What Was the Bestselling Book the Year You Were Born? This Online Tool Tells You

To figure it out, Wordery looked at The New York Times bestseller lists and identified the book that spent the most weeks at the top of the chart for a particular calendar year.
Find out what book was a best seller the year you were born—and add it to your TBR pile.
Find out what book was a best seller the year you were born—and add it to your TBR pile. / Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment/Getty Images

Ever wonder which book your parents or grandparents might have been reading when you came bouncing into this world? Wordery, a UK-based online bookshop, has a fun tool that lists the bestselling novel from the year you were born.

Just plug in your age, and Wordery will tell you which title topped the The New York Times bestsellers list for the longest period of time that year. (In the case of a tie, Wordery opted to go with the first book to hit no. 1.) If you would rather browse instead, you can easily check out the titles that were popular between 1948 and 2018 by navigating the timeline at the top, or by clicking the right and left arrows.

Long before John Grisham’s Camino Island and Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s The President Is Missing became bestselling books (in 2017 and 2018, respectively), Robert Traver’s Anatomy of a Murder (1958), Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (1969), and Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity (1980) were among the tomes that topped The Times’s list. Although thrillers and crime novels have always been popular, romance and historical fiction are the genres that appear most often on the list.

John Grisham is the author who pops up most frequently, but it was Pulitzer Prize-winning author James A. Michener’s 1959 book Hawaii that spent the longest amount of time at the top of the charts—38 weeks total, compared to the average time of six weeks. Published the same year that Hawaii became a state, the work of historical fiction tells the story of Hawaii from different perspectives, from the formation of the islands up to the 20th century.

Wordery’s tool is also a way to learn about your own personal history. “It’s always fun to find out what was happening in the world the year you were born, and knowing which novel your parents were likely to be reading throughout the first year of your life is quite fascinating,” Barry Magennis, spokesperson for Wordery, said in a statement.

Try it out for yourself here. It might just inspire you to call up your parents or pay a visit to your local library (or both).

A version of this story ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2024.