Chris A. Baird | July 18, 2023
The 32 Best Self-Published Books of All Time

So, you know that traditionally published books sell an awful lot of copies, but there is also an amazing selection of self-published books that have done well over the years, and that's what we're going to talk about today.

Table of Contents

A Reason to Read Self-Published Authors

So, today we're going to look at the 32 best self-published books of all time. Now, as we're going into this, you're going to want to know a reason to read self-published authors and one of the main ones is that you can get an idea of the quality that self-published authors manage to put out onto the market.

Sometimes, there can be a tendency to assume that you have to be traditionally published to produce something that's of quality, and that is a huge misunderstanding of how this works.

As you see, as we're going through these different books, you're going to understand better. Understand exactly the role that self-publishing has played in putting amazing works onto the market over the years.

And some of these books are old now, some of them I've personally read, and some of them my kids have read. And some of them I haven't, so you'll have to stick with me as we go through the list because some of these are amazing books. 

1. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

So, to start it off, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter. 

Beatrix Potter Collection (DVD)

Now, this is one that the Beatrix Potter Collection DVD is one of the ways that a lot of people will see this particular one. And it deals with the timeless tale for all ages, where animals and things are pulling together and interacting with each other.

Now, when I was a kid, I did go through it. This one, this is a little shocking for me that this one was self-published out of the ones that I've listed in the list here. But this is something worth checking out.

And maybe when you grow up, let me know below in the comments if this is something that you also read as a kid. But "Peter Rabbit" is one I read as a kid. 

2. The Martian by Andy Weir

Number two, "The Martian" by Andy Weir. Now, you may know him from "The Martian" movie, or you may have read the book. I have read both, and I've read the book and seen the movie. And I can tell you, this is a fantastic one. 

The Martian (Movie)

It's going through all sorts of stuff, and it was very educational in terms of understanding the nature of Mars and survival. I'm also really into these survival stories, and the sci-fi aspect also really pulls me in. When I was working through the book, it pulled me in a bit. I did see the movie first and then went back and read the book.

And I can tell you that they're both high quality, so you can't go wrong no matter what. Which one did you read first? But this was self-published. Now, I've also read some of his later books. I don't think they were self-published, but that's the beauty of self-publishing.

You can build an audience and then come back later and get traditionally published for your other books, once you've proven that there is, in fact, a market.

3. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

The next one is "50 Shades of Grey" by E.L. James. You may know it from "50 Shades of Grey" the movie. But no matter where you've seen or read this particular series, the thing to remember is that it was a self-published one. Based on reviews, you will see that it has around three and a half stars. 

Fifty Shades of Grey (Movie)

But even with that, it has managed to do well, sell an awful lot of copies, and make a lot of money. Now, it's exploring a lot of adult themes and sensuality, and it's not everybody's cup of tea. But that's the thing to remember when it comes to self-publishing. When you're writing for everybody in the world.

But you're choosing a specific market whom you're going to be targeting, and you'll notice "50 Shades of Grey" definitely is hitting that specific audience. It hit it in such a way that they're willing to spend millions and millions of dollars reading this book. And there are lots of copies of this exact self-published book.

4. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

The next one is "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova. No w, this is one that some of you might know. "Still Alice" the movie is another thing that came out of it. And since I have not read this one, it's a powerful and emotional performance.

Still Alice (Movie)

"Still Alice" features a powerhouse performance by Julianne Moore, who portrays Alice Howland, a renowned linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Moore's portrayal is both heart-wrenching and authentic, capturing the emotional journey of a woman grappling with the loss of her memories, identity, and independence.

5. Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown

So, this is an exciting one that may be worth checking out. Now, I have not read this book, and that's one of the reasons why I have to mention it next. It's "Legally Blonde" by Amanda Brown, which is a self-published book.

Legally Blonde (Movie)

Now, I know it from "Legally Blonde" the movie, which was fantastic. Because it's really fun and funny, as you know, she plays a lawyer in this particular one, graduating from Harvard Law School.  

