Late 19th / Early 20th Century Bestsellers

So. Here are the ten bestselling fiction books in America for the years 1900-1923. This list is adapted from Project Gutenberg’s American Bestsellers bookshelf, Wikipedia’s 1890s Bestsellers article, and Michael Korda’s Making the List: a cutural history of the American bestseller, 1900-1999 (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2001), a book I kind of hated.

Here’s how it works: If I’ve posted on a book, the link leads you to my review. If I haven’t, it leads you to Project Gutenberg, or, if PG hasn’t got it, to Google Books. Links in the author’s names go to the Redeeming Qualities tag for that author. This heart (♥) means I particularly love something. This flower (❀) is an easier way to see at a glance whether I’ve written a post on a particular book. This little radioactive sign (☢) means I found something actively unpleasant.


  1. Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush. Ian Maclaren
  2. Trilby. George du Maurier ❀ ♥
  3. The Adventures of Captain Horn. Frank R. Stockton
  4. The Manxman. Hall Caine
  5. The Princess Aline. Richard Harding Davis
  6. The Days of Auld Lang Syne. Ian Maclaren
  7. The Master. Israel Zangwill
  8. The Prisoner of Zenda. Anthony Hope ♥
  9. Degeneration. Max Nordau
  10. My Lady Nobody. Maarten Maartens


  1. Tom Grogan. Francis Hopkinson Smith
  2. A Lady of Quality. Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. The Seats of the Mighty. Gilbert Parker
  4. A Singular Life. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward
  5. The Damnation of Theron Ware. Harold Frederic
  6. A House-Boat on the Styx. John Kendrick Bangs
  7. Kate Carnegie. Ian Maclaren
  8. The Red Badge of Courage. Stephen Crane
  9. Sentimental Tommy. J. M. Barrie
  10. Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush. Ian Maclaren


  1. Quo Vadis. Henryk Sienkiewicz
  2. The Choir Invisible. James Lane Allen
  3. Soldiers of Fortune. Richard Harding Davis
  4. On the Face of the Waters. Flora Annie Steel
  5. Phroso. Anthony Hope
  6. The Christian. Hall Caine
  7. Margaret Ogilvy. J. M. Barrie
  8. Sentimental Tommy. J. M. Barrie
  9. Pursuit of the House-Boat. John Kendrick Bangs
  10. The Honorable Peter Stirling. Paul Leicester Ford


  1. Caleb West. Francis Hopkinson Smith
  2. Hugh Wynne. Silas Weir Mitchell
  3. Penelope’s Progress. Kate Douglas Wiggin
  4. Helbeck of Bannisdale vol. I / vol. II. Mary Augusta Ward
  5. Quo Vadis. Henryk Sienkiewicz
  6. The Pride of Jennico. Egerton Castle
  7. The Day’s Work. Rudyard Kipling
  8. Shrewsbury. Stanley J. Weyman
  9. Simon Dale. Anthony Hope
  10. The Adventures of François. Silas Weir Mitchell / The Battle of the Strong. Gilbert Parker


  1. David Harum. Edward Noyes Westcott
  2. When Knighthood Was in Flower. Charles Major ❀ ☢
  3. Richard Carvel. Winston Churchill
  4. The Day’s Work. Rudyard Kipling
  5. Red Rock. Thomas Nelson Page
  6. Aylwin. Theodore Watts-Dunton
  7. Janice Meredith. Paul Leicester Ford
  8. Mr. Dooley in Peace and War. Finley Peter Dunne
  9. No. 5 John Street. Richard Whiteing
  10. The Market Place. Harold Frederic


  1. To Have and To Hold. Mary Johnston ❀ ♥
  2. Red Pottage. Mary Cholmondeley
  3. Unleavened Bread.  Robert Grant
  4. The Reign of Law. James Lane Allen
  5. Eben Holden. Irving Bacheller
  6. Janice Meredith. Paul Leicester Ford
  7. The Redemption of David Corson. Charles Frederic Goss
  8. Richard Carvel. Winston Churchill
  9. When Knighthood Was in Flower. Charles Major ❀ ☢
  10. Alice of Old Vincennes. Maurice Thompson


