Can You Guess the Most Popular Books of All Time from the Plotline?


By: William J. Wright

7 Min Quiz

Image: New Line Cinema and WingNut Films

About This Quiz

In his 2000 memoir "On Writing," author Stephen King calls books a "uniquely portable magic." When you look at the number of books a writer like King has sold, you have to believe he's on to something. It's easy to take that magic for granted in the 21st century with the constant din of smartphones and social media screaming for our attention. Nevertheless, think of the implications of books as portable magic — entire universes, lives, histories and the innermost thoughts of strangers that you can carry around in your backpack or purse. A good book is a portal — a time machine if you will — that you can activate at any time. Open a book and the world melts away. The magic is real.

If you love books, this is probably as apparent to you as your nose, but if you don't read for pleasure, you're missing out on some of the only real magic left in the world. In this quiz, we're going to take a look back at some of the greatest word wizards in history and the spells that they've cast on generations of grateful readers. In no particular order and with no preference to genre, we've gathered 35 of the most popular books ever for your perusal. No doubt we're sure to have missed some great ones, maybe even your favorite. Don't worry, we're sure to get them next time. So, bookworms, here's our challenge: Can you guess the most popular books of all time from the plotline?

This beloved 1868 novel follows the lives of four sisters on their journey to womanhood. Can you name it?

Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, is a beloved classic of American literature. The book follows the lives of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, as they grow to adulthood against the backdrop of the American Civil War.


A recovering alcoholic takes a job as the winter caretaker of a Colorado hotel in a 1977 horror novel. Can you name this bestseller?

Stephen King established himself as the undisputed master of horror with "The Shining." His third published novel, "The Shining" was based in part on the author's own struggle with alcoholism.


In this dystopian novel published in 1985, a theonomic revolution in the United States strips women of their rights, forcing them into castes based on their function in society. Can you name the book?

Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel "The Handmaid's Tale" takes place in a dystopian near future where the United States government has been overthrown and replaced with a fundamentalist military regime. The novel's protagonist is Offred, a handmaid whose duty is to bear children for infertile women.


A wealthy Southern plantation owner's daughter struggles to overcome poverty during the Civil War in this 1936 novel. Can you name the book?

"Gone With the Wind," the only novel by author Margaret Mitchell, is the story of the rich and spoiled Scarlett O'Hara, whose life of comfort is thrown into turmoil by the Civil War. Winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1937, the book became an Academy Award-winning film starring Vivien Leigh in 1939.


A young girl learns about tolerance and justice in 1930s Alabama when her lawyer father defends an African American man accused of assaulting a white woman. Can you name this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from 1960?

Harper Lee's 1960 novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" caused a sensation when it was released. The story of Scout, a young girl growing up in 1930s Alabama, the book explores themes of tolerance, race and justice in the segregated South. It was adapted as a successful film starring Gregory Peck in 1962.


This British fantasy novel published in 1997 was the first in a successful series about a young boy who discovers his destiny when he attends a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Can you name this magical book?

J.K. Rowling went from struggling author to queen of a literary empire with the publication of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in 1997. Aimed at children, the Potter books were just as popular with adults who anxiously awaited each installment in the saga of the young wizard.


Can you name the Jazz Age novel about an enigmatic young millionaire and his doomed love for a self-absorbed former debutante?

F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" is considered the greatest novel of the Jazz Age. Initially published to mixed reviews and poor sales, Fitzgerald's 1925 novel found its audience after the author's death. Often found on high school reading lists, "The Great Gatsby" is an American classic.


Can you name the fantasy novel about a respectable homebody who leaves on a grand adventure that serves as a prelude to an epic book series?

J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel "The Hobbit" is the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a respectable Hobbit who loves good food and a comfortable life. When a wizard and a group of dwarves invite him on an adventure, his world is never the same. "The Hobbit" lays the foundation for "The Lord of the Rings."


Matters of the heart collide with matters of finance in this comedy of manners set in the Georgian era. Can you name this novel?

Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is an exercise in romance and irony set against the strict social mores of Georgian-era gentility. Endlessly adapted for film, TV and theatre, "Pride and Prejudice" is one of the most enduring and beloved works in the English Language.


Can you name the children's classic about a young farm girl who's swept away to a magical land by a cyclone?

