By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Classics and a Japanese StarThe Chinese market can be surprisingly busy with international classics. Last month, for example—when 10 of the 30 top bestsellers were classics—the 1932 Russian novel, Nikolai Ostrovksy’s How the Steel Was Tempered. was at 15 on the overall fiction bestseller list and 10 on the foreign fiction list.
And in fact, in our very first round of these lists last June, some readers were surprised to find Henry David Thoerau’s Walden, Francis Bacon’s Essays, and works by Gabriel García Márquez being avidly read in the Chinese market. In July, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea surfaced, as did Ernest Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea. In August, here was Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the next month, we found Ivan Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels on the lists, and in November, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express made an appearance.
Both in fiction and nonfiction, this has been a theme, and the researchers who gather the data for us on these lists tell us that two things are at play here.
For one, there’s a curiosity among China readers about Western literature—seemingly the American and and Russian, in particular. And as a more affluent middle class forms in that vast country, some readers are catching up on titles considered to hold keys to Western thinking.
Second, as we find Verne’s 20,000 Leagues going the distance again—this time at No. 2 in both the overall and foreign-author fiction lists—primary and secondary school reading assignments and recommendations can propel such rankings. On the foreign-author list, Hemingway, Bronte, and Swift are also finding favor with the readers of China in our look-back at February.
An even more dependable trend borne out again last month is Chinese readers’ fondness for Japanese author Kiego Higashino. This month, his Miracles of the Namiya General Store is again at No. 1 in overall fiction, as are three other titles. In the foreign-author fiction list, he turns up no fewer than seven times.
And when we ran our full-year 2017 lists, we wrote, “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.”
What’s more, we have stories at Publishing Perspectives going back to 2014 on the author’s popularity. And a bit over a year ago, we had a story on how his Mysterious Night had become Peking University Library’s third most-borrowed book, whie his Miracles and Journey Under the Midnight Sun had been named “the two most reserved books” on the campus.
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 Chinese educational priorities can sway the focus on classics.
“With two editions of each, all listed in the Top 30 chart,” Liu says, “classics in February include Lu Yao’s Ordinary World, Lao She’s Rickshaw Boy, Yu Hua’s To Live, and Red Crag, along with Pioneering by Liu Qing, Jane Eyre, and Street Wizards by Feng Jicai—most of those titles recommended by the ministry of education.”
A certain emphasis on science fiction can also be picked up February’s charts, she points out, including—in addition to the seagoing Verne—an appearance at No. 13 of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which is part of a seventh-grade curriculum in some Chinese schools. And in Chinese science fiction, there’s Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem, which has been featured before in the charts.
In nonfiction, there’s Fu Lei’s Letters for Home, in which the author describes his and his wife’s letters to their children between 1954 and 1966. The book is considered to depict a model of family education, and is said to be studied during winter holidays by many students together with their families.
Below are OpenBook’s overall lists from February 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. At the end of our article, as always, you’ll find notes on how the lists are constructed.
OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers in China, February 2018
|Jan 2018 Ranking||Feb 2918 Ranking||ISBN||Release Date||Title (Translated)||Author||Chinese Publisher|
|1||1||9787544270878||Apr 2014||Miracles of the Namiya General Store||Higashino Keigo||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|6||2||9787544760874||Oct 2016||20,000 Leagues Under the Sea||Jules Verne||Yilin Press|
|7||3||9787544246279||Apr 2010||Rickshaw Boy||Lao She||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|15||4||9787544762519||Dec 2016||How the Steel Was Tempered||Nikolai Ostrovsky||Yilin Press|
|Not Ranked||5||9787500601593||Aug 2005||Red Crag||Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan||China Youth Press|
|4||6||9787208061644||Apr 2006||The Kite Runner||Khaled Hosseini||Shanghai People’s Publishing House|