  1. The Crisis. Winston Churchill
  2. Alice of Old Vincennes. Maurice Thompson
  3. The Helmet of Navarre. Bertha Runkle
  4. The Right of Way. Gilbert Parker.
  5. Eben Holden. Irving Bacheller
  6. The Visits of Elizabeth. Elinor Glyn ❀ ♥
  7. The Puppet Crown. Harold MacGrath
  8. Richard Yea-and-Nay. Maurice Hewlett
  9. Graustark. George Barr McCutcheon ❀ ☢
  10. D’ri and I. Irving Bacheller


  1. The Virginian. Owen Wister ❀ ♥
  2. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice
  3. Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall. Charles Major
  4. The Mississippi Bubble. Emerson Hough
  5. Audrey. Mary Johnston
  6. The Right of Way. Gilbert Parker
  7. The Hound of the Baskervilles. A. Conan Doyle
  8. The Two Vanrevels. Booth Tarkington
  9. The Blue Flower. Henry van Dyke
  10. Sir Richard Calmady. Lucas Malet


  1. Lady Rose’s Daughter. Mrs. Humphrey Ward
  2. Gordon Keith. Thomas Nelson Page
  3. The Pit. Frank Norris
  4. Lovey Mary. Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice
  5. The Virginian. Owen Wister ❀ ♥
  6. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice
  7. The Mettle of the Pasture. James Lane Allen
  8. Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son. George Horace Lorimer
  9. The One Woman. Thomas Dixon Jr.
  10. The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. John Fox Jr.


  1. The Crossing. Winston Churchill
  2. The Deliverance. Ellen Glasgow
  3. The Masquerader. Katherine Cecil Thurston
  4. In The Bishop’s Carriage. Miriam Michelson ❀ ♥
  5. Sir Mortimer. Mary Johnston
  6. Beverly of Graustark. George Barr McCutcheon
  7. The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. John Fox Jr.
  8. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Kate Douglas Wiggin
  9. My Friend Prospero. Henry Harland
  10. The Silent Places. Stewart Edward White


  1. The Marriage of William Ashe. Mary Augusta Ward
  2. Sandy. Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice
  3. The Garden of Allah. Robert Hichens
  4. The Clansman. Thomas Dixon Jr.
  5. Nedra. George Barr McCutcheon
  6. The Gambler. Katherine Cecil Thurston
  7. The Masquerader. Anonymous (Katherine Cecil Thurston)
  8. The House of Mirth. Edith Wharton ☢
  9. The Princess Passes. C. N. and A. M. Williamson
  10. Rose o’ the River. Kate Douglas Wiggin


  1. Coniston. Winston Churchill
  2. Lady Baltimore. Owen Wister
  3. The Fighting Chance. Robert W. Chambers
  4. The House of a Thousand Candles. Meredith Nicholson
  5. Jane Cable. George Barr McCutcheon
  6. The Jungle. Upton Sinclair
  7. The Awakening of Helena Richie. Margaret Deland
  8. The Spoilers. Rex Beach
  9. The House of Mirth. Edith Wharton ☢
  10. The Wheel of Life. Ellen Glasgow


  1. The Lady of the Decoration. Frances Little
  2. The Weavers. Gilbert Parker
  3. The Port of Missing Men. Meredith Nicholson
  4. The Shuttle. Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. The Brass Bowl. Louis Joseph Vance
  6. Satan Sanderson. Hallie Erminie Rives
  7. The Daughter of Anderson Crow. George Barr McCutcheon
  8. The Younger Set. Robert W. Chambers
  9. The Doctor. Ralph Connor
  10. Half a Rogue. Harold MacGrath


  1. Mr. Crewe’s Career. Winston Churchill
  2. The Barrier. Rex Beach
  3. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. John Fox Jr.
  4. The Lure of the Mask. Harold MacGrath ☢
  5. The Shuttle. Frances Hodgson Burnett
  6. Peter. F. Hopkinson Smith
  7. Lewis Rand. Mary Johnston
  8. The Black Bag. Louis Joseph Vance
  9. The Man from Brodney’s. George Barr McCutcheon
  10. The Weavers. Gilbert Parker


