Out-of-This-World Alien Books

Humans keep finding new ways to explore the vastness of space, even if each new discovery seems to prove just how small our little blue marble of a planet really is in the grand scheme of things. For every photo of a barren planet like Pluto (or dwarf planet, according to its most recent categorization), you have to wonder what, if any, living organisms might be lurking out there deep in the cosmos. Considering the age of our universe and the relativity of time, it’s not just a matter of where extraterrestrials might be, but also when.

While we don’t know anything for sure, the idea that we are not alone in the universe has led to some truly fascinating works of science fiction. If we should ever make contact with an extraterrestrial species, will it even be possible to communicate? Will we reach out to them, or they arrive on Earth? Will it be peaceful or will such an encounter end in unfathomable violence? These are the issues sci-fi writers have pondered ever since the idea of outer space became a staple of our collective consciousness.

You would think that we would’ve covered some alien-oriented titles in our Best Sci-Fi Books list, but that’s actually not the case. But Slaughterhouse-Five, with its plunger-and-hand shaped Tralfamadorians, would definitely make it onto this list if Vonnegut’s opus hadn’t already been featured on our list for the Best Novels of All Time. But that still leaves us with a group of otherworldly fiction that imagines our first contact with aliens as peaceful, apocalyptic, and everything in between.

war of the worldsThe War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

You’d have to be living under a rock on Neptune to not have heard of this H.G. Wells classic or its many adaptations. Orson Welles scared the bejesus out of radio listeners back in 1938 when his fictional broadcast about an alien invasion was interpreted as real. Wells’ novel doesn’t waste time with aliens coming in peace. These extraterrestrials have total domination on their minds and little else. Published in the waning years of the 19th century, The War of the Worlds proves that alien invasion was on people’s minds long before there were even movie theaters to make these stories come to life. One thing’s for sure in this story, Earth is fortunate that these Martian invaders can’t handle a few germs.


man who fellThe Man Who Fell Earth by Walter Tevis

Not all fictional alien visitors have annihilation on their hyper-intelligent minds. Take Newton, for example. In Walter Tevis’s novel, Newton arrives on Earth from his home planet of Anthea, which is experiencing a crippling drought after a series of devastating nuclear wars that has reduced its population to only 300. Newton lands in Kentucky, and sets to work getting incredibly rich by patenting new inventions thanks to his knowledge of superior alien technology. His hope is that, with his vast riches, he’ll be able to construct the necessary ships to transport his people from their dying planet. But his plan is imperiled when his identity is revealed and the government swoops in. The Man Who Fell to Earth serves as an allegory to the Cold War political climate of 1950s America, and the book was adapted into a 1976 sci-fi film starring David Bowie.


contactContact by Carl Sagan

If you’re looking for a peaceful interaction between aliens and Earthlings, then this Carl Sagan novel is for you. The authentic feel to the science behind Contact is derived from the simple fact that Sagan was one of the most heralded cosmologists and astrophysicists of the 20th century. Ultimately, Contact‘s aliens don’t come to Earth at all. Instead, they send a message with coded instructions that will allow NASA to build a machine that can transport astronauts to them. What’s more, when the book’s protagonist, Ellie, comes face to face with an extraterrestrial creature for the first time, it even takes the form of her deceased father to help make their meeting a pleasant one. Grounded in science, incorporating themes of humanity’s interaction with religion, Contact covers an incredibly broad and immensely entertaining scope.



The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

While not technically a novel, Ray Bradbury called this collection of his short stories a “book of stories pretending to be a novel.” The various stories are linked together with a thin framework, and they tell a “future history” narrative that focuses on two terrible events, which have led to the near-extinction of both the human race on Earth and of Martians on their home planet. The early stories highlight Earthlings who are dead set on traveling to Mars, despite strained relations between the two planets that are due in part to (as outlined in one story) a plague on Mars caused by visitors from Earth. As the stories progress, the middle portion of the book details Earth’s success in colonizing the Red Planet, which is now largely deserted. However, as a nuclear war decimates Earth, humans left on Mars are cut off from the world they once knew. The book has been adapted many times (including into an opera), but has yet to make it to the silver screen.

