It’s common knowledge that the Bible is the best-selling idividual book in the world ever, but I decided to have a look and see if I could find out what the Top 10 Best-Selling Book Series’ were and how many (if any) I’d read.
Here’s what my research unearthed (probably not very good research, I’m only doing this for fun and don’t have hours to spare!)
In reverse order:
#10 – San-Antonio by Frédéric Dard (estimated 200 million copies sold)
Well, not only have I never read these, I’ve never heard of them or the author. In my defence, they mostly haven’t been translated into English from the French so even if I had come across a copy for some reason, I wouldn’t have been able to read it.
As you can guess from that cover though, the San-Antonio books are basically the French version of James Bond (though apparently with less gadgets) following Detective Superintendent Antoine San-Antonio and his two colleagues on (very!) numerous missions and adventures. (Apparently Dard wrote 175 San-Antonio adventures in total!)
#9 – The Railway Series by Rev. W. Awdry & Christopher Awdry (estimated 200 million copies sold)
I have definitely read these ones, and the spin offs, and seen the movies, and played the iPad games, and owned the beanbags, toys, balloons, had the songs stuck in my head, watched the TV series, and even been on the ‘real thing’ at a steam railway event.
I was obsessed and then Arthur was more obsessed. His first proper sentence was about Henry’s truck and he used to get infuriated that the rest of us didn’t know ALL the names of the engines. He was a toddler and couldn’t say many useful things, but he could say all the engine names.
The thing is, re-reading them all with Arthur, I realised that Thomas is in fact not a ‘cheeky little engine’ but a ‘horrid little bully’ and I don’t understand why he’s so popular. But hey ho, trains are cool and I guess that wins out.
And nothing beats the story where he ends up crashing into the Station Master’s house and the Station Master’s wife gets cross because there’s plaster dust in the ham and she has to remake breakfast. Not ‘WHY IS THERE A TRAIN IN MY HOUSE?!’ or even just ‘ARGH!’, but ‘*sigh* breakfast’.
Gets me every time.
#8 – Nancy Drew by Various Authors under ‘Carolyn Keene’ (estimated 200 million copies sold)
I remember reading my big sister’s copies of these when I was younger and wishing I was even half as clever and cool as Nancy Drew.
It turns out she is still going in a modern TV series as well – I had no idea, but reading up on it there have been 3 TV series (including the most recent), several movies, graphic novels, comics, and video games.
The character of Nancy Drew is apparently everlasting and even now inspiring girls to be awesome detectives in their free time.
#7 – Noddy by Enid Blyton (estimated 200 million copies sold)
Another childhood classic for many, which seems to have stood the test of time, being popular worldwide even now. A few of the characters have changed over time, but the key players are still recognisable to almost everyone. Noddy and Big Ears and the residents of Toytown are always having adventures (and misadventures) together.
There were 24 books in the original series, but there have been multiple TV series and spin-off books since, keeping Noddy a familiar figure to children of many generations.
Just writing about it has got the theme tune from the original TV series stuck in my head. Sigh.
Noddy! The little man with the red and yellow car. Noddy! Noddy…
#6 – Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal and ghostwriters (estimated 250 million copies sold)
I can’t remember if the few of these I have read were my sister’s or from the library, but I definitely read a couple.
I remember the90s TV series a bit better to be honest, though ti was never really my thing in book or TV form. I think these were much bigger in America than over here in the UK.
#5 – Choose Your Own Adventure by Various Authors (estimated 250 million copies sold)
Okay so I LOVED these. I loved that you could read them over and over again and never read the same book twice. I think the ones of these I had were also inherited from my older sister and brother.
They led the way for so many other of my favourites by pioneering the gamebook format and I am so pleased to see them on this list!
#4 – Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain (estimated 260 million copies sold)
Whilst I do remember the book versions, I am more familiar with the 80s TV series. Even that’s hazy though, I am aware of the series as a thing but it was never a favourite.
Amusingly I have just discovered that in the year 2000, a game called Extreme Sports with the Berenstain Bears was released on the GameBoy Colour and it had the dubious honour of making the ’20 Worst Video Games Ever Made’ list in Electronic Gaming Monthly. Oops!
#3 – Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner (estimated 300 million copies sold)
Wow, okay, there are a lot of these (82 novels plus 4 short stories) and I have genuinely never heard of them until just now.
The first was published in 1933 and the last (posthumously) in 1973, there was a series of six movies produced in the 1930s, and a TV series that ran from 1957 to 1966.
I think I might need to find me one of these to read, I quite enjoy murder mysteries and if this is the best selling series in the genre then maybe it’s worth checking out!
#2 – Goosebumps by R. L. Stine (Estimated 480 million copies sold)
Ahhh, now here’s a series I have read a lot of. Not all of, by any means, because it is still going and at last count there were 235 books in it, but quite a lot.
I think it is where my love of horror and the supernatural came from. I had a few of my own, including a couple of the Give Yourself Goosebumps books which were Choose Your Own Adventure style, but mostly I raided the library.
This series is alive and well, not only in book form but as films (which Arthur simultaeneously adores and is terrified of), a TV series, various spin-offs, computer games, audiobooks, and comics.
I have very fond memories of Goosebumps and the fact that Tori enjoys the books and Arthur the film spin-offs makes me happy.
#1 – Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling (estimated 500 million copies sold)
Exactly nobody is surprised by this, right?
You all know how much I love this series, I don’t need to go on.
So, how many of these best-selling series have you dabbled in? Are there any you fancy looking up after reading this?