Best-selling textbooks

The five most popular topics in textbooks

One of my mentors once told me that the five most popular topics in a self-service book are money, success, happiness, relationships and diet.

While this makes sense (most of us strive for the things these books promise), I wonder if there is empirical evidence to support his suggested list. So I decided to research something to find out what Amazon’s best-selling textbooks are at the moment.

I looked at ten major non-fiction categories and ranked each book on the Amazon Bestsellers Rank among the top five books.

For example, in the Biographies and Memories category, the books in the top five books had Amazon’s best-selling rankings of 3, 6, 7, 16, and 20 (the lower the number, the higher the book ranking). The highest rated non-fiction book, Obama: Intimate Portrait, is Amazon’s # 3 best-seller today.

Amazon’s top 10 non-fiction categories in printed books

This is’s top ten list of printed book categories (stapled and hardcover). November 17, 2017. The number in parentheses is Amazon’s average ranking among the top five books in each category.

1. Biographies & Memoirs (10)
2. Self-catering (15)
3. Religion & Spirituality (20)
4. Health, exercise and diet (22)
5. Politics and Social Sciences (24)
Cookbooks, food and wine (39)
7. Business & Money (46)
8. Parents and Relationships (120)
9. Education (168)
Crafts, hobbies and homes (212)
It is easy to see fascinating biographies and memoirs of famous people. This week’s bestseller list includes books about Barack Obama, Bobby Kennedy, Leonardo DaVinc, and General Ulysses Grant. Does this mean you have to publish your memories? If you’re a famous American politician or historical figure, then you are!

A quick scan of Amazon’s favorite list of non-fiction this week confirms the findings. The top 20 includes five biographies, four self-care books (including the classic How to Make Friends and Influence People), two in the Spirituality category, two others in the Health, Fitness and Weight Loss program, four policy books, two business books, a cookbook and astrophysics for the busy.

I laughed when I noticed that two of the week’s 20 most popular non-fiction bestsellers have the word “f * ck” in the headline: Sophisticated art of not giving F * ck and Thug Kitchen: Eat as you give F * ck. Maybe my next book is called “Write when you type F * ck”. See you.

I was curious if the list of the most popular products is the same for printed books and e-books. It was not.

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books on Amazon Kindle (eBooks)

This list of the top ten will be in the e-book categories on’s Kindle Store on November 17, 2017. The number in parentheses is Amazon’s average ranking among the top five books in each category.

1. Religion & Spirituality (61)
Biographies & Memoirs (96)
Business & Money (123)
Self-catering (146)
Cookbooks, food and wine (171)
6. Politics and Social Sciences (180)
7. Health, exercise and diet (202)
8. Parents and Relationships (327)
Crafts, hobbies and homes (1309)
9. Education (1483)
Letterpress vs. e-book sales
The biggest differences are in religion and spirituality (prison number 1 in prison vs. prison number 4 in prison).

Another significant difference is the average ranking of the top five books in each category in the Kindle compared to the top five printed books. The ranking of printed books is usually much higher than for e-books. For example, the average Amazon Bestseller ranking for the top five self-titled titles is # 15 in print books compared to # 146 in Kindle eBooks. Why?

The best-selling e-books are fiction

I scratched my head for a moment and then found inspiration. I quickly looked at the entire Amazon Kindle Bestseller list, and it struck me: Only six of Amazon’s top 100 e-books are non-fiction. The other 94 books are fiction. This can be compared to 36 textbooks from one hundred best-selling printed books.

It seems that most of us prefer printed formats that are not e-books, rather than non-fiction. A closer look at the list of e-books reveals that at least 25% of the e-book titles are novels, women’s fiction and teenage novels – those with thin, just handsome men on the cover.

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