Word Counts of the Most Popular Books in the World

If you’re a big reader then you’ve probably read a mixture of very short and very long books in your lifetime. And you’ve probably wondered how long some of your favourite stories are. But because time sometimes slows down or speeds up when we’re engrossed in a good story, it’s very hard to compare the length of different stories by reflecting on our experiences. The number of pages also doesn’t help much, as publishers use different typefaces, page sizes, font sizes, etc. The ultimate measure of a story’s size is its wordcount, however, so the literary geeks here at Foster Grant have put together a list of many of the most popular books and short stories in history for you. Make sure you take a look at our range of reading glasses if you need a little help reading your next book!

What’s the Difference Between a Novel, a Novella, and a Short Story?

First off, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between a novel and a novella, a short story and a piece of flash fiction.

  • Flash fiction is anything from 100 to 500 words
  • A short story is usually anything from 1,000 to 8,000 words, but many are often longer
  • A novella is usually between 20,000 and 50,000 words
  • The average novel is usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words
  • An epic novel is anything over 110,000 words


Word Counts in Different Genres

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to what word count a novel in a particular genre should be. However, there are averages and rough word counts expected by publishers. Of course, figures differ depending on which publisher you ask, so the following figures are merely approximations derived from various sources.

  • Crime – 90,000 to 100,000 words
  • Thrillers – 70,000 to 90,000 words
  • Literary – 80,000 to 110,000 words
  • Romance – 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Fantasy – 90,000 to 110,000 words
  • Horror – 80,000 to 100,000 words
  • Science – 90,000 to 125,000 words
  • Historical – 100,000 to 120,000 words


Literary Fiction

Literary fiction is a slightly difficult genre to define sometimes, as it tends to contain a mixture of all genres. One thing that seems to connect all books considered ‘literary’ is that they are all considered to be intelligently written. However, there are intelligent books in all genres, so literary fiction is really just the upper echelons of books considered ‘good’ by revered critics and academics.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – 100,388 words
  • Gullivers Travels, Jonathan Swift – 107,349 words
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte – 107,945 words
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain – 109,571 words
  • As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner – 56,695 words
  • Lord of the Flies, William Golding – 59,900 words
  • Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Wolf – 63,422 words
  • Black Beauty, Anna Sewell – 59,635 words
  • The Colour Purple, Alice Walker – 66,556 words
  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson – 66,950 words
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway – 67,707 words
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde – 78,462 words


Epic Literary Fiction Novels

Epic novels are works of fiction that are 110,000 words or over.

  • Ulysses, James Joyce – 265,222 words
  • Bleak House, Charles Dickens – 360,947 words
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens – 183,349 words
  • Les Miserables, Victor Hugo – 530,982 words
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy – 561,304 words
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy – 349,736 words
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell – 418,053 words
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville – 206,052 words
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway – 174,106 words
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden – 186,418 words
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë – 183,858 words
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller – 174,269 words
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – 126,194 words
  • Atonement, Ian McEwan – 123,378 words
  • Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry – 365,712 words
  • Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand – 561,996 words
  • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky – 211,591 words
  • The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck – 169,481 words
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 144,523 words


Fantasy Books

Fantasy readers usually expect all their books to be epic. So, most of the famous fantasy novels are over 110,000 words – although there are a few exceptions…

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke – 308,931 words
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman – 183,222 words
  • The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett – 65,113 words
  • Eragon, Christopher Paolini – 157,000 words

Word counts of the books in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series:

  • A Wizard of Earthsea – 56,533 words
  • The Tombs of Atuan – 45,939 words
  • The Farthest Shore – 60,591 words
  • Tehanu – 99,200 words
  • Tales from Earthsea – 128,960 words
  • The Other Wind – 89,280 words

Word counts of the books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series:

  • A Game of Thrones – 298,000 words
  • A Clash of Kings – 326,000 words
  • A Storm of Swords – 424,000 words
  • A Feast for Crows – 300,000 words
  • A Dance with Dragons – 422,000 words
  • The entire A Song of Ice and Fire series (so far) – 1,770,000 words

Word counts of the books in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series:

