“There is no friend as loyal as a book,” said Ernest Hemingway.
When it comes to loyalty and books, The New York Times Best Sellers list has been helping bibliophiles find new adventures each week, year after year, since 1931—aside from a few newspaper strikes here and there. The Times officially began the list in 1931, but only used data from readers in New York. The list expanded nationwide in 1941. And while questions remain about the lack of transparency behind the selection process and whether it’s relevant in the era of Amazon’s best-seller lists that are updated hourly, The New York Times Best Sellers list continues to wield considerable clout in the book business. Authors of all genres (and the agents and publishing houses behind them) aspire to have the tagline “New York Times Best Selling author” attached to their bios. After all, making the list means making more money.
A spot atop the list means more money and worldwide acclaim, if not lifelong fame. So what are some of the most famous and most successful books to claim the #1 spot? Stacker has created the ultimate list of the best-selling fiction novels from the year you and your friends and family were born using historical records from Hawes Publications, showing the list of books that claimed the #1 spot on The New York Times Best Sellers list each year. For each year, Stacker included books that led the list for at least four weeks or achieved particularly notable acclaim, with some books carrying over into consecutive years.
Give Stacker’s list a read before you snuggle up with your next bookstore find.
You may also like: Books that have sold over 50 million copies
Notable best-sellers: “The Ten Commandments” by Warwick Deeping, “Maid in Waiting” by John Galsworthy
Stacker pick: “The Ten Commandments“
This story from the 1930s features a wounded soldier who loves beauty and a beautiful young woman who loves jazz and fast living. Warwick Deeping served in World War I and this book carries the same tones of American expat writers of the Lost Generation who were deeply affected by the war, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
Notable best-sellers: “Magnolia Street” by Louis Golding, “Faraway” by J.B. Priestley, “Invitation to the Waltz” by Rosamond Lehmann, “Flowering Wilderness” by John Galsworthy, “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck
Stacker pick: “The Good Earth“
This 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner depicted the rise and fall of a farmer and his wife in a Chinese peasant village before World War I and through the 1920s. It was among the first novels for many Americans at the time that depicted the life and voices of Chinese people, reflecting a tumultuous time in China, as the book is set around the same time as the ouster of the last Chinese emperor.
Farrar & Rinehart // Wikicommons
Notable best-sellers: “Anthony Adverse” by Hervey Allen, “The Werewolf of Paris” by Guy Endore, “As the Earth Turns” by Gladys Hasty Carroll
Stacker pick: “The Werewolf of Paris“
This is a horror novel that follows the Gothic style of a narrator dealing with the fantastic—think of the narrators of “Frankenstein” and “Wuthering Heights.” The novel explores themes of sexuality and the animalistic side of humans, with the Franco-Prussian War and The Paris Commune of 1870–’71 as the historical backdrop.
Notable best-sellers: “The Oppermanns” by Lion Feuchtwanger, “So Red the Rose” by Stark Young, “Tender is the Night” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Stacker pick: “Tender is the Night“
This novel tells the tale of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients, a rich heiress, leading to the downfall of their relationship and his career. The book was published shortly after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda was checked into a mental hospital for schizophrenia.
Notable best-sellers: “Heaven’s My Destination” by Thornton Wilder, “Of Time and the River” by Thomas Wolfe, “Lucy Gayheart” by Willa Cather, “Europa” by Robert Briffault, “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis
Stacker pick: “Heaven’s My Destination“
Thornton Wilder’s best-selling novel set during the Great Depression follows George Brush, a traveling textbook salesman. He’s a religious convert determined to lead a good life, and his travels take him through a more secular America. This book is considered a picaresque novel, just like Voltaire’s “Candide.”
Notable best-sellers: “The Last Puritan” by George Santayana, “The Doctor” by Mary Roberts Rinehart, “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell
Stacker pick: “Gone With the Wind“
Margaret Mitchell’s sweeping epic novel explores the life of Georgian socialite Scarlett O’Hara, weaving a narrative around the elite antebellum class and how the Civil War changed their lives forever. The 1939 film adaptation starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable is one of the most famous, acclaimed movies of all time—many know the line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” whether or not they’ve seen the film.
Notable best-sellers: “Drums Along the Mohawk” by Walter D. Edmonds, “Theatre” by Somerset Maugham, “The Outward Room” by Millen Brand, “Northwest Passage” by Kenneth Roberts, “The Citadel” by A.J. Cronin, “The Years” by Virginia Woolf
Stacker pick: “The Years”
Virginia Woolf’s last novel follows the upper-middle class Pargiter family over the span of 50 years from the 1880s to 1930s, focusing on the children of a retired British general who served in India. The Victorian, omniscient point of view used in the novel differs from her usual stream of consciousness prose.
Notable best-sellers: “The Prodigal Parents” by Sinclair Lewis, “Action at Aquila” by Hervey Allen, “My Son, My Son” by Howard Spring, “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier, “All This and Heaven Too” by Rachel Field, “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Stacker pick: “The Yearling“
This novel centers on a family living in the Florida backwoods during the Reconstruction era, specifically young Jody Baxter and his fawn, whose death represents Jody’s coming-of-age. This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939, and the 1946 film adaptation starring Gregory Peck was nominated for and won a number of Academy Awards.
alaina buzas // Flickr
Notable best-sellers: “Wickford Point” by John P. Marquand, “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, “Escape” by Ethel Vance, “Kitty Foyle” by Christopher Morley
Stacker pick: “The Grapes of Wrath“
This classic John Steinbeck novel concerns the Joads, an Oklahoma family that moves west to work the fields of California in an attempt to escape the hardships of the Dust Bowl in the Midwest. Steinbeck wrote “The Grapes of Wrath” to shine a light on the injustices of migrant labor during the Great Depression. It’s now one of the most recognized American novels, and Pulitzer Prize winner. Its movie adaptation was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry in The Library of Congress.
