China Bestsellers for June: Reading Pavilions Draw Crowds

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Pop-up ‘reading pavilions’ offer sound booths for CCTV fans who record their favorite literary passages and send them to friends.

A reading pavilion, one of several mobile recording studios placed in cities to promote the CCTV’s ‘The Readers’ series. Image: Provided by OpenBook

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

‘The Readers’ Are the Viewers of a TV Show
Occasional reports have come from China about the popularity of “reading pavilions” in some cities. In 2017, for example, there was news of citizens waiting in line for some nine hours to get into one of these venues in Chengdu. The kiosks are said to be found in Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Xi’an, as well, and to make appearances in various first- and second-tier cities.

A reading pavilion in Chengdu. Image: Provided by OpenBook

Your first thought may be that a “reading pavilion” is some version of a reading room. But in fact, these pavilions are recording booths, set up with cameras and audio equipment. You step in, get settled, and spend three minutes recording an excerpt from a book, essay, story or poem, and emerge with an audio file you can post and share on WeChat, Weibo, QQ and other social media platforms. Not surprisingly, the mobile units tend to pop up near university campuses or large libraries.

And when we asked our OpenBook associates in Beijing about what one report called this “public reading craze,” we learned that the kiosks are a promotional element of The Readers, a show that premiered in February 2017 on CCTV and was declared by the state television system to be “an instant hit.”

On the show, themed weekly, according to an early story about the program from CCTV.com, viewers see both celebrities and regular citizens read passages of literature that mean something to them and then talk about how they relate to their lives.

In its second season, for example, last year, the Chinese basketball star Yao Ming read from Hemingway and physicist Xue Qikun read from Confucius. It’s reported by the network that clips from the first season were downloaded more than 580 million times from ximalaya.com.

The program’s concept and intention is, in part, a deliberate breakaway from the more common singing-and-dancing variety show format, which is said by network officials to be derivative of the West’s standard performance-show formats. Descriptive accounts of the show talk about its “slow pace” and “soft focus” as part of the series’ appeal, as are, apparently, the reading pavilions that draw the public into an interactive bond with the show.

At OpenBook, the team reports that it’s finding links between titles that are featured on the show and books’ performances on the bestseller charts. The researchers refer to the trend as “fragmented reading,” in that no one work gets a full reading, just a sample—whether on the show or in a pavilion.

‘Guardian’ by Priest

In June, OpenBook’s overall fiction bestseller list shows few surprises, and the company’s researchers emphasize that the top four or five titles of the list consistently show far more sales than those charting below them.

An interesting feature to note this month is that new editions of abiding favorites tend to sink or swim on their own in popularity. So it is that in June,  two versions released in May of Guardian by Priest–both from Guizhou People’s Publishing House—were newcomers to the list, at No. 24 and No. 25.

Also ‘Guardian’ by Priest

The two editions of Guardian are a reflection, in fact, of the popularity of “online reading” in China, the serialized literature followed with particular devotion by younger readers.

Guardian was serialized, OpenBook’s Rainy Liu reminds us, on the Jinjiang Literature platform in 2012 and 2013. So popular was the series that other works by the author known as Priest also saw big gains in sales and—as we’ve seen happen in some markets with series popularized by Wattpad—publishers have stepped forward to produce book-length iterations of these serialized stories, assured of avid audiences because of the tales’ online success.

In nonfiction in June, China’s leading titles, classics gained traditional boosts from mid-year promotions, as you can see in such entries as:

  • Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China at No. 9
  • The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) by Lin Yutang at No. 22
  • 1587, a Year of No Significance by Ray Huang at No. 26

‘Getting Things Done’

The author Da Bing, with a new title The Kids at No. 1, also saw a bump for the earlier You Are Bad.

And one of our favorite Chinese authors, Feng Tang, is out with a new nonfiction work, Getting Things Done from Tianjin People’s Publishing House.

Many English readers know Feng from his novel Beijing, Beijing, which was produced in a translation by Michelle Deeter in 2015 by Amazon Crossing. With a huge following in China, the 48-year-old author has worked as a consultant with McKinsey and at last report was living in Hong Kong.

Inside a reading pavilion.Image: Provided by OpenBook


Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from June 2019 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, June 2019
May 2019 Ranking June 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 2 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 3 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
1 4 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
6 5 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
8 6 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
9 7 9787544270878 20140-4 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 8 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 9 9787221150639 2019-02 Ran Freely (2) Wu Zhe Guizhou People’s Publishing House
18 10 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
19 11 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
10 12 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
17 13 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
22 14 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 15 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
7 16 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
14 17 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
24 18 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
23 19 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
28 20 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
16 21 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
11 22 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
27 23 9787506365680 2012-12 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787221150615 2019-05 Guardian Priest Guizhou People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787221150622 2019-05 Guardian (2) Priest Guizhou People’s Publishing House
13 26 9787506344791 2008-12 Street Wizards Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
20 27 9787511360809 2016-06 The Wandering Earth Liu Cixin China Overseas Chinese Press
Not Ranked 28 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler Hainan Publishing House
25 29 9787020151271 2019-02 The Cat Emperor and His Friends (4) Bai Cha People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, June 2019
May 2019 Ranking June 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787540492380 2019-06 The Kids Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
19 2 9787521702415 2019-02 The American Trap Frederic Pierucci,Matthieu Aron CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
1 3 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 4 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
4 5 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
3 6 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
5 7 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
7 8 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 9 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
12 10 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 11 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
9 12 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787201146669 2019-02 Getting Things Done Feng Tang Tianjin People’s Publishing House
22 14 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 15 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
14 16 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
24 17 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 18 9787503565397 2019-02 Xi Jinping in Zhengding Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
15 19 9787535488473 2016-05 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
6 20 9787514365641 2017-11 I Know What I Want, I Know How to Get it, and Do It Now. That’s All Yang’s Owl Morden Press
17 21 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 22 9787540484880 201801 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 23 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787540487669 2018-05 You Are Bad Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
25 25 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 26 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang SDX Joint Publishing Company
29 27 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
30 28 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
21 29 9787549550159 2014-01 My Child, Just Take Your Time Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
28 30 9787549564125 2015-04 Dear Andrea Long Yingtai,Andreas Walther Guangxi Normal University Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, June 2019
May 2019 Ranking June 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
2 2 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 3 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 4 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
6 5 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 6 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus France Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
4 7 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
9 8 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 9 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 10 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
16 11 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler United States of America Hainan Publishing House
13 12 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 13 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
15 14 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 15 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 16 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 17 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 18 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 19 9787544258210 2017-10 Naoko Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 20 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, June 2019
May 2019 Ranking June 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
16 1 9787521702415 2019-02 The American Trap Frederic Pierucci,Matthieu Aron France CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
1 2 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
12 3 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
5 4 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
3 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
4 6 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 7 9787201088822 2014-9 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
6 8 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
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
7 11 9787220102912 2017-09 Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki United States of America Sichuan People’s Publishing House
11 12 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 13 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
10 14 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
14 15 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 16 9787535733597 2002-02 The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
20 17 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
15 18 9787508650890 2015-05 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 19 9787544768559 2017-07 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin Press
17 20 9787514208788 2013-07 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House

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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