Although many may be more familiar with the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum's uniquely American fairytale, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," the 1900 children's novel was an immediate phenomenon in its own right. At the behest of his young fans, Baum wrote 13 more Oz books between 1904 and 1920,


The earth faces destruction at the hands of an alien invasion in this 1898 British novel. Can you name this science fiction classic?

Science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells influenced generations of writers and filmmakers with his frightening 1898 novel "The War of the Worlds." Presented as a factual account by an unnamed narrator, the novel details the decimation of Victorian England by an invasion from Mars.


A literature professor has an unhealthy obsession with a young girl in this controversial 1955 novel. Can you ID the book?

Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel "Lolita" is among the greatest and most controversial literary works of the 20th century. Told from the perspective of its protagonist, Humbert Humbert, the narrator details his obsession with the 12-year-old Dolores Hayes.


Can you name the 1971 novel about a journalist and his lawyer's drug-fueled misadventures while attempting to cover a desert motorcycle race?

Hunter S. Thompson's semi-autobiographical novel "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is a landmark of 20th century American literature. Written in Thompson's trademark Gonzo style, the novel, rooted in the framework of an assignment to cover a desert bike race, documents the fall of '60s idealism.


This 1996 autobiography recounts the author's life as a poor child growing up in Limerick, Ireland, in the 1930s. Can you name this touching memoir?

Author Frank McCourt won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography with his memoir "Angela's Ashes." In the book, McCourt's immigrant family returns to Ireland following the death of their youngest child to find that the Great Depression has taken an even worse toll on the old country.


Can you name the grisly 1991 novel about a narcissistic investment banker who may also be a serial killer?

Author Bret Easton Ellis shocked readers with this scathing and bloody critique of capitalism. Narrated by a young businessman named Patrick Bateman, the narrator details the banality of his daily life, his affinity for '80s pop culture and his penchant for committing grisly acts of murder.


A troubled youth spends a lost weekend in New York after being expelled from school in this 1951 novel. Can you name this book?

J.D. Salinger created the ultimate mixed-up kid with Holden Caulfield, the young protagonist of his 1951 novel "The Catcher in the Rye." Frequently challenged for its raw language and adult themes, "The Catcher in the Rye" unflinchingly examines themes of anger and loss on the road to adulthood.


Can you name the classic novel in which an obsessed sea captain seeks revenge on the whale that took his leg?

Among the greatest of American novels, Herman Melville's 1851 "Moby Dick" is the tale of Captain Ahab, an obsessed captain of a whaling ship and his vengeful quest to slay the white whale who took his leg. Rich in language and symbolism, the novel explores themes of madness, fate and freewill.


A B-25 bombardier faces an existential crisis in this World War II satire. Can you name this 1961 novel?

Joseph Heller's 1961 satire "Catch-22" is a scathing indictment of bureaucracy and the banality of war. In the novel, Captain Yossarian, a bombardier on a B-25 bomber stationed on the island of Pianosa off the Italian coast, struggles to maintain his sanity and his safety in the Second World War.


Violence erupts between two youth gangs divided by class and wealth in this 1967 coming-of-age novel. Can you name it?

Author S.E. Hinton was only 15 when she began writing the beloved coming-of-age classic "The Outsiders." Chronicling the conflict between the lower class "greasers" and the rich "socs," Hinton's 1967 novel was adapted as a film by "The Godfather's" Francis Ford Coppola in 1983.


An aged Cuban fisherman battles nature and fate in a life-or-death struggle to catch an enormous marlin in this 1951 novel. Can you name this book?

His last major work, "The Old Man and the Sea" served to reignite interest in Ernest Hemingway's writing and reestablished the troubled author as an American literary force. Winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the short novel was critical in Hemingway's winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.


A student of natural philosophy attempts to create the perfect man to tragic consequences for himself and his family in this novel first published in 1818. Can you name this book?

First published anonymously in 1818 when the author was only 20, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is a cornerstone of both horror and science fiction. An indelible piece of the cultural landscape, Shelley's novel has become shorthand for the theme of science run amok.


Can you name the 1949 novel in which an ordinary man is crushed by a totalitarian state when he tries to rebel?

Often considered prophetic, George Orwell's final novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is the story of Winston Smith, an average worker who longs to rebel against the totalitarian government of Oceania. Set in a dystopian future, Orwell's vision remains relevant decades after its dated title.


A solicitor facilitates an Eastern European nobleman's move to England with horrifying consequences in this Victorian novel. Can you name it?