Notable best-sellers: “Native Son” by Richard Wright, “Stars on the Sea” by F. Van Wyck Mason, “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway, “Oliver Wiswell” by Kenneth Roberts
Stacker pick: “For Whom the Bell Tolls“
Set during the Spanish Civil War in 1937, Ernest Hemingway’s classic explores the horrors of modern warfare, and the political ideologies of the time such as fascism and populism. Its film adaptation was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won one.
Notable best-sellers: “Oliver Wiswell” by Kenneth Roberts, “Random Harvest” by James Hilton, “This Above All” by Eric Knight, “The Keys of the Kingdom” by A.J. Cronin, “Saratoga Trunk” by Edna Ferber
Stacker pick: “Random Harvest“
This novel follows a wealthy World War I veteran who loses his memory due to shell shock, and regains it just in time for the dawn of World War II. “Random Harvest” had a successful film adaptation in 1942, which deviated from the book.
Notable best-sellers: “Windswept” by Mary Ellen Chase, “Dragon Seed” by Pearl S. Buck, “The Moon Is Down” by John Steinbeck, “And Now Tomorrow” by Rachel Field, “The Song of Bernadette” by Franz Werfel, “The Robe” by Lloyd Douglas
Stacker pick: “The Song of Bernadette“
Based on the true story of St. Bernadette Soubirous, this novel follows a girl who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary at a grotto. The village, officials, and law enforcement don’t believe her and harass her—until roses bloom in winter.
Notable best-sellers: “The Robe” by Lloyd Douglas, “So Little Time” by John P. Marquand, “Mrs. Parkington” by Louis Bromfield
Stacker pick: “Mrs. Parkington“
This novel follows the remarkable life of Susie Parkington, a powerful, intelligent, and wealthy old woman who is determined to keep her granddaughter unspoiled by the family’s wealth. The 1944 movie adaptation earned Greer Garson an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Notable best-sellers: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith, “Strange Fruit” by Lillian Smith, “The Razor’s Edge” by Somerset Maugham, “Green Dolphin Street” by Elizabeth Goudge, “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor
Stacker pick: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn“
Betty Smith’s acclaimed coming-of-age novel follows a girl from a poor family in Brooklyn who loses her innocence as she becomes more aware of the reality surrounding her life. The book ultimately shows that the girl and her family are resilient despite everything life throws at them.
Notable best-sellers: “The Green Years” by A.J. Cronin, “Captain from Castile” by Samuel Shellabarger, “A Lion is in the Streets” by Adria Locke Langley, “The Black Rose” by Thomas B. Costain, “Earth and High Heaven” by Gwethalyn Graham
Stacker pick: “Earth and High Heaven“
This book depicts a romance in Montreal during World War II. A Protestant woman and a Jewish man must overcome anti-Semitism from the community in order to make their relationship work.
Notable best-sellers: “The Black Rose” by Thomas Costain, “The King’s General” by Daphne du Maurier, “Arch of Triumph” by Erich Maria Remarque, “This Side of Innocence” by Taylor Caldwell, “The Hucksters” by Frederic Wakeman, “B.F.’s Daughter” by John P. Marquand
Stacker pick: “Arch of Triumph“
In “Arch of Triumph,” a German surgeon lives in Paris as a stateless refugee and secretly treats patients despite laws forbidding it. Despite the danger and the impending fall of France, he manages to find love.
Notable best-sellers: “B.F.’s Daughter” by John P. Marquand, “Lydia Bailey” by Kenneth Roberts, “Gentlemen’s Agreement” by Laura Z. Hobson, “The Moneyman” by Thomas Costain, “House Divided” by Ben Ames Williams
Stacker pick: “Gentlemen’s Agreement“
This novel follows a gentile writer who pretends to be a Jew in order to expose anti-Semitism for a magazine article. His choice affects his fiancee’s social ambitions.
Notable best-sellers: “House Divided” by Ben Ames Williams, “Eagle in the Sky” by Van Wyck Mason, “Raintree County” by Ross Lockridge, “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer, “The Young Lions” by Irwin Shaw
Stacker pick: “The Naked and the Dead“
This book concerns a platoon of 13 men on a Japanese-held island during World War II, and features each man’s backstory through flashbacks. Norman Mailer’s work was widely praised at the time for its use of journalistic detail and descriptions.
Notable best-sellers: “The Big Fisherman” by Lloyd C. Douglas, “Point of No Return” by John P. Marquand, “A Rage To Live” by John O’Hara, “The Egyptian” by Mika Waltari
Stacker pick: “A Rage To Live“
John O’Hara’s best-selling drama follows a socialite in Pennsylvania who is remarkably in tune with her sexuality, which causes issues in her marriage and her place in society.
Notable best-sellers: “The Egyptian” by Mika Waltari, “The Parasites” by Daphne du Maurier, “The Wall” by John Hersey, “The Cardinal” by Henry Morton Robinson, “Across the River and into the Trees” by Ernest Hemingway, “The Disenchanted” by Budd Schulberg
Stacker pick: “Across the River and into the Trees“
Ernest Hemingway’s novel follows Colonel Cantwell in the late 1940s and early 1950s as he duck hunts in Italy, spending much of his time in flashbacks to his experiences during World War I.
