The Bestselling Novels for Every Year Since 1895

Publisher’s Weekly has kept a record of each year’s bestselling novels since 1895.  We thought it would be cool to take a look back in time and see which novels made the top of the bestseller list for each year, and see how people’s tastes and preferences have changed over time.

What follows is a look at the bestselling novels for each year for the past 121 years. Here’s hoping you enjoy this look back as much as we do.

How many books on this list have you read?

The Best Selling Novels for Every Year Since 1895




1895

Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush

by Ian Maclaren

Besides the Bonnie Brier Bush by MacLaren Best Selling Novels of 1895

Ian Maclaren  is the pseudonym of John Watson, a reverend and theologian from Scotland. Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush is a collection of stories centered around a Scottish village. Written in the old Highlander voice, some consider it hard to read, but many consider it to be a delightful collection.


1896

Tom Grogan

by Francis Hopkinson Smith

Tom Grogan by Francis Hopkinson Smith

Francis Hopkinson Smith‘s novel in which a scrappy widow hides the details of her husband’s death and fights for the right to take over his business in his name while he is “in the hospital.”


1897

Quo Vadis

by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Nobel Prize-winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz‘s novel exploring the birth of Christianity in ancient Rome.


1898

Caleb West

by Francis Hopkinson Smith

Caleb West by Francis Hopkinson Smith best selling novels 1898

Caleb West, Master Diver is a novel based on Smith’s experience as a Light House Builder (Race Rock Light)  in the 1870’s.


1899

David Harum: A Story of American Life

by Edward Noyes Westcott

David Harum by Edward Noyes Westcott

Edward Noyes Westcott wrote David Harum when he was ill with tuberculosis. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to see his novel – also about a banker – published (and subsequently achieve success over the years) in 1898.


1900

To Have and to Hold

by Mary Johnston

To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston

Mary Johnson‘s novel of romance and adventure in Colonial America was the bestselling novel of 1900.


1901

The Crisis

by Winston Churchill

The Crisis by Winston Churchill

Don’t confuse American novelist Winston Churchill with the former Prime Minister as they aren’t the same person. The Crisis takes place in Missouri during the years leading up to the Civil War.


1902

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains

by Owen Wister

The Virginian by Owen Wister

Considered one of the one of the first true Western novels, Owen Wister‘s classic was the inspiration behind the television series.


1903

Lady Rose’s Daughter

by Mary Augusta Ward

Lady Rose's Daughter by Mary Augusta Ward

In which an illegitimate daughter attempts to take her place in society.


1904

The Crossing

by Winston Churchill

The Crossing by Winston Churchill

Churchill’s coming of age novel set during the American Revolution.


1905

The Marriage of William Ashe

by Mary Augusta Ward

The Marriage of William Ashe by Mary Augusta Ward

You can tell the popular authors of the time by how many times the appear on this list during a specific time period. Mary August Ward‘s second appearance on this list of bestselling novels is for her novel about English social and political life.


1906

Coniston

by Winston Churchill

Coniston by Winston Churchill

Politics and corruption in New Hampshire during pre-and post-Civil War era.


1907

The Lady of the Decoration

by Frances Little

The Lady of the Decoration by Frances Little

Frances Little is the pseudonym of Fannie Caldwell. In her 1907 bestselling novel, she chronicles the experiences of an American teaching in Japan as told in letters to her cousin.


1908

Mr. Crewe’s Career

by Winston Churchill

Mr. Crewe's Career

Mr. Churchill makes a fourth appearance on today’s list with his political novel set in New Hampshire.


1909

The Inner Shrine

by Anonymous/Basil King

The Inner Shrine by Anonymous

Originally published anonymously, The Inner Shrine is a novel about a French girl whose father meets his demise during a duel.


1910

The Rosary

by Florence L. Barclay

The Rosary by Florence L. Barclay

Florence L. Barclay‘s exploration of beauty – both inner and outter.


1911

The Broad Highway

by Jeffrey Farnol

The Broad Highway by Jeffrey Farnol

A classic period Romance.


1912

The Harvester by

Gene Stratton Porter

The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter

A hermit finds love in Gene Sratton Porter‘s best seller.


1913

The Inside of the Cup

by Winston Churchill

The Inside of the Cup by Winston Churchill

As you can see, Winston Churchill (the author – who is only distantly related) was quite prolific. In this novel he explores  Christianity as a tool for social reform.


1914

The Eyes of the World

by Harold Bell Wright

The Eyes of the World by Harold Bell Wright

Harold Bell Wright‘s novel explores what Wright perceives to be insincerity and false friendships among the creative crowd.


