#1: The Bible (6 billion copies sold)
Background: The holy text for Christians, the Bible is believed to have been written over a 1,500-year span by at least 40 different people. First published in 1451 (the first book ever printed) it has been translated into more than 2,000 languages. The six billion sales figure includes numerous versions, interpretations, and translations by many different publishers all over the world. And of course it’s just an estimate. Developing nations lack sales tracking technology, and many Bibles are distributed for free. Plus, exact sales figures prior to 1973 don’t exist—the total could be much higher.
#2: Quotations from Chairman Mao (900 million sold)
Background: Known as the “Little Red Book” in the West, this book has been published by the Chinese government since 1966. Selling 900 million copies is no ﬂuke—during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), all Chinese citizens were required to own a copy. Failing to do so could result in anything from a beating by the military to years in a hard-labor camp. Made up of excerpts from Mao Zedong’s speeches and writings, the book outlines the principles of Chinese socialism and, not coincidentally, glorifies Mao.