Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (Harper & Brothers, 1880)
Written by Lew Wallace, published on November 12, 1880, it was the best-selling American novel until the 1936 publication of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. With the MGM 1959 film adaptation Ben-Hur (which won 11 Academy Awards in 1960), the book reclaimed the top spot again. It is also the first work of fiction to have been blessed by a pope (Pope Leo XIII).
The plot tells of the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem. Running parallel to Ben-Hur’s story is the story of Jesus’ life, who comes to the region and is of the same age.
Never having been out of publication, it is considered “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century.” By 1900, it had been printed in 36 English-language editions and translated into 20 other languages. The book has also been adapted into 2 stage productions (requests that Wallace himself refused), a radio broadcast, 4 films and a TV mini-series.