The international website Ranker has come up with the list of best-selling books of all time. Going through the first 20 books in this list, it is readily apparent that best sellers—especially novels—have a second life of their own…as films projected on screens. This further bolsters the contention that indeed literature is the best mining source for cinema.
Let us go through this list one by one.
The best-selling book of all time with 200 million copies sold is Charles Dickens” A Tale of Two Cities, written in 1959 and which had been adapted into four silent films in 1911, 1917, 1922 and 1927, with two films in 1935 and 1958 and a TV series in 1986.
Number two is The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien with 150 million copies sold. Though the series of novels were written from 1937 to 1949, three of the books were produced in 2001 (The Fellowship of the Ring), 2002 (The Two Towers) and 2003 (The Return of the King), all directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson.
Number three is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien with 100 million copies sold. Written earlier than the Lord of the Ring series, its three books were made into films in 2012 (An Unexpected Journey), 2013 (The Desolation of Smaug) and 2014 (The Battle of the Five Armies), all films also directed by Peter Jackson.
Number four is Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin with 100 million copies sold though it was written way back in the year 1791. It was adapted into film in 1944 by Chinese Bu Wancang.
Number five is the 1939 novel And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie with 100 million copies sold. The novel was adapted into films almost once every decade. The 1945 film was directed by Rene Clair; the 1965 film by George Pollock; the 1974 film by Peter Collinson; and the 1987 film by Russian Stanislav Govorikhin.
Number six is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis with 85 million copies sold. Written in 1950, the novel was adapted into film in 2005 by Andrew Adamson with the title The Chronicle of Narnia.
Number seven is She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard with 83 million copies sold. Written in 1986, the novel had been adapted into 10 films since then, the first version in 1989 and the latest version in 2012.
Number eight is 1943’s The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery with 80 million copies sold. It was adapted into a Soviet-Lithuanian film in 1966, an English version in 1974 and a 3D animated film in 2014.
Number nine is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown with 80 million copies sold since its printing in 2003. In 2006, it was adapted into film by Director Ron Howard starring Tom Hanks, Audry Tautou and Sir Ian McKellen.
Number ten is 1951’s The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger with 65 million copies sold. Controversy with the author prevented a planned film adaptation.
Number eleven is 1988”s The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with 65 million copies sold. Like The Catcher in the Rye, the first film adaptation of this novel was snagged by problem with the author.
Number twelve is Steps to Christ by Ellen G. White, written way back in 1892 by the co-founder and prophetess of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was an evangelistic book and not filmable but with 60 million copies sold.
Number thirteen is 1880’s Heidi’s Years of Wandering and Learning by Johanne Spyri with 50 million copies sold. It had been adapted into 20 films and TV series and in 1937, Shirley Temple portrayed Heidi in a film.
Number fourteen is The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock with 50 million copies sold. It was published in 1956 and became a popular manual on infant and child care. It was not filmable.
Number fifteen is 1908’s Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery with 50 million copies sold. It was adapted into films in 1919, 1934 and 1940, as well as seven TV mini-series.
Number sixteen is 1877’s Black Beauty by Anna Sewell with 50 million copies sold. It had been adapted into seven films and one television series.
Number seventeen is 1980’s The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco with 50 million copies sold. It was made into a film in 1986 by Director Jean Jacques Arnaud starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater.
Number eighteen is The Hite Report by Shere Hite with 48 million copies sold. Released in 1976, it was not filmable as it was a national study of female sexuality.
Number nineteen is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White with 45 million copies sold. It was adapted into an animated feature film by Hanna Barbera in 1973 and a live-action animated film starring Dakota Fanning.
Number twenty is The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter with 45 million copies sold. Though it was printed in 1901, it was only in 1991 that an animated musical was produced by HBO. In 1993, BBC produced an anthology series in animation and in 2012 a CGI-nimated children’s TV series was also produced.
(Continued next week)
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