Most Popular Fiction Books From The Past 100 Years
All artists, be they a painter, singers, or musicians, want the same thing, to be recognized as the best of the best and go down in history as such. Fame is more than what one person needs; fortune happens to be a plus.
It’s great to see an author’s success continue to grow throughout their lifetime, starting with their first publication. Think of authors in the past decade where almost all of their books became a movie; Michael Crichton, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Suzanne Collins are a few to name.
Plus, Hollywood hasn’t forgotten the many authors who’ve passed on too, turning their masterpieces into box office successes.
These most popular fiction books from the past 100 years have made an impression on our society, where we continue to read them and will do so for the rest of time.
Aibileen, a black maid in the south in 1962, has always been good about keeping her comments to herself. Her friend, Minny, has not. Recently graduated white socialite, Skeeter, is full of ambition, but without a husband, she is a failure according to her family.
The three women come together and find a way to help one another in a heartwarming story.
The story portrays a moving image of how African-Americans were treated in the south. As the story progresses, readers are confronted with a mix of emotions. The Help is a must-read if you’re looking for a thrilling and heartwarming story.
Before The Godfather was turned into a movie trilogy, it was a bestselling book by Mario Puzo. The Corleones are America’s first crime family. The dynamics between them and their business partners make this read a forever classic.
Throughout The Godfather, exciting scenes of gang wars, crime, and confrontation abound. The novel also depicts the troubled family dynamics of the mafia family. It introduced the readers to a few Italian words that were widely used for a while after the book’s release.
Spending 105 days on the New York Times bestseller list is Khaled Hosseini’s second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Mariam and Laila, born a generation apart, become unlikely friends that work together to survive the escalating dangers surrounding them in Kabul.
As a social commentary, the novel highlights the hardships faced by women in conservative societies. The story takes you on a trip through challenging circumstances, endearing friendships, and a range of emotions.
If you haven’t read Where the Crawdads Sing, you’re missing out. One page and you’ll know why this book dominated the bestseller list for 30 non-consecutive weeks. This murder mystery is a coming-of-age story of a girl named Kyla.
Kyla becomes the prime suspect in a murder in her village. The story portrays the effects of isolation on a young woman’s mind. It’s a gripping and thought-provoking mystery novel, and as the plot develops, readers pick up clues as to what happened.
Harry Potter is a fantasy novel series written by acclaimed writer JK Rowling. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows broke records upon its release as the final book in this series of seven. The book is set after the events of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the previous book in the series.
It is in this book that the protagonist Harry Potter and his adversary Lord Voldemort face off in their final confrontation. The book was also adapted into a two-part movie.
One troubled family hopes that their move to the Alaskan wilderness will help them get past their troubles. They soon find that this lone land is bringing out the worst in themselves. This historical thriller is a must-read.
The novel provides a compelling portrayal of love, loss, and the wildness found within humans and animals alike. This suspenseful story depicts the scenes of the struggle for survival and the threats that the families must deal with.
Mirroring the story of Adam and Eve and Cain and Able, East of Eden follows the destinies of two families intertwined. Nobel prize winner John Steinbeck depicts a cruel image of a feud between the two families. The story revolves around the power of love and the consequences of its absence.
Adam Trask moves his family to a farm in California. At the birth of his twin sons, his wife is driven to madness, and Adam is left to nurture the two boys on his own. The plot is centered on the contrasting lives of the twins and the challenges that they face.
Set during the Civil War, Gone with the Wind is a complex love story. Southern Belle Scarlet O’Hara always gets what she wants. After years of living on her Georgia plantation, she finds herself in poverty. An interesting take on the effects the war had on the upper class.
The readers develop a love-hate relationship with the characters as the story progresses. This captivating 1000-page book is filled with emotions. What makes this novel one of the best of all time is the complexity of the characters and the rich symbolism present throughout.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird went from bestseller to one of the top banned books in classrooms. Despite current-day’s controversies, the book preaches the message to be careful to judge your fellow man by the color of their skin.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” takes readers to the origins of human behavior. The story beautifully portrays the rich emotions of warmth and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and sadness. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book was eventually made into a movie.
