The best fantasy books of all time can be difficult to distinguish, but sales numbers might be a good indicator. While scrolling through Amazon, I discovered that very few books listed on the 2018 bestseller list were in the fantasy genre. I found this particularly odd considering how many fantasy books are on the list of best-selling books [Wikipedia article]. I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the most popular fantasy books and series of all time in terms of books sales, specifically compiling a list of those that have sold over 100 million copies.
1.The Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Published in 1954-1955, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is marked as the top bestselling series on the list with approximately 150 million books sold. While Tolkien originally hoped to have The Lord of the Rings published as a two-volume set (the other volume being The Silmarillion), but his publisher published the series into three distinct books. Regardless, few will be surprised to discover Tolkien’s work at the top of the list, especially after its growing popularity in the 21st century.
2. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Published in 1943, The Little Prince has sold approximately 140 million books and has been adapted to numerous art forms and media, including audio recordings, plays, television, ballet, and opera. While this French novella is classified as fiction, the magical realism of the story easily places it alongside other fantasy-themed written works.
3. Harry Potter Series
by J.K. Rowling
Published in 1997, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has sold an estimated 120 million copies. However, the Harry Potter series as a whole has an estimated 500 million copies sold in 80 different languages, easily overwhelming any other fantasy series or single novel to date. After 20 years, Rowling has still received favorable reviews for her ingenuity and contribution to the fantasy genre.
Few readers would be surprised to find J.K. Rowling on the list with her unparalleled success. With eight movies structured around the Harry Potter series and additional movies being released in the same universe, Pottermore will only continue to grow.
4. The Hobbit
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Published in 1937, The Hobbit has never been out of print, selling an estimated 100 million copies. Having a unique blend of humor and danger among the food-obsessed hobbits, this tale has captured children and adults for decades. Much like The Lord of the Rings, the well-crafted tale has found a place across multiple media outlets, including movies, video games, radio, board games, and more.
5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Published first in 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is estimated to have sold over 100 million copies. Considered to be one of the best examples in the “literary nonsense genre”, this tale has been influential in popular culture and literature. In addition, we have seen the tale told and retold through many venues, including cinema, television, comics, and live performances.