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The Best Selling Novels of the 1940s

Updated June 14, 2019 38.1k views84 items
Editor's Note: Voting has been closed.
A list of the best selling novels in the US during the 1940's as reported by Publishers Weekly. This list ranges from 1940 through 1949. All types of novels have been included and each of them has made it into the top ten. With the introduction of the Nook, Kindle, and iPad with iBooks, reading is hot again. The best selling novels on this list were the most popular books in the United States during the 40's, so you can be sure they're well written and enjoyable (depending, of course, on your preferred literary genre). This list is intended to help long-time readers and newcomers alike with discovering (and rediscovering) some of the best selling novels of all time.
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  • 1

    A Bell for Adano

    John Hersey

    First Published1944

    Genres (Book)War novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Year in the Top Ten: 1944
    A Bell for Adano is a 1944 novel by John Hersey, the winner of the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel. It tells the story of an Italian-American officer in Sicily during World War II who wins the...  more
  • 2
    Year in the Top Ten: 1945
  • 3

    A Rage to Live

    John O'Hara

    First Published1949

    Year in the Top Ten: 1949
    A Rage to Live is a novel by John O'Hara....
  • 4

    First Published1943

    SubjectsLiterary, Classics

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Years in the Top Ten: 1943, 1944
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a 1943 novel written by Betty Smith. The story focuses on an impoverished but aspirational third-generation Irish-American adolescent girl and her family in Williamsburg,...  more
  • 5
    Year in the Top Ten: 1942
    And Now Tomorrow is a 1944 film based on the best-selling novel, published in 1942 by Rachel Field, directed by Irving Pichel and written by Raymond Chandler. Both center around one doctor's attempt...  more
  • 6

    Arch of Triumph

    Erich Maria Remarque

    First Published1945

    Genres (Book)War novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language, German Language

    Year in the Top Ten: 1946
    Arch of Triumph is a 1945 novel by Erich Maria Remarque about stateless refugees in Paris before World War II. It was his second worldwide bestseller after All Quiet on the Western Front, written...  more
  • 7

    B.F.'s daughter

    John P. Marquand
    Year in the Top Ten: 1946
  • 8

    Captain from Castile

    Samuel Shellabarger
    Year in the Top Ten: 1945
  • 9

    Cass Timberlane

    Sinclair Lewis
    Year in the Top Ten: 1945
  • 10

    Cutlass empire

    F. Van Wyck Mason
    Year in the Top Ten: 1949
  • 11

    Dinner at Antoine's

    Frances Parkinson Keyes

    SubjectsPopular literature

    Years in the Top Ten: 1948, 1949
  • 12

    Dragon Seed

    Pearl S. Buck

    First Published1942

    SubjectsChina, Literary, Literature, Linguistics, Classics

    Genres (Book)Children's literature, Fiction, Novel, Historical novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Year in the Top Ten: 1942
    Dragon seed is a book written by Pearl S. Buck....  more
  • 13
    Year in the Top Ten: 1942
  • 14

    Earth and High Heaven

    Gwethalyn Graham

    First Published1944

    SubjectsClassics

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Year in the Top Ten: 1945
    Earth and High Heaven was a 1944 novel by Gwethalyn Graham. It was the first Canadian novel to reach number one on The New York Times bestseller list and stayed on the list for 37 weeks, selling 125...  more
  • 15

    East Side, West Side

    Lawrence Ritter
    Year in the Top Ten: 1947
    East Side, West Side: Tales of New York Sporting Life 1910–1960 is a sports book written by Lawrence S. Ritter and published in 1998. It is a Total Sports production and was distributed by Andrews...  more
  • 16

    Father of the bride

    Edward Streeter

    First Published1949

    SubjectsFathers and Daughters

    Year in the Top Ten: 1949
    Father of the Bride is a novel written by Edward Streeter....  more
  • 17

    For Whom the Bell Tolls

    Ernest Hemingway

    First Published1940-10-21

    SubjectsLiterature, Classics, Spanish Civil War, Military, Erotica

    Genres (Book)War novel, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Years in the Top Ten: 1940, 1941
    For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel by Ernest Hemingway published in 1940. It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a republican guerrilla unit...  more
  • 18

    Forever Amber

    Kathleen Winsor

    First Published1944

    SubjectsWomen, History, England, Great Britain

    Genres (Book)Romance novel, Fiction

    Years in the Top Ten: 1944, 1945
    Forever Amber is a romance novel by Kathleen Winsor set in 17th-century England. It was made into a film in 1947 by 20th Century Fox....  more
  • 19

    Gentleman's Agreement

    Laura Z. Hobson

    First Published1947

    SubjectsAntisemitism

    Year in the Top Ten: 1947
    Gentleman's Agreement is a 1947 novel by Laura Z. Hobson which explored the problem of anti-Semitism in the United States, what The New York Times called, in a contemporary review, "a story of the...  more
  • 20
    Year in the Top Ten: 1944
  • 21
    Year in the Top Ten: 1941
  • 22
    Year in the Top Ten: 1949
  • 23

    House Divided

    Ben Ames Williams

    First Published1947

    Year in the Top Ten: 1947
  • 24

    How Green Was My Valley

    Richard Llewellyn

    First Published1939

    SubjectsWales, Drama, History

    Genres (Book)Drama, Historical fiction, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Year in the Top Ten: 1940
    How Green Was My Valley is a 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn, narrated by Huw, the main character, about his Welsh family and the mining community in which they live. The author had claimed that he...  more
  • 25

    Hungry Hill

    Daphne du Maurier

    First Published1943

    Genres (Book)Historical novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Year in the Top Ten: 1943
    Hungry Hill is a novel by prolific British author Daphne du Maurier, published in 1943. It was her seventh novel. There have been 33 editions of the book printed. This family saga is based on the...  more