Wandering the aisles of a library or scrolling through an online bookstore can be an overwhelming task. If you’re having trouble looking for a place to start, why not turn toward the most popular books? There are certain books that have captivated millions of readers throughout the years (or even just over the past year) due to their beautiful world-building, unforgettable characters and universal themes.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Here are 10 books that continue to leave an impact on readers.
Often referred to as the first modern European novel, Don Quixote follows the exploits of the titular noble who becomes obsessed with the romantic notion of chivalry. On a self-imposed mission to become a knight-errant, Don Quixote recruits common farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire. Unfortunately, however, their quests rarely end well—among other misadventures, Don Quixote does battle with a herd of sheep, attacks a group of monks, and even frees a group of convicted criminals.
Don Quixote was inspired by The Odyssey, but since it was published in two parts in 1605 and 1615, this classic novel has gone on to inspire many other artists and works, such as The Shadow Dragons by James A. Owen, and even the Japanese manga series One Piece. And if you’ve been writing this book off because it was published 400 years ago, you’re almost as foolish as Don Quixote himself.
Lord of the Rings
This high-fantasy novel is a famous three volume epic. It centers around an all powerful ring forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. For many years the ring is sought after by all likes, but at the start of the novel, it resides in the simple home of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo sets a momentous quest upon his cousin Frodo’s shoulders, tasking him with the journey to Mount Doom to destroy the ring.
Tolkein’s world-building is deep and rich. He creates languages in his stories that can even be learned by some of the more devoted readers. It’s not just a story that he’s crafting, but a home.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The most recent novel on this list, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone brings readers into a world of magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On his eleventh birthday, Harry’s magical heritage is brought to light by the bumbling half-giant Hagrid. As he embarks on his new life as a wizard, he finds that there’s more to this news than just learning spells and potions. The Dark Lord Voldemort, who had tried and failed to kill Harry as an infant, is regaining power, and Harry stands in his path.
The characters are truly the heart of this book. Harry doesn’t have to be the smartest of his friends in order to be a hero, and he doesn’t even have to be nice all the time. He’s a dynamic character who readers can relate to both as they age and as adults—it’s no wonder that Harry Potter is one of the most popular books of all time.
And Then There Were None
From acclaimed mystery author Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None is a mastery of tension. A quirky millionaire hosts a gathering of eight strangers on a private island off of the English coast. When the guests arrive, the elusive host is nowhere to be found. In his place, however, is the accusation of murder upon each of the guests.
As panic sets in, those brought to the island begin to die one by one. Paranoia sets in and sense unravels as the body count mounts. It’s a classic whodunnit that has readers standing up and screaming, “What?!” until the very last page.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
In this quintessential novel, seven-year-old Alice stumbles down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world of wonder and trouble. While navigating this new and peculiar place, Alice encounters many enchanting anthropomorphic creatures, like the iconic White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat. Carrol’s work twists logic and spins riddles, giddily tossing convention aside. Now one of the cornerstones of the fantasy genre, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland holds a dear place in the hearts of both children and adults.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
As the first of seven novels in the series The Chronicles of Narnia, this book brings to life the fantastical world of Narnia, a place full of talking animals and magic. The story unfolds when the four Pevensie children are evacuated from England during wartime to stay in the old house of a kind professor. When the youngest child, Lucy, enters a wardrobe to find a vast, snow-filled land, she and her siblings are dragged into a battle of good and evil.
This book makes readers feel like magic is right at their fingertips—or right at their wardrobe. This is a novel that speaks directly to the hearts of any kid who ever wished their dog would talk back to them. More than that, as the Pevensies face off a witch, it makes readers feel that, with enough courage, anything is possible.
This tale follows a marionette boy, Pinocchio, crafted out of a talking log by the poor woodcarver, Gepetto. Ill-behaved Pinocchio is peculiar, with a nose that grows with every lie told. As the puppet boy travels out into the world, he finds that it holds more trouble and treachery than even he can handle.
Since this novel was published in 1883, it has become one of the most commonly adapted stories worldwide. This tale about a puppet who wants nothing more than to be a real boy encompasses a heartfelt theme about personal growth and humanity.
Catcher in the Rye
This novel, narrated by the iconic 16-year-old rebel Holden Caulfield, is a staple in more than just tenth grade English classrooms across America. Weaving a beloved story, Holden embarks on a personal journey back to New York following his expulsion from boarding school.
As Holden battles the ever present adolescent pains of alienation and superficiality, the novel also dives into a conversation on topics such as innocence and loss. If you’ve got a love for the classic American novel, don’t be a phony—pick this one up for a read.
Anne of Green Gables
Anne Shirley is a young orphan of eleven years who is mistakenly sent to the Cuthbert siblings' Green Gables farm. The Cuthberts—who had sent for an orphan boy to help with the farm chores—find Anne to be charming and determined, and decide to let her stay. Settling in to her first real home, Anne spreads joy about the island with her fanciful imagination.
After the classic children's novel’s adaptation into numerous television series and movies, Anne has asserted herself as a heroine who withstands time.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
A list of the most popular books of all time must include something from the science fiction master Jules Verne, who also penned Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth. In this tale, the Atlantic Ocean is plagued by the presence of a strange monster. Harpoonist Ned Land joins marine biologist Aronnax and his servant, Conseil, in order to track down and kill the sea creature. However, the task is not as simple as it seems. In their journeys, they encounter the vengeful Captain Nemo and his submarine vessel, the Nautilus.
In the freedom of the vast ocean, Aronnax and the others see beauties of the sea that they never could have fathomed. Unfortunately, while Nemo battles with the captivity of his own rage, the others are trapped physically aboard the submarine.