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Top 10 Book Series Sold in More than 200 Million Copies

posted by Anneliese Müller

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Top 10 Book Series Sold in More than 200 Million Copies
1. Harry Potter
2. Goosebumps
3. Perry Mason
4. Berenstain Bears
5. Choose Your Own Adventure
6. Sweet Valley High
7. Noddy
8. Nancy Drew
9. The Railway Series
10. San Antonio

When we are young, we all have dreams. Some want to become doctors, teachers or firefighters. Some aim higher and dream about becoming astronauts, scientists or anything that could change the world into a better place – or not, some just want to be the villains from their stories – and perhaps win them a Nobel prize or a mention in history books.

But some are just more dreamy and care about other things such as fine arts. They want to become painters like Michelangelo and have the ceiling of a would be historical monument painted by them. Others want to become designers – the next Yves Saint Laurent or Coco Chanel, while some are brave enough to flirt with architecture and dream about building skyscrapers.

Some of us have always considered becoming the next big thing on the music stage, but even a garage band is difficult to form these days and sometimes, even the most talented end up working in a fast food restaurant or better as lawyers; only the bravest ones dare to join a singing contest, but after the show is over, so are their 30 seconds of fame. And there are the least appreciated – the writers.

 This is us

Everyone can write” say those who cannot write. And this is a general statement when it comes to talented young writers. Their hobby starts merely as a random idea or a school project and it blooms. A few praises from the teacher – or not, it depends on the genre and the teachers – some literature contests and at some point, after a while, when their genuine talent is resumed to memorizing quotations and analyzing other people’s works, they become fed up and quit their hobby.

In front of the others, they just say that the inspiration is gone with the wind, but somewhere, the passion is still there. So, if they are courageous enough, they start once more. Fan fiction, short stories, blogs, articles, fairytales for their future children, long novels which become their new world to escape to. But this is all. It is just a hobby. Unless…

Lucky star

succesful writer, frederic dardIf some people actually managed to work for big designers and eventually to develop their own independent side business, some actually became huge stars in the music industry and even that looser class mate from middle school is playing in Hollywood’s next blockbuster, then why writers can not make it? Well… some can. Some writers went from writing on paper napkins and telling bedtime stories to becoming idols and millionaires.

They turned their hobby into their job and it did them good. Now, if you read our last article about the best selling books and book series of all times, you might notice that some stories are not exactly special, but they were catchy to the public. And perhaps, you might reconsider starting to write again and in a few years, you will be here too.

Enjoy!


10. “San Antonio” – Frederic Dard (175 books)

san antonio, thriller book

“San Antonio” is a French crime book series. Despite the author’s name being Frederic Dard, he wrote under the pen name San Antonio, the same as the series and the name of the main character, the police inspector Antoine San-Antonio.

The name came from a simple map. Dard wanted an English name so he opened an atlas and his finger pointed at San Antonio, Texas. The character behind the title was also inspired by inspector Gregory Alexinsky. In 1949 he published his first book from the series and it was a major success, luring many editors willing to get their brand on Dard’s following books. Sales: ~200 million.

Diamond among pebbles

The thriller genre has plenty of good examples and bad examples, but like always, there must be that “je ne sais quoi” aspect that creates interest and makes people buy them. “San Antonio” is not particularly rich in classical vocabulary, mainly because Frederic Dard took the time to improvise. His series is full of neologisms, word plays, distortions, spoonerisms, catachresis, aphorisms, synecdoches and invented words by mixing French and English. You may call him a modern Shakespear. Editor’s pick: “The Sad Killer”


9. “The Railway Series” – Rev. W. Awdry, Christopher Awdry (41 issues)

best seller books, The Railway Series

Yes, it is a book series about train engines and you might know it better as “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends” from the creepy cartoons series. Despite Thomas and his friends’ eerie aspect, the concept behind “The Railway Series” is a pure innocent one.

Reverend W. Awdry’s 2 and half year old, Christopher, was ill with measles and the only way to bring joyfulness to his soul was by starting to tell him stories.

Later, Awdry was pursued to send his work to a publisher and luckily, his books were welcomed. To pay homage to his father, Christopher Awdry later took over his legacy and started writing stories himself. Sales: ~200 million.

Television success

There were plenty of efforts to adapt Awdry’s “The Railway Series”, but only in 1984 the show finally aired on TV and ever since it has been a must watch for every single child. Up to this date, there are 19 seasons with and a total of 466 episodes and with a 20th season to follow.

To add to the series, there is also a theatrical movie, “Thomas and the Magic Railroad”, a 44 minute long special and nine 60 minute long specials.  The series suffered a slight change in 2008 when it was announced that from the twelfth season ongoing the design would be computer generated. And as an idea of its amazing popularity, among the many narrators of the show there are celebrities such as Ringo Starr, Alex Baldwin and Pierce Brosnan. Editor’s pick: Very Old Engines


8. “Nancy Drew” – Carolyn Keene (175 books)

mistery books, Nancy Drew

If the previous list had Frank Merriwell as a young attempt of Sherlock Holmes, this time we bring you Nancy Drew, a female American Sherlock Holmes or just an American younger Miss Jane Marple. Nancy Drew is a young detective, who, with the help of her friend Bess Marvin and George Fayne, but also boyfriend Ned Nickerson, gets into a lot of trouble and solves mysteries.

