Who reads books anymore? Lots of people, turns out!
There’s a popular myth that book sales are in decline. Blockbuster franchises are more popular than ever, and the ‘golden age’ of television is going strong with seemingly endless shows available on an increasing number of streaming platforms. Additionally, social media reaches new heights every year.
With all these leaps in technology and changes to our media landscape, you might think that people have moved away from the novel. But in fact, novels are more popular than ever! The industry’s been experiencing growth over the last few years, helped in part by a boom in ebook and audiobook sales.
People are reading more than ever, and on top of that, a nearly countless volume of books get published every year. This can all get pretty overwhelming for someone looking to get into reading!
Whether you’re looking for a place to start in your reading journey or you’re an experienced reader just looking to brush up on some classics or add some new books to your TBR, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most fantastic fiction out there.
A quick note before we get started: everyone’s reading needs are going to be a little different! For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on general fiction, and we’ll include another section specifically for sci-fi and fantasy.
Best Fiction Authors
One of the easiest ways to read more is to find authors you love and read everything they have. It’s always a great feeling to read an excellent book and then realize that the author’s got eight more for you to enjoy!
Here’s a list of some of the best and most famous fiction authors out there. We’ve included a mix of old classics and more contemporary options so you can test out a variety of options to see what works for you.
If you’re a fan of a good murder mystery, look no farther! Karin Slaughter, an American novelist, has sold dozens of millions of copies of her novels. I thought I didn’t enjoy the murder mystery/crime solving genre at all, but when I started reading Karin Slaughter’s book Pretty Girls, I realized I was just missing a female perspective. She doesn’t pull any punches with her content, but she treats her characters with a lot of respect, and it’s so refreshing to read some page-turners where the women are written well. She’s got eighteen books out, so see if you can find one you love!
Angie Thomas is a YA author whose debut novel, The Hate U Give, stayed on the Bestseller list for 80 consecutive weeks and has sold upwards of 850,000 copies. Her books The Hate U Give and On the Come Up both explore the experience of Black teens growing up in the United States. My favorite thing about Angie Thomas’s writing is how much she makes you feel for her characters and their families–in doing this, she makes these enormous conversations about race relations accessible, human, and impactful.
Love a good rom-com or soap opera? You might love romance novels! The romance genre is enormously varied and complex, but why not start with one of the most successful romance novelists of all time? Nora Roberts has written over 200 books spanning across a ton of different subgenres–historical romance, supernatural and speculative, and more.
We can’t forget about the classics! Maybe you read A Tale of Two Cities in high school and hated every second of it–I won’t judge you. But I’d implore you to give him a second try. Charles Dickens is one of the bestselling authors of all time for a reason! His books are definitely long, but they involve a layer of complexity that we don’t often get in contemporary fiction. If you’re the sort of person who likes to get totally lost in a long book and wrapped up in the characters, humor, and setting, try cracking open a Dickens novel sometimes. You might be surprised!
George R.R. Martin
If you’ve already seen the HBO show Game of Thrones, then this is a no-brainer. The book series on which the show was based stands as some of the most popular fantasy in recent memory, and it’s not hard to see why. His worlds are complex and detailed, his characters are interesting, especially when they’re being evil, and his plots are cutthroat. Nobody is safe, and you’re always at the edge of your seat. If huge fantasy epics aren’t your thing, Martin has also written and edited multiple short story collections to enjoy at your own pace.
If you’re a younger reader, something dense and dark like Game of Thrones might not be your jam. If you’re interested in middle grade and YA fiction, especially urban fantasy, Rick Riordan is definitely worth a shot. His series Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows the story of a kid from New York who finds out that he’s actually a demigod and the son of Zeus. That series alone was one of my favorites, but he’s since gone on to branch into Roman mythology. He also hosts Rick Riordan Presents, a series dedicated to featuring stories from lots of different mythologies and cultures!
Do you love the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? Who doesn’t! Believe it or not, the book is just as good. Jane Austen wrote in England during the late 18th century, and her novels often comment on England’s wealthier citizens, especially women, since they were expected to marry and marry well. That might make you think that the content wouldn’t be relatable, but Austen’s humor and storytelling have kept her books fresh for hundreds of years.
