Paperback books

Paperbacks are hard to beat. Affordable, light and easy to carry, they’re perfect for reading anywhere anytime. AbeBooks offers millions of new and used paperback books for sale from sellers around the world, including bestselling novels, memoirs, and autobiographies plus signed copies, and countless softcover books that are now out-of-print.

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Bestselling fiction paperbacks

By Delia Owens
A popular coming-of-age murder mystery, set in a fictional town in North Carolina, that became a movie in 2022.
By Colleen Hoover
This author is loved by TikTok users. This is a mystery romance novel that will keep you on the edge of your reading chair.
By Matt Haig
Published in 2020, a fantasy novel where a young woman ends up in a library located between life and death.
By Anthony Doerr
Set in World War II, a blind French girl takes refuge in her uncle's house in St Malo.
By Madeline Miller
A retelling of the famous legend of Achilles and the Trojan War. An action-packed adventure and an epic love story for the ages.
By Téa Obreht
In a war-torn Balkan country, Natalia, a doctor, unravels the circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s death.
By Jennifer Egan
Bennie is a record executive while Sasha is a troubled young woman. Egan reveals their pasts.
By Amy Tan
In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk.
By David Mitchell
A novel that jumps across time. From 1850 to 1931 and then the 1970s. Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect.
By Celeste Ng
This novel traces the connected fates of a picture-perfect family, and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

Bestselling non-fiction paperbacks

By Michelle Obama
A former lawyer, Michelle Obama served as first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. This book tells her story.
By Robin Wall Kimmerer
An indigenous scientist, Robin Wall Kimmerer embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers.
By Cheryl Strayed
With her life seemingly in pieces, Cheryl Strayed decides to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
By Glennon Doyle
Part inspiration, part memoir, Untamed explores the joy we find when we stop striving to meet the world's expectations.
By Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of about a deeply dysfunctional family. Parenting like you've never seen it before.
By Viktor E. Frankl
In Auschwitz, Frankl observed how people coped with the horror. Those who comforted others survived the longest.
By Bill Buford
Buford quits his job at The New Yorker to learn how to be chef in a top New York restaurant run by superstar chef Mario Batali.
By Tina Fey
Autobiographical essays from the actress and comedy writer known for 30 Rock, Mean Girls, and Saturday Night Live.
By Frank McCourt
A memoir of McCourt's awful childhood in Ireland. The author endures poverty, near-starvation and casual cruelty.
By J.D. Vance
A memoir about an American family in crisis. Alcoholism, poverty, and trauma. A story of social and regional decline.

History of paperback books

Paperback books, also called softcovers or softbacks, are designed to make reading affordable. Cheaper than hardcovers, paperbacks are glued together while hardcover books are sewn. Paperbacks also use cheaper paper than their hardcover cousins.

It’s typical for a paperback edition to be released after the hardcover edition, perhaps 12 months later, as a method of generating fresh sales for a particular work. Used paperbacks offer tremendous value for money and are easy to find on AbeBooks thanks to our softcover refinement in search results.

Pink Penguin paperback.jpg
Cerise, or pink, Penguins indicated travel and adventure

Allen Lane, who founded Penguin, is credited with popularizing paperbacks in the 1930s. Paperbacks were produced in the 19th century but Lane was frustrated by the lack of affordable contemporary fiction. He wanted to offer cheap, quality books through outlets like railway stations and newsagents as well as traditional bookshops.

Penguin issued its first 10 books in 1935 and each one cost just six pence at a time when hardcovers were priced at seven or eight shillings. Within a year, Penguin had sold three million paperbacks.

Penguin’s success was not totally based on price but also design. Edward Young was responsible for the first 10 covers, which used simple thick bands of color to indicate the book’s genre, and made Penguins easy to spot. Vintage copies of these Penguin paperbacks are still easy to spot today in used bookstores. The first Penguin was Ariel: A Shelley Romance by André Maurois – a biography of the poet.

Paperbacks became part of the essential reading experience. There are the battered paperbacks of On the Road carried on road-trips, the 1960s paperback editions of Lord of the Rings that brought J.R.R. Tolkien to the American audience, and Penguin’s history-making paperback edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover issued after an obscenity court case. Penguin, Puffin, Ace, Bantam, Ballantine, Harlequin – the list of famous paperback publishers goes on and on.

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