The original author is Edward Stratemeyer, better known for “Hardy Boys”, but after his death, other authors were allowed to pick up the series and write their own volumes under the pen name Carolyn Keene. And despite the character suffering changes from decade to decade and author to author, becoming an epitome of girlhood and a potential role model for each generation. Sales: ~200 million.

Adaptations

“ Role model for each generation ”

Due to the series being a success and picked up even after the author’s death, the “Nancy Drew” series was unavoidably adapted for other media. The first attempts were in the 30s with 4 “Nancy Drew” movies by Warner Bros., all starring Bonita Granville as the young detective.

In 2007 another movie was released starring Emma Roberts as Nancy. Regarding the small screen, in the 50s, CBS attempted to create a TV series which was cancelled, but the 70s meant a return for Nancy on ABC, the TV channel also unsuccessfully tried to bring it back to life in 2002, as well as CBS. But if the TV series failed, the games by Her Interactive were and still are a major achievement with over 30 installments. Editor’s pick: “The Runaway Bride”


7. “Noddy” – Enid Blyton

best seller books, Noddy

Another character you might remember from cartoons, Noddy is a boy made out of wood, similar to Pinocchio. Cheerful and friendly, his story began as he was created by a woodcarver in toy shop, place from which he escaped.

Encountering other characters, Noddy lands in Toyland where he must prove himself as a real good toy and takes the job as a taxi cab driver. Other characters from the “Noddy” series are the leprechaun like Big Ears, the policeman Mr. Plod, Bumpty Dog, Tessie Bear, the family Tubby Bear and Mr. Wobbly Man. Sales: ~200 million.

Adaptations

Of course, it was impossible not to adapt Blyton’s “Noddy” series. A first edition was released in the 50s, “The Adventures of Noddy”. Later it followed “Further Adventures of Noddy” from 1963 till 1975, preceeded by “Noddy”. After a break, the friendly toy returned in the 90s with “Noddy’s Toyland Adventures” and “Noddy”.

The 21st century brought new series “Noddy” and “Make Way for Noddy”, then the short educational “Say With Noddy”, “Noddy in Toyland” and this new year will bring “Noddy, Toyland detective”. Editor’s pick: “Noddy Goes to the Fair”


6. “Sweet Valley High” – Francine Pascal (400 books)

best seller books, Sweet Valley High

Before Gossip Girl and other modern Chick lit books, there was the “Sweet Valley High”. Following the lives of Californian identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the series introduces the young girls during their high school years and tell their adventures marked by love, jealousy, mysteries, tragedies and incredible plot twists.

Despite starting as an ordinary teen series, some novels take a different turn, seeming to be taken out of a “CSI Miami” episode, a “Dexter” one, a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” one or a random Olsen twins teen movie.  Sales: ~250 million.

Reboots and spin offs

High school does not last forever, despite sometimes seeming like four years are an entire century. Therefore, other series were released – “Sweet Valley Kids”, with Jessica and Elizabeh as 7 year old girls, “Sweet Valley Twins” featuring them in sixth grade, “The Unicorn Club” based on the… Unicorn Club mentioned in the books, “Sweet Valley Junior High”, “Sweet Valley High: Senior Year”, “Sweet Valley University” because why not and “Elizabeth”, a series centered mostly on the said twin.

In 2011, Francine Pascal returned with “Sweet Valley Confidential” and “Sweet Valley: The Sweet Life” with the girls all grown up. A 4 season long TV series ran from 1994 till 1997. Editor’s pick: “Love letters for sale”


5. “Choose Your Own Adventure” – various authors (185 issues)

best sellers, Choose Your Own Adventure

You’re the star of the story! Choose from 40 possible endings!” Before otome and role play games, you would have expected to not be such thing like a game book in which you are in the shoes of the main character and you have to make the decisions and choose your path out of many with different endings.

But this is what “Choose you own adventure” actually is. The book are open to any gender and race, though they are mostly for preteens, who take over a role as an adventurer or an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation. Sales: ~250 million.

A smart business

The brain behind the concept of “Choose Your Own Adventure” was Edward Packard, who came up with the idea after many nights of telling bedtime stories to his daughters. “I had a character named Pete and I usually had him encountering all these different adventures on an isolated island. But that night I was running out of things for Pete to do, so I just asked what they would do.

The series later developed other version for younger readers, some more complex, some based on traveling and education, a horror version of 18 books and even some based on more popular series such as “Indiana Jones”, “Star Wars” and on the Disney cartoon movies. Editor’s pick: “Terror on the Titanic”


4. “Berenstain Bears” – Stan and Jan Berenstain (over 300 books)

The Berenstain Bears, best seller books

Similar to the bears from the “Goldilocks” tale, the family book series “Berenstain Bears” features a family of grizzly bears and their daily lives and adventures. Despite being set up as an apparently regular book series for children, the “Berenstain Bears” books were just disguised in a pleasant manner in order to send a message and teach children valuable lessons.

