China Bestsellers October 2019: Hits Online and on Screen

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Having first appeared as ‘online writing’ in 2015, ‘Better Days’ by Jiu Yuexi is a major hit on film, and the book has entered China’s bestseller list.

Filmgoers in a rainy Chongqing in Sichuan Province. Image – iStockphoto: URF

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

A 4-Year-Old Story Is Reborn on Film
The October bestseller charts developed by Beijing OpenBook show us an interesting trend.

As you may be aware, there are huge followings in China and several other Asian markets for long-running serials written on Internet platforms by authors who sometimes become quite famous and wealthy for their storytelling. The general and hardly glamorous term for this is “online writing.”

‘Underachieve’

In our China bestsellers for July, in fact, we saw two such pieces cross over to television, one of them with the disarming title, Go Go Squid. And this month, we’re seeing the same thing occur this time with the crossover taking the content to book publication.

In our OpenBook fiction rankings, you’ll see these books entering the charts for the first time:

  • Better Days by Jiu Yuexi, ranked No. 11
  • Underachieve (2) by Mu Gua Huang, ranked No. 19
  • Underachieve by Mu Gua Huang, ranked No. 25

These are cases in which publishers—Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House for the Jiu Yuexi title and Beijing Times Chinese Press for the two Mu Gua Huang titles—have decided that the market potential for book-format treatments of these series looks good enough to have the content redeveloped and published. It should be interesting to see how they fare on the charts after such auspicious starts.

‘Underachieve,’ second volume

And otherwise, October is when we see once more the heavy impact on the Chinese charts of the educational calendar. With school fully in sway once more, four classics that were being read  during summer breaks for extra course credit from curriculum lists are now plunging in the rankings:

Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, ranked third last month, has dropped 14 places to No. 17. And Dream of the Red Chamber  by Cao Xueqin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, and Water Margin by Shi Nai’an and Luo Guanzhong have also tumbled by more than 10 places in October.

Our colleagues in Beijing also have pointed out the connection often seen between film, television, and books in the Chinese market—and the occasion involves one of those newly active titles.

Better Days for ‘Better Days’

Better Days by Jiu Yuexi surged in sales in October, making it No. 11 on the list thanks to a well-received film adaptation. The film stars Yi Yang Qian Xi and Zhou Dongyu and was both a critical and popular success. Rainy Liu, our associate with OpenBook, tells us that within three days of its release, the film’s box office take exceeded 500 million RMB (US$71 million).

As of November 7, the cumulative box office had reached 1.256 billion RMB (US$178 million), among the Top 10 domestic films of 2019. And the film has also generated discussion around topics of campus bullying and other challenges of juvenile development.

All this has raised the profile of the novel Better Days, which first appeared online on the platform Jinjiang Literary City in 2015. A print edition was published in 2016, but didn’t draw much market attention at the time.

Three years later, a new edition of Better Days with illustrations has been on the market since February. And with the runaway success of the film, we’re watching to see how the book fares, newly spotted by readers and cinema fans.

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, October 2019
September 2019 Ranking October 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
2 2 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
4 3 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
5 4 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
7 5 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
6 6 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
9 7 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 8 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
14 9 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 10 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 11 9787550022577 2019-02 Better Days Jiu Yuexi Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
16 12 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
20 13 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 14 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
17 15 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 16 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
3 17 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
25 18 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787569930344 2019-08 Underachieve (2) Mu Gua Huang Bejing Times Chinese Press
22 20 9787506365680 2012-12 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
27 21 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
10 22 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 24 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787569930337 2019-06 Underachieve Mu Gua Huang Bejing Times Chinese Press
29 26 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
30 27 9787530211564 2012-03 Life Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
23 28 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
24 29 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
12 30 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Nai’an,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, October 2019
September 2019 Ranking October 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
5 1 9787509837412 20160-6 CPC Ninety Years (3 volumes) Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee Chinese Communist Party History Publishing House
Not Ranked 2 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
2 3 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
6 4 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
9 5 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
8 6 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
10 7 9787559418111 20180-4 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 8 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 9 9787559435552 2019-09 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 10 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
12 11 9787520710350 2019-07 The 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China Zhang Shiyi Orient Press
Not Ranked 12 9787544387873 2019-08 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Common Sense of Life Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787515356822 2019-07 Course on Chinese Culture Yu Qiuyu China Youth Press
4 14 9787540492380 201-906 The Kids Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
3 15 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
15 16 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie Tianjin People’s Publishing House
16 17 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
13 18 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
28 19 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787506379236 2015-05 The Tough Brilliance (Revised Edition) Jin Yinan The Writer’s Publishing House
19 21 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
22 22 9787506376631 2014-11 A Good Mother is More Important than a Good Teacher (5 Million Volumes Commemorative Edition) Yin Jianli The Writer’s Publishing House
1 23 9787101127867 2017-09 Translation and Annotation of the Analects of Confucius Zhonghua Book Company
7 24 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
20 25 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Hunan Literature & Art Press
29 26 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
18 27 9787535447340 2014-02 The Poignant Culture Traveling Yu Qiuyu Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
Not Ranked 28 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang SDX Joint Publishing Company
17 29 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
21 30 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, October 2019
September 2019 Ranking october 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
2 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
3 3 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 4 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 5 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 6 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 7 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 8 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
8 9 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
9 10 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
7 11 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
13 12 9787544280020 2019-08 What Life You Want to Have Yoshino Genzaburo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 13 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
16 14 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 15 9787550033566 2019-09 Weathering with You Shinkai Makoto Japan Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
17 16 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus France Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
5 17 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
14 18 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler United States of America Hainan Publishing House
20 20 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, October 2019
September 2019 Ranking October 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.
3 2 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
2 3 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
4 4 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
5 5 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
9 6 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
6 7 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
8 8 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
7 9 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
11 10 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 11 9787521702415 2019-02 The American Trap Frederic Pierucci,Matthieu Aron France CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 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
14 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
12 14 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
16 15 9787508650890 2015-5 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
20 16 9787514208788 2013-07 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
17 17 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
18 18 9787544762885 2016-04 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff United States of America Yilin Press
19 19 9787210094906 2017-07 The Scroll Marked Dale Carnegie,Yang Yi United States of America Jiangxi People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787512505032 2019-09 A Biography of Mao Tse-tung Dick Wilson Britain International Culture Publishing Corporation

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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