People who love to read often choose the subject of their books based on the things that interest them most. If you love thrillers, it might be because you genuinely enjoy getting that adrenaline rush that's actually completely safe, largely because you're experiencing everything that's happening to another character on the page. There's something about that feeling of being slightly frightened, with all of your senses heightened that is fun.
It's sort of the same thing as how you wanted to ride the Merry-Go-Round as fast as you could do when you were a kid. It often translates to the desire to ride roller coasters, go ziplining or watch the scariest movie you can find when you become an adult. Reading thrillers is just another way to expand on that. Thankfully, it's also quite an effective method of doing so.
Below are 10 of the best selling thrillers of all time. They're not ranked by dollar amount, as that would be unfair when you count for inflation. After all, some of these books were written some time ago. Instead, they're based on the number of copies sold. Check out the list and see if there's one on here that you haven't read yet.
10. “The Lost World” by Michael Crichton (1995) - 1.7 million copies sold
If you think this title sounds familiar, that's probably because it is. It's actually a continuation from the “Jurassic Park” series of books, the very same line of books that were famously made into a number of films. In this particular case, it's been six years since the date that everything was destroyed at Jurassic Park. Keep in mind, it was all destroyed on purpose in order to keep people safe.
The problem is, rumors have started to surface that something might still be alive out there. At first, it was easier to try and ignore those rumors in hopes that it was just someone who liked to create drama by running their mouth. Unfortunately, the rumors have now become so plentiful that they can no longer be ignored.
A number of people have reported that something just isn't right in the area and many claim that they have seen something first hand. Now, an entirely new generation of potentially deadly predators may have to be dealt with. That's the subject matter explored in this book and it's done in such a thrilling manner that it will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
9. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith (1955) - 1.9 million copies sold
Imagine a world where a high-stakes con artist enters into espionage and other activities befitting of the most talented spy in the world and you have what exists on the pages of this novel. Perhaps the thing that makes the book truly interesting is that it's timeless. Even though it was written in the mid-1950s, it's something that you can read today and get just as interested as you would have if you have been in the prime of your life during the same time the book was penned.
It's not really that often that an author is able to capture something in such a timely manner. This is especially true in this particular case, as it often deals with the cat-and-mouse game between the con artist and those who are being conned, as well as the technology involved in doing so. Clearly, that has changed a great deal since the 1950s.
That being said, you can sit down and read the pages of this book and you're instantly transported into an entirely different world where all of the things happening seem quite plausible. In a way, you almost feel like you are actually inside those pages, living out these experiences. That's one reason that it gets your blood pumping so well. You don't feel like you're merely some spectator reading a book. Highsmith draws you in and makes you part of the story.
8. “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins (2020) - 2 milion copies sold
This is a gripping story that tells the tale of a family living in Acapulco who are, by all appearances, living their best life. That is until Lydia's husband Luca writes a very telling piece for the newspaper about a drug cartel in the area. As soon as the story is published, the family are directly in the crosshairs of the cartel and they have no choice but to try to escape to the United States.
The family end up joining countless numbers of other individuals who are doing exactly the same thing, also in an attempt to escape the grips of the cartel. This in and of itself is interesting enough and it definitely counts as a thriller. However, there's something more going on here.
On top of the very real physical danger that's involved, Lydia herself is having a difficult time with the idea of leaving everything that she knows and loves behind in order to go somewhere that doesn't ignite a spark inside of her. She wonders if she's trading her wonderful life for one that will be completely empty, all in the name of safety. The internal struggle that ensues is every bit as gripping as the one that's going on around them.
7. “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir (2021) - 2 milllion copies sold
It's not really all that often that a dedicated science fiction book makes it into a top selling list, especially among thrillers. That being said, you have exactly that in this particular book. It largely serves as a sequel to another book entitled “The Martian” by the same author. It's also one of the best thrillers you'll ever read, even if you don't particularly consider yourself a fan of science fiction.
Why is it so gripping? It all comes down to the fact that it's not just about a trip to outer space or dealing with aliens. At its core, it's about a race to save one's fellow man. More specifically, it deals with the things that a person is typically willing to go through in order to save someone else.
