9 Crowd-Pleaser Books That Are Universally Loved

A book doesn't have to be universally loved to be a truly great book. As Dumbledore once said, “Really Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.”

And even though most of us are not half-giant groundskeepers hiding out in our cabins, we understand that popularity and quality don't necessarily go hand in hand. But, sometimes incredibly popular books really do deserve their reputation. Some books are just so beautifully written, or so funny, or so touching, that you just have to love them. It doesn't matter if they're serious classics or YA fiction or quirky comedy reads. You end up loving these books even if you really didn't want to — even if you had to read them for school, or you thought they might be over-hyped. These books will win you over in the end, because they're simply crowd pleasers.

I'm not saying that people who don't love these books are monsters (although if you manage to vehemently hate every single book on this list, you might want to reconsider your monster status). People have different reading tastes, and that's why we get to have so many different kinds of books. But these are some of the all-time champs when it comes to crowd-pleasing books that very nearly everybody will love:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

There's a reason that so many people cite To Kill a Mockingbird as the first book that really got them into reading. Or got them into justice. Or the first school book that they genuinely enjoyed. And there's a reason that everyone lost their minds over Go Set a Watchman — Harper Lee's classic novel about coming of age in an unjust world strikes a chord with nearly everybody who reads it. Plus, the character of Scout is so very delightful to read, and the world of Maycomb, Alabama is so fully realized. It's no wonder this book is a best-loved classic.


2. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

You can't really call Slaughterhouse-Five heartwarming. It's not a feel good read or an uplifting book or anything like that. But people love it anyway, and with good reason. Slaughterhouse-Five is most certainly the funniest, and perhaps the strangest, book about war and human cruelty ever to be written. It calls into question everything you know about time, relativity, aliens, and violence, and once you've started, it's almost impossible to put it down. Vonnegut has an inimitable style, both deadpan hilarious and poignant, and Slaughterhouse-Five stands out as the very best of his impressive body of work.


3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I think it's safe to say that all other science fiction comedy pales before the great Douglas Adams. Most normal comedy pales before Adams, because he's just that good. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the first of a five-book trilogy (ordinary numerical rules do not apply), and it follows mild-mannered Earthman Arthur Dent as he bounces hopelessly around the galaxy in search of a cup of tea. But these books are not just screamingly funny: they also manage to squeeze in some truly terrific science fiction concepts and even a few moments of brilliant insight on what it means to be an Earthman.


4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Look. You just can't talk about universally loved books without talking about Harry Potter. Yes, there are people who dislike Harry Potter (the same way there are people who dislike chocolate, baby sloths, and world peace), but they are few and far between. There's just something about Rowling's boy wizard that captured our imaginations back in the day. Her Wizarding World is so vivid and so clever, her characters are so infinitely likable (or hate-able), and her story is just so universal that you've got to love it.


5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most beloved tragicomedies in literature. It chronicles one family's madness across the generations and the mythical town of Macondo where they live. But it's about so much more than one family: It's a ridiculous, reverential, altogether stunning look at the loves and hates of every family, everywhere. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes with a deceptive simplicity. His story is neither simple nor straightforward, but he manages to make it seem simple, and to make even the most surreal elements of life in Macondo feel entirely possible.


6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It's hard to think of any book more charming than The Little Prince. It's a fairy tale of sorts, and most certainly a moral allegory, but it never becomes preachy or predictable or dull. A little prince lives on a distant asteroid, where he seems to be dating a flower, but he travels all the way to Earth to share his strange and touching story. People don't just love the Little Prince because it's charming, though, they love it because it's a complex story of loneliness, love, growing up, and life, all wrapped in the guise of a children's story.


7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is about listening to your heart and following your dream. If you think that sounds cheesy, then you're not going to like this book. But if you are into dream-following and feelings and loving yourself, then you just might absolutely LOVE The Alchemist (because a lot of people do). Paulo Coelho has written a wise, powerful novel about a young shepherd boy in search of hidden treasure. But, of course, as these things go, the boy's journey takes a few unexpected turns, and the reader is forced to reevaluate what really counts as treasure in this book.


8. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

And if you're not into following your dreams, but you're into the moral complexities of the Vietnam War, then you should check out The Things They Carried. If you love war stories, you will love this book. If you absolutely hate war stories, you will love this book. You don't even have to like carrying things. Really, you just have to love great writing in order to fall head-over-heels in love with Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. It's a brutal book at times, and very candid about the traumatizing horrors of war. But the writing is so transcendent and filled with humor and humanity, it's impossible not to enjoy every moment of O'Brien's non-traditional narrative.


9. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

It's possible that someone out there dislikes The Princess Bride. But if so, it's only because that person must also dislike adventure, fencing, fighting, magic, revenge, life, death, a little sex, miracles, and true love. It's an old school thrilling adventure romance, told in a slightly more updated tongue-in-cheek style. William Goldman has "abridged" the great S. Morgenstern's classic tale into pure swashbuckling fun (or so he says). Goldman creates a whole fictional history for himself and his book that's almost as enjoyable as the story itself. It's a delightful read from start to finish, so it's no surprise that people love this book so much.


Images: Tim Boyle/Getty Images