|8||7||9787544291163||Aug 2017||Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version)||Higashino Keigo||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|23||8||9787544764254||Jan 2017||Rickshaw Boy||Lao She||Yilin Press|
|5||9||9787550024212||Sep 2017||Trespassers||Claire McFall||Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House|
|10||10||9787544267618||Jun 2014||The Devotion of Suspect X||Higashino Keigo||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|16||11||9787530216781||Jun 2017||Ordinary World (3 Volumns)||Lu Yao||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|Not Ranked||12||9787539983295||Oct 2015||Foundation||Isaac Asimov||Jiangsu Literature & Art Press|
|Not Ranked||13||9787500680239||Jan 2009||Pioneering||Liu Qing||China Youth Press|
|14||14||9787530215593||Jun 2017||To Live||Yu hua||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|13||15||9787550013247||May 2015||Ferryman||Claire McFall||Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House|
|2||16||9787020123728||Apr 2017||Fang Hua||Yan Geling||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|21||17||9787530216774||Jul 2017||Ordinary World||Lu Yao||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|3||18||9787505742338||Dec 2017||The Cat Emperor and His Friends (3)||Bai Cha||China Friendship Publishing Company|
|Not Ranked||19||Aug 2016||Jane Eyre||Charlotte Bronte||Yilin Press|
|Not Ranked||20||9787559611567||Dec 2017||Platinum Data||Higashino Keigo||Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.|
OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, February 2018
|Jan 2018 Ranking||Feb 2018 Ranking||ISBN||Release Date||Title (Translated)||Author||Chinese Publisher|
|8||1||9787544765176||Aug 2016||Fu Lei’s Letters for Home||Fu Lei||Yilin Press|
|1||2||9787503561634||Aug 2017||Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth||Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C||Central Party School Press|
|7||3||9787544763981||Jun 2016||Fu Lei’s Letters for Home (Revised Edition)||Fu Lei||Yilin Press|
|3||4||9787549550173||Jan 2014||Seeing Off||Long Yingtai||Guangxi Normal University Press|
|5||5||9787550263932||Nov 2015||Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)||Gao Ming||Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|2||6||9787540482190||Aug 2017||I Won’t||Da Bing||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|Not Ranked||7||9787508684031||Dec 2017||Principles||Ray Dalio||CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd|
|4||8||9787508660752||Feb 2017||Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind||Yuval Noah Harari||CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd|
|9||9||9787108042453||Sep 2012||We Three||Yang Jiang||SDX Joint Publishing Company|
|6||10||9787508672069||Jan 2017||Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow||Yuval Noah Harari||CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd|
|10||11||9787539999883||Mar 2017||30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon||Er Hunzi||Jiangsu Literature & Art Press|
|Not Ranked||12||9787544760850||Jan 207||Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven||Romain Rolland||Yilin Press|
|12||13||9787530214787||Apr 2017||The Stories of the Sahara||Echo Chan||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|18||14||9787535447340||Feb 2014||The Poignant Culture Traveling||Yu Qiuyu||Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.|
|15||15||9787549564125||Apr 2015||Dear Andrea||Long Yingtai||Guangxi Normal University Press|
|20||16||9787533951092||Dec 2017||What is EQ?||Li Xiaoyi||Zhejiang Literature & Art Press|
|16||17||9787549550159||Jan 2014||My Child, Just Take Your Time||Long Yingtai||Guangxi Normal University Press|
|24||18||9787540476250||Jul 2016||The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo||Lin Yutang||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|11||19||9787530217856||Dec 2017||Encounter of Chen Luyu||Chen Luyu||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|22||20||9787201088945||Ded 2014||No More Than Skins||Cai Chongda||Tianjin People’s Publishing House|
Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, February 2018
|Jan 2018 Ranking||Feb 2018 Ranking||ISBN||Release Date||Title (Translated)||Author||Author nationality||Chinese Publisher|
|1||1||9787544270878||Apr 2014||Miracles of the Namiya General Store||Higashino Keigo||Japan||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|5||2||9787544760874||Oct 2016||20,000 Leagues Under the Sea||Jules Verne||France||Yilin Press|
|10||3||9787544762519||Dec 2016||How the Steel Was Tempered||Nikolai Ostrovsky||Russia||Yilin Press|
|3||4||9787208061644||Apr 2006||The Kite Runner||Khaled Hosseini||United States of America||Shanghai People’s Publishing House|
|6||5||9787544291163||Aug 2017||Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version)||Higashino Keigo||Japan||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|4||6||9787550024212||Sep 2017||Trespassers||Claire McFall||United Kingdom||Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House|