1915

The Turmoil

by Booth Tarkington

The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington

The first book in Tarkington‘s “Growth” trilogy, The Turmoil is about growth and industry.


1916

Seventeen

by Booth Tarkington

Seventeen by Booth Tarkington

F.Scott Fitzgerald felt Seventeen, a story about first love, to be one the funniest books ever written.


1917

Mr. Britling Sees It Through

by H. G. Wells

Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells

H.G. Wells steps away from fantasy and science fiction in this novel about life during war time.


1918

The U.P. Trail

by Zane Grey

The U.P. Trail by Zane Grey

Zane Grey‘s classic takes a look at the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.


1919

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse

by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez‘ story of two brother’s in law who fight on opposite sides during World War 1.


1920

The Man of the Forest

by Zane Grey

The Man of the Forest by Zane Grey

Another vivid Zane Grey Western novel makes it to the best seller list.


1921

Main Street

by Sinclair Lewis

Main Street

 

Sinclair Lewis’1921 novel about a free-spirited woman moving to a small town, and hopes to change it to a more progressive environment. However, things don’t always turn out as planned.


1922

If Winter Comes

by A. S. M. Hutchinson

If Winter Comes by A. S. M. Hutchinson

In which one man’s marriage and career deteriorate due to his inability to adapt.


1923

Black Oxen

by Gertrude Atherton

Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton

A 58 year old Countess has “glandular” surgery and comes out of it looking 30 years younger. Hilarity ensues. Not.


1924

So Big

by Edna Ferber

So Big by Edna Ferber

Considered Edna Ferber’s “masterpiece,” So Big follows a gambler’s daughter in her quest for respectability and normalcy.


1925

Soundings

by A. Hamilton Gibbs

Soundings by A. Hamilton Gibbs

Arthur Hamilton Gibbs‘ coming of age novel about an artist’s daughter who finds herself (literarily and figuratively) in Europe.


1926

The Private Life of Helen of Troy

by John Erskine

The Private Life of Heln of Troy

John Erskine tale of Helen’s return back to Troy was also adapted into silent film in 1927.


1927

Elmer Gantry

by Sinclair Lewis

Elmer Gantry

Sinclair Lewis‘ classic about a man who manipulates religion as a means to get ahead was quite the controversial book in its day.


1928

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

by Thornton Wilder

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder‘s look at life and death earned him the Pulitzer Prize.


1929

All Quiet on the Western Front

by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet On the Western Front is considered one of the greatest war novels of all time.


1930

Cimarron

by Edna Ferber

Cimarron by Edna Ferber

Edna Ferber‘s classic tells of the settling of early Oklahoma.


1931 & 1932

The Good Earth

by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Pearl Buck’s look at early 20th Century life in China won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.


1933 & 1934

Anthony Adverse

by Hervey Allen

Anthony Adverse

Hervey Allen’s fine tale about an orphan boy who is adopted into privilege.


1935

Green Light

by Lloyd C. Douglas

 

Green Light by Lloyd C. Douglas

The story of a young surgeon who takes the blame for a botched surgery ( he didn’t do it) and deals with the consequences.


1936 & 1937

Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell‘s story of the spoiled daughter of a Southern plantation owner is still widely read today.


 

1938

The Yearling

by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings‘ classic won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938.


 

1939

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Before it was the book you had to read in 9th grade Literature class, The Grapes of Wrath was the 1939 bestselling novel of the year.


1940

How Green Was My Valley

by Richard Llewellyn

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

The youngest son of a Welsh miner reflects back on how times – and his town – has changed.


1941

The Keys of the Kingdom

by A. J. Cronin

The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin

The story of a Scottish priest who sets up a mission in China.


1942

The Song of Bernadette

by Franz Werfel

The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel

In which the author tells the story of Bernadette Soubirous who claimed to have visions of Mary, the mother of God in Lourdes, France in 1858.


1943 & 1953

The Robe

by Lloyd C. Douglas

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

In which a Roman soldier wins Christs’ robe as a prize after gambling. Soon after, the sets forth on an adventure to learn as much about the robe as possible. On the best seller list in 1943 and again 10 years later!


1944

Strange Fruit

by Lillian Smith

Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith

A very controversial book in its day – and now – Strange Fruit depicts racism in the South.


1945

Forever Amber

by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

In which a disgraced teen becomes the favorite mistress of Charles II


1946

The King’s General

by Daphne du Maurier

The King's General by Daphne du Maurier

A historical romance set during the English Civil War.