Notable best-sellers: “Joy Street” by Frances Parkinson Keyes, “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones, “The Caine Mutiny” by Herman Wouk
Stacker pick: “From Here to Eternity“
This war drama centers on an Army infantry company stationed in Hawaii in the weeks leading up to to the attack on Pearl Harbor. One soldier refuses to box on behalf of his company, and another defies authority by seducing a superior’s wife. The famous film adaptation received 13 Academy Award nominations and eight wins.
Notable best-sellers: “The Caine Mutiny” by Herman Wouk, “My Cousin Rachel” by Daphne du Maurier, “The Silver Chalice” by Thomas B. Costain, “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
Stacker pick: “East of Eden“
“East of Eden” is one of John Steinbeck’s most famous novels. It follows multiple generations of two families in Salinas Valley, Calif.: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. The novel heavily alludes to the story of Cain and Abel.
Notable best-sellers: “The Silver Chalice” by Thomas B. Costain, “Désirée” by Annemarie Selinko, “Beyond This Place” by A.J. Cronin, “Lord Vanity” by Samuel Shellabarger
Stacker pick: “Beyond This Place”
An aspiring teacher learns that his father has been convicted of murder in this best-selling book. He sets out to learn the truth.
Notable best-sellers: “Lord Vanity” by Samuel Shellabarger, “Not as a Stranger” by Morton Thompson, “Mary Anne” by Daphne du Maurier, “Love is Eternal” by Irving Stone
Stacker pick: “Not as a Stranger”
“Not as a Stranger” concerns a medical student who has been dedicated to medicine since he was a child, and has a glorified view of the field and doctors. Over time, he comes to grips with the fact that doctors are human and imperfect. The movie adaptation starred Frank Sinatra.
Notable best-sellers: “The View from Pompey’s Head” by Hamilton Basso, “Sincerely, Willis Wayde” by John P. Marquand, “Bonjour Tristesse” by Françoise Sagan, “Auntie Mame” by Patrick Dennis, “Marjorie Morningstar” by Herman Wouk
Stacker pick: “The View from Pompey’s Head”
This novel follows a Manhattan lawyer who must return to his hometown in the South on business for one of his clients. He learns that it’s not as easy as he thought to completely leave his home behind.
Notable best-sellers: “Andersonville” by MacKinlay Kantor, “The Last Hurrah” by Edwin O’Connor, “Don’t Go Near the Water” by William Brinkley, “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious
Stacker pick: “The Last Hurrah”
Edwin O’Connor’s novel follows a veteran politician running for mayor who quickly learns that old-school politics—name recognition, experience, events, and door-to-door campaigns—aren’t quite as effective in the age of TV. Known as one of the more successful early novels about American politics, the main character is believed to be based on politician James Michael Curley.
Notable best-sellers: “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious, “The Scapegoat” by Daphne du Maurier, “By Love Possessed” by James Gould Cozzens
Stacker pick: “By Love Possessed”
This novel spans 49 hours in a small-town lawyer’s life. The story recounts his life through flashbacks and details some of his cases, which include a dead woman’s estate and a young man accused of rape.
Notable best-sellers: “By Love Possessed” by James Gould Cozzens, “Anatomy of a Murder” by Robert Traver, “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov, “Doctor Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak
Stacker pick: “Lolita”
“Lolita” is Vladimir Nabokov’s most infamous novel and it attracted plenty of critics. The story is presented as a manuscript written by a literature professor who died while awaiting trial. The manuscript covers the professor’s obsession with a 12-year-old girl named Dolores whom he privately nicknames Lolita. It was adapted into an extremely censored film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962.
Notable best-sellers: “Doctor Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak, “Exodus” by Leon Uris, “Advise and Consent” by Allen Drury
Stacker pick: “Doctor Zhivago”
This epic tells the story of a young man caught between his love for two women, set against the backdrop of Russia between the Revolution of 1905 and World War II. The USSR tried to suppress the publication of “Doctor Zhivago” due to its critique of Stalinism and communist activities. The CIA reportedly used the novel as a propaganda tool. Its most famous movie adaptation arrived in 1965, winning five Oscars, though the story has been adapted a number of times for stage and screen.
Notable best-sellers: “Advise and Consent” by Allen Drury, “Hawaii” by James Michener
Stacker pick: “Advise and Consent”
This novel debuted in 1959, but remained popular a year later, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It follows a U.S. senator nominated to be the new Secretary of State, who is rumored to have a communist—and queer—past. Scheming, blackmailing, and suicide ensue.
Notable best-sellers: “Hawaii” by James Michener, “The Last of the Just” by André Schwarz-Bart, “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone, “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger
Stacker pick: “Franny and Zooey”
This beloved novella focuses on Franny and Zooey, the two youngest siblings of J.D. Salinger’s Glass family. Franny has a religious and existential breakdown while visiting her boyfriend’s college over a weekend.
Notable best-sellers: “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger, “Ship of Fools” by Katherine Anne Porter, “A Shade of Difference” by Allen Drury, “Seven Days in May” by Charles W. Bailey II and Fletcher Knebel
Stacker pick: “Seven Days in May”
Charles W. Bailey and Fletcher Knebel’s novel follows a military plot to overthrow the U.S. president after he negotiates a treaty with the USSR. The book and its movie adaptation reflect the events surrounding the country at the time, when President John F. Kennedy accepted the resignation of an anti-communist general.
