I realize attempting to compile a list like this could ruffle some feathers from both publishing and literature purists, not to mention the theological issues raised in the process of determining a “Christian” book.
But I thought I would take a stab at it anyway.
The list of the best-selling Christian books of all time almost demands every single title carry some sort of disclaimer, but that disclaimer would be different depending on the individual. Differences over theology mainly will affect this list.
Writing from a Christian “world view” qualifies for this list, so every title will not contain Scripture and teaching per se.
Certain portrayals of theology are some of the issues that divide us, so I thought I would just toss out a list and leave the editing of the list to someone else. (After all, every best-seller list has an editor…sorry to break the news if you didn’t know it already)
Other than the Bible, which is the far and away the best-selling Christian book of all time with sales in the billions, here is my list for your consideration:
- The Imitation of Christby Thomas à Kempis (1418) – Sales Unknown, but widely regarded as the best-selling Christian title after the Bible.
- Book of Common Prayer (various editions starting in mid 16th Century) – 300 million (estimated)
- Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan (1678) – 250 million
- Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe (1563) – 150 million
- Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (1954) – 150 million
- The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (1937) – 142 million
- The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950) – 85 million
- Steps to Christ by Ellen White (1892) – 60 million (estimated)
- Ben Hur by Lew Wallace (1880) – 50 million
- The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey (1970) – 35 million
- In His Steps by Charles Sheldon (1896) – 30 million
- The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (2002) – 30 million
- The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (1952) – 20 million
- The Shack by William Paul Young (2007) – 20 million
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1320) – 12 million (in last 150+ years)
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (1995) – 10 million+
- Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (2004) – 10 million+
- Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo (2010) – 10 million+
- More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell (1977) – 10 million+
- The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson (2000) – 10 million+
- The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan (1974) – 10 million
- The Gospel According to Peanuts, Robert Short (1965) – 10 million
In addition, here are some series of books that have high sales:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1950’s) – 150 million
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1949-1954) – 120 million
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (1995-2007) – 65-70 million
Now, in the comment section below, feel free to start a comment with “What about…” and I’ll try to give an explanation why I included or excluded a title!
I am fully prepared to apologize for omissions.
It must be true, it was on the internet
Some sales numbers were acquired from Wikipedia which means I hardly had to do any work to get the information. Of course, this is the same internet containing claims of 800-pound parakeets attacking Bozeman, Montana, so maybe just forget everything I wrote today.
“Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers
Yes, it’s a romance, but it’s a whole lot more. It’s the only book I’ve ever finished, closed, and then returned to the beginning to read it again, immediately. So much packed in there.
Redeeming Love is one of my favorites. Francine did a wonderful job bringing Hosea and Gomer to modern day life through Michael and Angel. She pulled me right into the story with her characters and at the same time pointed to the redeeming love of Christ.
Dan, I love all the classics. There are so many good books. Francis Chan has a few. Thanks for the list.
Stephen W Hiemstra
I am curious if an hymnals would make your list.
Don’t know if it made it to the best sellers, but Kathy Tyers “Forebird” trilogy is excellent.
Also, I may be wrong and I don’t disagree with your list, but I thought the Tolkien family denied there being any parallel between “The Lord of the Rings” and Christianity?
What about My Utmost for His Highest by Pswald Chambers? ?
So many publishers and editions, plus updated text make it difficult to get at the numbers. It has certainly sold well, but the 10 million threshold to make our list is a pretty large number.
No question a classic.
My highest commendation to you for your list!
Noting you list Rick Warren as #12, this would make it impossible for his sales to be as he claims “The Bestselling Hardback Book in History”, with just 32 million sales, as your list alone would refute that claim! Note further how many non-fiction books are ahead of Warren, that the bestselling Christian and Non-Fiction books sell in the hundreds of millions, and yes BILLION+ in sales. Here is my report and investigation refuting him:
For my complete report, I invite you to visit:
LORNA J JEROME
I thought that would be on the list as well.
I’m also surprised Redeeming Love didn’t make this list! I believe it is the greatest work of fiction that shows such deep truths about Christ and His bride. A life-changing novel!
Great book…its sales are significant for sure, over one million sold, but still a ways to go to make our list at 10 million.
“The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. His works were inspired by the bible, are loaded with Christian principles and sold over 50 million copies and counting.
Good suggestion for sure.
I live outside of Bozeman, and I can say the reports are grossly exaggerated. The parakeets were only about 100 pounds.
You really live just outside Bozeman? Lucky you!
I didn’t see this before I posted. Only 100 pounds? That’s a relief! I can handle one that size with my hunting knife.
It may not have sold enough, but there is one that should be on the list of all-time greats for anyone who wants to talk with someone about God.
Your God is Too Small by J.B. Philips (the person who translated the New Testament into contemporary English in the 1950s) First published in 1968, published again in 2004. Perhaps it’s too hard to get total numbers for this one.
I’m heading to Bozeman in a month. Did Montana Game and Fish or the Gallatin County sheriff’s office get that parakeet trapped or killed yet?
