China Bestsellers for July: An Urban Online Gaming Culture Drives Sales

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New fiction on China’s bestseller lists captures the contemporary sensibilities of young adults in the country’s largest cities.

Mo Bao Fei Bao’s new hit ‘Go Go Squid’ plays on China’s growing culture of urban e-sport–online gamers in love. Image – iStockphoto: Ryan King

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

Television-Driven Popularity in Books
Our China bestsellers for July in fiction seem to have been heavily influenced by some critically well-received and fast-selling drama series that readers are seeing on television.

‘Go Go Squid’

Among the most popular series in July were the romance Go Go Squid and the online series The Longest Day in Chang’an. Both have been adapted originally from “online writing,” a popular serial storytelling format in China.

Go Go Squid started as text by Mo Bao Fei Bao and 24 Hours in Chang’an is Ma Boyong’s book, the basis for The Longest Day. Both works are being described as almost naturalistic, very close to the actual lives and attitudes of a new generation of active online users. This is content aimed directly at younger readers.

The casting of Go Go Squid carefully reflects an urban, media-busy culture. The male protagonist is a former e-sports player (competitive online gaming) and founder of an e-sports club. The  leading lady is a Web singer.

Both e-sports competitions and live Webcasts are major draws in many parts of the world, and they’ve caught on in China.

Beijing OpenBook’s staff tells us that according to a report from Tencent on 2019 Chinese e-sports and the development of talent for them, 49.2 percent of employees responding said they might spend time at work on e-sports. Some 60 percent of college and university respondents said that they, too, were gaming, as did 70 percent of high school students polled.

’24 Hours in Chang’an,’ Volume 1 of two

And Web singing has become a popular part of China’s online pop culture. All of which means that books referencing these social trends can quickly find receptive audiences.

The Longest Day in Chang’an is a two-volume, historical novel set in Chang’an—known as Xi’an today—during Tang Dynasty. The story has a compact plot and an action-suspense dynamic with contemporary sensibilities blended into a convincing evocation of the era, according to those familiar with the work.

As for nonfiction, a typical summer trend can be seen in the lack of change, with the return of many classics, in particular to the rankings. What’s driving this is students’ purchases of classics for extra reading credit during their holidays, a trend noted during the winter festival period, as well.

We’re reminded by Rainy Liu at OpenBook that “July is only the beginning of the summer vacation, which will see a small climax of classic book sales during September. All kinds of ‘must read classic book lists’ are being pushed now on various social media to energize sales.

And the July 1 Party Founding Day observance of the 70th anniversary of the founding of “New China” drove that eternal bestseller Red Star Over China to double its sales last month.

‘The Love Book of Mo Na Da Shu’

The only real newcomer (as opposed to a returnee) to the nonfiction list is The Love Book of Mo Na Da Shu, a collection of articles from a famous motivational writer, Mo Na Da Shu. The book has a following of more than 10 million fans and mentions of it have surpassed 3 billion hits on Wechat, Weibo, Tik Tok, and other social platforms. The author, Mo, is called a “self-media operator” and has a relatively mature business model. He’s a serial entrepreneur across multiple industries, and a hit author as a result.

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’s Fiction Bestsellers in China, July 2019
June 2019 Ranking July 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
4 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 2 9787559431240 2019-02 Go Go Squid Mo Bao Fei Bao Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
1 3 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 4 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
2 5 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
6 6 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
5 7 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
16 8 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
Not Ranked 9 9787541151736 2018-12 Uninhibited Mo Xiang Tong Xiu Sichuan Literature & Art Press
11 10 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 12 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Nai’an,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787540478315 2016-12 24 Hours in Chang’an (vol.1) Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 14 9787540478339 2016-12 24 Hours in Chang’an (vol.2) Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 15 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
7 18 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787530216774 2017-07 Ordinary Word Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
12 20 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
10 21 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
22 22 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
21 23 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
8 24 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 25 9787550015630 2015-12 Go Go Squid Mo Bao Fei Bao Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
9 26 9787221150639 2019-02 Ran Freely (2) Wu Zhe Guizhou People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787559614636 2017-12 Fang Si-Qi’s First Love Paradise Lin Yihan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
15 28 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
17 29 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 30 9787544760874 2016-10 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (New Edition) Jules Verne Yilin Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, July 2019
June 2019 Ranking July 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
9 1 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
1 2 9787540492380 2019-06 The Kids Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
15 3 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
4 4 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
3 5 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
22 6 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
8 7 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 8 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
10 9 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 10 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
7 11 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
5 12 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787544768559 2017-07 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre Yilin Press
Not Ranked 14 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787535447340 2014-02 The Poignant Culture Traveling Yu Qiuyu Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
6 16 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
23 17 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie Tianjin People’s Publishing House
18 18 9787503565397 2019-02 Xi Jinping in Zhengding Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
16 19 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787505745384 2019-02 The Love Book of Mo Na Da Shu Mo Na Da Shu China Friendship Publishing Company
25 21 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
2 22 9787521702415 2019-02 The American Trap Frederic Pierucci,Matthieu Aron CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
30 23 9787549564125 2015-04 Dear Andrea Long Yingtai,Andreas Walther Guangxi Normal University Press
28 24 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
Not Ranked 25 9787020116379 2016-08 The Long March (Revised Edition) Wang Shuzeng People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 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
Not Ranked 27 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos Peking University Press
Not Ranked 28 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos Peking University Press
Not Ranked 29 9787550025998 2018-02 Dong Qing: Be a Brilliant Lady Qiao Ruiling Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787549529322 2012-12 Insight Chai Jing Guangxi Normal University Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, July 2019
June 2019 Ranking July 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787208061644 2018-02 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
13 2 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
2 3 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 4 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
3 5 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 6 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 7 9787544760874 2016-10 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (New Edition) Jules Verne France Yilin Press
9 8 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 9 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 10 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 11 9787506390903 2017-11 Sophie’s World (Hardcover) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
6 12 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus France Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
10 13 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
14 14 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
15 15 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 16 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
18 17 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 18 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
16 19 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 20 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler United States of America Hainan Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, July 2019
June 2019 Ranking July 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
2 2 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
19 3 9787544768559 2017-07 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin Press
7 4 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
5 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
8 6 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
1 7 9787521702415 2019-02 The American Trap Frederic Pierucci,Matthieu Aron France CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
12 8 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
13 9 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
4 10 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
9 11 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
10 12 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
11 13 9787220102912 2017-09 Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki United States of America Sichuan People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787559433626 2019-02 Decisive Moments in History Stefan Zweig Austria Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
6 15 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
17 16 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 17 9787544768511 2017-06 Three Days to See (New Edition) Helen Keller United States of America Yilin Press
Not Ranked 18 9787544760850 2017-01 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
14 19 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
18 20 9787508650890 2015-05 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House 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. 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.

As of July 1, this data is estimated by OpenBook to represent some 60 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBook draws point-of-sale data from more than 7,000 bookstores in China, including a total 4,151 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 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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