1947

The Miracle of the Bells

by Russell Janney

The Miracle of the Bells by Russell Janney

The story of a press agent who brings and actresses’ body home for burial, and the events that ensue.


1948

The Big Fisherman

by Lloyd C. Douglas

The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas

Douglas’ prequel to The Robe, The Big Fisherman explores the beginnings of Christianity.


1949

The Egyptian

by Mika Waltari

The Egyptian by Mika Waltari

Mika Waltari’s tale of a physician in Ancient Egypt.


1950

The Cardinal

by Henry Morton Robinson

The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson

A working-class American rises to the top of the Catholic church.


1951

From Here to Eternity

by James Jones

From Here to Eternity by James Jones

James Jones’ look at pre-Pearl Harbor Army life.


1952

The Silver Chalice

by Thomas B. Costain

The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain

Thomas Costain‘s story of a slave who meets many Biblical characters.


1953 (& 1943)

The Robe

See 1943, above.


1954

Not as a Stranger

by Morton Thompson

Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson

Morton Thompson‘s bestseller about a doctor who learns his chosen profession isn’t exactly what he dreamed it would be.


1955

Marjorie Morningstar

by Herman Wouk

Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk

An aspiring actress struggles between family loyalty and her own independence.


1956

Don’t Go Near the Water

by William Brinkley

Don't Go Near the Water by William Brinkley

William Brinkley‘s amusing look at Navy public relations in the South Pacific during World War II is a must read for any fans of military fiction.


1957

By Love Possessed

by James Gould Cozzens

By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens

Exploring 49 hours in a small town lawyer’s life, focusing on love, emotion and unexpected consequences.


1958

Doctor Zhivago

by Boris Pasternak

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Boris Pasternak’s classic about a doctor/poet during the period between the Russian Revolution and Civil War.


1959

Exodus

by Leon Uris

Exodus by Leon Uris

Leon Uris‘ epic exploration of early Jewish settlement in Palestine and the birth of Israel.


1960

Advise and Consent

by Allen Drury

Advise and Consent by Allen Drury

Allem Drury‘s tale of corruption and ambition in Washington, DC was the bestselling novel of 1960.


1961

The Agony and the Ecstasy

by Irving Stone

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

Irving Stone‘s biographical novel about Michelangelo.


1962

Ship of Fools

by Katherine Anne Porter

Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter

In which Katherine Anne Porter writes a novel based on her experiences traveling by ship from Mexico to Germany during World War II.


1963

The Shoes of the Fisherman

by Morris West

The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris West

A pope dies and a progressive young pope is elected successor, leading the Catholic church to deal with having a more modern leader with more modern philosophies and beliefs.


1964

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

by John le Carré

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

John le Carré‘s third novel placed on the bestseller list for 34 weeks.


1965

The Source

by James A. Michener

The Source by James A. Michener

The Source is James A. Michener‘s epic telling of Biblical history, beginning in the present as an archeological dig reveals rich layers of the past.


1966

Valley of the Dolls

by Jacqueline Susann

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Jacqueline Susanne’s 1966 bestseller was considered quite scandalous in its day as it explored drug abuse among best friends climbing to the top of the entertainment industry.


1967

The Arrangement

by Elia Kazan

The Arrangement by Elia Kazan


1968

Airport

by Arthur Hailey

Airport by Arthur Hailey Airport by Arthur Hailey

Arthur Hailey‘s novel about an airplane struggling to reach its destination while storms rage outside, was adapted into the film that led of the whole “disaster” film trend.


1969

Portnoy’s Complaint

by Philip Roth

Portnoy's Complaint

Philip Roth’s hysterical look at a Jewish boy growing up in New York.


1970

Love Story

by Erich Segal

Love Story by Erich Segal

Keep the tissues handy as you read about a young couple who get married while still in college – and trying to do it all without any help from the folks. We won’t share the ending, but you were warned about the tissues.


1971

Wheels

by Arthur Hailey

Wheels by Arthur Hailey

A thriller about the auto industry.


1972 & 1973

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

by Richard Bach




Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Richard Bach’s inspirational story is told by a seagull.


1974

Centennial

by James A. Michener

Centennial by James A. Michener

Another Michener epic – this one about the settling of the West.


1975

Ragtime

by E. L. Doctorow

Ragtime

Historic fiction exploring the time period between the turn of the 20th Century and World War 1.


1976

Trinity

by Leon Uris

Trinity by Leon Uris

Leon Uris’ sweeping look at Ireland during its struggle for Independence.


 

1977

The Silmarillion

by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien

Incomplete at the time of his death and published posthumously, The Silmarillion is Tolkien‘s envisioned history of Middle Earth – considered by many to be his most important writings.


