Do you recall ever starting reading a book and getting very excited about it? It was all you ever wanted. It had a great original plot that had always surprised you; it had accurate and suggestive descriptions of sceneries and events making you feel as you were there; it had amazingly built characters with deep personalities and a past you could relate to.
Though, it was quite confusing because there were certain references you could not understand and some characters kept appearing without any details about who they were and the narrator acted as if you were supposed to already know them. Well… that is because you really were supposed to.
Because after you finished the book and looked it up online or discussed it with someone who also had read it, you found out that it was the second volume of a series – in the best case – or the 15th volume – in the worst case. And suddenly you had to hunt for all the other books. Sometimes the early ones were not even translated in your language or they were just not that popular and they were pulled off the shelves or they were too popular and people devoured them.
Indubitably, you were not that eager to wait days, if not weeks or months, to get the first volumes. Sometimes you actually had to jump from the 15th volume to the 7th, then the 16th, the 3rd, the 9th and so on until you got your hands on the first issue. When there is no connection between the books or when there is a slight tie between them and there is only a shift of the main characters, it is ok.
You either needn’t read them in a specific order in the first place or you might need to constantly carry a piece of paper and a pencil on you to remember where you have heard of that character before. But when the action focuses on one single character and his evolution… well… you are doomed. Doomed to find them all, catch them like Pokemons and perhaps reread some of them. But this is only in the case you do not mind the confusion and you are just happy to discover the adventures you missed.
A Time for Everything
A quote from the book which has sold over 5 billion copies, the Bible, says that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. And this is what is amazing about book series. One book usually points out an important event from the main character’s life.
Now depending on the length, it might illustrate his entire life and reveal more interesting aspects about him and the secondary characters. But when it comes to book series, they take their time. They start with birth, first word, first step, childhood, teen years, first kiss, first huge failure, entering adulthood, real life problems and so on. And even when there are over 100 volumes, there are still so many things to say and discover, because this is how life is and fiction just makes it better.
If only we lived enough to be able to read all of the series we want… But if you are currently torn between which book series you might want to start reading, we are here to suggest you 10 of those successful series sold in more than 100 million copies.
10. “Fifty Shades of Grey” (3 volumes + a retelling) – E. L. James
And we are starting with the most controversial series of the past couple of years. Written by E. L. James, the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series consists of the original trilogy – the 2011 “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the 2012 “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” – but also the reimagining of the first book, this time written from the perspective of the male character, Christian Grey, – the 2015 “Grey”.
As you probably already know, the books focus on the college graduate, the clumsy Anastasia Steele as she gets involved in a BDSM relationship with the multimillionaire Christian Grey. While the first volume centers on Ana discovering her sexuality, the second one is all about Grey finally falling for her and trying to put his past behind and the third is them trying to form a normal family. Sales: ~125 million.
Money, money, money
People have always been drawn to easy to read pieces of literature and the market has always been full of all sorts of erotica. This series is not in any way different from other chick lits or erotica novels. But what got people to buy them is the fact that is was so strongly advertised. Starting with “the kinky version of Twilight”, which made the “Twilight” fans rise from their graves, and pointing out the (rather bad) use of BDSM practices descriptions, people just got curious.
Especially because it was the first time people discussed these things openly and did not pretend that they did not exist. It did not even matter that most people hated them, it was important that they sold and that the fans even bothered to buy them in other languages too and gave them as gifts, getting other people interested in them. It was like plague. Editor’s pick: none, but we can go after “Fifty Shades Freed” because it is the end.
9. “Frank Merriwell” – Gilbert Patten (209 issues)
Gilbert Patten or Burt L. Standish created this American counterpart of Sherlock Holmes in 1896. For over 30 years, the “Frank Merriwell” series was sold as dime novels – similar to the pocket romance novels sold with newspapers we still find today – and it reached more than 200 volumes.
The character is constructed similar to an Übermensch, he is athletic and a great sportsman, handsome and smart. He is the perfect package and has a very interesting hobby – getting into trouble and solving mysteries. Sales: ~125 million.
A gift for everyone
Out of its many volumes, some were written by other authors. The series also got its own comic strip and book and it was adapted for radio. In 1936 Universal Studios even made film serial of 12 episodes. Why so much attention to an apparently ordinary book series? Because it appealed to the masses.
A prince charming of those times, someone for the youth to look up to, something easy to read and something entertaining. Just like the main character, the series was the perfect package for the readers. Therefore, because of its appeal, there was more demand and despite the books’ cheap price, it managed to become one of the best-selling book series in history. Editor’s pick: “Frank Merriwell’s Diamond Foes”.
