Top 15 Bestselling YA Books and Series

Thinking about gifting books to your favorite young adult for Christmas? This year, because of COVID, most students will enjoy a longer holiday vacation. My son, for example, finished his first semester before Thanksgiving. He won’t go back until the first full week in January. Students now can enjoy a longer period to read books their teachers didn’t select. Awesome!

I thought it might be interesting to check out the bestselling young adult books and series of all time as possible Christmas presents. I compiled the sales numbers from Amazon and Wikipedia. Turns out, I’ve read all but one of the bestselling books and about half of the series. I’d like to read them all, but there are not enough hours in the day. One series has almost 200 books in it.

I hope this ranking helps you cross off some Christmas list items. Note that I’m not recommending any of them—simply passing along the stats. Happy shopping!

Bestselling YA Books

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneJK Rowling120 million
Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsJK Rowling77 million
The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger65 million
Harry Potter and the Half Blood PrinceJK Rowling65 million
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanJK Rowling65 million
Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireJK Rowling65 million
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixJK Rowling65 million
Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsJK Rowling65 million
Anne of Green GablesLM Montgomery50 million
The Hunger GamesSuzanne Collins29 million
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Sue Townsend20 million
The Fault in Our StarsJohn Green23 million
A Wrinkle in TimeMadeleine L’Engle14 million
The OutsidersS.E. Hinton15 million
The GiverLois Lowry10 million

Some observations:

  • Not surprised by the Harry Potter chart domination.
  • 13 of the 15 bestselling YA titles of all time were written by women.
  • Three of them use their initials, likely to hide their gender.
  • Suzanne Collins’ trilogy had only one ranked book.
  • The Adrian Mole book (I’d never heard of it) rocked the charts in the UK in the 1980s. It even became a BBC radio production.

Bestselling YA Book Series

Harry PotterJK Rowling500 million
Sweet Valley HighFrancine Pascal250 million
The Babysitters ClubAnn M Martin176 million
Lord of the RingsJ.R.R. Tolkien150 million
TwilightStephenie Meyer100 million
Nancy DrewCarolyn Keene80 million
Fear StreetR.L. Stine80 million
The Hunger GamesSuzanne Collins65 million
The Shadowhunter ChroniclesCassandra Clare36 million
The Inheritance CycleChristopher Paolini33 million
DivergentVeronica Roth32 million
Artemis FowlEoin Colfer21 million
RedwallBrian Jacques20 million
His Dark MaterialsPhilip Pullman18 million
Vampire AcademyRichelle Mead8 million

More observations:

  • The Harry Potter series has sold more copies than the combined populations of the United States, Canada, Australia, and the UK.
  • A team of ghostwriters published the Sweet Valley High series of 181 books from 1983-2003.
  • Ghostwriters also penned the Nancy Drew series (1930 to 2003). This famous detective is cited as a formative influence by Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Conner and Sonia Sotomayor, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush.
  • Stephenie Meyer is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so there are no smoking or drinking scenes in her vampire novels.
  • Ms. Meyer’s series outsold Suzanne Collins’ series, even though none of her books appeared in the top 15.

What’s your favorite YA book? And which is your favorite YA series?