It deals with subjects like altruism, especially when it weighs the options between being selfless enough to sacrifice oneself for humanity versus self-preservation. At some point, there is something about the story that speaks to everyone on a deeper level.
6. “The Stand” by Stephen King (1978) - 4.5 million copies sold
Whether you consider yourself a fan of Stephen King or not, this is a book that definitely transcended the idea of only being read by those who pick up a book solely for the sake of the author attached to it. In fact, it became so popular that it ended up being a miniseries on television a number of years later.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that as is the case with most things written by King, it deals a lot with the battle between good and evil. More specifically, it deals with how that battle might look in a particular scenario. In this particular case, it's all about a plague that has affected everyone all over the world. The question is, is it just an illness making its way through the world or is it something entirely different that is much more about the battle for one’s soul?
5. “Blue Moon” by Lee Child (2019) - 5 million copies sold
There are a couple of different reasons that this book has been so successful. First and foremost, it's part of the Jack Reacher series, a series of books that has become so immensely popular that people can't wait for the next one to come out so they can scoop it up off the store shelves. Some people have even likened and it to a modern-day James Bond story.
In addition, you have the story of this particular book itself, one that is immensely interesting within its own right. Imagine a time when you're just going about your own business, doing what you do throughout the course of a normal day, and you're thrust into a situation where you have to make a choice to either help someone or sit idly by and watch something horrible happen to them.
That is precisely the choice that Reacher faces in this book. Being a man of honor, he chooses to help the individuals who are in peril. The problem is, that sets him on a path where he now has to deal with a whole host of problems as one person after another pursues him.
4. “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts (2005) - 7 million copies sold
This book seems to have something for everybody. It starts with the person who escapes a prison in Australia and ends up living in what amounts to the underworld of Bombay, all in an attempt to evade being captured again. However, things don't exactly go as planned. The main character in the book ends up being captured by the people who run the underworld in Bombay. Eventually, that experience becomes far worse than any prison as the individual is constantly tortured.
The book also touches people on a deeper level because it talks about figuring out what really matters in life. As the character in the book is being endlessly tortured, it all suddenly becomes clear concerning why people often make the choices they make in life. The things that so many people pursue like fame and money aren’t nearly as important as they think they are. Unfortunately, the book very accurately points out that it's often only when faced with some type of life-or-death struggle that people really start to figure out the things that actually matter to them.
3. “The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988) - 10 million copies sold
Here you have a truly horrific story about a serial killer that does horrible things to people after he's killed them. In fact, he seems to have a penchant for removing portions of their skin and then turning them into everything from lampshades to clothing. The story further examines the cat-and-mouse game between the serial killer and the FBI investigator who is hot on his tail.
In order to get into his mind, the investigator goes on a perilous journey tapping into the mind of another infamous serial killer who was captured years before. It doesn't take long for the things that he says to start to echo in her own mind and you begin to wonder if she will manage to capture the current killer before she starts to lose her own mind.
She forces herself to examine some details about her life, as well as certain personality traits, that she might prefer to leave dormant.
2. “Faithless in Death: An Eve Dallas Novel” by J.D. Robb (2021) - 70 million copies sold
Here you have the timeless story of an unsolved death. By all accounts, it seems to be an unsolved murder. The problem is, it occurs in the home of a very wealthy couple, a couple who are well-known in the community. They're quite philanthropic and no one is anxious to point the finger at either of them.
All of the evidence begins pointing to the wife. The book examines how easy it is for people in certain positions of power to get away with genuine atrocities, all by simply using their reputation in order to literally get away with murder.
1. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie (1939) - 100 million copes sold
Imagine being invited to an isolated island, only to get there and discover that nine other people receive the same invitation. That's precisely what you have here. In reality, this is a story that's about much more than what appears to exist on the surface.
One of the reasons that it's been so popular over the years is because it deals a lot more with human nature than anything else. In fact, it's more like a deep dive into the human psyche, examining why we make certain choices.
More specifically, it asks questions regarding why some individuals find it so hard to be their authentic selves. Why are secrets and lies crafted as opposed to merely telling the truth? If you want a genuinely good story that will also make you think about the parallels in your own life, this is a book that you absolutely must read. You won't be able to put it down.
You can also read:
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson