China Bestsellers for April: World Book Day Promos, Liu Cixin, and Camus

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Marketing for World Book Day boosted titles we find on April’s China bestseller lists. And Albert Camus’ 1942 ‘L’Étranger’ charts for the first time.

At a public library in Sichuan Province’s Chengdu. Image – iStockphoto: Plej

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

World Book Day Deals Fuel the Charts
In Beijing, our partners at OpenBook on our monthly China bestsellers lists tell us that book sets saw a bump in sales in April courtesy of World Book Day, thanks to promotional pushes in physical and online retail outlets. During these promotions, 50-percent discounts are spotted, especially in offers of two or three related titles as a bundle or set.

In China, as in most international settings, World Book Day is observed on April 23. (In the UK and Ireland, it’s on the first Thursday of March.)

‘The Three-Body Problem’

One effect you’ll see in our China lists for April is a jump to the top of the fiction list for Liu Cixin’s science-fiction work. For example, The Three-Body Problem, always ubiquitous in popular reading among Chinese consumers, rose to No. 1 on OpenBook’s overall rankings, followed by Cixin’s The Dark Forest at No. 2 and Death’s End at No. 3.

What’s more, Lu Yao’s Ordinary World moved up eight places to the No. 5 spot, just under Yu hua’s To Live.

When it comes to new entries on the fiction list, Mai Jia’s Life is Like an Ocean enters at No. 21. This work is a departure from Mai Jia’s usual work. Here, he’s interested in the life of a town from a teen’s viewpoint.

‘L’Étranger’ from Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

And of some irony, perhaps, to Western readers, the other “new” book to the China bestsellers fiction ranking is by Albert Camus. L’Étranger, The Stranger, one of the most influential books from the French existentialist school—Camus felt happier with it in the absurdists’ camp than the existentialists’—has shown up on the fiction list for April as The Outsider, at No. 19. The book originally was published in 1942 in France by Gallimard, then in 1946 in the UK by Hamish Hamilton.

Our colleague Rainy Liu points out that Camus’ L’Étranger has had multiple editions in the past in China, but this is the first time the book has entered the bestseller rankings.

It’s thought that the promotional material for the book—this edition was released in February—is giving it its marketing traction. The publisher, Jiangsu Literature & Art Press, is using the slogan, “If you feel out of place in the crowd, you must read The Outsider.”

‘L’Étranger’ in the Gallimard original, 1942

Of course, as Publishing Perspectives readers know from our bestseller lists of more than a year, classics from other countries play heavily into China’s reading trends. This month, for example, our foreign authors lists includes two works of Gabriel García Márquez, plus titles from Paulo Coelho and Haruki Murakami.

Contemporary work from other cultures, however, is being read, too, with the Scottish author Claire McFall’s titles holding three spots on the foreign-authors fiction list, alongside Norway’s Jostein Gaarder and the American author Celeste Ng, whose Little Fires Everywhere is being adapted to television (a 2020 series of eight episodes) for Hulu with Lynn Shelton directing and Reese Witherspoon starring.

Ng is represented on China’s lists in April by Everything I Never Told You, her first book.

‘No More Than Skins,’ No. 1 in nonfiction

And in nonfiction, the World Book Day promotions seem to have been effective, as they were in fiction. Da Bing, for example, moved to the list with no fewer than four titles—I Won’t, Goodwill, May You, and Take It Easy. Similarly, Yuval Noah Harari seems to have benefitted, with both Homo Deus and Sapiens charting.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from (month) 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 Overall Fiction China Bestsellers, April 2019
March 2019 Ranking April 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 2 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 3 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
1 4 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
13 5 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
6 6 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
10 7 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 8 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
16 9 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 10 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 11 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
5 12 9787511360809 2016-06 The Wandering Earth Liu Cixin China Overseas Chinese Press
8 13 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
9 14 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
26 15 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
21 16 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 17 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
22 18 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 20 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 21 9787530219218 2019-03 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
28 22 9787506365680 2012-12 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787532776771 201803 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
25 24 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 25 9787541151736 2018-12 Uninhibited Mo Xiang Tong Xiu Sichuan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 26 9787559614636 2017-12 Fang Si-Qi’s First Love Paradise Lin Yihan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 27 9787540458027 2013-10 I Belonged to You Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
17 28 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787530211564 2012-03 Life Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
23 30 9787544384636 201809 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler Hainan Publishing House

OpenBook Overall Nonfiction China Bestsellers, April  2019
March 2019 Ranking April 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 2 9787503565397 2019-02 Xi Jinping in Zhengding Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
4 3 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
8 4 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
19 5 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
6 6 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
23 7 9787540487669 2018-05 You Are Bad Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
16 8 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
15 9 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
9 10 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
2 11 9787559401007 2017-04 Good Loneliness Chen Guo Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 12 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
24 13 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
22 14 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
13 15 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
11 16 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 17 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
10 18 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
17 19 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
21 21 9787535488473 2016-05 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
3 22 9787511553645 2018-04 Good Love: Love Philosophy of Chen Guo Chen Guo People Daily Publishing House
25 23 9787220102912 2017-09 Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki Sichuan People’s Publishing House
14 24 9787540481551 2018-11 The Emotional Quotient Lesson of Kevin Tsai: Live for Yourself for One Time Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
30 25 9787540482190 2017-08 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 26 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang SDX Joint Publishing Company
Not Ranked 27 9787540468798 2014-09 Take It Easy Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 28 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
Not Ranked 29 9787540472238 2015-07 May You Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 30 9787540476892 2016-07 Goodwill Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Fiction China Bestsellers, April 2019
March 2019 Ranking April 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
1 2 9787208061644 2018-02 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
5 3 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 4 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 5 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
12 6 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 7 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 8 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 9 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus France Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
19 10 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
11 11 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 12 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler United States of America Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787550032125 2019-04 Outcasts Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
7 15 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 16 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 17 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 18 9787201116693 2017-05 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House
13 19 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
18 20 9787539982830 2015-06 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction China Bestsellers, April 2019
March 2019 Ranking April 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
4 2 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 3 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
6 4 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
5 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
3 6 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
10 7 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
7 8 9787220102912 2017-09 Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki United States of America Sichuan People’s Publishing House
9 9 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
8 10 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
11 11 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 12 9787508650890 2015-05 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 13 9787535796943 2019-02 Brief Answers to the Big Questions Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
12 14 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
14 15 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
20 16 9787800875830 1999-09 How to Win Friends and Influence Others & How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Dale Carnegie United States of America China Development Press
19 17 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
18 18 9787535733597 2002-02 The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 19 9787544762885 2016-04 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff United States of America Yilin Press
Not Ranked 20 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan 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. With authoritative data and information resources, OpenBook is able to deliver consulting service to partners who would like to explore the Chinese book market and identify suitable partners.

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, 2019, this data 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, including a total 3,496 physical bookstores representative of all the provinces in China except Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Retail outlets 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 generate 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 China bestseller reports from Publishing Perspectives are here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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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 co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. 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.

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