  • The Hobbit – 95,356 words
  • The Fellowship of the Ring – 187,790 words
  • The Two Towers – 156,198 words
  • The Return of the King – 137,115 words
  • The entire Lord of the Rings series (including The Hobbit) – 576,459 words

Word counts of the books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 76,944 words
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – 85,141 words
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 107,253 words
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 190,637 words
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 257,045 words
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – 168,923 words
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – 198,227 words
  • The entire Harry Potter series – 1,084,170 words

Word counts of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series:

  • The Golden Compass – 112,815 words
  • The Subtle Knife – 109,120 words
  • The Amber Spyglass – 168,640 words

Word counts of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series:

  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – 38,421 words
  • Prince Caspian – 46,290 words
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – 53,960 words
  • The Silver Chair – 51,022 words
  • The Horse and His Boy – 48,029 words
  • The Magician’s Nephew – 64,480 words
  • The Last Battle – 43,333 words


Science Fiction

  • The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger – 155,717 words
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury – 46,118 words
  • The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury – 64,768 words
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley – 63,766 words
  • War of the Worlds, G. Well – 59,796 words
  • The Time Machine, G. Well – 32,149 words
  • Nineteen Eight-Four, George Orwell – 88,942 words
  • Dune, Frank Herbert – 187,240 words
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin – 94,240 words
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Phillip K. Dick – 79,360 words
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley – 74,800 words






12 Responses to “Word Counts of the Most Popular Books in the World”

  1. DrRandy

    The longest fantasy novel in English is Tad Williams’s _To Green Angel Tower_, standing at 520,000 words. Book one of the series, _The Dragonbone Chair_, is 288,840, and book two, _Stone of Farewell_, is 282,750, making the total count for _Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn_ 1,091,590. I think it stands as the longest fantasy trilogy to date.

  2. Batmansbestfriend

    Interesting. Really puts the novel I’m currently writing into perspective. Right now I’ve got 394,124 words. A lot yes, but I’d have 10x that if I wrote everything I’d come up with along the way. Cut, cut, cut and I’m still almost at 400,000…AND I’m only 37% of the way through. I’m currently overhauling the last 130 pages I’ve written thus far. To be fair though, I didn’t plan it this way. Once I got the pace locked in (roughly)…about 60 pages in or so…I suddenly stopped… “Wait a minute…” The original plan was 500 pages with the major midway plot point at around 300. There was a 0% chance that was going to happen if I kept up my then current pace. So, I did the math. How many years of the character’s life was I going to tell and at what pacing? After a few recalculations over the following few weeks I finally had it worked out. I settled on two volumes of 820 pages each using a smaller font that my initial 12pt. The word per page count has gone up some since then, but only by happenstance as I stopped using line breaks to denote the passage of time…and it will go up slightly more when I go back and remove the one I used prior to that. So yeah, when all is said and done I’ll have most of the words of the entire Harry Potter series. Really puts everything into perspective.

    Also, you should include Sironia, Texas (Madison Cooper, 1952) at a staggering 840,000 words. The best book I have ever read. Absolutely amazing. This is the book that inspired my current story (although it’s like 99% not even remotely recognizable compared to Cooper’s). Well, this, Infinite Jest and The Mezzanine. Although I’ve taken inspiration from the other two books I wouldn’t be writing my current novel (my 3rd) if it wasn’t for Sironia, Texas.

  3. BTW, the longest biography ever written is the biography of Winston S. Churchill authored by Randolph Churchill (the first two volumes) and Martin Gilbert (the last six volumes). I don’t have an exact word count, but Martin Gilbert’s obituary says they contain nine million words. I have read it.

  4. Annie M

    I just realized that I have read Harry Potter fan-fiction longer than some of the original books.

  5. Sightless Scholar

    I’ve read Harry Potter fanfics longer than the entire original series… some which weren’t even finished. And I’ve read web serials as long as 1.7M words.

  6. Fanfic Reader

    Wow….I’ve read fan fiction longer than the entire LOTR series….really puts things in perspective

  7. Eric Staals

    I believe night ‘s dawn by Peter F. Hamilton has 1.25 million words and exceeds the longest story here mentioned.


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