But then, it's "Legally Blonde" since she's blonde, and so it's this mixture of this idea: is this main character an airhead, or is this main character really deep? And you start to connect with the main character in this particular story.

As you're moving through the whole thing, you realize, no, she's very smart. So, I don't want to spoil the particular thing and some of the things that happen during this particular one. But this was a fantastic movie.

I have not read the book, but if you have read the book, let me know if it differs from the movie. Because sometimes, the movie is not as good as the book. But again, self-published. I was not aware of this. But this makes the list of the best ones of all time.  

Check out this related article: How To Get A Book Published

6. The Celestine Prophecy by James Renfield

The next one is "The Celestine Prophecy" by James Renfield, and also "The Celestine Prophecy" movie. Now, I have not read or seen either one of these, but I do believe I'd read and researched a bit previously. But it's spiritual exploration and enlightenment. 

The Celestine Prophecy (Movie)

This enlightening prophecy is a thought-provoking film that delves into spiritual concepts and explores the idea of synchronicity, energy, and the interconnectedness of all things.

It invites viewers on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, encouraging them to question their beliefs and perceive the world from a broader, more spiritual perspective. I think that was along the lines of when I was first exposed to this particular one.

I had some people whom I knew had read it and enjoyed it, so that's another one self-published, which is a little bit shocking because I thought this one was traditionally published. But nope, self-published.

7. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Then the next one is "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini. "Eragon" was also made into a movie, and all of my kids have read the books. I've seen some of the movies, but I have not read the books. My kids have all read the books; they are amazing literature.

It's an epic fantasy adventure that takes readers on a journey through the land of Alagaësia (please correct me if I'm wrong in the pronunciation). In the story, they join the young protagonist, Eragon, on his path to becoming a dragon rider.

That's why this falls under the fantasy category, right? It's filled with magical creatures, ancient prophecies, and thrilling battles. The book immerses readers in a richly imagined world of fantasy and adventure. So, if fantasy adventure is your thing, I would highly recommend this.

But don't go too early in age. One of my kids stopped reading the series because he started it a little bit too early. So, you might wait until you're at least a teenager before picking up this series, so you don't get yourself burnt out.

8. The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

And sometimes, after you stop reading a book, it's harder to come back to it. But amazing! Yes, this was also self-published. And that brings us to the next book, "The Joy of Cooking" by Irma Rombauer. This one was fantastic.

I have used this book, and I've bought it as a gift for other people. It's a culinary bible that has been a trusted resource for home cooks since its initial publication in 1931. With over 4,000 recipes and a wide range of cooking techniques, the book covers everything from basic kitchen skills to complex gourmet dishes.

It serves as an indispensable guide for both novice and experienced cooks alike. And this is the surprising thing: it was self-published. I've used this specific book for many recipes that we've done over the years.

Usually, my wife and I will work together in the kitchen, using this exact book to put together whatever meal we're preparing because it is just that good. And it is self-published. 

9. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Moving on to "Rich Dad Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki. Now, this is one I am very familiar with. I've read all of Kiyosaki's works, and "Rich Dad Poor Dad" is self-published. Traditional publishers weren't interested.

Check out this related article: Self-Published Books Better Than Traditional Publishing  

But it is an amazing book that deals with the nature of passive income and understanding money from a completely different perspective than you may have ever seen before. The reality is, he's looking at what our assets and liabilities are, and the ability to make money while you sleep.

This is a really powerful read. I would highly recommend it. I had all of my kids read through this exact book because it is foundational work for understanding the nature of money and how exactly you can leverage other people's time, other people's money, and other people's systems to make money online or anything else.

And it's a self-published book, so this is definitely on the list, especially as a writer. Because your books, as a self-published author, are going to be passive income sources. They'll just be sitting there making you money, assuming you set up ads and things that I teach my coaching clients. And then we can start seeing that money coming in. 