Alexis Orloff // Flickr
Notable best-sellers: “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” by J. D. Salinger, “The Glass-Blowers” by Daphne du Maurier, “The Shoes of the Fisherman” by Morris West, “The Group” by Mary McCarthy
Stacker pick: “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”
This novel follows Buddy Glass, who takes a brief leave from the Army during World War II to attend his brother Seymour’s wedding. Seymour is missing, and the novel depicts Buddy’s experience interacting with the wedding party and attendees.
Notable best-sellers: “The Group” by Mary McCarthy, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” by John le Carré, “Herzog” by Saul Bellow
Stacker pick: “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”
In this thriller, a successful and experienced British spy wants to quit his career but takes one last assignment to become a double agent. The author portrays western espionage as morally inconsistent with western democracy and values.
Notable best-sellers: “Herzog” by Saul Bellow, “Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman, “The Source” by James Michener
Stacker pick: “Up the Down Staircase”
“Up the Down Staircase” focuses on a teacher at an inner-city public school who is frustrated by bureaucracy, student indifference, and staff incompetence. As the book progresses via notes, letters, homework papers, and other bits of correspondence, Bel Kaufman paints a nuanced portrait of a career woman and the factors that stand in the way of good teaching.
Notable best-sellers: “The Source” by James Michener, “Valley of the Dolls” by Jacqueline Susann, “The Secret of Santa Vittoria” by Robert Crichton
Stacker pick: “Valley of the Dolls”
Jacqueline Susann’s famous drama concerns three women trying to make it in the entertainment industry. As life becomes tough they rely heavily on “dolls,” amphetamines, and barbiturates. “Valley of the Dolls” was the best-selling novel of that year.
Notable best-sellers: “The Secret of Santa Vittoria” by Robert Crichton, “The Arrangement” by Elia Kazan, “The Eighth Day” by Thornton Wilder, “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron
Stacker pick: “The Arrangement”
This story follows a Greek-American who pursues different roles—husband, advertising executive, magazine writer—and struggles between the self that he projects to others and his true self. He suffers a mental breakdown in the process of living authentically.
Notable best-sellers: “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron, “Airport” by Arthur Hailey, “The Salzburg Connection” by Helen MacInnes, “Couples” by John Updike
Stacker pick: “Couples”
This novel covers the lives of 10 couples in suburban middle-class Massachusetts and their struggle to balance old-fashioned notions of sex with the changing attitude of the time. It features clinical descriptions of sex acts, and was generally positively reviewed, landing John Updike on the cover of Time.
Notable best-sellers: “The Salzburg Connection” by Helen MacInnes, “Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth, “The Love Machine” by Jacqueline Susann, “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo
Stacker pick: “The Godfather”
The fictional Corleones are a powerful Mafia family based in New York. After their patriarch—nicknamed the Godfather—is shot by mobsters who work for a rival gang, his sons and other ranking members run the family business. It’s often interpreted as a coming-of-age story for Michael Corleone, who just wants to lead a normal American life. The book was adapted into a movie that is considered one of the most influential crime films in cinematic history and is deeply ingrained in American culture, considered second only to “Citizen Kane” by some critics.
Notable best-sellers: “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” by John Fowles, “Love Story” by Erich Segal
Stacker pick: “Love Story”
In this romance, two polar opposites fall in love. One comes from a wealthy home, while the other comes from a working-class family. They grapple with the loss of family support, infertility, and cancer.
Notable best-sellers: “Love Story” by Erich Segal, “QB VII” by Leon Uris, “The Passions of the Mind” by Irving Stone, “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty, “The Day of the Jackal” by Frederick Forsyth, “Wheels” by Arthur Hailey
Stacker pick: “The Exorcist”
This terrifying book-turned-hit film follows a young girl who is possessed by a demon, and the two priests who try to save her. The movie adaptation is one of the highest grossing films ever and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.
Notable best-sellers: “The Winds of War” by Herman Wouk, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach
Stacker pick: “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” presented in novella form, is about a seagull’s attempts to become amazing flier. Through this framing, the book dives deep into what it truly means to fly. When the bird tries to tell his flock that there is much more to life than squawking, he is shunned and soon sets off on a spiritual journey.
Notable best-sellers: “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach, “The Odessa File” by Frederick Forsyth, “Once Is Not Enough” by Jacqueline Susann, “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut, “The Hollow Hills” by Mary Stewart, “Burr” by Gore Vidal
Stacker pick: “Burr”
“Burr” is a historical novel in which a fictionalized Aaron Burr decides to create a memoir of the events surrounding the founding of the nation. He enlists the help of a young law clerk at his firm, and the story follows both the clerk’s thoughts on mid-19th century New York and Burr’s memories.
Notable best-sellers: “Burr” by Gore Vidal, “Watership Down” by Richard Adams, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” by John le Carré, “Centennial” by James Michener
Stacker pick: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
In this spy novel, a Soviet mole has risen through the ranks of British foreign intelligence. It’s up to George Smiley to figure out how to catch the traitor. The novel is loosely based on the Cambridge Five, the high-ranking British intelligence officials who were exposed as double agents in 1950s and 1960s . “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was turned into a 2011 movie, which starred actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, John Hurt, and Tom Hardy.
Notable best-sellers: “Centennial” by James Michener, “The Moneychangers” by Arthur Hailey, “Ragtime” by E. L. Doctorow, “Curtain” by Agatha Christie
Stacker pick: “Curtain”
“Curtain” is the last adventure featuring beloved detectives Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings, in which the former calls on the latter to help him stop a serial killer at a country house. This home also happens to be the same scene of their first adventure together.