The novel tells the coming-of-age tale of Scout, a kid who lives with his father, Atticus, a lawyer by profession. The story takes a dark turn when Atticus takes up the case of a black man falsely prosecuted for rape.
The evil mobster Jabba the Hutt has received the carbonite-frozen body of Han Solo. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Lando Calrissian risk their lives to attack Jabba’s base on Tatooine to save him.
Yet another book that became a box office sensation is Jame Khan’s Return of the Jedi. The book gave birth to an entire cult of movie fans!
A Gentleman in Moscow is an old-fashioned sort of romance filled with exquisite detail. Rostov, an aristocrat, is sentenced to house arrest in a hotel. He’s never worked a day in his life and now has to. Working alongside others, he begins an emotional journey into self-discovery. With these people around, a life sentence in these gilded halls might make Rostov the luckiest man in Russia.
This sophisticated historical fiction is in a league of its own. Eloquent scene descriptions are spread across the entire book. The complexity of the characters and the connections they forge throughout the story attests to the beauty of this novel.
Based on the experiences of author Franz Werfel’s WWII escape from the Nazis in Austria, The Song of Bernadette is one of the greatest novels about religion and faith. As the plot develops, this gripping and emotional novel leads the reader on a spiritual journey.
The characters find themselves in Lourdes, where it is said a woman by the name of Bernadette had visions of the Virgin Mary. Inspired by Bernadette’s story, Werfel describes his own spiritual experiences in these trying times.
Huw Morgan’s home valley was beautiful and prosperous until one day when the mines came to town. Now, with everything in disarray and the community dispersed, Huw reminisces on the gold ‘old days.
This timeless coming-of-age story discusses the sentimental value of things that we hold close to. A fairly uncommon occurrence is the rhythm in which the plot advances. With high attention to detail and a beautiful portrayal of human emotions, this book is a must-read.
The River Road by author Frances Parkinson Keyes’ mighty chronicle of a fabulous family, the d’Alverys. People know the family to be the hot-heads of the town and less than desirable to socialize with. The town also knows that something fishy happened in the home where they were born. But what?
Each character is eloquently described by the author with meticulous attention to detail. This tragic yet beautiful story leaves the readers with a mix of emotions. A must-read for people into classic mystery novels.
The Wall tells the riveting story of how 40 men and women made it out of the Warsaw ghetto during WWII. This cruel and gripping story depicts the scenes of the Nazi Persecution of Jews during WWII. The Wall is a horrifying yet eloquently described story, a must-read!
This amazing work of literature will take you on a journey that will alter the way you view a lot of things. It is admirable how much effort the author puts into accurately portraying the horrifying experiences of the survivors.
The author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes the third book in the Millenium series. Lisbeth Salander is in the hospital with a bullet wound to the head. If she recovers, she faces going to trial on three counts of murder. Working with her journalist friend, they find a way for her to fight back and for Lisbeth to regain control of her destiny.
This eloquent work is the third and last in a bestselling book series. The books take you on a thrilling and mysterious journey. Along with the well-paced storyline, the depth of the characters in the story is stunning.
Lloyd C. Douglas is on the bestseller list once again with his book, The Robe. Set in ancient Rome, a soldier is on a quest to find out the truth about a newly discovered Nazarene’s robe.
This classic historical fiction gives a life-altering experience to readers. The story covers Christian history as well as stunning spiritual encounters. The Robe takes you along on a journey through romance, faith, and adventure on the streets of ancient Rome.
Eddie, a wounded veteran, dies at the ripe age of 83 while trying to save a little girl’s life. When he gets to heaven, it’s not what he expected it to be. He meets five people who detail his life’s events, showing that his so-called “meaningless” life wasn’t meaningless at all.
The story takes you on a heartwarming journey as Eddie remembers the events of his past life. The author very beautifully explains that Heaven is more than simply a location and that the purpose of life is what we make it to be.
James A. Michener found an exciting way for readers to learn about the origins of the Jewish faith. Taking you back to the very beginnings, Michener goes through history chronologically, ending with the current wars in the Middle East.
