30 of the Most Popular Books on Goodreads — We Bet You've Read 'Em All
When you're looking for a new book to pick up, the sheer number of choices can seem daunting. How do you like to get recommendations? Do you look at the featured books on the shelves at the bookstore? Do you read through Amazon reviews and suggested titles? Do you go the old-fashioned route and just ask a friend for their recent favorites? If you're not sure where to look for your next read (or how to cover that pesky "book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads" prompt from the 2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge), we've got you covered.
We've sifted through Goodreads and found 30 of the most popular books, each with more than one million ratings. This list has something for everyone: there's everything from contemporary thrillers and YA faves to undeniable classics. Click through our gallery to see how many of these books you've read already — and which one you want to tackle next!
The Great Gatsby
There's no more iconic depiction of the 1920s than The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's bittersweet tale of lost love and Lost Generation ennui. Through the eyes of naive young salesman Nick Carraway, we are introduced to the Long Island social scene, including his frivolous cousin Daisy Buchanan and his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby, whose long-ago romance won't quite die out and eventually leads to tragedy.
It's one of the best known dystopian allegories of contemporary literature: Animal Farm, by George Orwell, seems at first to be a simple if frightening tale of animals who drive off the farmers who own them and start their own society before descending into animal authoritarianism. In reality, however, it's a famous political allegory for the Russian revolution and subsequent corrupt Stalinist government.
The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones follows Susie Salmon, a teenage girl who narrates from the afterlife as she watches her family and friends deal with the aftermath of her brutal rape and murder. As she watches, her family tries to solve her murder while her killer attempts to flee.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a series by Rick Riordan, follows the adventures of the titular hero, a teenage boy who's also a demigod (half-mortal, half-god). As he meets other demigods at Camp Half-Blood, he also finds himself at the center of a brewing war among the gods and must rally his friends to go on a quest to discover the truth behind the conflict and clear his own name.
The Da Vinci Code
Better known as "that conspiracy movie with Tom Hanks," Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is one of the most famous (and controversial) thrillers in contemporary literature. Harvard professor Robert Langdon starts out investigating a murder at the Louvre and winds up following a trail of clues to an earth-shattering conspiracy concealing a secret about Jesus Christ himself.
The Time Traveler's Wife
A time-tripping romance, The Time Traveler's Wife is Audrey Niffenegger's story of a couple whose romance is complicated by involuntary time travel. Although Clare and Henry are madly in love, they experience their story all out of order, thanks to a genetic disorder that sends Henry randomly skipping through time.
Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is the book that started the trend of missing-girl thrillers. When Amy Dunne disappears, her husband Nick is the prime suspect. But as more and more information about Amy and Nick's seemingly perfect marriage begins to be revealed, the tale of her disappearance hits some serious twists and turns.
If you're looking to be seriously creeped out, look no further than George Orwell's dystopian classic 1984. Set in a horrifying future where "Big Brother" controls even the thoughts of citizens, the novel follows Winston Smith, a government worker who secretly dreams of a freer world. Of course, this is a dystopia, so his dreams are promptly crushed by the all-powerful government.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Even though it's actually the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is probably the first Narnia book that most of us read. One part allegory, one part classic childhood fantasy novel, C.S. Lewis's book tells the story of the Pevensies: four English children taking refuge from World War II in a country house and discovering a whole universe through the dusty old wardrobe. When they discover that Narnia has been cursed by a cruel witch, they enter the fray to restore the land to its former freedom.
J.R.R. Tolkein's fantasy classic The Hobbit is perhaps not as epic as its companion series The Lord of the Rings, but it's one of the best-loved tales for a reason. Bilbo Baggins is a perfectly content ordinary hobbit whose life is turned on its head when the wizard Gandalf and a gaggle of dwarves drag him into their quest. Along the way, he discovers more about himself — and comes to possess a very special ring.
A Game of Thrones
The first novel in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice And Fire series is also the one that lent its name to the TV adaptation. In A Game of Thrones, readers are first introduced to the fantasy world of Westeros and the power players who inhabit it: the noble Starks, the power-hungry Lannisters, the ruling Baratheons, and the exiled Targaryens. When the Baratheon king dies, the country is thrown into chaos, and with multiple claimants to the throne, things will never be the same.
Lord of the Flies
Another dystopian story; this one set on a deserted island. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, explores what happens when a group of boys is stranded with no authority figures in a harsh environment. While some emerge as leaders to help build their own society, others go too far in their pursuit of power, revealing the cruelty that emerges under pressure.
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, has become one of the most popular YA series of all time. In the trilogy, North America has become Panem, an unforgiving and authoritarian regime that controls its citizens by forcing them to send children each year to a televised battle to the death. Katniss Everdeen, a no-nonsense teenager, volunteers to replace her sister, who's been chosen at random to be sent to the Games. At first, Katniss's only thoughts are of survival, but the deeper she gets into the Games, the more she learns about Panem itself, and she begins to see a way to rebel.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha tells the story of Chiyo, a beautiful girl from a poor village in Japan. Forced into sexual servitude, Chiyo first dreams of escaping the life with her sister, but after suffering countless setbacks, eventually becomes a popular geisha. The novel depicts her relationships with other geishas, as well as with the men who patronize (and maybe love) her.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, lives right in between the bright rom-com tone of Jane Austen's novels and the Gothic despair of Wuthering Heights. The novel is narrated by its heroine, Jane Eyre, an orphan despised by her extended family who grows up to be a quiet but clever young teacher. When she takes a post as governess to a wealthy little girl, she finds herself drawn to the brooding, blunt master of the house, Mr. Rochester. He's attracted to her too — but he's got a few secrets of his own.
Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is possibly the best-known romantic tragedy of all time. When two teenagers from rival houses fall in love in medieval Verona, it first seems like their love might finally put an end to the feuding once and for all. But hatred runs deep, and the young lovers are pulled every which way by the unstoppable force of their families' enmity.
Written by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 is another dystopian work of literature that looks at the ramifications of a society that demands complete and utter submission to a specific authority. In the book's "bad future," censorship is the topic at hand: books are banned, and "firemen" burn any books that are found. Guy Montag, one such fireman, secretly keeps a book from one job and begins to question why books were banned in the first place.
Set in a dystopian future, Veronica Roth's Divergent is a YA adventure focused on Tris, a teenage girl who discovers that she is a rarity: in a society where people are "tested" and divided into factions based on dominant personality traits, she is strong in multiple areas. After choosing to join the "Dauntless" faction, Tris faces an increasingly dangerous series of events as she discovers a plot to destroy another faction, while also dealing with her feelings for fellow Dauntless member Four.
The Book Thief
A tale narrated by Death itself, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is the story of Liesel, a German girl caught up in the horrors of Nazi Germany. As Liesel grows up, alongside her friend Rudy, the Nazi regime clamps down and even their small town is affected. When Liesel's foster parents begin hiding a young Jewish man, the realities of the regime start to hit close to home.
The Kite Runner
With themes of friendship, betrayal, and family, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was the Afghan author's debut novel. As young boys, wealthy Amir and working-class Hassan are the best of friends and spend their time kite-fighting together, despite the taunts of other wealthy boys, until a horrible act of violence splits them apart. Amir's guilt follows him through his life, until he is summoned back to his hometown as an adult and given the opportunity to make amends.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Harry Potter books pretty much defined an entire generation of readers, and it all began with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. In J.K. Rowling's first novel, we meet Harry, a young orphan mistreated by his aunt and uncle who finds out, on his eleventh birthday, that he's actually a wizard. At first, the magical world doesn't seem quite so different from ours: there are friends (Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger), bullies (the ever-slimy Draco Malfoy), and sports (Quidditch). But the book quickly hints at the darkness in the magical world too, as Harry learns the truth of his parents' murders and the possibility of evil rising again.
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is pretty much the ultimate rom-com.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Already adapted into two movies in two different languages, Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is one of the most popular psychological/cyber-thrillers. Hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist team up to solve a mysterious disappearance. As they dig into the case, they discover connections to a much larger string of crimes.
Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the most beloved (and adapted) pieces of American literature. During the Civil War, the four March sisters and their mother struggle to get on while their patriarch is away at war. Beautiful Meg, clever Jo, shy Beth, and vain Amy fight, fall in love, and have a slew of minor escapades as they grow from girls to women.
Of Mice and Men
The story of two migrant laborers, George and Lennie, is an American classic that most of us encountered for the first time in high school English class. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men follows the two men as they search for work and save up for their dream: a quiet farm of their own. It's a hopeful dream, but the combination of Lennie's physical strength and mental disability eventually leads both men to tragedy.
The Catcher in the Rye
The iconic story of disaffected youth, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is a brief novel, but it packs a punch. Sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield runs away from his prep school to spend three days in New York, crossing paths with a slew of characters and musing all the while about the "phony" realities of his own life. Holden's voice is both hilariously precocious and depressingly frustrated as he attempts to navigate the process of growing up.
Set in the deep South of the 1960s, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, tells the interlocking stories of black maids and the white women they work for. The most prominent voice is Aibileen, a veteran maid and nanny whose wisdom is hard-won by years of weary work and personal tragedy. When one of the neighborhood's young white socialites, aspiring journalist Skeeter, wants to write the stories of maids, Aibileen is reluctant to help at first, but begins to share her story and bring other maids into the project, even as the women of both races struggle with marriages, families, and the effects of prejudice.
Winner of the prestigious Newberry Medal, Lois Lowry's The Giver is written for middle-school students but is an ageless classic. In an eerie dystopian future where every choice is made for everyone by society or government, 12-year-old Jonah is selected to be the Receiver of Memory: the only person who has knowledge of the world before "Sameness." As Jonah begins to receive knowledge from his predecessor and mentor, he struggles with the overwhelming new information and begins planning a desperate attempt to restore emotion and knowledge to the whole community.
To Kill a Mockingbird
An iconic tale of racial prejudice and human morality, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has endured for decades. When a black man is falsely accused of rape in a small Southern town, it falls to attorney Atticus Finch to defend him. Atticus's daughter, Scout, is the primary point of view, as she watches the hate thrown at her father and the racist miscarriage of justice at the trial.
If you were a tween or a teen in the mid-2000s, chances are you went through a Twilight phase. Stephanie Meyer's vampire teen romance took off as a full-fledged pop culture phenomenon. The first book in the series introduces us to Bella Swan, a reticent teenager who just moved to small-town Washington, and how she falls in love with Edward Cullen, the mysterious classmate who turns out to actually be a vampire.