1978

Chesapeake

by James A. Michener

Chesapeake by James A. Michener

Michener’s 1978 bestseller is another epic tale. This one spans generations of a family settled on America’s Eastern shore.


1979

The Matarese Circle

by Robert Ludlum

The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum

A CIA agent and his KGB counterpart, once hired to assassinate each other, now much work together.


1980

The Covenant

by James A. Michener

The Covenant by James A. Michener

Michener chronicles South Africa in his 1980 bestseller.


1981

Noble House

by James Clavell

Noble House

If you like espionage and intrigue, James Clavell’s epic has all the elements.


1982

E.T., The Extraterrestrial

by William Kotzwinkle

E.T., The Extraterrestrial by William Kotzwinkle

In which an adorable alien falls to Earth and can’t find his way back home.


1983

Return of the Jedi

by James Kahn

Return of the Jedi by James Kahn

The bestselling novel of 1983 was a Star Wars’ film to book adaptation.


1984

The Talisman

by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

In which two masters of horror teamed up to write the ultimate scary novel.


1985

The Mammoth Hunters

by Jean M. Auel

 

The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel

The third book in Jean M. Auel‘s Earth’s Children‘s series was the bestselling novel for 1985.


1986

It

by Stephen King

It by Stephen King

Stephen King‘s novel about a terrifying clown that resides in a sewer.


1987

The Tommyknockers

by Stephen King

The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

What happens when a woman digs up a space ship in her backyard? Stephen King’s 1987 bestseller explains..


1988

The Cardinal of the Kremlin

by Tom Clancy

The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy‘s 4th Jack Ryan Thriller was the bestselling novel for 1988.


1989

Clear and Present Danger

by Tom Clancy

Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy

The popularity of Tom Clancy‘s Jack Ryan series continues.


1990

The Plains of Passage

by Jean M. Auel

The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel

 

The fourth and final installment of the Earth’s Children series.


1991

Scarlett

by Alexandra Ripley

Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley

Alexandra Ripley wrote the sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind – The bestselling novel of both 1936 & 1937.


1992

Dolores Claiborne

by Stephen King

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

King’s story of a murderous maid.


1993

The Bridges of Madison County

by Robert James Waller

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

The story of a weekend of (some would say adulterous) bliss between a photographer and a farmer’s wife.


1994

The Chamber

John Grisham

The Chamber by John Grisham

John Grisham, the master of legal thrillers, dominated the bestseller lists in the 90’s and 2000’s – as you can see by scrolling down.


1995

The Rainmaker

by John Grisham

The Rainmaker by John Grisham


1996

The Runaway Jury

by John Grisham

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham


1997

The Partner

by John Grisham

The Partner by John Grisham


1998

The Street Lawyer

by John Grisham

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham


1999

The Testament

by John Grisham

The Testament by John Grisham


2000

The Brethren

by John Grisham

The Brethren by John Grisham


2001

Desecration

by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye

Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye

 

The 9th book in the bestselling apocalyptic Christian book series, Left Behind.


 2002

The Summons

by John Grisham

The Summons by John Grisham

An extremely prolific author, Grisham is still on top of the bestselling lists.


2003

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

The 5th book in J.K. Rowlings’ successful series about boy wizard Harry Potter, was the bestselling novel of 2003.


2004

The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Dan Brown‘s controversial thriller featuring symbologist Robert Langdon.


2005

The Broker

by John Grisham

The Broker by John Grisham

Grisham’s legal thrillers continue to stay at the top of bestseller lists.


2006

For One More Day

by Mitch Albom

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

The story of a child who has to choose between parents, and the guilt he feels later as an adult.


2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

The highly anticipated final novel in the Harry Potter series.


2008

The Appeal

by John Grisham

The Appeal by John Grisham


2009

The Lost Symbol

by Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Dan Brown’s follow up to The DaVinci Code, again featuring symbologist Robert Langdon.


2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The third novel of Steig Larsson‘s Millennium series made it to the top of the bestseller list for 2010.


2011

The Litigators

by John Grisham

The Litigators by John Grisham

 

What? You thought John Grisham’s run was over?


2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

by E.L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

 

Presented without comment.


2013

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Hard Luck

The 8th book in Jeff Kinney’s series about an angst-ridden middle schooler.


2014

The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

John Green‘s blockbuster tearjerker about a  young cancer patient who finds love.


2015

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Harper Lee released the sequel to her classic To Kill A Mockingbird more than 60 after the first was written.

 

How many books on this list have you read? Are you inspired to read more?


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Related Reading:  How to Become a Book Blogger
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