10. The One You Love by Paul Pilkington

The next one is "The One You Love" by Paul Pilkington. Now, this is one I am not familiar with. I have not read this particular one. It's a gripping psychological thriller, "The One You Love." It's a gripping thing that keeps readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

He weaves a suspenseful narrative filled with twists, secrets, and unexpected turns, making it a page-turner that will leave readers guessing until the very end. It has a lot of complex and compelling characters in addition to an engaging blend of mystery and romance.

So, it depends on whether that is your cup of tea. Now, for me personally, I generally read fantasy and science fiction. So, this is not in my standard genre, but this may be something that you would be interested in. And as we mentioned before, it is also self-published. 

11. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

The next one is "Beautiful Disaster" by Jamie McGuire. Now, this is another one I have not read. It's an intense and passionate romance. Since I don't generally read that genre, I can't personally comment on it. But it delivers an intense and passionate romance that explores the complexities of love and relationships.

The book follows the tumultuous relationship between Abby Abernathy, a seemingly innocent college student, and Travis Maddox, a charming and volatile bad boy. This roller coaster romance captivates readers with its emotional highs and lows.

It's not my cup of tea, but it's a self-published book and something you should consider if you like these types of passionate romances. And it's self-published. In the end, that's why we're going through all of these books—to find self-published gems.

Let me know in the comments which books you've read. I always want to know which of these books you've read and which ones you haven't, but specifically, the ones you have. And what did you think about it?

Could you tell if it was self-published or did it seem like it was traditionally published? And what exactly does that even mean? Because you can do all of the steps, getting the editing done and all of these things yourself.

12. Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

The next one is Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan. Now, this one is another one I have not read either. It's an epic fantasy adventure, so it kicks off an epic fantasy adventure that encompasses treacherous quests and political intrigue, and a world teeming with magic and mythical creatures.

Michael J. Sullivan crafts a rich and immersive world that draws readers into a thrilling tale of heroes, villains, and the ultimate fight for justice. Now, this would qualify as something that I would be more likely to read because it has a dynamic duo of protagonists.

That's one of the things you have with it: twists, turns, and intrigue, and those are the key aspects if you're looking at reading this amazing self-published book, which I can't vouch for because I haven't read it. Let me know in the comments if this is something I should consider reading because it is in my area as a fantasy adventure. 

13. Wool by Hugh Howey

The next one is "Wool" by Hugh Howey, and one of my kids is currently actually reading this very book. It's on my definitely-on-my-list of books to read, and it's a post-apocalypse dystopia, which is also a favorite genre for me. It immerses readers in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world where society is confined to a massive underground silo.

Hugh Howey, a huge self-publisher, has done all sorts of stuff for the self-publishing community, giving powerful advice and teaching many people how to go through the self-publishing process. His novel explores the claustrophobic and oppressive nature of this underground society, revealing a carefully constructed world with secrets waiting to be uncovered.

There's a whole series of books that he's come out with on the whole "Wool" front. It's a compelling mystery and suspense, pulling readers into a thought-provoking exploration of humanity. When I'm reading any book, that's always something I want to see, that it explores more than just giving me a basic exciting story.

I want to explore some aspect of humanity, something philosophical that's going to get me to think a little bit more, and "Wool" is one of these books that will do it and it's self-published. 

14. Whiskey Sour by J. A. Konrath

The next one is "Whiskey Sour" by J.A. Konrath. This is one I have not read, so let's take a look. It's fast-paced and suspenseful, so the thing is, it's a thriller that grabs readers from the first page and doesn't let go J.A. Konrath crafts a gripping narrative filled with twists, turns, and surprises.

Keeping readers on the edge of their seats as they follow the protagonist, Lieutenant Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, on her quest to track down a sadistic serial killer. Now, if that's your thing if you like that sort of thing, then this is probably going to be a book for you.

It has a compelling and complex protagonist, and you have dark humor and an engaging writing style. So, this is something that, if this is your type of book, you should consider. Let me know again. If you've read this one, and, uh, it's self-published, so it's another one of the top ones. 

