Ten of China’s Top 30 Bestsellers in January Were Classics; Two Were Comics

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

China’s bestseller lists for January 2018 revisited old favorites and new graphic fiction: the Year of the Dog includes a popular ‘Cat Emperor.’

A lantern festival earlier this month in Shanghai’s Yuyuan Garden was part of the city’s events heralding China’s Year of the Dog. Image – iStockphoto: Yanjf

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A TV Personality’s Memoir Enters Nonfiction at No. 11

Nicolai Ostrovskyi’s 1932 ‘How the Steel Was Tempered’

With best wishes for a happy new lunar year, we offer you our look today at January’s China bestsellers—overall fiction and nonfiction, plus the same for books by authors outside China.

As each month, our rankings here are provided by Beijing’s OpenBook and the US-based distribution and import specialists Trajectory. 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.

Our colleague Rainy Liu points out this month that with the winter vacation weeks that surround the new year holidays, there’s often a trend toward sales in classical literature, both Chinese and international—especially among students who are getting through some extra reading requirements from primary and secondary school classes.

This is part of what’s behind the 10 classical works found in our January Top 30 titles in fiction.

Among those, for example, are the 1932 Russian social-realist novel How the Steel Was Tempered by Nikolai Ostrovsky and the 1932 Rickshaw Boy by China’s Lao She.

‘The Cat Emperor and His Friends’ by Bai Cha

We’re also seeing a return in January to some comics in the Top 10, including the high-ranking (No. 3) The Cat Emperor and His Friends by Bai Cha. Two of the characters from the comic—a fat cat called Wuhuang and a black dog named Bazhahei—are nationally popular cartoons.

And Bai Cha’s comics series originally appeared on the social network Weibo.

What kind of readership is behind such a successful comic? There are said to three million readers of Bai Cha’s material online alone.

And January saw the arrival of a new graphic title, as well, Douluo Continent III: Legend of the Dragon King by Tang Jia Shao.

In nonfiction, with several new titles from Chinese authors entering the Top 30, one of them is written by a famous Chinese news anchor.

‘Encounter With Chen Luyu’

Chen Luyu has hosted several television programs and wrote her first autobiography 15 years ago.

Her new work, Encounter With Chen Luyu, looks at her various interviews with people and draws lessons from them, gathering messages about love, sadness, and confusion.

Below are OpenBook’s overall lists from January of bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, followed by its lists of bestselling fiction and nonfiction in China by authors from outside the country, which are of interest, of course, to those who are looking to sell rights into the huge Chinese market.