Theatrical manager and author Bram Stoker created the ultimate Gothic horror novel and one of the most popular characters in literature with "Dracula." Published in 1897, Stoker's iconic vampire tale has spawned countless adaptations, homages, sequels and parodies across all media.


Can you name the 1969 anti-war novel in which the fatalistic protagonist experiences bouts of involuntary time travel and becomes an exhibit in an alien zoo?

Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel "Slaughterhouse-Five" brilliantly melds science fiction with a poignant anti-war stance. Deeply philosophical, Vonnegut's novel presents a thoughtful examination of freewill. "Slaughterhouse-Five" has been frequently challenged because of its tone and frank language.


An adolescent boy and a runaway slave travel to an uncertain fate on the Mississippi River in this 1884 novel. Can you name this classic of American literature?

"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, a sequel to his "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," is one of the most challenged books in American literature. With a narrative composed of colloquial vernacular, the novel's use of rough language and racial epithets make this work perennially controversial.


A man sacrifices his life for his friends in this complex novel set during the French Revolution. Can you name this book?

Charles Dickens' 1859 historical novel of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of the French Revolution holds the distinction of being the best-selling work of fiction in history. Despite Dickens' expert plotting and characterizations, the book's historical accuracy is questionable.


Can you name the harrowing novel in which a group of British schoolboys revert to savage tribalism on a remote island?

William Golding's first novel, "Lord of the Flies" addresses the age-old problem of civilization versus savagery. When their plane crashes on a paradisiacal island after a wartime evacuation, a group of British schoolboys revert to primitive tribalism and violence.


A group of superheroes comes out of retirement to solve a murder as the threat of World War III looms in this 1987 graphic novel. Can you name it?

This graphic novel from 1987 holds the distinction of being the only comic book to hold a place on Time magazine's list of the 100 Best Novels. Created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, "Watchmen" was met with much acclaim from both comic fans and mainstream critics.


A sixth-grader struggles with religion and puberty in this popular 1970 young adult novel. Can you name this groundbreaking book?

Judy Blume started a revolution in young adult literature with her 1970 novel "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." Controversial for its frank treatment of sensitive topics like religion, puberty and sex, Blume's novel tackles difficult issues with sensitivity and honesty.


A doomed love affair is a curse across two generations in this Gothic tale of revenge and cruelty set on the English moors. Can you name this novel published in 1847?

Published under the pen name Ellis Bell, Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights" is a masterwork of setting, atmosphere and characterization. Exploring themes of cruelty, revenge and class, this novel initially challenged Victorian sensibilities but has since become a well-loved classic.


Can you name the 1979 novel in which the last surviving human has a series of unlikely adventures across the galaxy after the earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass?

Writer Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is a comedic adventure that combines the absurdity of Monty Python with the quirky and uniquely British sci-fi sensibility of "Doctor Who." First appearing as a BBC radio comedy, "The Hitchhiker's Guide" has been adapted across all media.


Can you name the 1915 novella about a salesman who awakes one morning to find himself transformed into a huge insect?

Published in 1915, author Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a weary traveling salesman who awakens one morning to find that he's become a giant, grotesque insect. Surreal, frightening and filled with pathos, "The Metamorphosis" defies interpretation.


This semi-autobiographical novel from 1963 details a woman's descent into mental illness. Can you name this book?

Sylvia Plath's 1963 novel "The Bell Jar" is the story of Esther Greenwood, a woman who spirals into depression over the course of a summer as an intern with a major magazine. The novel mirrors much of the author's own tragic life. Sadly, Plath died by suicide shortly after the book's publication.


This 1966 book artfully blends fact with fiction while relating the true events surrounding a quadruple murder in a small farming community. Can you identify this genre-bending work?

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" author Truman Capote spent six years researching and writing "In Cold Blood." Assisted by his friend Harper Lee (author of "To Kill a Mockingbird"), Capote spent six years writing and researching the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas.


Published in 1945, this short novel is comprised of a series of loosely interrelated vignettes about the colorful characters inhabiting Monterey, California, during the Great Depression. Can you name it?

John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" functions more as a profile of the colorful characters who live near Monterey's sardine canneries than a traditional narrative. Composed of loosely related vignettes, the main story deals with Doc, a marine biologist who's much beloved by the denizens of Cannery Row.


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