Spine-tingling Literary Villains

In many ways, villains are the most captivating characters in all of storytelling. While protagonists certainly don’t have to be virtuous characters (some of the best books revolve around antiheroes, after all), we often get a good deal of insight into what exactly makes them tick. Not so with most villains. These malevolent characters are able to carry out their misdeeds unencumbered by such obstacles as morality, logic, or even consistency. We often don’t learn much about what goes on inside their heads, their motivations instead simply manifesting through malicious actions.

With vivid antagonists being such a big part of a good story, we’ve already covered quite a few of the books in which they’re featured. Clearly, Count Dracula ranks right up there at the top. We covered Bram Stoker’s book about that iconic vampire in our Best Classic Literature list. Cormac McCarthy crafted one of the most frightening men to ever grace the page (and no, we’re not talking about Anton Chigurh) with Judge Holden in Blood Meridian, a book we recently discussed highlighted as a book that should be turned into a movie. And Stephen King cooked up a real nightmare with Annie Wilkes in Miserya book that deserved a spot on our list showcasing King’s best. Mr. Kurtz has been transformed by jungle isolation into a brutal tyrant in Heart of Darkness, a story we consider among the the Best Books of All Time. And villains don’t get much more invasive or mysterious than Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984, which is one made that book one of our picks for Best Novels of All Time.

But that still leaves a healthy crop of sinister characters, those who continue to make an unnerving impact on readers everywhere.

cuckoosnestNurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

A villain is most frightening when they are in a position of power. That’s even more true when the villain can also regulate medications and see to it that her victims get electroshock therapy or even lobotomies. Nurse Ratched rules the mental ward she oversees with an iron fist. Corrupted by her bureaucratically-bestowed power, she dehumanizes the patients in her care, to the point that she even shames a man into committing suicide. She wields her power through manipulation and (with the help of the medications she doles out) a form of mind control. No wonder patients end up busting through windows to escape the hell she’s created for them.



Mr. Dark from Something Wicked This Way Comes

There’s often a sinister undertone to carnivals. Whether its their ephemeral nature, dubious games, or vomit-inducing combination of greasy food and disorienting rides, they’re ripe ground for creepy villains. Mr. Dark proves to be such a figure in this Ray Bradbury classic, as he’s known in the carnival as the “Illustrated Man” due to his many tattoos, one for every person who he’s convinced to join the Pandemonium Carnival. Through dark magic, he is able to manipulate the people who stumble through his carnival, and he rules over those who he has tempted to join his ranks. Shrouded in a mystery, he is that enigmatic sort of villain whose motives are as unclear as his actions are malicious.


kevinKevin from We Need to Talk About Kevin

There are few things more frightening to consider than an evil villain actually being one’s own child.That’s the awful scenario faced by our narrator, Eva, in Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel. The story is told via a series of letters from Eva that appear to be intended for her estranged husband (and Kevin’s father) after Kevin commits a school massacre. Eva’s marriage fell apart largely because she could sense Kevin’s malevolence while her husband could not. Kevin’s nefarious actions turn from petty to violent, and he may even be responsible for blinding his little sister with drain cleaner. Kevin also develops quite a knack for archery, which will play a key role in the attacks he will carry out on classmates and even members of his own family.
harry potterVoldemort from the Harry Potter series

No list of villains would be complete without including He Who Must Not Be Named. The Dark Lord Voldemort exhibits a few Nazi tendencies through  his obsession with blood purity. He wishes to rid the world of people with non-magical abilities (aka “Muggles”) despite the fact that his own father was a muggle, a fact Voldemort refuses to acknowledge. It’s pretty clear that an immensely powerful evil wizard from one of the most popular book series of all time belongs on this list of villains, especially when said wizard is the leader of a group known as the Death Eaters.  J.K. Rowling described Voldemort as “a raging psychopath, devoid of the normal human responses to other people’s suffering.” No wonder nobody dares to speak his name.