  1. The Inner Shrine. Anonymous (Basil King)
  2. Katrine. Elinor Macartney Lane
  3. The Silver Horde. Rex Beach
  4. The Man in Lower Ten. Mary Roberts Rinehart ❀ ♥
  5. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. John Fox Jr.
  6. Truxton King. George Barr McCutcheon
  7. 54-40 or Fight. Emerson Hough
  8. The Goose Girl. Harold MacGrath
  9. Peter. F. Hopkinson Smith
  10. Septimus. William J. Locke


  1. The Rosary. Florence Barclay
  2. A Modern Chronicle. Winston Churchill
  3. The Wild Olive. Basil King
  4. Max. Katherine Cecil Thurston
  5. The Kingdom of Slender Swords. Hallie Erminie Rives
  6. Simon the Jester. William J. Locke
  7. Lord Loveland Discovers America. C. N. and A. M. Williamson
  8. The Window at the White Cat. Mary Roberts Rinehart
  9. Molly Make-Believe. Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
  10. When a Man Marries. Mary Roberts Rinehart ❀ ♥


  1. The Broad Highway. Jeffery Farnol
  2. The Prodigal Judge. Vaughan Kester
  3. The Winning of Barbara Worth. Harold Bell Wright
  4. Queed. Henry Sydnor Harrison ❀
  5. The Harvester. Gene Stratton Porter
  6. The Iron Woman. Margaret Deland
  7. The Long Roll. Mary Johnston
  8. Molly Make-Believe. Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
  9. The Rosary. Florence Barclay
  10. The Common Law. Robert W. Chambers


  1. The Harvester. Gene Stratton Porter
  2. The Street Called Straight. Basil King
  3. Their Yesterdays. Harold Bell Wright
  4. The Melting of Molly. Maria Thompson Daviess
  5. A Hoosier Chronicle. Meredith Nicholson
  6. The Winning of Barbara Worth. Harold Bell Wright
  7. The Just and the Unjust. Vaughan Kester
  8. The Net. Rex Beach
  9. Tante. Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  10. Fran. J. Breckenridge Ellis


  1. The Inside of the Cup. Winston Churchill
  2. V. V.’s Eyes. Henry Sydnor Harrison
  3. Laddie. Gene Stratton Porter
  4. The Judgment House. Sir Gilbert Parker
  5. Heart of the Hills. John Fox Jr.
  6. The Amateur Gentleman. Jeffery Farnol
  7. The Woman Thou Gavest Me. Hall Caine
  8. Pollyanna. Eleanor H. Porter ❀ ♥
  9. The Valiants of Virginia. Hallie Erminie Rives
  10. T. Tembarom. Frances Hodgson Burnett


  1. The Eyes of the World. Harold Bell Wright ☢
  2. Pollyanna. Eleanor H. Porter ❀ ♥
  3. The Inside of the Cup. Winston Churchill
  4. The Salamander. Owen Johnson
  5. The Fortunate Youth. William J. Locke
  6. T. Tembarom. Frances Hodgson Burnett
  7. Penrod. Booth Tarkington
  8. Diane of the Green Van. Leona Dalrymple
  9. The Devil’s Garden. W. B. Maxwell
  10. The Prince of Graustark. George Barr McCutcheon


  1. The Turmoil. Booth Tarkington
  2. A Far Country. Winston Churchill
  3. Michael O’Halloran. Gene Stratton Porter
  4. Pollyanna Grows Up. Eleanor H. Porter
  5. K. Mary Roberts Rinehart ❀ ♥
  6. Jaffery. William J. Locke
  7. Felix O’Day. F. Hopkinson Smith
  8. The Harbor. Ernest Poole
  9. The Lone Star Ranger. Zane Grey
  10. Angela’s Business. Henry Sydnor Harrison


  1. Seventeen. Booth Tarkington
  2. When a Man’s a Man. Harold Bell Wright
  3. Just David. Eleanor H. Porter
  4. Mr. Britling Sees It Through. H. G. Wells
  5. Life and Gabriella. Ellen Glasgow
  6. The Real Adventure. Henry Kitchell Webster
  7. The Bars of Iron. Ethel M. Dell
  8. Nan of Music Mountain. Frank H. Spearman
  9. Dear Enemy. Jean Webster ❀ ♥
  10. The Heart of Rachael. Kathleen Norris


