By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
OpenBook’s Overall Fiction Bestsellers in China, 2017
One of the most reliable fixtures on the monthly fiction bestseller lists from China’s OpenBook has been Japanese author Higashino Keigo, best known for his mystery novels. In 2017, his Miracles of the Namiya General Store had its second year at the overall top of OpenBook’s China’s charts. In both 2016 and 2017, this was the biggest seller.
Keigo’s dominance doesn’t stop there. Three of his works are in the Top 5 on the annual charts, with Journey Under the Midnight Sun and The Devotion of Suspect X at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
The Afghan-born American author Khaled Hosseini and Scotland-based Claire McFall complete the Top 5 on the list, with Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and McFall’s Ferryman.
One of the most noticeable trends in the fiction bestseller list is the dominance of foreign authors. When Publishing Perspectives pursued the question of why so many fiction bestsellers in China are by non-Chinese authors, we were told that there are three factors in play.
- Many Chinese readers have an interest in leading international popular titles, a factor evident in the familiar Western books on the list.
- Television and film production, often attached to one of these titles, can be a key driver.
- And some authors—chief among them is Japanese author Higashino Keigo—gain a kind of cult status and can generate years of sales on reputation and across many books.
OpenBook in China is similar to Nielsen in the UK or NPD in the United States, providing research and analysis on the evolving Chinese publishing industry. Below is OpenBook’s list of bestselling fiction titles in China in 2017:
|Rank||ISBN||Release Date||Title (Translated)||Author||Chinese Publisher|
|1||9787544270878||Apr-14||Miracles of the Namiya General Store||Higashino Keigo||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|2||9787208061644||Apr-06||The Kite Runner||Khaled Hosseini||Shanghai People’s Publishing House|
|3||9787550013247||May-15||Ferryman||Claire McFall||Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House|
|4||9787544258609||Jan-13||Journey Under the Midnight Sun||Higashino Keigo||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|5||9787544267618||Jun-14||The Devotion of Suspect X||Higashino Keigo||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|6||9787506365437||Jun-10||To Live||Yu hua||The Writer’s Publishing House|
|7||9787536692930||Jan-08||The Three-Body Problem||Liu Cixin||Chongqing Publishing House|
|8||9787536693968||May-08||The Dark Forest||Liu Cixin||Chongqing Publishing House|
|9||9787530216194||Jan-17||In The Name of People||Zhou Meisen||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|10||9787229030933||Nov-10||Death’s End||Liu Cixin||Chongqing Publishing House|
|11||9787540455958||Jun-12||The Shadow Thief||Marc Levy||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|12||9787539971810||Apr-15||The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry||Gabrielle Zevin||Jiangsu Literature & Art Press|
|13||9787540458027||Oct-13||I Belonged to You||Zhang Jiajia||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|14||9787544253994||May-11||One Hundred Years of Solitude||Gabriel García Márquez||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|15||9787500601593||Aug-08||Red Crag||Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan||China Youth Press|
|16||9787020090297||Sep-12||White Deer Plain||Chen Zhongshi||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|17||9787544285148||Oct-16||Malice||Higashino Keigo||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|18||9787530212004||Feb-12||Ordinary Word (3 Volumes)||Lu Yao||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|19||9787020090006||Jul-12||Fortress Besieged||Qian Zhongshu||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|20||9787201091884||Mar-15||Just for Meeting You||Zhang Haochen||Tianjin People’s Publishing House|
|21||9787020098095||Jun-13||Fortress Besieged||Qian Zhongshu||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|22||9787559608949||Sep-17||I’m Waiting for You in Future||Liu Tong||Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|23||9787544244190||Mar-09||The Alchemist||Paulo Coelho||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|24||9787544277617||Jun-15||Love in the Time of Cholera||Gabriel García Márquez||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|25||9787201120713||Jul-17||A Matter of Love||Zhang Haochen||Tianjin People’s Publishing House|
|26||9787539989891||Mar-16||Fall of Giants||Ken Follett||Jiangsu Literature & Art Press|
|27||9787550293151||Dec-16||Laplace’s Witch||Higashino Keigo||Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|28||9787544246279||Apr-10||Rickshaw Boy||Lao She||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|29||9787020123728||Apr-17||Fang Hua||Yan Geling||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|30||9787550024212||Sep-17||Trespassers||Claire McFall||Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House|
OpenBook’s Overall Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, 2017
In nonfiction, foreign authors have less of a grip on the bestseller list than in fiction.
The book about the youth of China’s president, Xi Jinping—Seven Years as an Educated Youth—was released in August and quickly claimed the top ranking.
The title in the second spot is Gao Ming’s Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right, which is described as an examination of “what the world is like from the psychological, philosophical, biological, and religious perspectives of abnormal human beings.”
And the No. 3 position in nonfiction for 2017 in China is held by We Three by the late author and playwright Yang Jiang, who died in May of 2016 at age 104. We Three—sometimes translated as A Family of Three—is a memoir comprising essays from 2003, primarily focused on the loss of the author’s daughter not long before her husband’s death.
