China Bestsellers for July: Entrepreneurism and School Reading Lists Boost Sales

In News by Porter Anderson

The author, filmmaker, and restaurateur Zhang Jiajia climbs the charts by cross-platforming his own works, while summertime reading lists for students  bolster the classics.

Bestselling author Zhang Jiajia, left, talks with co-writer Kar-Wai Wong, on the set of ‘See You Tomorrow, a 2016 film directed by Zhang and based on his own short story. Zhang also has opened a restaurant in Nanjing based on his bestseller From Your World. Image: Jet Tone Films promotional photo

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

School Readings in Summer: Classic Fiction
During summer vacation breaks at China’s primary and secondary schools, summer reading titles for students tend to include much-loved classics.

‘Red Crag’ by Luo Guangbin and Yang Yiyan

Rainy Liu, who helps coordinate the input of Beijing’s OpenBook and Boston’s Trajectory to produce our monthly China charts, reports today (August 31) that July’s 2018 rankings included 13 school-recommended titles in the Top 30 books on the bestseller lists. Of those educationally golden 13, four of them arrived in the Top 10 in fiction for the month:

  • To Live by Yu Hua, ranked No. 1
  • Red Crag by Luo Guangbin andYang Yiyan, ranked No. 3
  • Ordinary Word (a series of three volumes) by Lu Yao, ranked No. 6
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, ranked No. 9
Mixing Media: An Entrepreneurial Author

‘Moments We Shared’ by Zhang Jiajia

Beyond educational priorities, as in many Western markets, we’re reminded this month, licensing and cross-platform success can have a lot to do with the prominence of a title.

In July’s fiction bestsellers, Zhang Jiajia’s new Moments We Shared is ranked No. 2. Zhang has been a high-profile bestselling author since July 2013. He got his start in what would become his publishing career by posting bedtime stories on Weibo. They were shared more than two million times and attracted more than 400 million reads.

In October of that year, the stories were compiled into his first book, From Your World. That title has been ranked in the Top 10 on bestselling charts for 26 consecutive months.

A film poster from Zhang Jiajia’s self-written ‘I Belonged to You’

As it turns out, Zhang, during years between his book releases, has worked on screenplays based on his fiction, serving at times as screenwriter, as in I Belonged to You from Beijing Enlight Pictures.

At other times—as on the production of the 2016 film treatment of his story See You Tomorrow—his credits include writer and film director.

And he hasn’t stopped with film. Zhang also has opened a restaurant in Nanjing called From Your World.

In the evenings, the restaurant transitions to a bar with another Zhang-title theme, Bedtime Story.

Nonfiction: More School Readings

In nonfiction, our bestseller lists in China show up more of the impact of educational lists for students, with four of the titles showing up on the ministry of education’s new curriculum standards guides:

  • Souvenirs Entomologiques by Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre, ranked No. 13
  • The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) by Lin Yutang, ranked No. 16
  • The Poignant Culture Traveling by Yu Qiuyu, ranked No. 24
  • Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow, ranked No. 1

‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari

We also note that six of the Top 30 in nonfiction this time are historical entries, including:

  • Three titles of the 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon series, either in different editions or volumes of the series. You’ll see them ranked Nos. 9, 11, and 12 
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari has been been sighted 17 times on the Top 30 bestseller list, and is ranked No. 25 in July. This new version was published in February 2017
  • The first volume of A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century by L. S. Stavrianos has been listed among bestsellers 27 times, its highest ranking being No. 14. The second volume has charted 23 times, and its best ranking is the at No. 16

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from June of bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, followed by its lists of bestselling fiction and nonfiction in China by authors from outside the country.

At the end of our article, as always, you’ll find notes on how the lists are constructed.

