May 25, 2022

NPD Reports “Fifty Shades of Grey” Was the Best-Selling Book of the Decade in the U.S.

From NPD:

The best-selling book of the past decade in the United States was “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E.L. James, which sold 15.2 million copies from 2010 through 2019. In fact, the series holds the top three positions on the decade’s top-ten ranking list, with nearly 35 million print and e-book sales, according to global information company The NPD Group.  Many of the recent decade’s top-selling books, including these leaders, were tied to movie adaptations, which is a testament to the marketing power Hollywood brings to book sales.

When comparing the top 10 adult books each year throughout the past decade, more non-fiction titles topped the NPD Bookscan charts in the second half of the decade than in the first half. In 2010, nearly 80 percent of the top-selling titles were fiction, and by 2019 that percentage dropped to 32 percent. “This consumer push for informational titles over fiction was reflected in larger non-fiction trends in the second half of the decade—such as the rise in cookbooks, self-help, and politics—which pushed more non-fiction titles into the top ten list,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst, NPD Bookscan.

Overall 6.5 billion print books were sold over the past decade, compared to just 1.8 billion e-books. “At the start of the decade, digital e-books were expected to decimate print book sales,” McLean said. “However, print books have remained surprisingly resilient. After a high point in 2013, e-books have continuously lost share to print books every year. Looking ahead, the growth in audiobooks is another trend expected to continue well into the next decade, as people shift some of their reading to listening on smart devices.”

Another effect of the advent of smartphones and tablets has been a downward trend in the average page count for leading titles over the past decade. “We ultimately consumed media much differently at the end of the decade than we did at the start,” McLean said. “More forms of media entertainment are now competing for our attention. As a result, the print books we’re reading are shorter, because there are more demands on consumers’ free time, as they stream more video and listen to more podcasts and audiobooks.”

The growth in poetry and self-help categories in the latter half of the decade also shortened the average page count.  Leading poetry collections like “Milk and Honey”—along with popular self-help titles like “Girl, Wash Your Face” and “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”—are comparatively short. Each one coming in at under 250 pages.

Unit Sales
Fifty Shades of Grey
E. L. James
Random House
15.2 million
Fifty Shades Darker
E. L. James
Random House
10.4 million
Fifty Shades Freed
E. L. James
Random House
9.3 million
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Books
8.7 million
The Help
Kathryn Stockett
Penguin Group USA
8.7 million
The Girl on The Train
Paula Hawkins
Penguin Group USA
8.2 million
Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Random House
8.1 million
The Fault in Our Stars
John Green,
Penguin Group
8 million
The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson
Random House
7.9 million
Veronica Roth
Harpercollins Publishers
6.6 million
Source: The NPD Group / NPD Bookscan, NPD PubTrack Digital, includes U.S. print book and e-book sales, 2010-2019.

See Also: Top 10 Selling Books – November 2019 (via NPD Bookscan)

See Also: Sales of U.S. Constitution Reach All-Time High, The NPD Group Says

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.