  1. Mr. Britling Sees It Through. H. G. Wells
  2. The Light in the Clearing. Irving Bacheller
  3. The Red Planet. William J. Locke
  4. The Road to Understanding. Eleanor H. Porter
  5. Wildfire. Zane Grey
  6. Christine. Alice Cholmondeley (Elizabeth von Arnim)
  7. In the Wilderness. Robert S. Hichens
  8. His Family. Ernest Poole
  9. The Definite Object. Jeffery Farnol
  10. The Hundredth Chance. Ethel M. Dell


  1. The U. P. Trail. Zane Grey
  2. The Tree of Heaven. May Sinclair
  3. The Amazing Interlude. Mary Roberts Rinehart ❀ ♥
  4. Dere Mable. Edward Streeter
  5. Oh, Money! Money!. Eleanor H. Porter
  6. Greatheart. Ethel M. Dell
  7. The Major. Ralph Connor
  8. The Pawns Count. E. Phillips Oppenheim
  9. A Daughter of the Land. Gene Stratton Porter
  10. Sonia. Stephen McKenna


  1. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. V. Blasco Ibañez
  2. The Arrow of Gold. Joseph Conrad
  3. The Desert of Wheat. Zane Grey
  4. Dangerous Days. Mary Roberts Rinehart
  5. The Sky Pilot in No Man’s Land. Ralph Connor
  6. The Re-Creation of Brian Kent. Harold Bell Wright
  7. Dawn. Gene Stratton Porter
  8. The Tin Soldier. Temple Bailey
  9. Christopher and Columbus. Elizabeth von Arnim
  10. In Secret. Robert W. Chambers


  1. The Man of the Forest. Zane Grey
  2. Kindred of the Dust. Peter B. Kyne
  3. The Re-Creation of Brian Kent. Harold Bell Wright
  4. The River’s End. James Oliver Curwood
  5. A Man for the Ages. Irving Bacheller
  6. Mary-Marie. Eleanor H. Porter
  7. The Portygee. Joseph C. Lincoln
  8. The Great Impersonation. E. Phillips Oppenheim ❀♥
  9. The Lamp in the Desert. Ethel M. Dell
  10. Harriet and the Piper. Kathleen Norris


  1. Main Street. Sinclair Lewis
  2. The Brimming Cup. Dorothy Canfield
  3. The Mysterious Rider. Zane Grey
  4. The Age of Innocence. Edith Wharton
  5. The Valley of Silent Men. James Oliver Curwood
  6. The Sheik. E.M. Hull ☢ ❀
  7. A Poor Wise Man. Mary Roberts Rinehart
  8. Her Father’s Daughter. Gene Stratton Porter
  9. The Sisters-in-Law. Gertrude Atherton
  10. The Kingdom Round the Corner. Coningsby Dawson


  1. If Winter Comes. A.S.M. Hutchinson
  2. The Sheik. E.M. Hull ☢ ❀
  3. Gentle Julia. Booth Tarkington
  4. The Head of the House of Coombe. Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. Simon Called Peter. Robert Keable
  6. The Breaking Point. Mary Roberts Rinehart
  7. This Freedom. A.S.M. Hutchinson
  8. Maria Chapdelaine. Louis Hémon
  9. To the Last Man. Zane Grey
  10. Babbitt. Sinclair Lewis / Helen of the Old House. Harold Bell Wright


  1. This is an amazing stash! Thank you so much – what a resource to find….

  2. 1895-99 lists are now up at wikipedia — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publishers_Weekly_list_of_bestselling_novels_in_the_United_States_in_the_1890s

    • Very cool — thanks for letting me know!

  3. Oh, I LOVE this! I like to make my characters read :) It’s funny how few authors are remembered today. All writers want to be “famous” but it’s so fleeting.

    • Yeah, looking at “classics” from a specific time period often doesn’t tell you a lot about what people were really reading, and things people thought were going to be classics often end up completely forgotten.

      • Thats a cool way to think about it.

  4. Surprised not to see The Call of the Wild, published in 1903. It was a huge bestseller and is still read today, whereas most of the books from that year have long been forgotten.

    • Obviously it didn’t sell as well at the time as these other books. Book sales in the year something was released rarely have anything to do with the book’s staying power.

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