Researchers polled Britons and asked them to vote for their favourite books

The Greatest Debut Novels Of All Time

Researchers polled Britons and asked them to vote for their favourite books, from a list of novels from (at the time) first time authors, with the first instalment of Rowling’s Harry Potter series, published in 1997, was most popular, with 31 percent of the vote.

Harper Lee’s historical coming-of-age drama, To Kill a Mockingbird (26 percent) followed close behind, along with JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, an unforgettable story of Bilbo the peace-loving hobbit, embarking on a magical adventure.

Stephen King’s Carrie (20 percent), Frankenstein (18 percent) by Mary Shelley, and William Golding’s Nobel Prize-winning Lord of the Flies (17 percent) also made the list. 

More modern-day classics also make the cut including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (16 percent) by Douglas Adams, Twilight (11 percent) by Stephanie Meyer, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (14 percent) by Stieg Larsson, Conversations with Friends (four percent) by Sally Rooney, and Fifty Shades of Grey (14 percent) by EL James.

The survey of 2,000 literary lovers was commissioned by to launch it’s Kindle Storyteller Award.

The Kindle Storyteller Award is a literary prize celebrating the UK’s best self-published story, with the winning author receiving a £20,000 prize. It offers recognition for the nation’s best established and new independent writers and is accepting submissions until 31st August 2023.

The study also found that 90 percent of the nation agree that it is never too late to let your creative juices flow and write a novel, and a third of all Brits want to write a novel one day.

Literary expert Tom Abba, Associate Professor at UWE Bristol, comments, “Rowling’s debut is the best sell in debut novel of all time – totalling more than 107 million copies sold to date. Other universally acknowledged classic debuts include J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye which has now totalled 70 million copies globally”.

“The average age of a debut novelist from the last two centuries is 34 years old, with the likes of John Grisham, Harper Lee and James Joyce publishing their debut novels at this age.

“Yet a number of authors who received great acclaim for their debut novels did so after starting out in other careers – ranging from Grisham, who originally trained as a plumber’s assistant, to J.D. Salinger, who started his career as an Entertainment Director on a Swedish cruise liner – proving that vast writing experience is not a must.

“Since the millennium, the average age for a debut novelist has increased to 35, which should provide encouragement for those who are thinking of a literary career as an exit route or ‘side hustle’ to their current line of work, especially with the rise of indie publishing providing an accessible avenue to success.

While there are many authors that fit this trend, Abba says that there have also been hugely successful exceptions to the rule too. Mary Shelley was famously only 19 when she wrote her first draft of Frankenstein, and 21 when it was first published. Likewise, Daniel Defoe wrote his debut bestseller Robinson Crusoe at the age of 60, proving that age really is no barrier to literary success, a trend which is on the rise with many indie authors finding success in later life.”

Darren Hardy, Manager for UK Author and Editorial Programmes at, commented: “Literary success can happen at any age, as demonstrated by this research. Through the Kindle Storyteller Award, we want to inspire authors, and instil in them the confidence that no matter their age or walk of life, they have the autonomy to write and publish a story through Kindle Direct Publishing – and it could even become a bestseller.

“It's encouraging to see that we've had a number of debut authors submit for this year's Award, as well as established writers. It's going to be challenging to narrow this year's submissions down to a shortlist!”

The Kindle Storyteller Award is open for entries until 31st August 2023. All titles must be enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing Select while they are in the competition. For further information, visit


1 “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by JK Rowling – 31%

2 "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee – 26%

3 "The Hobbit" by JRR Tolkien – 26%

4 “Carrie” by Stephen King – 20%

5 "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley – 18%

6 “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding – 17%

7 “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams – 16%

8 “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L Frank Baum – 15%

9 “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson – 14%

10 "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell – 14%

11 “Fifty Shades of Grey” by EL James – 14%

12 “The Time Machine” by HG Wells – 14%

13 “Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming – 13%

14 "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen – 13%

15 "The Catcher in the Rye" by JD Salinger – 13%

16 "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller – 11%

17 “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer – 11%

18 "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde – 11%

19 “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger – 10%

20 “The Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens – 9%

21 “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk – 8%

22 “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” by Mark Haddon – 8%

23 “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison – 8%

24 “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle – 7%

25 "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini – 7%

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