Books That Are Much Better Than Their Movies

You wouldn’t be going out on a limb by saying most books are better than their movie adaptations. In fact, that’s more or less a rule of thumb these days. After all, books allow images to be conjured up within our individual minds, colored and shaped by our own individual perspectives and past experiences. The kind of personal relationship a person can have with a book is lessened by the cinematic experience, where a director fills in the gaps that are otherwise left to our imaginations in books. But just because a film renders a story in a more concrete format doesn’t mean film adaptations are automatically lesser forms of a story. Sometimes a movie has a lot to add to a written story. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the books on this list.

This list focuses on a few of those huge misfires, those movies where you’d have to search high and low to find someone who actually liked it better than the book. We’ve already covered a few titles on other lists that would also fit snugly into this one. The Time Traveler’s Wife was a wildly popular book but the film adaptation was savaged by critics. But we already covered that title in our Best Romance Novels list. The Lovely Bones also fared quite badly in movie form, but that book appeared on our Best Mystery Novels list. That still leaves us with a bumper crop of books whose film adaptations fell far short of their source material.

les miserablesLes Misérables by Victor Hugo

The stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel is a staple of Broadway. Considered one of the best novels of the 19th century, Les Misérables and its tale of the struggles of Jean Valjean has been adapted or the silver screen on dozens of occasions and in many languages, dating all the way back to the turn of the 20th century. But 2012’s adaptation, directed by Tom Hooper was different. The film brought some major star power in Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, and Eddie Redmayne, and with it came enormous expectations. Sure, it received generally positive reviews, and won Anne Hathaway an Oscar for a spellbinding performance. But with a badly miscast Russell Crowe and overall bombastic tone, this is one case where sticking with the book is definitely your best bet.


running with scissorsRunning with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burrough’s 2002 memoir is a beloved story about the author’s incredibly strange childhood, where his bipolar, aspiring poet (and chain-smoking) mother shipped him off to live with her psychiatrist. The book spent eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and its popularity prompted the family of the late psychiatrist in the book to sue for defamation of character. The memoir was adapted into a movie in 2006, but it was met with very poor reviews. Starring Annette Bening  and Alec Baldwin among others, the film was largely considered to lack the sincerity and edgy emotional factor of the book.


memoirs-of-a-geishaMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Despite its title, Memoirs of a Geisha is a fictional work about a young Japanese girl who is taken by her older sister and sold to a geisha boarding house in Kyoto. Despite her humble origins and a fierce rivalry once she becomes a maid at the geisha house, the girl grows up to become one of the most legendary of geisha ever. In 2005, the film adaptation was epic in scope, the costumes and sets incredibly lavish, but the film received poor reviews in the Western hemisphere, largely because it contained many soap opera-like elements. In China and Japan, the criticism of the film was especially biting due to liberties taken with the casting (the titular geisha is played by a Chinese rather than Japanese actress) and some historical inaccuracies.


da vinci code

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

While Dan Brown’s smash hit mystery novel was far more genre-oriented than it was literary in scope, the book struck a chord with the public and became a worldwide bestseller. The controversy it spawned among the religious ranks (largely due to its assertion that Jesus fathered a child) only earned it more attention. A film adaptation was naturally the next step, but what a misstep that ended up being. Besides Tom Hanks’ inexplicably bad haircut, the film ended up far more boring than the page-turning action in the book it was based upon. And dullness is certainly not a good thing when the film runs for an incredibly lengthy two and half hours. The film adaptation was largely ridiculed but the book remains one of the 21st century’s most notable bestsellers.

Top Selling Books of 2014

With another year in the books, it’s time to reflect what kind of year its been for books. Young-adult franchises continue to sell extraordinarily well, with both The Hunger Games and Divergent series popping up on best-seller lists again and again. And for the slightly younger crowd, each new Diary of a Wimpy Kid installment rockets to the top of the charts as well.

Meanwhile, book from political figures and commentators continue to do well, with conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series scoring another hit with Killing Patton. Stephen King scored a couple of new hits with Revival and Mr. Mercedes both being published this year. While inspirational and religious-themed books also cracked the top tier.