15. Worm by Wildbow

"Worm" by Wildbow, hopefully, I pronounced the name correctly. I have not read this one either, but this one also, again, isn't a category that I do tend to read. It's epic, it's a worm, and it's an epic superhero web serial written by Wildbow, spanning over 1.7 million words.

So, this thing is huge, like Wheel of Time huge, is what we're talking about. The story follows Taylor Hebert, a teenage girl with the power to control bugs, as she navigates a dangerous world filled with heroes, villains, and moral complexities.

With its intricate plot, rich world-building, and complex characters, "Worm" offers a unique and immersive reading experience. And you've got to keep in mind, with this particular book, you're going to get a deep exploration of morality and consequences, in addition to engaging in an unpredictable narrative.

And that, for me, is also important, this unpredictability. So, you don't know right from the beginning what is going to happen as you read through the book. 

16. No Thanks by E. E. Cummings

The next one is "No Thanks" by E.E. Cummings and this one I have not read either. It's a unique and experimental piece of poetry. I have read E.E. Cummings' poetry, but I've not read this particular one.

It's a unique and experimental approach, which E.E. Cummings is known for. Unconventional use of grammar, punctuation, and syntax, including lowercase letters and things. Cummings breaks traditional poetic rules to create a distinctive and visually striking poetic style.

It challenges readers' expectations and invites them to engage with the text in new and unexpected ways. Now, I do enjoy reading E.E. Cummings. I may have read this particular one: "No Thanks." I did not know that it was self-published, so it is very important to know. 

17. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Next is "Swann's Way" by Marcel Proust. I have not read this one. Is there a new graphic novel, "In Search of Lost Time: Swann's Way"? That could be a way to experience it without necessarily reading the original text of "In Search of Lost Time" by Proust. I've not read this, but it offers a stunning visual adaptation of Proust's classic literary work.

New Graphic Novel: In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way

The graphic novel format brings Proust's vivid descriptions to life through beautifully illustrated panels, capturing the essence and atmosphere of the original novel in a visually engaging way. Furthermore, its complex narrative provides an introspective exploration, which, for me, is very important.

I have not read "Props," by the way, but it serves as an accessible introduction to Proust's masterpiece. It's something you should consider, and it's really impressive that it was also self-published.

18. The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

The next one is. "The Shack" by Wm. Paul Young is a book I have not read, but I have heard a lot about it. It's a gripping and emotional journey that takes readers through the transformative experience of the protagonist, Mackenzie Allen Phillips. Paul Young delves into themes of faith, forgiveness, and healing, offering a profound exploration of the human condition and the power of love.

One thing I remember is that God is portrayed as an older woman if I recall correctly. Feel free to correct me below and let me know your thoughts on this book. I enjoy reading religious writings, and though I haven't read this one, please let me know if you found it particularly helpful.

19. My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking

The next book is "My Blood Approves" by Amanda Hawking, a compelling vampire romance novel. I have not read this one either, as I haven't delved into romance novels, especially vampire romance novels, which combine elements of supernatural fantasy and young adult fiction. Amanda Hawking weaves a captivating love story with the protagonist.

Alice Bonham finds herself drawn to the mysterious and alluring vampire, Jack. Their forbidden romance unfolds amidst a world of secret danger and unexpected twists. This is another self-published book that I haven't read. 

20. The Brass Check by Upton Sinclair

Next is "The Brass Check" by Upton Sinclair. I haven't read this one either. I have read other works by Upton Sinclair but didn't know this particular book was self-published. So, what is "The Brass Check" about?

It is a powerful exposé of corruption and unethical practices in the field of journalism. Upton Sinclair sheds light on the manipulative tactics, censorship, and corporate influences that hindered objective reporting during the early 20th century.

The book serves as a scathing critique of the media industry and highlights the importance of independent and unbiased journalism, something we could use today in the age of fake news if that makes sense.

21. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The next self-published book is "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, which I have read. It's a classic tale that has been used and adapted countless times, demonstrating that tradition is not always necessary.

Only published to have amazing stuff that's put out there, and the thing is, it's a timeless classic. Tell us a heartwarming story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted and miserly man who undergoes a profound transformation through a series of ghostly visits.