8. ”Chicken Soup for the Soul” – Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen (over 105 issues)
It is not about food! It is about the feeling you get when you have a cold and you eat some warm homemade chicken soup. It is about comfort and feelings. Since 1993, every book presents the true real life stories of various people.
Meant to prove to their readers that even the most ordinary people can experience out of the ordinary events and that even the most boring lives can have a meaning, with each volume, the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” inspired people and gained more popularity, because sometimes people want more than gossip. They want beautiful touching stories. Sales: ~130 million.
Reaching for more
With a title like this, it was only a matter of time until they actually expanded their business and got into the food department. Since 2008, William Rouhana, Amy Newmark and Robert Jacobs have taken over the franchise and expanded it by creating a food branch – for both humans and pets – released a TV show, but still continues to release books constantly.
With more than 105 books discussing motherhood, cancer, family life, college life, our inner child, being a minority, hobbies and so on, it is only up to each person to pick the book that suits him the best or which one might inform the reader about an unfamiliar situation. Editor’s pick: “Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas”.
7. “American Girl” – various authors (unknown number)
The title might not be familiar and you might assume this series is something like “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars”. But no. “American Girl” is an entire franchise and it is mainly a doll line.
With the doll line being very successful due to its variety in ethnicities and childlike and friendly appearance, the entire team behind it developed the project and released not only the dolls, but also matching clothing, accessories, toy furniture, movies, magazines and different types of books. Sales: ~140 million.
“Stories to bring girls together”
For children from 3 to over 10 years old, aside from the magazines, kits with instructions for several skill gaining activities, picture books, coloring books and cookbooks, which do not really come with a story, there were also released series of advice books, historical and contemporary fiction and mystery novels.
The advice books were meant to give young girls proper guidance on themes such as hygiene, family life, friendship and jobs. The contemporary fiction covered mostly themes like adventure and simple girl life, while the historical ones shared the same themes, but also dived into detective fiction along with the mystery novels. Editor’s pick: “The Stolen Sapphire: A Samantha Mystery”
6. “Peter Rabbit” – Beatrix Potter (6 books)
We introduced the character of Peter Rabbit in one of our previous lists on bestselling books. What you might have forgotten is that there is an entire series behind this adorable bunny and his family. The first volume is “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” from 1902 and it introduces the Rabbit family, especially Peter, the greedy rebel.
In 1904 followed “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny”, in which Peter’s cousin, Benjamin, who is not that different from our beloved bunny. Another volume, “The Tale of Flopsy Bunnies” (1909), features Peter as the uncle of six bunnies. “The Tale of Mr. Tod” (1912), “The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle” (1905) and “The Tale of Ginger and Pickles” (1909) continue the Rabbit family adventures. Sales: ~150 million.
From one child to millions
The entire concept of having beautiful illustrated books about a family of rabbits started with Beatrix Potter. Always interested by stories, fairytales and fantastic creatures, it was only a matter of time until the very creative and very talented Beatrix would develop her own career. And inspired by her own childhood pet rabbit, Peter Piper, Beatrix wrote a story and drew sketches for her old governess’ child.
Ten years later, the tale was published and in years it became a major success. With a friendly language and beautiful pictures, every child had at least one “Peter Rabbit” book. The series developed in time and it was also often adapted for the small screen. Editor’s pick: “The Tale of Ginger and Pickles”.
5. “Little Critter” – Mercer Mayer (over 200)
Another series for children, “Little Critter” is an entire library of books. The project started in 1975 and similar to Beatrix Potter’s work, it features an anthropomorphic rodent, the difference being the enormous number of volumes and the fact that it is not as centered on telling an entertaining story, but it is more picture based and some stories are meant to actually teach and guide the young children, who might perceive the Little Critter as a hero and a big brother like role model. Sales: ~150 million.
“Hi! I’m Little Critter. I live in Critterville”. With over 200 illustrated books, this modern Peter Rabbit has become a success and a must in every kindergarten. If for native English speakers it is a very good and compulsory material in educating children in a pleasant way, the books can be used even outside the English space.
It is the best to start learning foreign languages from an early age and with cartoons being dubbed nowadays, a nice easy to read collection of short stories with a catchy main character is the best way to introduce children to the English language. Editor’s pick: “Just a Big Storm”.
4. Star Wars – various authors (over 300 books)
We can sense some of you squealing with excitement and the others rolling their eyes. For those who are not avid “Star Wars” fans or are still new in the business because of the seventh movie’s release… yes, there are also books.