For the purposes of our list we’ve left out those series that have made a habit of camping out near the top spots and instead focuses on singular novels and non-fiction books that have captured our collective imagination.

unbrokenUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Inspirational stories of perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity are almost always a hit with mainstream audiences. Throw in a true story involving an athlete surviving an against-all-odds scenario during World War II and you pretty much can’t miss. Unbroken is the biographical tale of Louis Zamperini’s harrowing ordeal and heroic triumph when the whole world had gone mad. A former Olympic track star, Zamperini somehow survived a plane crash in the midst of the Pacific front of WWII and drifted on a raft for 47 days. From there, he was captured by the Japanese, enduring a brutal two-and-a-half years in a POW camp. Unbroken was published in 2010, but its sales soared in 2014 thanks to the film adaptation by Hollywood icon Angelina Jolie.


all the light

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

World War II seems to be a popular topic in 2014. This novel by Anthony Doerr is set in Nazi-occupied France and its primary focus is upon a young, blind French girl and a German boy whose very separate lives eventually cross paths. The blind girl, Marie-Laure, is able to navigate the streets thanks to a wooden scale-model her father has constructed for her.  Meanwhile, in Germany, an orphan boy named Werner uses his uncanny skill with circuitry to repair a radio and listen to messages from France. This skill ultimately gets him sent to a horrible academy for Hitler youth where he is forced to use his talents for the Third Reich. Ultimately, as the years pass, Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths cross in a book nearly as intricately crafted as that scale-model of the city. All the Light We Cannot See was a hit with critics as well as book buyers. The novel was a finalist for the coveted National Book Award.


if i stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

As demonstrated by the smash success of the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, young-adult fiction remains as popular as ever. These works are often even more successful when dramatic struggles between life and death are involved. If I Stay centers on 17-year-old Mia and the aftermath of a disastrous car crash involving her family. In the throes of a coma, Mia travels outside of her body and observes her family and friends gathering at her hospital bed. She ultimately is faced with the choice of returning to her body and living a far more physically challenging life or letting herself drift off into death. This 2009 YA novel rocketed back up the best-seller charts thanks to its film adaptation being released earlier in 2014.


gray mountain

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Along with death and taxes, one of life’s other certainties is that a new John Grisham novel will invariably end up on a best-seller list. Nobody does legal thrillers quite like him. Gray Mountain is set in the year 2008, and protagonist Samantha’s career is on the rise as a Wall Street lawyer. Then the recession hits and she finds herself in a free fall, transported from Manhattan to a volunteer legal-aid gig in Appalachia while clinging to the slim chance she’ll regain her high profile job when the economy bounces back. The small-town locals don’t take too kindly to the new city-slicker lawyer in their midst, and Samantha is soon thrust into the dark side of the coal mining industry, where things can easily turn deadly. Another year, another lucrative hit for John Grisham.

Best Selling Authors of All Time

It’s one thing to write a best-selling novel that makes you the star of a given moment in time, and it’s quite another to routinely churn out book after popular book that captures readers’ collective imagination. Volume certainly plays a factor in our list below. The lowest number of books by a writer on this Best Selling Authors of All Time list is 23, and two others topped 100 for their careers (one exceeding it by a huge margin).

While J.K. Rowling is closing in on the Top 10 all time, the fact that she’s only penned 11 books (wildly popular as the Harry Potter series has become) is for the moment holding her back, though at under 50 years old, she will likely one day climb to near the top. Dr. Seuss managed 44 books during his career, and it landed him within the Top 10, but he doesn’t quite make this list. And since we’re restricting this list to actual books, rather than plays, we’ll rule out the actual all time leader, William Shakespeare. The Bard’s plays and poetry have sold a estimated 4 billion copies worldwide, though he’s had many, many years to do so.

With Shakespeare a given, our list focuses on the other four Best Selling Authors of All Time. The results may surprise you.

agatha christie

Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Christie was a whodunit queen whose name became synonymous with murder mystery throughout the 20th century. Christie wrote 85 books during her lifetime, and they’ve sold somewhere in the ballpark of 4 billion copies. Among her output is the popular Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series. She is officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the all-time best-selling novelist, and trails only Shakespeare and the Bible in total sales. Many of her stories were adapted into films, TV series, and even video games.


barbara carltandBarbara Cartland

Romance novel maven Dame Barbara Cartland makes this list thanks to an uncommonly prolific career. Cartland, who also published under the name Barbara McCorquodale, published 723 novels during her 98-year lifetime. With all her novels featuring portrait-style artwork, Cartland specialized in 18th-century Victorian-era romance stories. Through her impressively vast body of work, she’s managed to rise to #2 on this list by selling in the neighborhood of 1 billion copies of her books.