|8||7||9787544267618||Jun 2014||The Devotion of Suspect X||Higashino Keigo||Japan||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|Not Ranked||8||9787539983295||Oct 2015||Foundation||Isaac Asimov||United States of America||Jiangsu Literature & Art Press|
|9||9||9787550013247||May 2015||Ferryman||Claire McFall||United Kingdom||Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House|
|2||10||9787020123728||Apr 2017||Fang Hua||Yan Geling||United States of America||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|19||11||9787544760843||Aug 2016||Jane Eyre||Charlotte Bronte||United Kingdom||Yilin Press|
|Not Ranked||12||9787559611567||Dec 2017||Platinum Data||Higashino Keigo||Japan||Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|11||13||9787544285148||Oct 2016||Malice||Higashino Keigo||Japan||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|7||14||9787530217559||Nov 2017||The Murder in Mansion Masquerade||Higashino Keigo||Japan||Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House|
|13||15||9787544291170||Aug 2017||One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition)||Gabriel García Márquez||Colombia||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|Not Ranked||16||9787544760782||Aug 2016||Gulliver’s Travels||Jonathan Swift||United Kingdom||Yilin Press|
|Not Ranked||17||9787544761680||Dec 2016||The Old Man and the Sea||Ernest Hemingway||United States of America||Yilin Press|
|12||18||9787540455958||Jun 2012||The Shadow Thief||Marc Levy||France||Hunan Literature & Art Press|
|15||19||9787544291224||Aug 2017||After School (2017 Version)||Higashino Keigo||Japan||Nan Hai Publishing Co.|
|Not Ranked||20||9787544764469||Jul 2017||20,000 Leagues Under the Sea||Jules Verne||France||Yilin Press|
Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, February 2018
|Jan 2018 Ranking||Feb 2018 Ranking||ISBN||Release Date||Title (Translated)||Author||Author nationality||Chinese Publisher|
|Not Ranked||1||9787508684031||Dec 2017||Principles||Ray Dalio||United States of America||CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd|
|1||2||9787508660752||Feb 2017||Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind||Yuval Noah Harari||Israel||CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd|
|2||3||9787508672069||Jan 2017||Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow||Yuval Noah Harari||Israel||CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd|
|5||4||9787544760850||Jan 2017||Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven||Romain Rolland||France||Yilin Press|
|4||5||9787514208788||Jul 2013||The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover)||Kelly McGonigal||United States of America||Cultural Development Publishing House|
|3||6||9787020116133||Jun 2016||Red Star Over China||Edgar Snow||United States of America||People’s Literature Publishing House|
|6||7||9787301109489||Oct 2006||A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1)||L.S.Stavrianos||United States of America||Peking University Press|
|7||8||9787535732309||Nov 2001||A Brief History of Time||Stephen William Hawking||United Kingdom||Hunan Science & Technology Press|
|8||9||9787301110522||Oct 2006||A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2)||L.S.Stavrianos||United States of America||Peking University Press|
|17||10||9787544768511||Jun 2017||Three Days to See (New Edition)||Helen Keller||United States of America||Yilin Press|
|11||11||9787544768559||Jul 2017||Souvenirs Entomologiques||Jean Henri Fabre||France||Yilin Press|
|10||12||9787544762885||Apr 2016||84, Charing Cross Road||Helene Hanff||United States of America||Yilin Press|
|Not Ranked||13||9787544761031||Dec 2016||Stray Birds||Rabindranath Tagore||India||Yilin Press|
|16||14||9787510855832||Sept 2017||100 Basics of Work & Life||Matsuura Yataro||Japan||Jiuzhou Press|
|20||15||9787514219203||Sept 2017||The Willpower Instinct (New Edition)||Kelly McGonigal||United States of America||Cultural Development Publishing House|
|13||16||9787508650890||May 2015||Who Moved My Cheese?||Spencer Johnson||United States of America||CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd|
|15||17||9787300126210||Sep 2010||Mao: A Biography||Ross Terrill||United States of America||China Renmin University Press|
|14||18||9787513903509||Nov 2014||Jerusalem: The Biography||Simon Sebag Montefiore||United Kingdom||Democracy and Construction Press|
|18||19||9787220102912||Sept 2017||Rich Dad, Poor Dad||Robert T. Kiyosaki||United States of America||Sichuan People’s Publishing House|
|12||20||9787308161459||Aug 2016||The Silk Roads: A New History of the World||Peter Frankopan||United Kingdom||Zhejiang Eniversity Press Co.,Ltd|
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
- 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.