The best-selling books costing Mother Earth the most trees

Special from SaveOnEnergy

Eco expert, Linda Dodge provides thorough advice on how switching your reading habits can help benefit the planet
Eco expert, Linda Dodge provides thorough advice on how switching your reading habits can help benefit the planet (illustration:

Whether it’s through comfort or emotional connections to relatable characters, there is nothing quite like sitting down to read your favourite book.

And over the past year, it’s perhaps unsurprising book sales have skyrocketed, with ‘Big 5’ member Bloomsbury Publishing reporting their profit before tax climbing by 60%, as the firm delivered its highest first-half earnings since 2008.

And although we can draw on the positives that more people are reading, there are environmental concerns associated, which inspired eco experts at to investigate potential loss of trees cut down for paper to have supplied the world’s best-selling classics.

To do this, comprehensively compiled a list of the 50 best-selling books of all time and multiplied their approximate sales by their first edition page count.*

The best sellers potentially costing mother Earth can reveal the book potentially cutting down the most trees is the fifth instalment to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, The Order of the Phoenix.

The first edition of this instalment has a whopping 766 pages and has celebrated approximately 65 million sales globally, potentially equivalent to nearly 5 million trees lost to fuel our love for the young wizard.

In second place is War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. With 36.4 million in global sales, SaveOnEnergy anticipated a potential loss of 4,410,000 trees.

Thereafter in third and joint fourth are additional novels from the Harry Potter franchise: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with 4,134,000 estimated trees cut down, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with 3,945,500 estimated trees cut down.

In fifth place is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, with the mystery thriller potentially costing planet earth around 3,912,000 trees. Followed in sixth place by Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin (3,520,000) and in seventh place is the 1976 sexology The Hite Report by Shere Hite with more than 3 million trees lost.

And rounding off the top 10 is the first instalment to the wizardry series ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ with an estimated 2,676,000 trees removed.


The authors’ best-selling books potentially costing Mother Earth discovered that across all 50 books analysed, the author potentially contributing the largest decline in the number of trees cut down worldwide is J. K. Rowling – nearly 24 million trees, equivalent to the size of Scotland’s Glengarry Forest for all Harry Potter instalments.**

Placing second is Dan Brown with his novels having sold enough sales equivalent to the potential loss of 6,314,400 trees. Out of 43 authors across 50 of the best-selling books, only two authors have more than one best-selling book.

SaveOnEnergy’s Linda Dodge has commented on the findings: “Although it’s somewhat frightening how many potential trees may have been lost to these best-selling books, this shouldn’t stop us from reading. Instead, we should consider our carbon footprint and adapt by trying e-reading. eBooks are often available for as little as £1 and don’t cost the life of a tree. And the benefit? You can carry with you as many books as you’d like; whether it be on your iPhone, iPad, laptop, Kindle or tablet.”

For more information and a more in-depth breakdown on the best sellers, authors’, and genre, please see the blog post:


  • To do this, com/uk compiled a list together of the 50 best-selling books of all time using The book’s Wikipedia page was sourced to find the page count of each 1st edition book.
  • To investigate how many estimated sheets of paper have been printed, pulled together the data for the approximate sales from each book and multiplied it by the first edition page count.
  • After trailing through multiple sources, utilised the statistic that a standard pine tree (45 feet by 8 inches) will produce an estimated 10,000 sheets of paper.
  • com/uk then divided that figure by the number sheets of paper printed to generate the estimated number of trees cut down.


* Due to multiple editions varying in page numbers, the page count used was from the first edition of the book.

** Tree density in primary forests varies from 50,000-100,000 trees per square kilometre. Glengarry Forest is 165 km2.