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers in China, July 2018
June 2018 Ranking July 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506365437 201006 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 2 9787540487645 201806 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 3 9787500601593 200508 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
2 4 9787536692930 200801 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 5 9787536693968 200805 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
8 6 9787530216781 201706 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
5 7 9787544270878 201404 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 8 9787229030933 201011 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
10 9 9787208061644 200604 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
16 10 9787020090006 201207 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
24 11 9787506394864 201709 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
26 12 9787208061644 200604 The Kite Runner (New Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
9 13 9787550013247 201505 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
12 14 9787544291163 201708 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 15 9787556230006 201806 Douluo Continent III: Legend of the Dragon King(28) Tang Jia San Shao Hunan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
11 16 9787544291170 201708 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 17 9787530215593 201706 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787500680239 200901 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
Not Ranked 19 9787530216774 201707 Ordinary Word Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787020008742 199807 Water Margin Shi Naian,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787020127894 201707 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
17 22 9787550024212 201709 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 23 9787544285148 201610 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 24 9787544267618 201406 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
29 25 9787506344791 200812 Street Wizards Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787020008735 199807 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
19 27 9787539971810 201504 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 28 9787535476890 201411 The Wolf Totem (Revised Edition) Jiang Rong Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
Not Ranked 29 9787539983295 201510 Foundation Isaac Asimov Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
23 30 9787540455958 201206 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy Hunan Literature & Art Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, July 2018
June 2018 Ranking July 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787020116133 201606 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
1 2 9787540487669 201806 You Are Bad Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 3 9787549550173 201401 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
23 4 9787224127232 201804 Liangjiahe Editing Group for Liangjiahe Shaanxi People’s Publishing House
3 5 9787510842344 201603 All the Lost Will Be Repaid in Another Way Geng Shuai Jiuzhou Press
4 6 9787201094014 201509 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
5 7 9787503561634 201708 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
28 8 9787549564125 201504 Dear Andrea Long Yingtai,Andreas Walther Guangxi Normal University Press
6 9 9787544382045 201805 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
15 10 9787108042453 201209 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
11 11 9787539999883 201703 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
7 12 9787559418111 201804 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 13 9787544768559 201707 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre Yilin Press
9 14 9787540482190 201708 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
14 15 9787535488473 201605 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
Not Ranked 16 9787540484880 201801 The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
10 17 9787550263932 201511 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
29 18 9787549550159 201401 My Child, Just Take Your Time Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
Not Ranked 19 9787550268517 201607 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
16 20 9787201088945 201412 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
30 21 9787530214787 201704 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
20 22 9787535732309 200111 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
13 23 9787508684031 201712 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 24 9787535447340 201402 The Poignant Culture Traveling Yu Qiuyu Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
22 25 9787508660752 201702 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
8 26 9787514219203 201709 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787301109489 200610 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos Peking University Press
Not Ranked 28 9787301110522 200610 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos Peking University Press
Not Ranked 29 9787549529322 201212 Insight Chai Jing Guangxi Normal University Press
26 30 9787508086156 201511 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, July 2018
June 2018 Ranking July 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544270878 201404 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 2 9787506394864 201709 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
7 3 9787544291170 201708 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 4 9787208061644 200604 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
9 5 9787550024212 201709 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
3 6 9787544291163 201708 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 7 9787550013247 201505 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
12 8 9787539971810 201504 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
4 9 9787544267618 201406 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 10 9787544285148 201610 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 11 9787544760782 201608 Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift Britain Yilin Press
13 12 9787540455958 201206 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy France Hunan Literature & Art Press
5 13 9787208061644 200604 The Kite Runner (New Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
20 14 9787539982830 201506 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 15 9787544760843 201608 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Britain Yilin Press
17 16 9787544291224 201708 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 17 9787544760874 201610 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne France Yilin Press
Not Ranked 18 9787532773718 201701 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera France Shanghai Translation Publishing House
15 19 9787544277617 201506 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 20 9787201116693 201705 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, July 2018
June 2018 Ranking July 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787020116133 201606 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
17 2 9787544768559 201707 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin Press
6 3 9787508684031 201712 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
4 4 9787535732309 200111 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
3 5 9787508660752 201702 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 6 9787514219203 201709 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
5 7 9787108009821 199807 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
9 8 9787508672069 201701 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 9 9787550268517 201607 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
13 10 9787301109489 200610 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
14 11 9787301110522 200610 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
8 12 9787508086156 201511 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787544760850 201701 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
11 14 9787514208788 201307 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787201088822 201409 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
10 16 9787544292498 201804 What is There to Do in Laos? Haruki Murakami Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 17 9787559407634 201803 Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things Jenny Lawson United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 18 9787535733597 200202 The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
19 19 9787508650890 201505 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 20 9787544764483 201707 Souvenirs Entomologiques (Illustrated Edition) Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin 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. As an authoritative data and information resource in China, OpenBook offers consulting services to partners exploring the Chinese book market and hoping to identify suitable business partners in the Chinese market.

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. Trajectory recently has added copyright services, both for content going into China and for exports from China to the rest of the world.

Up until July 1, the data behind these bestseller reports has been estimated by OpenBook to represent some 50 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBook draws point-of-sale data from more than 6,000 bookstores in China. Included in those reporting points are a total 3,496 physical bookstores in Chinese provinces and territories with the exceptions of Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Physical retailers 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 of China bestseller reports from Publishing Perspectives are here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter Google+

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He 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 also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.