April 2018 Bestseller Lists From China: Young Readers Cheer a Celebrity-Powered World Book Day

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The endorsement of a Chinese actor powers Yu Hua’s ‘To Live’ to the top of China’s April fiction charts, when fellow celebrities spread the word and young readers hear the call.

Image – iStockphoto: TMSK

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

‘A Unique Generation’

‘To Live’ by Yu Hua

Our colleagues at OpenBook in Beijing and Trajectory in Boston point out that although Yu Hua’s To Live claimed the No. 1 spot on China’s Overall Fiction list for April, the two titles that follow it are warhorses of the market’s bestseller lists—both from outside China.

OpenBook’s analysis of the strong positioning for Yu Hua’s work points to a particularly robust World Book Day program in China on the 23rd of April.

As it happens, an 18-year-old celebrity named Yi YanQianXi—Jackson Yee to English-language fans—took to his Weibo social media channel to recommend the author’s To Live. Yee may be a book’s best friend: when he appealed for more reviews of the book, some 100 other celebrities jumped in, and more than 2 million followers were quickly following.

Yi YanQianXi. Image: CC-BY-S.A 4.0 Jackson Yee Studios

Before the activity was over, author Yu Hua had written a public message to Yi YanQianXi, addressing the generation of Chinese citizens he writes about, saying, in part, “You are a unique generation. You are in a period where the future has come and the past has not yet passed.”

The 57-year-old Yu Hua has at times written what’s described as postmodern Chinese fiction, sometimes with elements of magical realism, stories of young people in various eras, particularly building the context of small people in great times and their importance in society and culture. Yu Hua’s work supports the idea that the young Chinese citizens of today will be the leading consumers of pure literature in the future.

As for the familiar No. 2 and No. 3 in fiction in April, Miracles of the Namiya General Store by the ever-popular Japanese writer Higashino Keigo and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini have been found on the listings for 46 and 52 months, respectively.

‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder

Also in fiction, four books arrived on the chart for the first time in April. Two of them are new:

  • Fang Si-Qi’s First Love Paradise at No. 26 on the Foreign Author Fiction list is by Lin Yihan
  • Chronicle of a Blood Merchant at No. 28 on the same list is, like the Overall Fiction topper, by Yu Hua

And two of the four newcomers to the chart are previously published books:

  • After School in a 2017 edition and standing at No. 27 is by the ubiquitous Keigo
  • Sophie’s World (another re-published title) by Jostein Gaarder is at No. 20 on both the Overall Fiction and the Foreign Author Fiction charts.

‘A Unique Pig’ by Wang Xiaobo

In nonfiction in April, five titles entered the chart for the first time:

  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things is by Jenny Lawson
  • A Unique Pig is by Wang Xiaobo
  • Vision is by Wu Jun
  • What is EQ? is by Li Xiaoyi
  • Chinese Classical Poetry Quiz Show (Season 2, Volume 1) is produced by CCTV’s Chinese Poetry Conference writers

OpenBook’s research flags self-help books as being particularly popular with urban youth in China this spring. There are seven titles described as offering “psychological” self-help on the list for April—Li Xiaoyi’s What Is EQ? is placed in that category—and dynamics of transition in Chinese society are also driving sales of books classified as being about “successful learning, such as Wu Jun’s Vision.

‘Furiously Happy’ by Jenny Lawson

Lawson’s Furiously Happy is seen as fitting into an interest in spiritual health and interpersonal communication. Along those same lines, Cai Kangyong’s The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai, Volumes 1 and 2, is focused on self-expression in the workplace.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from April 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 Overall Fiction Bestsellers in China, April 2018
March 2018 Ranking April 2018 Raking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu Hua The Writer’s Publishing House
3 2 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 3 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
11 4 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 5 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
7 6 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
9 7 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
26 8 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu Hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
5 9 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 10 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
23 11 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
16 12 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
10 13 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
19 14 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 15 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 16 9787559608949 2017-09 I’m Waiting for You in Future Liu Tong Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 17 9787532742929 2007-07 Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
18 18 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787513312103 2013-06 The Seventh Day Yu Hua New Star Press Co.Ltd
Not Ranked 20 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House

OpenBook’s Overall Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, March 2018
March 2018 Ranking April 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787550263932 2015-11 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
6 2 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 3 9787503561634 2017-08 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
10 4 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
4 5 9787108042453 2012-09 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
5 6 9787540482190 2017-08 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
1 7 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 8 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
15 9 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Er Hunzi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
8 10 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 11 9787535488473 2016-05 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
17 12 9787540476892 2016-07 Goodwill Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 13 9787540468798 2014-09 Take It Easy Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 14 9787559407634 2018-03 Furiously Happy : A Funny Book About Horrible Things Jenny Lawson Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 15 9787540472238 2015-07 May You Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
16 16 9787540467784 2014-06 The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai Cai Kangyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 17 9787530216712 2017-04 A Unique Pig Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
18 18 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
28 19 9787508671505 2016-12 Speak Well: Fresh and Interesting Speaking Skills Ma Weiwei CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
24 20 9787540468316 2014-07 The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai (2) Cai Kangyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, April 2018
March 2018 Ranking April 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu Hua The Writer’s Publishing House
3 2 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 3 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
11 4 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 5 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
7 6 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
9 7 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
26 8 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu Hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
5 9 9787550013247 201-505 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 10 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
23 11 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
16 12 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
10 13 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
19 14 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 15 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 16 9787559608949 2017-09 I’m Waiting for You in Future Liu Tong Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 17 9787532742929 2007-07 Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
18 18 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787513312103 2013-06 The Seventh Day Yu Hua New Star Press Co.Ltd
Not Ranked 20 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, April 2018 
March 2018 Ranking April 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787550263932 2015-11 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
6 2 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 3 9787503561634 2017-08 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
10 4 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
4 5 9787108042453 2012-09 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
5 6 9787540482190 2017-08 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
1 7 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 8 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
15 9 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Er Hunzi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
8 10 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 11 9787535488473 2016-05 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
17 12 9787540476892 2016-07 Goodwill Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 13 9787540468798 2014-09 Take It Easy Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 14 9787559407634 2018-03 Furiously Happy : A Funny Book About Horrible Things Jenny Lawson Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 15 9787540472238 2015-07 May You Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
16 16 9787540467784 2014-06 The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai Cai Kangyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 17 9787530216712 2017-04 A Unique Pig Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
18 18 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
28 19 9787508671505 2016-12 Speak Well: Fresh and Interesting Speaking Skills Ma Weiwei CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
24 20 9787540468316 2014-07 The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai (2) Cai Kangyong Hunan Literature & Art 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 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. OpenBook draws point-of-sale data from a total 3,435 stores located in 1,410 cities. These stores include:

  • Traditional bookstores
  • Supermarkets
  • Campus bookstores
  • “Professional” stores, said to be small stores with a specific industrial or trade focus
  • Airport stores

In addition, OpenBook is drawing data from online bookstores of three main types:

  • The “Tmall” stores of Alibaba (Tmall is described as a marketplace of companies that create storefronts online to sell products including books)
  • The “JingDong” Stores of JD.com (similar to Tmall as a marketplace of both individual companies and bookstores operated by JD.com)
  • 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.

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