Notable best-sellers: “Curtain” by Agatha Christie, “1876” by Gore Vidal, “Trinity” by Leon Uris, “Sleeping Murder” by Agatha Christie
Stacker pick: “Trinity”
This novel follows the intertwining lives of Irish families of different faiths and backgrounds. “Trinity” chronicles the events from the Great Famine to the Easter Rising in 1916, centered on Irish independence and nationalism.
Notable best-sellers: “Trinity” by Leon Uris, “Oliver’s Story” by Erich Segal, “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough, “The Silmarillion” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Stacker pick: “The Silmarillion”
“The Silmarillion” is the origin story for the entire universe of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.” It chronicles the events from the moment Ilúvatar creates the universe to the evolution of elves and men, to the Third Age of Middle-Earth—thus setting the scene for the hobbit tales we all know and love.
Notable best-sellers: “The Silmarillion” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Bloodline” by Sidney Sheldon, “War and Remembrance” by Herman Wouk, “The Holcroft Covenant” by Robert Ludlum
Stacker pick: “The Holcroft Covenant”
In this Robert Ludlum novel, a New York architect is tasked with redistributing funds stolen from the Third Reich in order to make up for the horrors of the Holocaust. The main thing standing in his way is a secret group of Nazis who were raised and indoctrinated since they were children, with the aim to create a Fourth Reich.
Notable best-sellers: “Chesapeake” by James Michener, “The Matarese Circle” by Robert Ludlum, “Sophie’s Choice” by William Styron, “The Last Enchantment” by Mary Stewart, “The Establishment” by Howard Fast
Stacker pick: “Sophie’s Choice”
This book covers the relationships between three people living in New York: Stingo, Nathan Landau, and his lover Sophie, a Polish Catholic who survived the Nazi concentration camps. Nathan is a paranoid schizophrenic who encourages Sophie to commit suicide with him, while Sophie is haunted by her time in the camps. It was later adapted into a film, for which Meryl Streep won Best Actress. “Sophie’s Choice” has since become shorthand for making a decision between two terrible options.
Notable best-sellers: “Smiley’s People” by John le Carré, “Princess Daisy” by Judith Krantz, “The Bourne Identity” by Robert Ludlum, “Rage of Angels” by Sidney Sheldon, “The Covenant” by James Michener, “Firestarter” by Stephen King
Stacker pick: “Firestarter”
Two people who were the subjects of a top-secret government program gain psychic abilities in “Firestarter.” Their daughter has even stronger powers, particularly pyrokinesis. The government pursues the family in order to access the daughter’s powers for their own means, which spurs the daughter to retaliate against them. The story was later made into a 1984 movie starring Drew Barrymore.
Notable best-sellers: “The Covenant” by James Michener, “Noble House” by James Clavell, “Cujo” by Stephen King, “The Hotel New Hampshire” by John Irving, “An Indecent Obsession” by Colleen McCullough
Stacker pick: “Cujo”
Cujo is the name of a beloved Saint-Bernard who one day follows a rabbit into a bat cave. Evil ensues. This story was later adapted into a 1983 horror movie, and a remake has long been in the works.
Notable best-sellers: “An Indecent Obsession” by Colleen McCullough, “The Parsifal Mosaic” by Robert Ludlum, “The Prodigal Daughter” by Jeffrey Archer, “Master of the Game” by Sidney Sheldon, “Space” by James Michener, “The Man from St. Petersburg” by Ken Follett
Stacker pick: “The Man from St. Petersburg”
This historical fiction-thriller follows secret negotiations between Russia and Great Britain just before World War I. The protagonist, Feliks, aims to assassinate the Russian prince, who is negotiating on behalf of Czar Nicholas II. But he’ll have to get past the British police, a lord, and Winston Churchill.
Notable best-sellers: “Space” by James Michener, “The Little Drummer Girl” by John le Carré, “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The Storybook Based on the Movie” by Joan D. Vinge, “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco, “Poland” by James Michener, “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King
Stacker pick: “Space”
James Michener’s novel spins a fictional version of the United States space program. It covers the lives of four men and their families over the course of 30 years: an engineer, a U.S. senator, a former Nazi, and an astronaut.
Notable best-sellers: “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King, “The Aquitaine Progression” by Robert Ludlum, “Full Circle” by Danielle Steel, “…And Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmyer, “The Fourth Protocol” by Frederick Forsyth, “The Talisman” by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Stacker pick: “…And Ladies of the Club”
This book focuses on the formation of an Ohio women’s book club, which grows into an important service organization for the town as its members navigate a fast-changing world, and learn about themselves and each other. The book begins in 1868 but ends in 1932.
Notable best-sellers: “If Tomorrow Comes” by Sidney Sheldon, “Family Album” by Danielle Steel, “Thinner” by Richard Bachman (pseudonym for Stephen King), “Skeleton Crew” by Stephen King, “Lake Wobegon Days” by Garrison Keillor, “Texas” by James Michener, “The Mammoth Hunters” by Jean M. Auel
Stacker pick: “Skeleton Crew”
“Skeleton Crew” is collection of stories written in classic Stephen King style. The horrors range from a mist that hides unknown terrors, to a lake that holds evil, to a man who can edit his own reality.