Best Selling Fiction Books of All-Time
We’ve talked about some of the most popular and prolific classic and contemporary authors, but we haven’t talked about individual books yet. Which books have sold the most copies internationally?
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Lord of the Rings is credited by many to have kicked off the entire fantasy genre as we know it. Tolkein believed that adults wanted to read the same sorts of fantastical stories that we often tell children, and he set off to write a fantasy story for adults. The Lord of the Rings follows a Hobbit named Frodo as he leaves the Shire to destroy the One Ring in Mordor.
There’s a lot to love about this story–it’s a masterclass in worldbuilding, with tons of fully developed languages, cultures, and religions to follow. It’s also a classic example of good storytelling, following the Hero’s Journey almost to a T.
The Lord of the Rings has sold over 50 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling series ever written, even decades after his death.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quixote is the bestselling book of all time! Published in 1612, it tells the story of a nobleman who reads one too many romance novels and goes crazy trying to revive chivalry. It’s a longer read, but it’s absolutely packed with comedy, romance, and adventure.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I know, I know, not everyone loves this one. But this isn’t a list of favorites, it’s a list of bestsellers, and A Tale of Two Cities has sold over 200 million copies worldwide! It’s a story about the French Revolution and personal transformation, and if you can get used to Dickens’ writing style, you’re in for a real treat.
And Then There Were None: Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie was English writer who wrote sixty-six detective novels, and is widely considered to be one of the very best detective novelists out there. Her mysteries are all intriguing and keep you on the edge of your seat, but her most famous one is And Then There Were None.
And Then There Were None has sold over 100 million copies internationally. The plot has a simple premise: a group of guests arrives on a mysterious island, and one by one, people are murdered. This is one of the shorter reads on this list, and every second is packed with suspense.
Best Selling Science Fiction Books of All-Time
We’ve talked about the best-selling fiction of all time, but I wanted to take a moment and focus specifically on the best-selling sci-fi and fantasy novels of all time. Some of our most treasured books are sci-fi and fantasy, and they take up so much of the bestseller list that it just made sense to give them their own little section!
So, here we go:
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
I cheated a little bit by putting Lord of the Rings in the general fiction section, but I had a good reason! Each Lord of the Ring book has its own place in the best-selling hall of fame, so I didn’t want it to take up too much space here. But I couldn’t make this list without including The Hobbit.
The Hobbit was the first of Tolkein’s novels, and while many consider the Hobbit to be a prequel to the Lord of the Rings, mostly because of the movie adaptation, it’s actually kind of just its own thing. Tolkein didn’t know he was going to write Lord of the Rings when he wrote it. The story follows Bilbo on a whimsical journey out of the Shire with thirteen dwarves.
If Lord of the Rings is a little too dense or serious, you might love the Hobbit as an alternative glance into Tolkein’s world! The Hobbit has sold over one hundred million copies internationally.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune is considered one of the foundational texts of the sci-fi genre, if not the foundational text. Written by Frank Herbert in 1965, Dune has been critically acclaimed for its worldbuilding and intricate detail. If you’re into sci-fi, this is a great piece of work to check out, since most of what we see in our modern sci-fi stems from here.
Dune has sold over twelve million copies worldwide.
1984 by George Orwell
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This is another easy recommendation: if you liked the HBO show The Handmaid’s Tale, why not give the book a try?
Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale has sold millions of copies worldwide and continues to shock readers with its insight into our contemporary treatment of women. If you’re looking for feminist literature that will really shake you up, look no further!
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I couldn’t make any kind of a list about sci-fi without including Mary Shelley!
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is perhaps the first sci-fi novel ever written, making Shelley the creator of the entire genre. The craziest part is that Shelley was only nineteen when she wrote it. In Frankenstein, a mad scientist brings a corpse back to life. It’s a basic premise, but what makes it so good is that Shelley digs into some intense questions about what it means to be human and what it means to create life.