danielle steelDanielle Steel

Romance clearly sells, as contemporary hot-n-steamy novelist Danielle Steel’s 120 romance novels have sold an estimated 800 million copies. Every single one of her novels has risen to the status of a best-seller and she’s managed to write several books each year since the mid-’70s. While she’s most well known for her romance novels, she’s also penned two children’s book series and a few books of non-fiction.


harold_robbinsHarold Robbins

Harold Robbins managed to make this list in fourth place with only 23 books published during his lifetime, though, since his death, several others have been written by ghostwriters under his name (and based on his notes and incomplete manuscripts). His first novel, Never Love a Stranger (1948), was met with controversy due to its sexual content. He went on to focus mainly on adventure-related novels, always with a healthy dose of intrigue, and his prosperous career led to his books selling upwards of 750 million copies.

Top Selling Books of 2013

Best seller rarely means best book, and once again that’s more or less true for the top selling books of 2013. Best sellers tend to be more commodity than art, but that doesn’t necessarily make them any less entertaining. That’s why or Top Selling Books of 2013 are filled with titles that are provocative, inspirational, or just good, clean fun.

While the titles listed below are the true best sellers according to Nielsen Bookscan, there were a few other top finishers that are worthy of note and that have already been covered elsewhere in our lists. Due to the flashy, Leonardo DiCaprio-acted adaptation of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the same name made the Top 20, and also appeared on our Best Novels of All Time list. Meanwhile, Doctor SleepStephen King’s sequel to The Shininggot a shout out on our Best Stephen King Books list. And as the main title in a series that just won’t go away, Fifty Shades of Grey squeaked into the Top 20, after having already topped our Top Selling Books of 2012 list. 

But enough with the runners-up. Below you’ll find the 5 Bestsellers of 2013, in all their children’s book, fantasy, and religious-tinged glory.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney

Once again, wimpy kid Greg Heffley finds himself stuck in the middle of a streak of bad luck in Jeff Kinney’s 8th installment in this children’s book series. This book centers around Greg’s falling out with chum Rowley over (what else) a girl. As Abigail begins to take up all Rowley’s time, Greg grows increasingly jealous. Greg’s also stuck with a tumultuous situation at home when his Mom’s sisters come to visit and, all in all, he’s forced to continue to deal with the trials and tribulations of growing up and every frustration that coming of age brings.




Inferno by Dan Brown

If you though that The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown was done with his Robert Langdon series (that also includes Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol) than you apparently weren’t accurately deciphering the ancient biblical codes on the cryptex. This time around, Langdon starts his secret society-infused journey with the notable handicap of amnesia caused by a head wound that finds him awakening in a hospital bed. Brown has developed a mystery thriller formula that taps into our desire for intrigue while weaving in religious symbology that captures the imagination of many a Western reader.


killing_jesusKilling Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

There are few public figures both loved and loathed like Bill O’Reilly. The FOX News host has made a history of provocative political statements, and has led the charge on the so-called War on Christmas. His next installment in his Killing series (after Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy) sold a boat load of copies while filtering the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth through his own socially conservative prism. As you can see with this title and several others on the list, books about Christianity sell quite well.




Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander

Dr. Eben Alexander’s book about his own out of body experience when he was in a coma has made the bestseller list primarily due to the fact that he is a neurosurgeon and therefore has unique insight into both the brain’s functioning and his own purported otherwordly experience. Alexander came under some scrutiny in an Esquire exposé that questioned many of his factual assertions in this book as well as his professional ethics, however the tale of his perceived journey outside of his body and into the heavenly realms struck a cord with book buyers en masse.



The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson may not be quite as much of a household name as Harry Potter, but he’s not far off. One of the protagonists in this, the fourth Heroes of Olympus book by Rick Riordan, Percy finds himself alongside Annabeth in a pit that leads straight to the Underworld. The seven demigods must put aside their differences and find a way to seal the Doors of Death, though doing so may prevent Percy and Annabeth from escaping. This fantasy series has yet to achieve the cinematic success of some of its contemporaries, but with book sales like this who knows how close to sun he can fly.