Charles Dickens's novella beautifully captures the spirit of Christmas and delivers a powerful message of redemption, generosity, and the importance of compassion towards others. This is something he communicates in this particular book.

22. Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar

The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar is amazing, right? It's a firsthand account of ancient warfare. As Julius Caesar recounts his military campaigns and conquests in Gaul (modern-day France), the book offers valuable insights into the strategies, tactics, and challenges of warfare during this specific period.

It provides a detailed perspective of Caesar's military prowess and leadership. Having also gone through a lot of leadership training myself. Only published to have amazing stuff that's put out there, and the thing is, it's a timeless classic.

Tell us a heartwarming story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted and miserly man who undergoes a profound transformation through a series of ghostly visits. Charles Dickens's novella beautifully captures the spirit of Christmas and delivers a powerful message of redemption, generosity, and the importance of compassion towards others. 

23. Paradise Lost by John Milton

24. Maria Sibylla Merian: Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium

The next one is Maria Sibylla Merian's metamorphosis in sectorumensium. Now, you may or may not have read this. And what exactly is this? It is a pioneering work in natural history illustration by Memoria Sibiliana Marianne.

Her meticulously detailed, and I won't say that again, detailed and scientifically accurate illustrations of insects and their life cycles revolutionize the field of entomology and set a high standard for subsequent natural history artists.

25. The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn

So that's another thing to consider, another self-published work, and this is in the area of non-fiction. We have "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls" by Amelia Autumn. I have not read this particular book.

It is a unique blend of memoir and Gothic fantasy. Emilia Autumn shares her personal experience in a psychiatric institution while interweaving a fictional narrative set in a Victorian-era asylum.

The book offers a thought-provoking exploration of mental health, identity, and the challenges faced by women in historical and contemporary society. So that's a lot of interesting aspects that they're exploring here, and you're going to have.

The raw and honest reflections on mental health, which is one side we can look at it, and also a fusion of artistic expression, maybe something as a non-fiction work worth checking out. 

26. Nikolas and Company Book 1: The Merman and the Moon Forgotten by Kevin McGill

We have "Nikolas and Company: Book One - The Merman and the Moon Forgotten" by Kevin McGill. So there's your first one.

Nikolas and Company Book 2: When Boats Breathe and Cities Speak by Kevin McGill

We also have Book Two, which is "When Boats Breathe and Cities Speak" by Kevin McGill. You're dealing with a continuum of engaging fantasy adventure, right? "When Boats Breathe and Cities Speak" continues the captivating adventure and deals with his companions.

Kevin McGill takes readers on a thrilling journey as they encounter new challenges, unravel mysteries, and delve deeper into the challenging, enchanting world that he's created. What you're going to get if you read this book, which I have not personally read, is the expansion of the universe and the exploration of new realms.

You also have themes of identity, belonging, and sacrifice. This may be your cup of tea. This is something I may be considering reading as I'm working through it. 

Nikolas and Company Book 3: The Foul and The Fallen by Kevin McGill

In addition, you have Book Three, which he wrote, 'The Foul and the Fallen' by Kevin McGill. So, what is this? Is it the conclusion to the whole three-series set? 'The Foul and the Fallen' delivers an epic and thrilling conclusion to the fantasy Adventurer series.

He takes readers on a roller coaster ride of action, suspense, and emotional revelations as Nicholas, excuse me, and his companions face their greatest challenges yet. It's intensified stakes and high-stakes confrontations, with themes like redemption, sacrifice, and the power of friendship to keep in mind.

Nikolas and Company Book 4: Fire of the Lionsbran by Kevin McGill

But then, that wasn't the conclusion because you had Book Four, 'The Fire of Lionsbrand' by Kevin McGill. In this particular book, he continues the thrilling adventure of them and their companions, taking readers on a new and exciting journey.

So just when you thought it was over, you have an additional book there, and he keeps readers engaged with captivating storytelling, unexpected twists, and the development of both the characters and an overarching plot. 

