Correction: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized the book “The Harvester.”

If you are done reading (or never would touch) the erotic “Fifty Shades of Grey” and looking for something a little, well, different to pick up this summer, here are some book lists that you might not have come across: Bestsellers from the past — way in the past.


E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the two books that follow in today’s best-selling trilogy — which started out as “Twilight” fan fiction — is a departure from the No.1 bestselling hardback book in 1912: “The Harvester,” which is a sweet, innocent romance novel.

If you look through the lists there are bound to be books you have read for pleasure — or were forced to read in school (for me, Sinclair Lewis’s “Babbitt,” a 1922 bestseller, comes to mind). You may be surprised by some of the authors who appear more than once in the same year (Harold Bell Wright, for example). And you also may shake your head at the answer to this question: In 1972, which book sold more copies: “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach or “August 1914” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Here are the lists:


1. The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter

2. The Street Called Straight by Basil King

3. Their Yesterdays by Harold Bell Wright

4. The Melting of Molly by Maria Thompson Davies

5. A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

6. The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

7. The Just and the Unjust by Vaughan Kester

8. The Net by Rex Beach

9. Tante by Anne Douglas Sedgwick

10. Fran by J. Breckenridge Ellis


1. If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson

2. The Sheik by Edith M. Hull

3. Gentle Julia by Booth Tarkington

4. The Head of the House of Coombe by Frances Hodgson Burnett

5. Simon Called Peter by Robert Keable

6. The Breaking Point by Mary Roberts Rinehart

7. This Freedom by A.S.M. Hutchinson

8. Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hémon

9. To the Last Man by Zane Grey

10. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis


1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

2. The Fountain by Charles Morgan

3. Sons by Pearl S. Buck

4. Magnolia Street by Louis Golding

5. The Sheltered Life by Ellen Glasgow

6. Old Wine and New by Warwick Deeping

7. Mary’s Neck by Booth Tarkington

8. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas

9. Inheritance by Phyllis Bentley

10. Three Loves by A. J. Cronin


1. The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel

2. The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

3. Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck

4. And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field

5. Drivin’ Woman by Elizabeth Pickett

6. Windswept by Mary Ellen Chase

7. The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

8. The Sun Is My Undoing by Marguerite Sheen

9. King’s Row by Henry Bellamann

10. The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin


1. The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain

2. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

4. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

5. Steamboat Gothic by Frances Parkinson Keyes

6. Giant by Edna Ferber

7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

8. The Gown of Glory by Agnes Sligh Turnbull

9. The Saracen Blade by Frank Yerby

10. The Houses in Between by Howard Spring

11. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger


1. Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter

2. Dearly Beloved by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

3. A Shade of Difference by Allen Drury

4. Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk

5. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

6. Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler

7. Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II

8. The Prize by Irving Wallace

9. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

10. The Reivers by William Faulkner


1. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

2. August 1914 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

3. The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

4. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

5. The Word by Irving Wallace

6. The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

7. Captains and the Kings by Taylor Caldwell

8. Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes

9. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

10. Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins


1. E.T., The Extraterrestrial by William Kotzwinkle

2. Space by James A. Michener

3. The Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlum

4. Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon

5. Mistral’s Daughter by Judith Krantz

6. The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel

7. Different Seasons by Stephen King

8. North and South by John Jakes

9. 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

10. The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett


1. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

2. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

3. Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

4. Mixed Blessings by Danielle Steel

5. Jewels by Danielle Steel

6. The Stars Shine Down by Sidney Sheldon

7. The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice

8. Mexico by James A. Michener

9. Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

10. All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark


1. The Summons by John Grisham

2. Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy

3. The Remnant by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye

4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

5. Prey by Michael Crichton

6. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

7. The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel

8. Four Blind Mice by James Patterson

9. Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales by Stephen King

10. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

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