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers in China, January 2018
Dec ’17 Rank Jan ’18 Rank ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544270878 Apr-14 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 2 9787020123728 Apr-17 Fang Hua Yan Geling People’s Literature Publishing House
28 3 9787505742338 Dec-17 The Cat Emperor and His Friends (3) Bai Cha China Friendship Publishing Company
7 4 9787208061644 Apr-06 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
4 5 9787550024212 Sep-17 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 6 9787544760874 Oct-16 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne Yilin Press
Not Ranked 7 9787544246279 Apr-10 Rickshaw Boy Lao She Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 8 9787544291163 Aug-17 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 9 9787530217559 Nov-17 The Murder in Mansion Masquerade Higashino Keigo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
8 10 9787544267618 Jun-14 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 11 9787556232994 Jan-18 Douluo Continent III: Legend of the Dragon King(23) Tang Jia San Shao Hunan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
16 12 9787500601593 Aug-05 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
6 13 9787550013247 May-15 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
10 14 9787530215593 Jun-17 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787544762519 Dec-16 How the Steel Was Tempered Nikolai Ostrovsky Yilin Press
13 16 9787530216781 Jun-17 Ordinary World (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
11 17 9787536692930 Jan-08 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
12 18 9787544285148 Oct-16 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 19 9787540455958 Jun-12 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy Hunan Literature & Art Press
20 20 9787544291170 Aug-17 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, January 2018
Dec ’17 Rank Jan ’18 Rank ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 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 2 9787540482190 Aug-17 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
6 3 9787549550173 Jan-14 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
3 4 9787508660752 Feb-17 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
5 5 9787550263932 Nov-15 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
4 6 9787508672069 Jan-17 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
Not Ranked 7 9787544763981 Jun-16 Fu Lei’s Letters for Home (Revised Edition) Fu Lei Yilin Press
Not Ranked 8 9787544765176 Aug-16 Fu Lei’s Letters for Home Fu Lei Yilin Press
7 9 9787108042453 Sep-12 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
8 10 9787539999883 Mar-17 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Er Hunzi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 11 9787530217856 Dec-17 Encounter of Chen Luyu Chen Luyu Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
24 12 9787530214787 Apr-17 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Chan Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787508682624 Oct-17 The Decade of Surge with Big Fishes and Flooding Water Wu Xiaobo CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
10 14 9787508671505 Dec-16 Speak Well: Fresh and Interesting Speaking Skills Ma Weiwei, Huang Zhizhong, Zhou Xuanyi CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
12 15 9787549564125 Apr-15 Dear Andrea Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
9 16 9787549550159 Jan-14 My Child, Just Take Your Time Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
14 17 9787020130702 Aug-17 The Reader (Vol.1) Dong Qing People’s Literature Publishing House
15 18 9787535447340 Feb-14 The Poignant Culture Traveling Yu Qiuyu Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co., Ltd.
17 19 9787540476892 Jul-16 Goodwill Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 20 9787533951092 Dec-17 What is EQ? Li Xiaoyi Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, January 2018
Dec ’17 Rank Jan ’18 Rank ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544270878 Apr-14 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 2 9787020123728 Apr-17 Fang Hua Yan Geling United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
6 3 9787208061644 Apr-06 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
3 4 9787550024212 Sep-17 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 5 9787544760874 Oct-16 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne France Yilin Press
4 6 9787544291163 Aug-17 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 7 9787530217559 Nov-17 The Murder in Mansion Masquerade Higashino Keigo Japan Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
7 8 9787544267618 Jun-14 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 9 9787550013247 May-15 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 10 9787544762519 Dec-16 How the Steel Was Tempered Nikolai Ostrovsky Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Yilin Press
8 11 9787544285148 Oct-16 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 12 9787540455958 Jun-12 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy France Hunan Literature & Art Press
12 13 9787544291170 Aug-17 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 14 9787544258210 Oct-17 Naoko Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 15 9787544291224 Aug-17 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
16 16 9787544285643 Dec-16 Salvation of a Saint Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 17 9787539971810 Apr-15 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 18 9787544277617 Jun-15 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787544760843 Aug-16 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Britain Yilin Press
19 20 9787544277723 Jun-15 Tokio Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, January 2018
Dec ’17 Rank Jan ’18 Rank ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787508660752 Feb-17 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 2 9787508672069 Jan-17 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
3 3 9787020116133 Jun-16 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
4 4 9787514208788 Jul-13 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
Not Ranked 5 9787544760850 Jan-17 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
8 6 9787301109489 Oct-06 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L.S.Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
7 7 9787535732309 Nov-01 A Brief History of Time Stephen William Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
13 8 9787301110522 Oct-06 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L.S.Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
16 9 9787508673158 Mar-17 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind + Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 10 9787544762885 Apr-16 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff United States of America Yilin Press
6 11 9787544768559 Jul-17 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean Henri Fabre France Yilin Press
5 12 9787308161459 Aug-16 The Silk Roads: A New History of the World Peter Frankopan Britain Zhejiang Eniversity Press Co.,Ltd
17 13 9787508650890 May-15 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
9 14 9787513903509 Nov-14 Jerusalem: The Biography Simon Sebag Montefiore Britain Democracy and Construction Press
14 15 9787300126210 Sep-10 Mao: A Biography Ross Terrill United States of America China Renmin University Press
Not Ranked 16 9787510855832 Sep-17 100 Basics of Work & Life Matsuura Yataro Japan Jiuzhou Press
Not Ranked 17 9787544768511 Jun-17 Three Days to See (New Edition) Helen Keller United States of America Yilin Press
Not Ranked 18 9787220102912 Sep-17 Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T. Kiyosaki United States of America Sichuan People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787508086156 Nov-15 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
18 20 9787514219203 Sep-17 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House

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 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 a total 3,115 stores located in 1,247 cities. These stores include:

    • Traditional bookstores
    • Supermarkets
    • 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 is 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 CEO James Bryant clarifies, 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.


More charts and rankings from Publishing Perspectives’ China bestsellers can be found here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.