There’s a common misconception that students don’t enjoy reading. Some find it dull, while others actively try reading as many popular books as possible. And the New York Times best seller list helps them pick their favorite items. The list includes such modern hits as Harry Potter, The Midnight Library, and All The Light We Cannot See.
We’ve gathered some of the best selling books of all time many students across the world can find to their liking. These titles appeared on the New York Times top 10 best seller list at one point or another. They range from fantasy titles to thrillers and coming-of-age stories.
The Institute, Stephen King
Stephen King’s works are among the most popular books of all time for a good reason. The author took readers to the gloomy town of Salem’s Lot and into the demented mind of Annie Wilkes. In 2019, King returned to his roots with the science-fiction horror The Institute. The book follows a teenager abducted by people seeking to exploit his supernatural abilities.
The story is reminiscent of Netflix’s Stranger Things but with fewer supernatural elements. The Institute is a shadowy organization that tries experiments on children. Torture is often used to unlock their telekinetic or telepathic abilities. As with all great horror novels, the Institute doesn’t have an otherworldly entity to fight. Instead, it deals with evil that resides in all people.
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman has become a familiar name for millions of comic book and fantasy readers. His works are known thanks to the American Gods TV series and the 2009 movie Coraline. A TV adaptation of Anansi Boys was in the works, but it never got a release. Some of the book’s characters were incorporated into the American Gods series.
In Neil Gaiman’s work, the gods are secretly living among ordinary humans. The 2005 book follows the adventures of the sons of a West African god Anansi. They become aware of their godhood and of each other after their father’s untimely demise. Shortly after its release, the title became one of the best selling books of all time. It’s a must-read for fans who love a mix of fantasy elements that hit close to reality.
The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
Vietnamese-American professor Viet Thanh Nguyen hit it out of the ballpark with his debut novel, The Sympathizer. The work was so good that it earned a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction a year later. The title also earned the Editor’s Choice from New York Times. Nguyen artfully weaves the themes of politics, espionage, war, and historical events.
One of the good popular books of the modern era opens up with the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam civil war. Readers follow the story of a North Vietnamese spy who got into South Vietnam’s army. He comes to the US as a member of the South Vietnamese community. Interestingly, the spy becomes a cultural advisor in an American film done in the spirit of Apocalypse Now.
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The Queen’s Gambit, Walter Tevis
There’s hardly a novel that influenced chess in a major way. But The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis did just that. It’s still one of the best selling books by Walter Tevis. In 2020, its Netflix adaptation took the world by storm. The miniseries closely followed the 1983 novel but adjusted the story a little. After its release, online sales of chess boards soared to the skies.
The novel tells the story of a fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon. She discovered a love for chess during her stay at an orphanage. After the death of her mother, she developed an addiction to sedatives. The problems with alcohol and medication interfere with her personal and professional life.
The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles
Amor Towles continued the success of Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow novels with The Lincoln Highway. The 2021 coming-of-age novel is listed on the #1 New York Times Bestseller list. Besides, the novel is one of Towles’ top sold books with over a million copies. It was promoted by Barack Obama and The Washington Post.
The novel is set in Nebraska in June of 1954. Its main characters are the 18-year-old Emmet Watson and his kid brother Billy. They are orphans who want to dump the family farm and look for a better life in California. The book deals with themes of ambition, expectations, and family.
Billy Summers, Stephen King
Horror remains King’s greatest domain. But his ventures into other genres show his true talent. This is the case with his crime novel Billy Summers. The novel quickly became a number 1 best selling book for King. Billy Summers earned many awards, including:
- Esquire Best Book of the Year;
- Wall Street Journal Favorite Book of the Year;
- The #1 New York Times Bestseller.
King’s newest novel tells of a professional assassin named Billy Summers. He’s an Iraq war vet turned to a life of crime. The assassin is offered the last job before retirement. But it’s not as clear as it seems, and soon, Summers finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy with his own life at stake.
The Orphan’s Tale, Pam Jenoff
World War 2 will never stop being a popular literary topic. Pam Jenoff used this theme as a backdrop for her 2017 novel, The Orphan’s Tale. The story brought her wide critical acclaim and even the title of a New York Times bestseller. To be exact, critics praised Jenoff’s best selling book as a harrowing story of survival and sacrifice.
The story follows a 16-year-old Noa who saved a Jewish infant bound for a concentration camp. She soon finds herself in a traveling German circus. To save the child, she joins the group and has to learn the art of flying trapeze. She soon forms a friendship with the lead performer Astrid. This gripping tale captures the attention of readers until the very last page.
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Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen’s novel doesn’t deal with professional killers or paranormal kids. Instead, Freedom tells a story of an average American family and the troubles it faces over the years. The story earned its author the John Gardner Fiction Award. It’s his best book since the popular The Corrections.
Freedom centers around the Berglund family: Patty, Walter, and their son Joey. Their married life slowly falls apart as Patty has a love affair with Richard Katz. He’s Walter’s college friend and a successful rock musician. Joey also goes through his coming-of-age story. All characters struggle and learn how to survive in their new circumstances.
The Golden House, Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie is the author of some of the greatest international best selling books. His 1988 novel The Satanic Verses earned him global fame and infamy. The Golden House is Rushdie’s 11th novel, heavily influenced by the developments in American politics and culture. It tells about a family of billionaires that came to the US from Mumbai.
The story of their lives is told through the eyes of their neighbor Rene. He wants to make a movie about the Goldens and becomes enamored with their lifestyle. Yet, not everything is as good as it seems on the surface. Tensions rise between the Goldens as Rene becomes aware of their affairs and crimes.
The Stranger in the Lifeboat, Mitch Albom
One of America’s most critically acclaimed authors made another hit in 2021. His The Stranger in the Lifeboat novel is a #1 New York Times Bestseller. The popular book tells about a group of shipwreck survivors who run out of food and water. Suddenly, they pick up a man who claims to be God and offers salvation.
Albom discussed the themes of the afterlife and religion before - in The Five People You Meet in Heaven and The First Phone Call from Heaven. His latest novel tries to imagine what people would do when being confronted by an actual God. The book also has readers second-guessing if any of the events really happened.