Notable best-sellers: “The Mammoth Hunters” by Jean M. Auel, “The Bourne Supremacy” by Robert Ludlum, “A Perfect Spy” by John le Carré, “Last of the Breed” by Louis L’Amour, “Wanderlust” by Danielle Steel, “Red Storm Rising” by Tom Clancy, “It” by Stephen King, “Whirlwind” by James Clavell
Stacker pick: “It”
One of Stephen King’s most famous horror novels concerns a seriously creepy clown. “It” begins twenty-eight years in the past, as a group of teenagers battle an evil spirit murdering children in their hometown. Now grown, the group returns to defeat the demon once and for all. The book was adapted into a 1990 miniseries and a hit 2017 film, which grossed $700.3 million worldwide. The sequel, “It: Chapter Two,” hits theaters in September 2019.
Notable best-sellers: “Windmills of the Gods” by Sidney Sheldon, “Fine Things” by Danielle Steel, “Misery” by Stephen King, “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow, “Patriot Games” by Tom Clancy, “Kaleidoscope” by Danielle Steel, “The Tommyknockers” by Stephen King
Stacker pick: “Misery”
With “Misery,” Stephen King created the stan of all stans, Annie Wilkes. The story concerns novelist Paul Sheldon, who decides to kill off the famous protagonist of his romance series in order to expand his creative pursuits. He is later rescued from a car accident by Annie, a fan who becomes furious when she learns that her favorite character dies in Paul’s latest book. She holds him prisoner until he figures out a way to bring her back to life. The film adaptation was popular and won an Academy Award. Annie Wilkes, as played by Kathy Bates, was rated as one of the top cinematic villains of all time by the American Film Institute in 2003.
Notable best-sellers: “The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe, “The Icarus Agenda” by Robert Ludlum, “Zoya” by Danielle Steel, “Alaska” by James Michener, “The Cardinal of the Kremlin” by Tom Clancy, “The Sands of Time” by Sidney Sheldon
Stacker pick: “The Bonfire of the Vanities”
This modern American satire follows a wealthy Manhattan man who has everything he could ever want, until one wrong turn causes his life to spiral downwards.
Notable best-sellers: “The Sands of Time” by Sidney Sheldon, “Star” by Danielle Steel, “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie, “The Russia House” by John le Carré, “Clear and Present Danger” by Tom Clancy, “The Dark Half” by Stephen King, “Daddy” by Danielle Steel, “Midnight” by Dean Koontz
Stacker pick: “Midnight”
The town of Midnight Cove is plagued by humans who turn into beasts that kill normal human beings. Those who survive band together to stop whatever is causing the phenomenon.
Notable best-sellers: “The Bourne Ultimatum” by Robert Ludlum, “September” by Rosamunde Pilcher, “The Stand” by Stephen King, “The Burden of Proof” by Scott Turow, “Four Past Midnight” by Stephen King, “The Plains of Passage” by Jean M. Auel
Stacker pick: “The Bourne Ultimatum”
This is the third book in the “Jason Bourne” spy series. Carlos, known as the Jackal, is the world’s deadliest terrorist. As he nears old age, he wants one last showdown with Jason Bourne, an elite spy and David Webb’s alias. David decides to create a trap that ends the Jackal once and for all. The film of the same name starring Matt Damon was loosely based on the book and won three Academy Awards.
Notable best-sellers: “Heartbeat” by Danielle Steel, “Loves Music, Loves to Dance” by Mary Higgins Clark, “The Kitchen God’s Wife” by Amy Tan, “The Sum of All Fears” by Tom Clancy, “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley
Stacker pick: “The Kitchen God’s Wife”
From Amy Tan, the author of “The Joy Luck Club,” this best-selling novel focuses on Winnie and Helen, who have kept each other’s secrets for more than 50 years. Helen decides it’s time for Winnie and her American-born daughter Pearl to share their stories with each other. Winnie relates the events of her life in China and her journey to the United States.
Notable best-sellers: “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley, “Hideaway” by Dean Koontz, “The Pelican Brief” by John Grisham, “Jewels” by Danielle Steel, “Gerald’s Game” by Stephen King, “The Tale of the Body Thief” by Anne Rice, “Dolores Claiborne” by Stephen King
Stacker pick: “Scarlett”
This sequel by Alexandra Ripley to Margaret Mitchell’s beloved “Gone With The Wind” picks up right where Rhett Butler left Scarlett O’Hara. Scarlet attempts to win Rhett back, but instead finds her way to Ireland and makes a life for herself there, all the while still in love with Rhett. Critics and fans of “Gone With The Wind” generally agree that the novel isn’t of the same literary quality of Mitchell’s work, but it was a commercial success.
Notable best-sellers: “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller, “The Client” by John Grisham, “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller, “Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend” by Robert James Waller
Stacker pick: “The Bridges of Madison County”
This romance is presented as a novelization of a true story, but it’s entirely fictional. It follows the story of Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer sent to photograph the covered bridges of Madison County, and his intense four-day affair with Francesca Johnson, a housewife whose husband and children are away on a trip. The 1995 film adaptation starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep was a financial success.
Notable best-sellers: “Disclosure” by Michael Crichton, “Accident” by Danielle Steel, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “The Chamber” by John Grisham, “The Gift” by Danielle Steel, “Debt of Honor” by Tom Clancy
Stacker pick: “The Celestine Prophecy”
This first-person narrative concerns a man who wants to learn the nine insights of life from an ancient Peruvian manuscript that had been recently translated. As he continues in his spiritual journey and his attempt to bring the knowledge to the public at large, he is chased by authorities who are loyal to the Catholic Church and don’t want the manuscript to get out.