Best Christmas Books

Where would Christmas be without books? Not only has the written word been responsible for relaying the Nativity story through religious texts as well as passing down folklore about old St. Nick and other traditions, but some of the most charming modern Christmas stories are routinely read aloud at family gatherings or otherwise consumed through their many adaptations to the silver screen. But whether it be books, movies, music, or other forms of holiday entertainment, the festive Christmas genre can  also fall prey to over-saturation, and not every book with a jolly old elf, baby Jesus or illuminated reindeer nose on the cover is automatically worth your Yuletide cheer.

But we’ve cobbled together a list of the best of the bunch. Some of these titles weren’t far off from making the Best Children’s Books list, and though it’s not explicitly Christmas, all that snow in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feels festive, but that title already appeared on our Best Roald Dahl Books list. But when it comes to these Best Christmas Books, we’re making a list and checking it twice, ensuring that these are the best holiday reads ever to come to town.

Night_before_christmasSGThe Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

Twas the most obvious pick on this list. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without at least a passing reference to Moore’s classic rhyming story of a close encounter of the jolly kind. But your wondering eyes aren’t the only thing that will be dazzled by this book, which has been drawn by a plethora of illustrators. The Night Before Christmas is best heard read aloud, whether it’s a parent or grandparent, or your own voice passing on the tradition to your own children, nestled all snug in their beds.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickenschristmascarol

Ghosts are usually reserved for that more ghoulish holiday two months prior, but Charles Dickens masterfully made the Christmas spirit into literal apparitions in his classic A Classic Carol. Much like another curmudgeon who appears later in this list, the miserly Scrooge ended up becoming synonymous with greed, yet thankfully for him it wasn’t too late. After he’s visited by three spirits (four if you count his old business partner Jacob Marley, the most frightening of the bunch), old Scrooge sees the error of his ways learns to love his fellow humans. God bless us, every one, indeed.



Scholastic-Nutcrack-Book-CoverThe Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman

You may be less familiar with its full title and more familiar with both its wooden holiday decorations or the ballet that was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s original story, but Christmas simply wouldn’t be the same without The Nutcracker. The creatures are definitely stirring in this Christmas Eve house, and it’s not just a mouse. A whimsical battle between mice and dolls, The Nutcracker is simply too wonderful and unique to be missed.



How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

Perhaps the best loved of all of Dr. Seuss’ innovatively worded picture books, the tale of how that titular green fuzzball ended up pillaging the town of Whoville of all their Christmas decorations only to have his minuscule heart grow three sizes is an enduring holiday classic. Dr. Seuss had such an infectious knack for inventing words and utilizing catchy wordplay that this book simply begs to be read out loud to the wee ones when they’re gathered around their Christmas stockings as chestnuts roast on the open fire. Pass the Who pudding and Roast Beast.



Best Romance Novels

Romance novels often get a bad rap. While there’s plenty of trash fiction out there aimed at appealing to the readers’ more prurient desires rather than their literary enlightenment (just take a look at the sales figures for the Fifty Shades of Grey series), romance and literary value are anything but mutually exclusive. After all, love is one of the most profound of human emotions, and romantic love is one of the most whimsical and volatile. As the saying goes, all’s fair in love and war, making fictional romance one of the genres most rife for tension, conflict, climax, and satisfying resolution.

There’s a handful of best romance novel contenders that you won’t find on this list because we’ve already featured them elsewhere. William Goldman’s dynamic novel The Princess Bride could easily make it to elite status in many genres, and it’s certainly one of the best romance novels, but it’s already been featured on our Best Fantasy Novels list. Meanwhile, the social convention-challenging Annie on my Mind is romantically-charged, it appeared on our list of the Most Controversial Books. And while it’s not one of the best, but rather one of the more popular, the previously mentioned Fifty Shades trilogy was a Top Selling Book of 2012. But below you’ll find four of the truly best romance novels ever written.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Unlike many contemporary trashy romance novels that tend to contain elements of misogyny or at least stereotype, Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre follows its strong-willed eponymous protagonist as she empowers herself from her challenging early years, comes of age and dedicates herself to her profession and personal principles, and ultimately falls in love with the gruff and aloof Mr. Rochester, who carries with him a dark secret. The pair overcome physical and emotional obstacles to eventually find their way back to each other in this all-time great.