The Source takes readers through the history of the Jewish people, including their early survival and the place where they end up at. The writer has done a great job of captivating the interest of the readers and chronologically and eloquently recounting the events.
Kay Thompson’s beloved children’s book shares the story of Eloise, a girl who lives in The Plaza Hotel in New York. This timeless book is just as captivating for adults as it is for children.
She is beloved by all of the greats; Lewis Carroll, Henry James, Queen Victoria, and The New York Jets. Once you get to know her, you’ll be glad you did!
TJ Tucker has. the biggest ranch in California where he and his three daughters live. At the age of 64, TJ passes away, leaving the daughters to take care of the ranch.
The three thought they knew their father, only to find a stack of papers that opened their eyes to who he truly was. An investigation into his past brings the girls closer together in a heartwarming tale.
Set in Israel, Leon Uris portrays the birth of a nation. The main characters, an American nurse and an Israeli freedom fighter show the effects of the most dramatic geopolitical event on not only a nation but the entire world.
The beginning of an epic struggle for world dominance amid foes is elegantly depicted by Leon Uris as the birth of a new nation.
Based on a character in an ancient Egyptian text, Mika Waltari’s bestseller is the only Finnish novel adapted into a Hollywood film.
Sinuhe is the royal physician who tells the story of exile after Akhenaten’s fall and death. He then goes into stories beyond Egypt into Egyptian-dominated Syria, in Mitanni, Babylon, Minoan Crete, Mitanni, and among the Hittites.
Amazon Prime subscribers should know about Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, beginning with Patriot Games. Here, the reader is introduced to ex-Marine and CIA analyst Jack Ryan. After a terrorist attack, Ryan wakes up in the hospital and learns he saved the Prince and Princess of Wales and their son.
Watch out world, there’s a new patriot in town.
The Covenant, set in South Africa, is an epic tale of adventurers, scoundrels, and ministers. All come together and wars and politics spill across the land referred to as the Covenant.
Written to commemorate the Centennial State, Colorado, the bestselling novel by James A. Michener does an excellent job showing how all the major social groups are. The state interacted with one another many years ago.
Pennywise the clown has a way with children, and it isn’t entertaining them. It paved the way for what it means to have readers jumping out of their skin.
An enemy spy knows how to take down the Nazis for good, attacking the ruthless aristocrat called “The Needle.” But one thing is standing in his way. An Englishwoman on an isolated island is falling in love with him.
The pope has died and the Catholic Church is looking for a successor. It surprises everyone, including Kiril Lakota, when Kiril is selected. He is the youngest cardinal of the church, and a Russian nonetheless.
Watch as a new leader takes over the church and handles all the responsibilities that come with being the leader of one of the largest religions on earth.
One of the most suspenseful mystery novels of the decade, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is still a crowd favorite today. Recently widowed Maxim de Winter sweeps a woman off her feet and soon they marry.
Once they move in together at Maxim’s massive estate his new wife realizes how much of the old Mrs. de Winter is still alive.
In this bestselling saga, two brothers in postwar America during the 1940s confront the perils and pleasures of a world devastated by conflict. Together with their family, they find a way to adjust to the new normal in the U.S.
An instant bestseller, The Cardinal also became an Academy-Award nominated movie. Even today in its most recently released edition, Henry Morton Robinson’s novel of how one American priest became a Cardinal in the Catholic Church has readers captivated.
The Butter Battle Book made Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seusss. A rhyming anti-war story that teaches kids what tolerance and respect are.
A Day Late and a Dollar Short introduces the Prince family who is far from normal. They see one another through thick and thin with their personalities jumping right off the page. You’re sure to know someone who is like a Prince family member!
War, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America were all hot topics during the 1970s. In true Kurt Vonnegut fashion, he makes a bold statement about these hot topics in Breakfast of Champions.
British agent Alec Leamas is ready to end his career but before he does, he takes on one last exciting assignment.
All the major security organizations that help protect the U.S. must put their pettiness aside and fight the Matarese, an international circle of killers.
Another book surrounding the topic of politics is Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. After much debate in Washington regarding Senate confirmation hearings for a liberal Secretary of State, it turns into a national crisis. No other book portrays what politics in America is like.