Notable best-sellers: “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “The Rainmaker” by John Grisham, “The Lost World” by Michael Crichton, “The Horse Whisperer” by Nicholas Evans
Stacker pick: “The Horse Whisperer”
A teen girl gets into a grisly riding accident that leaves both her and her horse traumatized in Nicholas Evans’ hit novel. Her mother, a New York magazine editor, takes the three of them to Montana to get help from a man called the Horse Whisperer, and she falls in love. The movie adaptation starring Robert Redford grossed $186.9 million worldwide.
Notable best-sellers: “Primary Colors” by Anonymous (Joe Klein), “Moonlight Becomes You” by Mary Higgins Clark, “The Runaway Jury” by John Grisham, “Cause of Death” by Patricia Cornwell, “Executive Orders” by Tom Clancy, “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard, “Silent Honor” by Danielle Steel
Stacker pick: “Primary Colors”
In this political satire, an idealistic man joins the presidential campaign of a southern Democrat loosely based on Bill Clinton. As the campaign drags on and the candidate shows himself to be an ingenuous womanizer, the protagonist eventually has to choose between his ideals and reality. This story was fairly significant at the time, considering it was in the second year of Clinton’s second term and the Monica Lewinsky scandal wouldn’t come to light for another two years.
Notable best-sellers: “Airframe” by Michael Crichton, “Hornet’s Nest” by Patricia Cornwell, “The Partner” by John Grisham, “Pretend You Don’t See Her” by Mary Higgins Clark, “Plum Island” by Nelson DeMille, “Unnatural Exposure” by Patricia Cornwell, “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier
Stacker pick: “Cold Mountain”
In the last days of the Civil War, a soldier walks home through the ravaged South to Cold Mountain, N.C., to reunite with his sweetheart. The 2003 film adaptation grossed about $173 million worldwide and featured Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.
Alfred A. Knopf // Wikicommons
Notable best-sellers: “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier, “The Street Lawyer” by John Grisham, “You Belong to Me” by Mary Higgins Clark, “Rainbow Six” by Tom Clancy, “Bag of Bones” by Stephen King, “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolfe, “Paradise” by Toni Morrison
Stacker pick: “Paradise”
Toni Morrison’s novel chronicles the tension between a patriarchal, all-black community in Oklahoma and an all-women’s group living in a former convent 17 miles away. The men grow to have an intolerance for outsiders, the women of the convent included.
Bloomsbury / J.K.Rowling // Wikicommons
Notable best-sellers: “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolfe, “The Testament” by John Grisham, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” by Terry Brooks, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling, “Hannibal” by Thomas Harris, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by J. K. Rowling
Stacker pick: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”
This is the first book in the beloved “Harry Potter” series. On his 11th birthday, Harry learns he is a wizard who managed to survive a killing curse from Voldemort, the world’s most powerful dark wizard, when he was a baby. As he goes through his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry races to stop a plot to bring Voldemort back to power. The film franchise, product extensions, and theme park experiences have helped Harry Potter and author J.K. Rowling become a worldwide success.
(Note: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released in the U.K. in 1997 by Bloomsbury. In 1998, Scholastic Corporation released the novel in the U.S. under a slightly different name: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”)
Notable best-sellers: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling, “The Brethren” by John Grisham, “Before I Say Goodbye” by Mary Higgins Clark, “The Indwelling” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, “The House on Hope Street” by Danielle Steel, “The Bear and the Dragon” by Tom Clancy, “The Mark” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, “Drowning Ruth” by Christina Schwarz
Stacker pick: “Drowning Ruth”
Notable best-sellers: “A Painted House” by John Grisham, “On the Street Where You Live” by Mary Higgins Clark, “Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas” by James Patterson, “Valhalla Rising” by Clive Cussler, “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham, “The Kiss” by Danielle Steel
Stacker pick: “The Kiss”
Isabelle Forrester and Bill Robinson are both trapped in empty marriages, but they find comfort in their long-distance friendship in this Danielle Steel novel. Isabelle and Bill decide to spend a few days in London together and just as they share their first kiss, their limo is struck by a double-decker bus. They face the long journey to recovery together.
Notable best-sellers: “The Summons” by John Grisham, “The Shelters of Stone” by Jean M. Auel, “The Remnant” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold, “The Nanny Diaries” by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Stacker pick: “The Nanny Diaries”
In this satire of upper crust Manhattan, an NYU college student takes care of a wealthy family’s son. In the process, she learns to juggle her personal life and the family’s dysfunction. The 2007 film adaptation starred Scarlett Johansson.
Notable best-sellers: “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold, “The King of Torts” by John Grisham, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, “Armageddon” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom
Stacker pick: “The Lovely Bones”
Set in the 1970s, “The Lovely Bones” is narrated by a 14-year-old girl who is raped and murdered by her neighbor. From the other side, she watches her family and friends deal with the shock of her death, as well as their search for the killer. The story was made into a movie in 2009, which earned Stanley Tucci an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Notable best-sellers: “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, “The Dark Tower” by Stephen King
Stacker pick: “The Dark Tower”
This is the final book in Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series, which was inspired in equal parts by Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western classics. The 2017 film adaptation failed to live up to expectations despite considerable star power from Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.