The issues discuss not only average situations such as going to the dentist, but also still current matters such as childhood obesity and real life and online bullying. Sales: ~260 million.

Adaptations

Regardless of its controversies and criticism, the series was also picked up for television, starting with the NBC specials “The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree”, “The Berenstain Bears Meet Piggpaw”, “The Berenstain Bears’ Easter Surprise”, “The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Special” and “The Berenstain Bears’ Littlest Leaguer”.

Later, in the 80s, CBS created an animated cartoon series and so did PBS in 2003. “The Berenstain Bears” cartoons series are also the first to be translated into a Native American language. Furthermore, a movie is planned to be released in the future. Editor’s pick: “The Berenstain Bears and the Attic Treasure”


3. “Perry Mason” – Erle Stanley Gardner (82 stories)

Perry Mason best seller books

Sweet noir stories. The „Perry Mason“ series by Erle Stanley is a collection of novels and short stories from the 20th century. The title character is a criminal defense lawyer who works with his friend, detective Paul Drake in solving mysteries.

Their cases consist of a strange woman who accuses and is accused, a woman whose fiancé is accused of murdering her guardian, a killer sleepwalker, an accused amnesiac person, a “Romeo and Juliet” like drama, many night walkers, two dancers caught in a murder, a wedding turned into a funeral, a mixed up adoption and a witness whose job makes her look less viable. Also, there is a gorilla. Sales: ~300 million.

Adaptation

The 30s being the age of the noir movies, Warner Bros. saw the potential of the “Perry Mason” books and released throughout the decade 6 films – “The Case of the Howling Dog”, “The Case of the Curious Bride”, “The Case of the Lucky Legs”, “The Case of the Velvet Claws”, “The Case of the Black Cat” and “The case of the Stuttering Bishop”.

In the 50s and 60s, followed a TV series on CBS and the next decade another version was released. Due to the idea still being interesting, from 1985 until 1995, NBC aired 30 “Perry Mason” TV movies and rumour has it that Robert Downey Jr. might take the leading role in an upcoming reboot. Editor’s pick: “The Case of the Runaway Corpse”


2. “Goosebumps” – R. L. Stine (62 books + spin-off series)

best seller horror books, Goosebumps

Believe it or not, children do like ghost stories and enjoy getting a little scared from time to time. It started just a small attempt at writing something scary for young adults, but it ended up in entire franchise.

Featuring supernatural creatures such as vampires, ghosts, zombies, carnivorous plants, aliens, werewolves and others, the stories give the reader chills until the very ending, which sometimes is not exactly a happy one and it comes with a plot twist. After the original series ended, a collection of spin offs were released – the anthologies “Tales to Give You Goosebumps”, the game books “Give Yourself Goosebumps”, “Goosebumps Series 2000”, “Goosebumps Gold”, “Goosebumps HorrorLand” and “Goosebumps Most Wanted”. Sales: ~350 million.

Adaptations

“ The reader chills until the very ending ”

Back in the 1990s, “Goosebumps” had the honour and pleasure of scaring people for 4 straight seasons. With 74 episodes covering R. L. Stine’s books, though sometimes with slight differences, the show underwent a couple of problems, due to some parts being too frightening or too disgusting, fact which lead to censorship.

In 2007, the movie “The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think about It” starring Disney stars Emily Osment and Cody Linley lead to the release of another TV series “R. L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series”. Despite not being specifically part of “Goosebumps”, people associated them with the old series and loved them. And if you want to dive deeper into R. L. Stine’s world, we recommend you “Goosebumps” the 2015 movie. Editor’s pick: “Ghost Beach”


1. “Harry Potter” – J. K. Rowling (7 novels + 3 supplements)

best seller books, harry potter

There is no need for further introduction, but for those who chose to ignore the best series ever, here it is. The eponymous character of the series, Harry Potter is an orphan boy who discovers unusual abilities and is dragged to a whole new world.

Sent away from his dreadful uncle, aunt and cousin, Harry starts attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy. There, he makes new friends, new foes and learns a lot about the hidden magical world and even about his dead parents. But this is not just a tale about a boy with magical powers. This is about a fight of good and evil put on the shoulders of a child who goes from enjoying his new life to failing under pressure and maturing obliged by the circumstances. Sales: ~450 million.

The movies

As you already know, the movies starring Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ronald Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger have been mostly faithful, but there are some major differences. Movie makers must let things out so that people who have not read the novels get interested into them so that they buy them and read them.

One thing is that the character Peeves was let out, which might not be such a bad thing, as well as excluding the ghost teacher Binns, the house elf Winky, Ludo Bagman.. Some events such as the midnight duel between Draco and Harry, taking out the gnomes from the Weasley garden, other Quiddtich matches, Hermione’s fight for house elves rights and Draco and his gang making fun of Ron more than usual were also wiped out. Editor’s pick: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anneliese Müller (see all articles)

I am 22 years old, but I have the soul and mind of a 13 year old. Part time nerd, full time dreamer. 100% bookaholic. Future president, current sleepy head painter.

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