The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The science fiction convention of time travel is used as a metaphor for the challenges of romantic relationships in Audrey Niffenegger’s dazzling debut novel. As a man struggles with a genetic disorder that forces him to travel through time unpredictably (and to often find himself in perilous situations), the book focuses on the love affair he enjoys with a wife whom he knows from many different eras. Dealing with issues of love, loss and the concept of free will, The Time Traveler’s Wife makes for a transcendent tale of timeless love.



gone with the wind Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Amazingly, the all-time classic Gone with the Wind was the only novel Margaret Mitchell published during her lifetime. While the tumultuous love/hate relationship between the difficult Scarlett O’Hara and the roguish Rhett Butler constitute the crux of the book, Scarlett engages in many romances, being widowed twice before she eventually enters a volatile relationship with the hot-tempered and alcohol-swilling Rhett. A tale of wartime passion, jealousy, and violent love, Gone with the Wind continues to endure as one of the best romance books ever.




Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Written as part of National Novel Writing Month, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants is a historical novel that tells the story of a lasting love that overcomes abusive circus folk. When former veterinary student Jacob learns of his parents’ tragic death in a car accident he drops out of school and joins the circus, meeting the love of his life, Marlena, who is married to a violent brute and head trainer who abuses the animals as well as his employees. Jacob and Marlena overcome threats and violence to pursue their love and achieve the happiness together that they both deserve.

Top Selling Books 2012

It’s no surprise that lists of bestsellers for a given year don’t always overlap with that year’s most critically acclaimed books. That was the case with 2012 as well. For the most part, the top-tiered sellers come from book series, with multiple titles from the same series selling more than all other books (including e-books).

Then again, that’s not to say that quality reads go unnoticed. Gillian Flynn’s fantastic Gone Girl would otherwise be in this Top 5, but we’ve already covered that one in our Best Books of 2012 list. A few honorable mentions for top selling books, though they didn’t quite make it to the summit, also include books from popular series, and not necessarily newer ones. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, and George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones all made it into the Top 20 (A Game of Thrones was also featured in our Best Fantasy Novels list). But they couldn’t top the following top selling books of 2012.

fifty-shades-of-greyFifty Shades Trilogy  by E. L. James

With its first book first published in 2011, the Fifty Shades trilogy took 2012 by storm as well, as the three books in the series took three of the top four bestseller slots. This erotic romance trilogy centers on the increasingly passionate relationship of a recent college graduate and a young business magnate, and has been so wildly successful that it has spawned a plethora of parodies and copycats. All told, this at times violently sexual book has sold over 70 million copies worldwide, with much of that taking place in 2012 alone, and will likely continue to pique prurient interests through the next few years as well.



The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

For the second year in a row, The Hunger Games was the second best-selling book. Its second and third books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, also made the top 10, making this series the second bestselling trilogy of 2012. Taking place in the dystopian landscape of Panem (where North America once existed), these books are written in the voice of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who is picked as on of the young people who must compete in a televised battle to the death for the amusement of The Capitol. Given that the first book was adapted into a blockbuster movie with two more on the way, this trilogy should pop up on bestseller lists for years to come.


Wimpy_Kid_7_ArtDiary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

Yet another successful series over the years has been Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which in 2012 saw the release of its seventh installment. In this go-round, our middle-school narrator Greg talks about his earliest moments, even before he was born. He explains his mother’s failed attempts to make him smarter in utero, and ultimately goes on to detail his humble origins sleeping in a dresser drawer and wearing nothing but hand-me-downs from his older brother. This wisecracking narrator has also made it into three movie adaptations, further heightening the popularity of the book series.