Yang Jiang, who was also a translator of European works into Chinese including Don Quixote, was still producing work at age 96 and is remembered for many sterling lines including this: “There is no absolute happiness in human life. Happiness always comes with worry and anxiety.”
|Rank||ISBN||Release Date||Title (Translated)||Author||Chinese Publisher|
|1||9787503561634||Aug-17||Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth||Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C||Central Party School Press|
|2||9787550263932||Nov-15||Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)||Gao Ming||Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|3||9787108042453||Sep-12||We Three||Yang Jiang||SDX Joint Publishing Company|
|4||9787201094014||Sep-15||Six Chapters of A Floating Life||Shen Fu||Tianjin People’s Publishing House|
|5||9787540482190||Aug-17||I Won’t||Da Bing||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|6||9787549550173||Jan-14||Seeing Off||Long Yingtai||Guangxi Normal University Press|
|7||9787508672069||Jan-17||Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow||Yuval Noah Harari||CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd|
|8||9787535488473||May-16||Walk Alone Freely||Jia Pingwa||Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co., Ltd.|
|9||9787540476892||Jul-16||Goodwill||Da Bing||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|10||9787510842344||Mar-16||All the Lost Will Be Back in Another Way||Geng Shuai||Jiuzhou Press|
|11||9787508671505||Dec-16||Speak Well: Fresh and Interesting Speaking Skills||Ma Weiwei, Huang Zhizhong, Zhou Xuanyi||CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd|
|12||9787201088945||Dec-14||No More Than Skins||Cai Chongda||Tianjin People’s Publishing House|
|13||9787540468798||Sep-14||Take It Easy||Da Bing||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|14||9787020116133||Jun-16||Red Star Over China||Edgar Snow||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|15||9787540472238||Jul-15||May You||Da Bing||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|16||9787549550159||Jan-14||My Child, Just Take Your Time||Long Yingtai||Guangxi Normal University Press|
|17||9787549564125||Apr-15||Dear Andrea||Long Yingtai||Guangxi Normal University Press|
|18||9787508660752||Feb-17||Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind||Yuval Noah Harari||CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd|
|19||9787101054491||Feb-07||1587, a Year of No Significance||Ray Huang||Zhonghua Book Company|
|20||9787550286092||Sep-16||The So-called High Emotional Intelligence Is Talking||Zuozuomuguiyi||Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|21||9787540467784||Jun-14||Way of Speaking||Cai Kangyong||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|22||9787540476250||Jul-16||The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo||Lin Yutang||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|23||9787555235088||Feb-16||Do Just a Good Woman||Wan Qing||Qingdao Publishing House|
|24||9787535732309||Nov-01||A Brief History of Time||Stephen William Hawking||Hunan Science & Technology Press|
|25||9787535481108||Aug-15||Bai Yansong Talks||Bai Yansong||Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co., Ltd.|
|26||9787514205039||Jul-12||The Willpower Instinct||Kelly McGonigal||Cultural Development Publishing House|
|27||9787535482051||Dec-16||Loneliness is the Gigt of Life||Yu Guangzhong, Lin Qingxuan, Bai Xianyong||Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co., Ltd.|
|28||9787540468316||Jul-14||Way of Speaking 2||Cai Kangyong||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|29||9787508647357||Oct-14||Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind||Yuval Noah Harari||CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd|
|30||9787549529322||Dec-12||Insight||Chai Jing||Guangxi Normal University Press|
Notes on the Charts
OpenBook is a privately owned industry-data research firm based in Beijing. It functions somewhat as Nielsen and NDP do from the West, and Nielsen Book Research International chief Andre Breedt tells us that Nielsen has worked with OpenBook in Asian operations.
Trajectory, based near Boston, is an importer of Western-language ebooks and audiobooks into China. Trajectory is also helping China’s largest publishers export their books and audiobooks through a proprietary global ebook distribution network that includes hundreds of retailers as well as library and school distributors.
This data is estimated by OpenBook to represent some 30 to 40 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBooks draws point-of-sale data from more than 6,000 retailers. These stores include:
- Traditional bookstores
- Campus bookstores
- “Professional” stores, which are said to be small stores with a specific industrial or trade focus
- Airport stores
In addition, OpenBook is drawing data from online bookstores of two main types:
- The “Tmall” stores, of Alibaba (Tmall described as a marketplace of companies that create storefronts online to sell products including books)
- Ten independent online bookselling retailers
China has some 500 or more publishers in operation today. Most of them, Trajectory’s Bryant clarifies for us, are government-owned. Private publishers are required to purchase ISBNs for their titles from a publishing company that is government-owned—which, in other words, creates a system in which all ISBNs are in one way or another registered through government channels. The government approves each book published in China.
Our thanks to OpenBook’s Rainy Liu for contributing reporting to this article.