Linda Riggs Mayfield
Trapping and killing parakeets, especially ones large enough to incur significant damage to humans and their belongings, is not legal, and more importantly, not politically correct. After all, birds were in Bozeman before people were, although probably not parakeets. Instead, the government has enacted the power of eminent domain and emptied a square mile of the city to turn it into a bird refuge for said parakeet, with the caveat that if it should require more room, more people will have to find somewhere else to live. After all, birds are NATURAL, and just because a parakeet’s natural jungle habitat is not available should not be a reason for not creating anther habitat to which it might possibly adapt, and therefore eventually become NATURAL. As long as you stay out of the sanctuary zone, you should be fine. ;-D
I used to breed and sell baby parakeets (no joke).
The other common name for the shell parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus) is budgerigar, which is derived from an aboriginal word in their native Australia that means “good eating.”
It is a crime to trap native songbirds for the pet trade or kill them to eat, but parakeets are only reproducing in the wild in parts of the south. If the sheriff doesn’t get that bird, Montana’s winter will.
If you’re coming to Bozeman, Carol, we should meet for coffee! I can take you to the bird sanctuary, aptly named Parakeet Paradise, and you can get pictures. Just don’t get too close.
Let’s connect. Carol@carolashby.net
Linda Riggs Mayfield
Katie, I wish I could be there, too, for that photo op! 😀
LOL Linda, you’re better off. You can imagine the mess a 100-pound parakeet can make.
Your God is Too Small was the first book I read after becoming a Christian. Powerful work.
Hello.am looking for good Christian books for my teenage daughter. She is 13, loves to read and reads mature books..
Looking for ChristIan based books any suggestions please?
firstname.lastname@example.org is my email
I thought maybe My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers would be a best seller.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Those are some great books, Steve! Thanks for sharing the list. What about……nope, I couldn’t think of any and I promise not to call your office at midnight if I think of one!
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Oops, I meant Dan! So sorry! Anyone who had his blogs lined up until October 31, 2017 deserves credit for the posting!
It’s December 12, 2017 now.
It’s a sick obsession.
Great list, Dan. Left Behind (the original novel) surely belongs on this list. My Utmost is likely somewhere in the middle as well, though there have been many version and reprints, so near-impossible to confirm. Also Streams in the Desert may have broken 10 million copies since 1925.
But my favorite bit from this post was your parenthetical: “(After all, every best-seller list has an editor…sorry to break the news if you didn’t know it already)” Thanks be to God for inspiring even the lowly editors!
Left Behind is close to 10 million but not yet…probably about 8-9 million now.
Streams in the Desert is difficult to track because of all the editions over the years. Unless a publisher keeps track of the totals it is impossible to get at the numbers.
All great suggestions.
Ten million is a big number!
I think “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” by Hannah Whitall Smith should be included. First published in the late 19th century, it’s still in print and has sold in the tens of millions.
Tough to track with all the editions and publishers unless a publisher adds them up for me! Great suggestion though.
Has Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence hit 10 million? Wikipedia didn’t say.
One author claimed The Practice of the Presence of God is the MOST READ book (except for the Bible) in all of history.
And what about Mere Christianity???
I really enjoyed This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti. I couldn’t put them down.
How many copies of Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts have been sold?
Ann’s book was given an award for passing 500,000 copies a few years ago, but might be closing in on one million copies now.
I note that you list Rick Warren as #12. He claims his Purpose Driven Life book is “the bestselling nonfiction hardback book in history”, which would of course be impossible at the point he had sold 30 million copies. Here is the investigation and report and report refuting Warren’s claim:
Thanks for the list of good Christian books. I’ve always enjoyed reading these, but recently, I haven’t been able to find any. I saw the Ben Hur movie, so now I’m curious about the book. Thanks for the suggestions!
is there any way of getting some of such used books to read for myself?
from Owen Ivan,
What about Wiliam Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armor?
Excellent list! What I would most like to know is what topics/traits/styles do these books share in common, that likely made them become in such high demand? The first thing that strikes me is many of them seem to offer the writer insight into deeper things that may help them better understand and connect better with God and His Word. Would love to hear others’ thoughts on why these books led to so many sales?
Hi! Please add a pin button to enable one share your work on Pinterest. Thank you!
Best selling doesn’t necessarily mean best written. Population, means of printing, outlets for the books, etc. have changed enormously. Of course a modern author would have more readers. Not complaining, but I would like to see Christian books “measured” by value, wisdom, insight, not by numbers.
Surely The Cross and The Switchblade should be on here? I believe around 15 million sold? What about The Hiding Place and God’s Smuggler?
How on earth did you miss the 2nd best selling book of all time besides the bible…..Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis ????
Wow! Awesome list. This is very helpful for every Christian out there. Thank you for sharing. A book a day will point you out towards your purpose in life. Please check my blog about Reasons to Read and Love Christian Books
Hope this will help. Thank you.
This is a useful and excellent share. Will definitely share it with people I know.
I really love and appreciate this list of best selling Christian books! My wife and I are really into such! We read the books from https://www.keionhenderson.com/books/ and other notable Christian authors around! I truly recommend this to the younger generation!