The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks may not write series of books, but he routinely churns out primarily romantic novels that end up as movies or at least bestselling books. The Lucky One was published by Sparks in 2008, but thanks to a 2012 film adaptation starring Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling, his novel once again made waves as a top selling book. Like much of Sparks’ work, this book deals with starcrossed fate, with the lovers at its core again experiencing the impact of destiny upon their interpersonal relationships. Sparks’ novels may not have the sizzle of Fifty Shades, but his stories’ focus on romance continue to move his books like the proverbial hot cakes.


no easy dayNo Easy Day by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer

With erotic, romance, science-fiction and children’s books otherwise dominating the bestseller list, one memoir managed to rise to the top tier of bestseller charts, and it’s a doozy. Written by “Mark Owen,” a pseudonym for a member of the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, the book both details the author’s formative years and his desire to become as SEAL, his early years of military service, and eventually delves into details of the mission. A tremendous insight into one of the most successful military operations in recent memory.

Most Controversial Books of all time

Stories have always possessed a nearly unrivaled power to inspire and motivate. Throughout history, they’ve also tended to rile up less productive emotions in some people. Sometimes the very lives of the storytellers have been jeopardized, other times books have been burned. More often in recent decades, outraged groups have tried to silence controversial opinions or stifle free speech through efforts to ban books outright or remove them from school shelves. Something about the written word simply strikes a chord with people, for good or ill.

We’ve compiled a list of the most controversial books in history. All met controversy for different reasons, from graphic violence or sexual content to commentary on religion. There are certainly a few others that didn’t make this list simply because they’ve been featured elsewhere on this site. Due to its first-person pedophile narrator, Lolita belongs on any controversial books list but already made it onto our Best Books of All Time. Meanwhile, 1984 was once controversial for what was viewed as an anti-capitalist agenda, and Brave New World and Slaughterhouse-Five were both banned by schools for sexual content and/or language, but all three of those titles appeared on our Best Novels list. Even a recently expanded edition of Anne Frank’s diary was met with outrage by parents who disapproved of the young girl’s detailed description of her own adolescent anatomy, but that book made our Best History Books list. But no matter, because the five books on our list are the most controversial of the them all.


caged bird


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)  

Maya Angelou’s autobiographical account of her formative years details a triumph over trauma and racism in gorgeously rendered prose. Yet, in the years following its release, the book became highly controversial with parents for its frank details of violence and sex (including Angelou’s rape at age 8, an event that permeates the entire book) as well as for homosexual and premarital cohabitation elements, and some objections to how religion is framed within the book. The book was removed from many schools as a result, which is unfortunate because this triumphant work is truly a marvel of American literature.


anarchist cookbookThe Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell (1971)

Written as an act of protest during the Vietnam War, William Powell’s controversial book details how to build explosive devices and methods for intercepting or disrupting telecommunications. As recently as 2007, someone was wrongly arrested on suspicion of terrorism specifically for having this book (among other things) in his possession. The author himself underwent a religious conversion and has made numerous efforts to get the book pulled from circulation, but the most recent edition was printed in 2012.


annie on my mind

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (1982)

Today, society has progressed to a point where fear and hate about people of other sexual orientations is largely considered unacceptable. But in 1982, Nancy Garden’s novel about two high school girls from different socio-economic backgrounds who strike up a relationship based on similar interests and goals was highly controversial. Their relationship is ultimately found out and controversy for the book’s narrator (who attends a private school and is student body president) leads to a falling out between the two girls. The state of Kansas made headlines in 1993 for objections to the book in school libraries, which led to book burnings during protests.




The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988)

No other book on this list led more directly to physical danger for its author than Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Rushdie’s magic realism book that drew its title a controversial section of the Qu’ran left out led to the book being banned in India and to book burnings in the United Kingdom. But most frighteningly, in 1989 (after a violent riot against the book in Pakistan) Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for Rushdie to be killed on sight. This led to Rushdie living in hiding for nearly a decade out of a very justified fear for his life.


American Psycho

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

Ellis’ most famous book, American Psycho met with controversy in 1991 (and in the years following) due to its extremely graphic violent and sexual content. Its original publisher, Simon & Schuster backed out prior to its original release. When Vintage released it in paperback (the book never saw a hardcover release until 2012), Ellis received hate mail and death threats. The extreme violence, especially against women (though arguably occurring primarily within the narrator Patrick Bateman’s mind), caused the book to be age-restricted or banned in my countries.