As we're dealing with expanding horizons and unveiling secrets, themes of courage, legacy, and destiny are explored. So, there's a lot to be found there. 

27. Renegade by Joel Shepherd

Then we have 'Renegade' by Joel Shepard. I think my daughter has at least read this one. This is, uh, 'Renegade.' It's a gripping science fiction thriller that takes readers on a high-stakes journey through a futuristic world. Joel Shepherd weaves a compelling narrative filled with political intrigue, intense action, and thought-provoking ethical dilemmas.

It's dealing with complex characters and dynamic relationships, offering a thoughtful exploration of socio-political issues. So there are a lot of things in this particular series that seem exciting. Something you should consider reading, and it is also self-published.

Check out this related article: How Long Should A Self-Published Book Be

28. We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

Then we have 'We Ride the Storm' by Devin Madsen, and this one here is an epic fantasy with intricate political intrigue. Devin Madison masterfully crafts a complex web of power struggles, alliances, and betrayals, keeping readers engrossed in the suspenseful and unpredictable narrative.

You're going to be dealing with multi-perspective storytelling and compelling characters in addition. You're having intense action and unpredictable twists, which for me is essential. I have personally not read this book, but let me know below in the comments if you have. 

29. Bullet Series Book 1: Beyond the Starport Adventure by Richard Fairbairn

'Bullet Series Book One: Beyond the Starpoint Adventure' by Richard Fairbank. That's an interesting name. I have not read this one, and in the Bullet Series Book One, what are you dealing with?

Well, it's an action-packed sci-fi adventure that takes readers on a thrilling journey through space. Richard Fairbane weaves an engaging narrative filled with spaceship battles, daring missions, and exploration of unknown worlds.

You're having engaging characters and interstellar exploration, as well as a fast-paced plot and intriguing world-building. And I do like space battles, in particular. So this book would be on my list.

30. Dogs With Bagels by Maria Elena Sandovici

'Dogs with Bagels' by Mariah Maria Ellen. Always hard to pronounce sometimes. I haven't read this particular book, but what are you going to get in this one? It's a heartwarming story that explores the power of friendship.

And the bond between humans and animals, and then it's in her narrative, touches the reader's heart as it follows the journey of a young woman and her loyal canine companion. And for you dog lovers, this may be a book for you.

And it deals with characters, multi-layered characters, and emotional depth. It's a charming blend of humor and reflection. Personally, I don't own a dog, but I did have a dog when I was a young child, and I liked that dog. So this may be a book for me. And it's also a self-published book.

31. Ryan's Return by Barbara Freethy

"Ryan's Return" by Barbara Freebie. And for this one here, you're dealing with a second-chance romance, right? So with that, with this one here, and I don't usually read romances, it explores the complexities of love, forgiveness, and redemption.

And this one weaves a heartfelt story that reunites two former lovers and takes them on a journey of healing and self-discovery. It involves intriguing family secrets and mystery, as well as emotionally resonant and engaging writing. So, it’s something you might consider. 

32. Day of War by Cliff Graham

"Day of War" by Clifford Graham is our next one: the gripping biblical historical fiction, right? And that brings to life the epic battles and courageous warriors of the Old Testament. Cliff Graham's meticulous research and vivid storytelling transport readers to the ancient world.

Immersing them in an intense city of warfare and the struggles of the characters. It has raw and authentic portrayals of Warriors as well as a blend of action. So, that is something worth looking at. 

Wrapping Up

So, in closing up what you can see here is there's an awful lot of really high-quality books that have been written. These are some, but not all. There are tons of additional self-published books that have done well. I'd like to know below in the comments which of these books you have personally read and which ones you haven't.

It can better help me understand books that I would like to read in the future as well. And hopefully, motivate you as a self-published author or as just somebody who's writing books that yes, you can go the self-publishing route. 

You can grab my free checklist to learn more about how exactly to do that. Check out my other blogs and videos for more answers to your self-publishing questions. 

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