A classic western children’s book, Zane Grey became the first millionaire author. His books and stories have been adapted into over 100 movies!
2020 isn’t over yet but as it stands now, Celeste Ng is the front-runner for bestselling books this year. One secret puts an already secretive town over the edge.
Nick and Amy Dunne are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy disappears. Everyone sees Nick as a murderer, but could this husband-of-the-year kill the love of his life?
Long before Bilbo Baggins lived in the shire was the Silmarillion. In this bestseller, you learn more about Middle Earth and the one war over jewels created by gifted elves. This won’t be the only war that ever takes place on Middle Earth.
One of the most controversial books of its time, Strange Fruit explored racial conflicts of a tightly knit southern town. Readers say that it is as accurate then as it is today.
Ghost hunter Miss Marple teams up with new homeowner Gwenda to uncover what spirits linger in her new home. Together, the two discover the shocking evidence of a crime that haunts Gwenda’s home and set out to make things right.
Amid the Great Depression, the Joad family is like everyone else in America. Willing to travel whatever distance is needed to sustain a normal life. They set off to California in an American classic novel that is always on the reading list of any high school’s English curriculum.
Dom Rizzi’s family couldn’t be more proud of him for robbing a bank. After his release from prison Dom’s cousin, police officer Joe Morelli, starts getting threats and his basement is broken into. Soon Dom is missing and a whole cast of characters has to figure their lives out.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and widely considered to be Edna Ferber’s greatest achievement, So Big is the unforgettable story of the indomitable Selina Peake DeJong and her struggles to stay afloat.
She tries to maintain her dignity in the face of a challenging marriage, widowhood, and single parenthood during turn-of-the-century Chicago.
A high-profile trial in Mississippi has a jury shaken up. At least one juror feels that way. He thinks they’re being watched. An anonymous tip confirms that something isn’t normal, having the entire jury acting oddly.
Interestingly enough, short stories can make it to the bestseller list. Franny is a short story and Zooey is a novella J.D. Salinger wrote in 1955 and 1957 respectively. Franny Glass and Zoey Glass are sisters dealing with similar spiritual and societal issues.
Similar to Catcher in the Rye, the two college-aged women are struggling with everyday life as young people in America.
Herman Wouk had audiences captivated across America and his romantic comedy topped the bestseller charts. Marjorie Morningstar moves to New York when she turns 19-years-old to work for an acclaimed stockbroker.
She meets a young married man and soon finds herself trapped in a love affair that has turned her whole world upside down.
After all recently liberated African Americans have dealt with for years in the grueling south, history has come full circle. And thieving Carpetbaggers from the north aren’t helping the current situation at all. In 1947, this book brought to light how the South continues to struggle with racism.
Often compared to Gone with the Wind, Forever Amber is set in England when the country was in turmoil. From the plague to the Fire of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare handles it all on top of being poor and pregnant.
Rachel takes the same commuter train every day. One day she sees something on the train she’s not supposed to. The Girl on the Train is a debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.
Set in New York during the roaring 20s, Margy Shannon and her family have endured a life of pain and poverty. Now that Margy is out of school she is off to find a husband and start the next chapter of her life.
George and Lennie, an unlikely pair, are laborers in California’s vegetable fields. The two men land a job at a ranch in the Salinas Valley, their dreams are finally within reach.
An eccentric surgeon gives his life to save protagonist Robert Merrick. Curious to learn more about the surgeon, Robert reads the doctor’s private papers and sets out on a spiritual adventure that moves readers everywhere.
Sinclair Lewis comes out in front again with Dodsworth. Sam and Fran Dodsworth are touring Europe. He sees the clash between America and the English, as well as the clash between him and his wife. Truly an unforgettable novel.
Young American Robert Jordan is overseas in Spain attached to an antifascist guerilla unit during the Civil War where he finds love and learns about defeat.
Sinclair Lewis appears on the bestseller list again with his novel Elmer Gantry. The books outraged so many that he was “invited: to a jail cell in New Hampshire. The state of Virginia went as far as threatening to lynch him!