Similar to other movie franchises or TV series, after the successful ending of the initial trilogy, the story continued on paper. Whether it is set between the movies, before the beginning of the story or it continues it, there officially over 300 books belonging to the “Star Wars” franchise, divided in official canon volumes, volumes belonging to the expanded “Star Wars” universe, reference tomes, role playing game books and a couple of cancelled ones. Sales: ~160 million.
The Books Awaken
Bad puns are our thing. Concentrating on the canon volumes, the series “Rise of the Empire Era” and “Rebellion Era” are placed before the events in the 4th “Star Wars” episode, despite being the latest ones, being published in 2014 and 2015 – fact which only shows that people have remained faithful fans and the series’ popularity is still increasing.
The “Era of the New Republic” and “Era of The First Order and The Resistance” collections jump after the events of the 4th episode and introduce the world presented in the latest movie, currently in the cinemas. Editor’s pick: “Lost Stars”.
3. “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” – Jeff Kinney (10 volumes)
The books you might have seen in huge stacks on every book shelf in every single library, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is a collection of stories featuring the middle schooler Greg Heffley.
The eponymous first volume introduces Greg and his family, while pointing out ordinary events in the boy’s life; it also shows in a funny manner how Greg deals with changes in his life and growing up.
The later volumes focus on Greg’s relationship with his brother, conflicts with his parents, his summer break, new friends and other relatives and his crushes. Sales: ~164 million.
With its funny doodles and realistic language and experiences, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” became an immediate success among young boys. The fact that so many children can relate to Greg and to what happens in his life is a smart mean of aiding them in their growing up process and also a stress relief method.
Let’s face it! When we were young, we were not that fond of the classics either. Therefore, due to its increasing popularity “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” has also got supplementary books featuring activities and comics, toys, games, the indispensable audio books and 3 movies so far. The younger ones seem to enjoy it and we could also give it try. For research purposes. Editor’s pick: “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules”.
2. “The Baby-sitters Club” – Ann Martin (335 books)
In Stoneybrooke, Connecticut, a group of middle school girls created their own business – a babysitting club. Back in the 80s and 90s, young girls taking care of younger children meant showing a lot of responsibility and preparing for adulthood by getting a job.
Consequently, each book features one club member, her description and some words about the club and then the introduction into the story. The stories vary from the girls receiving mysterious calls while babysitting, them having fights and risking the dismembering of the club, looking for ghosts, making new friends and foes and being preteens. Sales: ~172 million.
Looking for a babysitter?
The series was so popular among little girls, that after in 2009 it became out of print, in 2010 it was released once more and it got a spin off series. The original series consisted not of the actual “The Baby-sitters Club”, but also the “Super Specials”, “Readers’ Requests”, “Mysteries”, “Super Mysteries”, “Portrait Collections”, “The Baby-Sitters Club: Friends Forever” and the 2010 “The Baby-Sitters Club: Reissue and the Summer Before”.
The spin offs were the “Baby-Sitters Little Sister”, “The Kids in Ms. Coleman’s Class” and “California Diaries”, to which some graphic novels were added in 2006. Due to the series being a huge sensation, in the 90s, the books were adapted as a TV series and a movie. Editor’s pick: “The Ghost at Dawn’s House”.
1. “Robert Langdon” – Dan Brown (4 volumes)
The brilliant Harvard University professor is, of course, our number one. He was first introduce in “Angels & Demons” (2000), book in which he finds himself in the middle of a battle of powers between the Catholic Church and the illuminati, but also in a battle of greed and blindness.
It followed “The Da Vinci Code” (2003), which debates the origins and place where the Holy Grail might be. In 2009 the third volume, “The Lost Symbol”, brought Langdon back, this time is surrounded by codes, secrets, truths and masons in the old Washington D.C. temples and tunnels.
The latest volume, “Inferno” (2013), find Langdon guided by Dante’s poem in a deadly artistic race. Sales: ~200 million.
There are thousands of books discussing history, art, literature and secrets kept safe, but few if any managed to become so controversial and to catch so much attention from the public. What helped the “Robert Langdon” series was the movie adaptation of the second novel.
Once people watched the very advertised “The Da Vinci Code”, they started asking questions and became more interested in any historical secrets and especially in Dan Brown’s expositions. And those who did not love them still made them popular by discussing about them and wanting to prove their inaccuracies to those who worshiped them.
Whether they are indeed historical accurate or just plain tabloid novels, does not matter anymore, especially when we are discussing all the money. Editor’s pick: “Inferno”