Notable best-sellers: “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, “The Broker” by John Grisham, “Honeymoon” by James Patterson and Howard Roughan, “4th of July” by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, “Lifeguard” by James Patterson and Andrew Gross, “The Lincoln Lawyer” by Michael Connelly
Stacker pick: “The Lincoln Lawyer”
In Michael Connelly’s best-selling thriller, Mickey Haller is a “Lincoln Lawyer”—a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, traveling between various courthouses of Los Angeles to defend clients of every kind. The book was adapted into a feature film in 2011 starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, and Marisa Tomei.
Notable best-sellers: “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, “Two Little Girls in Blue” by Mary Higgins Clark, “Judge and Jury” by James Patterson and Andrew Gross, “For One More Day” by Mitch Albom, “Dear John” by Nicholas Sparks
Stacker pick: “Dear John”
The events of 9/11 change everything for young lovers John and Savannah in this Nicholas Sparks romance novel. After a long separation, Savannah falls in love with someone else. “Dear John…” her letter begins. The 2010 film adaptation starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried was a box office success, raking in $114.9 million worldwide—nearly as much as the most famous Sparks film adaptation, “The Notebook.”
Notable best-sellers: “Plum Lovin'” by Janet Evanovich, “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini
Stacker pick: “A Thousand Splendid Suns”
Following his best-selling 2003 debut “The Kite Runner,” Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini penned “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” The story, which focuses on the relationships between mothers and daughters, has been adapted into a play and feature film.
Notable best-sellers: “The Appeal” by John Grisham, “The Christmas Sweater” by Glenn Beck
Stacker pick: “The Christmas Sweater”
Conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck’s “The Christmas Sweater” is about a boy who finds out the true meaning of Christmas in an unlikely place. Beck sold the film rights to a producer from HBO, but after script and budget issues, the TV adaptation didn’t live up to the success of the book.
Notable best-sellers: “The Associate” by John Grisham, “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown, “Under the Dome” by Stephen King
Stacker pick: “Under the Dome”
In Stephen King’s best-selling sci-fi novel, residents of a small town deal with being suddenly cut off from the outside world via an invisible barrier. The book was adapted into a TV series in 2013, running for three seasons.
Notable best-sellers: “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” by Stieg Larsson
Stacker pick: “The Help”
This best-selling novel about the African-American women who cleaned and cared for white households in Mississippi in the 1960s became a sleeper hit film starring Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Allison Janney, and Jessica Chastain. Spencer won an Academy Award for her performance, while the film received three other nominations.
Notable best-sellers: “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen, “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
Stacker pick: “Water for Elephants”
Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon starred in the film adaptation of this acclaimed best-selling novel by Sara Gruen. “Water for Elephants,” which concerns a Depression-era traveling circus and an unlikely romance, was originally released in 2006. But the page-turning novel gained new fans upon the movie’s release in 2011.
Notable best-sellers: “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
Stacker pick: “Fifty Shades of Grey”
In the first installment of the best-selling erotic trilogy from author E.L. James, readers meet Christian Grey, a powerful young entrepreneur who is both beautiful and intimidating. The book became a worldwide success and a mega-hit film franchise grossing more than $571 million at the box office worldwide.
Notable best-sellers: “Safe Haven” by Nicholas Sparks, “Inferno” by Dan Brown, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym for J.K. Rowling), “Sycamore Row” by John Grisham, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn
Stacker pick: “Gone Girl”
In this psychological thriller from Gillian Flynn, a wife’s sudden disappearance isn’t what it seems. Or is it? The film adaptation starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike premiered in 2014 to strong reviews. Pike’s performance was particularly lauded, while the film was a smashing commercial success, grossing nearly $370 million at the box office.
Notable best-sellers: “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty, “The Book of Life” by Deborah Harkness
Stacker pick: “Big Little Lies”
In Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel-turned-hit TV series, three women find themselves at a crossroads in a humorous, albeit serious, tale of ex-husbands, new wives, and domestic abuse. HBO’s mini-series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley was nominated for and won a number of awards. Season two premieres in June 2019.
Notable best-sellers: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, “Grey” by E.L. James, “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee, “Rogue Lawyer” by John Grisham, “The Martian” by Andy Weir
Stacker pick: “Go Set a Watchman”
Based off a supposed first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Harper Lee, “Go Set A Watchman” was released in 2015 as a sequel. Fans of the author’s famed work flocked to bookstores to learn about Scout and Atticus in their later years. A film adaptation was halted for a number of reasons, including questions over how Universal Pictures would handle the beloved characters from the acclaimed 1962 Gregory Peck film.
Notable best-sellers: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes
Stacker pick: “The Girl on the Train”
Paula Hawkins’ debut novel is a gripping psychological thriller about a woman who sees what she thinks is a perfect couple every morning on the train to work—until one day the wife disappears. The 2016 film adaptation starring Emily Blunt received mixed reviews, though it helped the 2015 best-selling book stay on the list another year.
Notable best-sellers: “The Shack” by William P. Young, “Camino Island” by John Grisham, “A Dog’s Purpose” by W. Bruce Cameron
Stacker pick: “A Dog’s Purpose”
A devoted dog learns the meaning of his own existence in this best-selling novel-turned-film starring Josh Gad. Reviews and audience reaction to the film were mixed after an animal abuse scandal was reported on the set.
Notable best-sellers: “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom, “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan, “The President Is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris,
Stacker pick: “Crazy Rich Asians”
The film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel “Crazy Rich Asians” helped the book crack the best-seller list a full five years after its release. Released in the summer of 2018, the film made over $238 million worldwide. Kwan’s comedic novel, which centers around three incredibly rich families from Singapore, explores what happens when an heir to a massive fortune brings home his American-born Chinese girlfriend to meet the family.