Pearl S. Buck’s bestseller and Pulitzer prize-winner novel follow the life of Wang Lung and his family in a pre-World War I Chinese village. For anyone who wants to understand Chinese culture, start by reading this book.
Part of a three-volume collection, Anthony Adverse begins with a crying newborn on the steps of a nunnery. As he grows, he dreams of the world outside the convent’s gates.
One book that dominates high school classrooms across the US is The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby lives a lavish lifestyle hosting infamous parties. Lavish parties hope to attract his ex-lover Daisy, who he’s never stopped loving.
Dolores Claiborne is the main suspect in the death of her employer. As police look into her past, they also find that Dolores’ husband mysteriously died thirty years earlier. As Dolores continues to tell the police her life story, it becomes clear who the real killer is.
Not as a Stranger follows a young man through medical school and the devotion he has for his wife. At the time, it was a bit explicit due to the strong language and sex scenes. A big no, no for the period in history.
Based on local history, Cold Mountain is a novel about one civil war soldier’s journey back home.
The third book in the Vampire Chronicles weaves three stories into one giving readers history of vampires that’s never been revealed before.
One evening in Paris comes to a call that one of the nightguards at the Louvre has been murdered. All over his body are odd symbols that only Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and his assistant Sophie Neveu can decipher. What they find is a puzzle that leads Robert and Sophie to discover a secret society including Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is just that, a seagull. He is unlike any other bird you’ve ever met before in a fiction piece. His free spirit inspires him to teach his younger gulls to follow their dreams. What better book to give a recent graduate?
Archeologists come together at a secret location to not study the past, but to enter it themselves.
The first Michael Crichton book readers fell in love with was The Great Train Robbery. This won’t be the last time you see Crichton appear on the bestseller list!
John Berry has endured a lot in his life; love, death, and a myriad of strange and wonderful times. The Hoteliers are pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (a vaudevillian), and playthings of mad fate. together, all the characters in The Hotel New Hampshire “dream on” in a funny, sad, and outrageous novel.
Robert Langdon is on a new adventure in Dan Brown’s international bestseller Inferno. He’s back in Italy and on the run with Sienna Brooks whose cleverness saves his life.
The curiosity about what exists in space gave birth to many books, inventing the science fiction genre. An alien lands on Earth, where he befriends Elliott. Working together, they find a way for E.T. to get home to his planet. The book was so popular that it became one of Stephen Spielberg’s most well-known films.
The story with a biblical thread to it, the Green Light was one of the most popular books in 1935. Dr. Newell Paige, a young surgeon, ruined his career to take the blame for another person’s wrongdoing. The thread of people strung together in this controversy somehow has a happy ending.
Tom Booker has a way with wild horses that no one else can compete with. People who know of his talents call him. the horse whispered. When Annie Graves’ horse becomes wounded, she and her daughter set out to find Tom and see if he can work his magic to cure their horse.
Jean M. Auel’s fourth book in the Earth Children series begins with Ayla and Jondalar out on yet another dangerous journey to find a place they can call home.
A small town in Oklahoma is founded by descendants of a group of slaves who once labored over the land by their cruel owners. A mixture of history, myth, religion, gender, and race make Paradise a must-read.
Adam Hall is a lawyer working on a high-profile case. His client, Sam Clayhall, is facing the death penalty for a bombing he’s been accused of. His client also happens to be his grandfather. Time is running out for the two to find justice for Sam. It’s not just Sam’s life on the line anymore, but Adam is at risk too.
How do three judges end up in a minimum security prison? The three men, who call themselves “The Brethern,” practice unlicensed law handling cases for the other inmates. They begin a mail scam when things go awry. It impacts the wrong man outside the prison who threatens revenge on the Brethren.
Susie Salmon is 14-years-old when she was murdered. Now she’s up in heaven watching her friends and family grow up. She enjoys listening in to their conversations hypothesizing how Susie was killed. A light, humorous read despite the subject matter.
Three women become best friends in New York City as they navigate their way to the top of the entertainment industry.
Eddie Anderson is well off and lives in a nice home with his adoring wife. He is living the American Dream, with the disapproving addition of having a mistress.
