During the Great Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Tse-Toung, in 1966. At that time, working groups in the companies, institutions. And the agricultural sector was also trained to study it, during working hours.
4 – “ Don Quijote de la Mancha ”, Miguel de Cervantes (500 million copies)
The works of Miguel de Cervantes have real titles “The ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha” (“El ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha”). Published in part between 1605 and 1615, the novel tells the story of Alonso Quichano, fond of chivalric books. He ends up taking himself for a knight and decides to travel to Spain, with his acolyte Sancho Panza. Living in the illusion of a world full of princesses, castles, and magic. He seems crazy to anyone who meets him.
Its author, meanwhile, strove to pass his novel for a true story. The rating that part of the novel was translated from an Arabic text by Cide Hamete Bengali. However, this author is fictitious and comes straight out of Cervantes’ imagination.
5 – “ Harry Potter ” saga, JK Rowling (450 million copies)
If the first volume of the Harry Potter saga did not arrive in France until 2000, the youth phenomenon of the century took its first steps in England in 1997. Thus, “Harry Potter at the school of wizards” marks the beginning from a series of 7 volumes describing the adventures of a young wizard at Hogwarts, the school of magic. Raised by his Muggle uncle and aunt (non-sorcerers). Harry one day discovers that he is a sorcerer and not just any. Being the only person who survived Voldemort. One of the most powerful mages in this universe. He is considered “the chosen one” in the wizarding community when he is mistreated among Muggles.
Thus, the seven books follow the young man’s school career at Hogwarts. As well as his different confrontations with Voldemort. To destroy him and destroy the threat that the latter poses to the world of wizards and Muggles. Translated into 67 languages and having 298 different editions, the saga is the best-selling of the 21st century.
6 – ” The Tale of Two Cities “, Charles Dickens / 1859 (200 million copies)
Although little known by the French public, this work by Charles Dickens is by far the most published in the world. With no less than 889 editions and 35 translations. Entitled “The tale of two cities” or “Paris and London in 1789” for the French versions. The story tells of these two capitals during the French Revolution and then the Terror.
Having just launched the review “All the Year Round” in 1859, Charles Dickens took the opportunity to publish this novel in the form of a weekly soap opera, between April and November 1859. Also, each episode is illustrated by the engraver and caricaturist Phiz.
7 – ” The Lord of the Rings “, JRR Tolkien (150 million copies)
Essential of fantasy, “The Lord of the Rings” takes the form of three volumes, published in 1954 and 1955. After the success of the book “The Hobbit” published in 1937 and at the request of its publisher Allen & Unwin, it took no less than 12 years for the author to finish his world-famous work. Upstream, Tolkien was already working on the world of Middle-earth since 1917. Thus, there were originally 6 untitled books which then gave birth to three volumes. “The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Two Tours ”and“ The Return of the King ”. However, all of it should have been published in a single volume. But the price of paper at the time forced the author to transform his work into a trilogy.
Having had 368 editions with 39 translations, this worldwide success has led to numerous readjustments. Whether on the radio, in the cinema or on television. After an animated film and a failed attempt by the Beatles to adapt. The first full version was produced by Peter Jackson in the 2000s.
8 – ” The Little Prince “, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (140 million copies)
Published in 1943 in France and the United States, this major work by aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is intended for both children and adults. A critic of the bizarre uses of adults, the story takes the form of a tale in which each encounter is an opportunity to redefine certain things in life. The story begins with an aviator who broke down in the middle of the desert. Being woken up by a young boy asking him to draw a sheep for him. Little by little, the Little Prince tells his story and questions the customs of the Earthlings.
Illustrated by the author, this lovely tale had nearly 250 translations and 545 different editions.
9 – ” The Dream in the Red Pavilion “, Cao Xueqin (100 million copies)
Considered the pinnacle of Chinese fiction, “The Dream in the Red Pavilion” is classified in the UNESCO collection of representative works. It is also one of the longest novels in history. With no less than 120 stories describing the lives of Chinese aristocrats during the 18th century. Although there are 448 characters, the story focuses on the love story of Jia Baoyu and her cousin Lin Daiyu. Both from an illustrious ruling family. The novel also has, as a backdrop, the rise and then the decline of a family dynasty. It is also about imperial institutions and slavery.
10 – ” Alice in Wonderland “, Lewis Caroll (100 million copies)
Published in 1865, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is a novel by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Caroll. Professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, the writer began writing his book after a boat trip (July 4, 1862) with the three Liddell daughters: Lorina, Alice, and Edith. Between tale and satire, the adventures of young Alice are an opportunity to mock her contemporaries and the scientific theories of the time. Certain assumptions would like that the character of Dodo is a staging of the author himself. His name coming from the stuttering of Dodgson.
Much less known, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” has a suite called “On the other side of the mirror”. Also, the first part has 97 translations worldwide and a record number of 1,513 editions.