Cimarron is the sweeping tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Turned into a movie twice, this wild, wild west story captures American history perfectly.
Sinclair Lewis became a popular fiction writer in the early 1900s. His Book Main Street portrays any main street in America. Both the good and the uncomfortable whispers happen in any city.
Pulitzer Prize-winner The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a book that had the entire world talking about it. In 1714, a bridge in Peru collapsed, killing many. A monk who sees the horror makes it his mission to help others see this accident as divine intervention versus a tragedy.
A love story between a photographer and a farm wife reignites what romance novels are all about.
Countess Mary Zattiany has discovered the scientific fountain of youth and returns to New York City to fall in love with a man who is half her age. Naturally, all the other women, young and old, despise Mary. That’s just the law of the jungle for you.
First, the list of characters in Ayn. Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is intimidating to readers. Once you get to know the premise behind each one’s tale, it makes for a terrific read.
A book of faith and optimism, If Winter Comes begins in England in 1912. Protagonist Mark Sabre is a misunderstood businessman, especially by his wife. He meets someone new who can change his perspective on a sticky situation.
Here’s a book car aficionados will love. Wheels by Arthur Hailey covers America’s richest businesses during the 1970s, automobiles.
Whether Fifty Shades of Grey counts as a romance novel is hard to say. Literature student Anastasia Steele goes on an interview with Christian Grey. Christian captures her interest, and the two have an unconventional relationship that would have authors 100 years ago blushing.
The bestseller Gone with the Wind reappears in 1991 as author Alexandra Ripley continues with Scarlett’s story.
Ice Palace brings you to a time before Alaska was Alaska as we know it today. Where men dealt with the elements and used their survival skills to make it in the wild. See how they did it in the award-winning book by Edna Ferber.
John Updike’s novel Couples comes from a time in the U.S. when sex was becoming a more publically talked-about subject. In Couples, Updike draws back the curtains and reveals the graphic portrait of love, marriage & adultery in America.
Society has access to everything needed to create a human. To alter genetic chromosomes and ensure humans are healthy. All this is to say that they also have access to create the next species.
Inspired by the Greek legend, The Private Life of Helen of Troy tells the story of Helen and her husband Menelaus and their life in Paris. Helen’s life is full of drama, many go as far as calling it, “the scandal.”
Ryan Perry is a 34-year-old internet entrepreneur who has the whole world inside of his palm. Until he is diagnosed with incurable cardiomyopathy. Ryan has a heart transplant and is feeling great within a year. That is until he received a heart-shaped box of candies on Valentine’s day with the eerie note, “Your heart belongs to me.”
The Fountain shows readers the unreality of the life of officer prisoners in the first world war in Belgium, interlaced with the journey towards spiritual peace of the main character (despite the fleshly temptation).
Jessie Sullivan returns to her South Carolina home to handle her eccentric mother and her husband Hugh, whom she loves very much. Once home, she begins to fall for a monk, Brother Thomas. The more she handles her mother’s problems, the more she struggles with the idea of home and marriage.
Set two decades after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, readers get to find out the adult Jean-Louise “Scout” Finch has become.
- Daphne du Maurier dominated the market between 1938 to 1969, appearing on the bestseller list ten times, with her timeless piece Rebecca being the top seller two years in a row.
- Stephen King owned the market in the 1980s, with three of his books appearing on the bestseller list in 1987 alone.
- In the 1990s, Tom Clancy became the king of the market.
- Danielle Steel has both authors beat appearing 34 times between 1983 – 2008. Her admirable determination to publish books made Steel have multiple best-selling books every year.
- It takes time to become a bestseller! J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937. Almost thirty years later, in 1966, the book became a bestseller. Years after that, in 2001, the first Lord of the Rings film hit theaters. It is now one of the top-rated fantasy novels.
- Female authors start topping the charts in the early 2000s until you have a good mix of competition between male and female authors for the number one bestseller.
Talk about too much to read and not enough time! Each year, many avid readers set out a goal to read so many books in a year. Of course, life gets busy, and no sooner than you know it, you’re several books behind where you need to be.
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