China Bestsellers December 2019: The Year of the Rat

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson4 Comments

Our review of December’s bestsellers shows nostalgia and self-help boosting titles in fiction and nonfiction ahead of the lunar new year.

Families in Shanghai taking in last year’s spring festival at Yuyuan Garden—a site dating back through many incarnations to 1559 and opened to the public in 1961. Image – iStockphoto: Yanjf

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

Emotional Consumption

‘Kim Ji-young, Born 1982’

By Friday of this week (January 24), many celebrations in China’s spring festival will be in full sway. The lunar year celebration—its dates guided by the moon—this year runs through January 30 and opens the year of the rat. Indeed, the year of the rat will run an unusual 13 months, to February 11, 2021.

The first creature of the Chinese zodiac, the rat is said to have hitched a ride on the kindly ox, then jumped ahead to become No. 1 in the pantheon. People born in years of the rat are thought to make good technical workers and tend to be good at saving money. Not always appreciated in Western contexts, in traditional Chinese lore, a rat is thought to have wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility, and vitality. Rats traditionally have been seen as signs of wealth, surplus, fertility. And people born into a year of the rat are thought to be sensitive to emotion.

That’s interesting, as our look at bestsellers in China for the month of December shows the younger generations gravitating toward what our OpenBook Beijing associates call “emotional consumption” in their book-buying patterns.

‘Short Stories From the Notebook of A Grave Robber’s Chronicles’

This can be seen, for example, in the Grave Robber Chronicles, a long-running series first released in 2006 and in December slamming into the top of the overall fiction list at No. 2. The occasion is the publication of Short Stories From the Notebook of A Grave Robber’s Chronicles in November by Nanpai Sanshu from Beijing Union Publishing Company.

Emotional consumption drivers often are impacted by nostalgia, not unlike the release of a Disney remake, and as the researchers at OpenBook note, many young adult readers today were encountering the Grave Robber Chronicles in their middle-school years. Film and television adaptations, sequels, and other related products have kept the fan base energized over the years.

In another standout in the month’s rankings, Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo and published in August by the Guizhou People’s Publishing House, has entered the chart at No. 24 with a strong women’s rights following and much debate around its story of a Korean woman subjected to discrimination. The social networking giant Douban named it last year’s “book of most concern” for its controversy and potential to focus attention on social bias often considered the norm.

‘This Is Your Life’

In nonfiction, three titles entered the chart in December:

  • Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, ranked No. 2
  • Because This is Your Life by Kevin Tsai, ranked No. 9
  • 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon: Traditional Chinese Festivals by Chen Lei, ranked No. 30

The Tsai book, Because This Is Your Life offers a look at the popularity of self-help among China’s reading consumers, something we’d touched on last week in our report on the NPD Group’s insights into self-help in the United States market. The book is a follow to Taipei-born Tsai’s previous release, Emotional Intelligence Class: Live for Yourself. And the focus here is on relationship. Tsai is prized by readers as a guide to how to handle myriad interpersonal developments, and the appeal is cinched by the use of colorful cat illustrations—yes, our cultures seem to have cat picture mania in common, too—by the artist GuaJiLa.

Tsai—some listings from Hanyu Pinyin call him Cai Kangyong—is a busy speaker in bookstore appearances, building a strong bond with consumers as his new book gains traction.

And lastly, Educated: A Memoir is interesting as the American title many of our readers know. Tara Westover’s book from Random House is currently No. 4 on Amazon.com’s Most Sold Amazon Charts listings and No. 5 on the Most Read listings—almost 100 weeks after its arrival in February 2018.

Released in October in China by Nan Hai Publishing, and our associates at Beijing OpenBook say that the critical element of the book for many Chinese readers is the concept of the individual’s need to find and pursue his or her own goals and desires, which may be contrary to what one’s family expects or wants—a follow-your-dreams message, in other words.

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, December 2019
November 2019 Ranking December 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 2 9787559637949 2019-11 Short Stories from Notebook of a Grave Robber’s Chronicles Nanpai Sanshu Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
5 3 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
2 4 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 5 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 6 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
6 7 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 8 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 9 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
9 10 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 11 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
15 12 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
10 13 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
22 14 9787530211564 2012-03 Life Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
11 15 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
21 16 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787020153541 2019-11 Joy of Life (1) Mao Ni People’s Literature Publishing House
20 18 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
18 19 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
16 20 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 21 9787530216774 2017-07 Ordinary Word Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
24 22 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 23 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787221153159 2019-08 Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 Cho Nam-Joo Guizhou People’s Publishing House
23 25 9787506365680 2012-12 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
25 26 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
28 27 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
26 28 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
27 29 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
29 30 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, December 2019
November 2019 Ranking December 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 2 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 3 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
9 4 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
10 5 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
5 6 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
15 7 9787540481551 2018-11 The Emotional Quotient Lesson of Kevin Tsai: Live for Yourself for One Time Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
6 8 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 9 9787540493691 2019-11 Because This is Your Life Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
7 10 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
2 11 9787509837412 2016-06 CPC Ninety Years (3 volumes) Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee Chinese Communist Party History Publishing House
8 12 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
29 13 9787520710350 2019-07 The 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China Zhang Shiyi Orient Press
28 14 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
25 15 9787521701579 2019-09 Hi I’m China Institute for Planets, The China Society on Tibet Plateau CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
11 16 9787559435552 2019-09 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 17 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
14 18 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 19 9787506379236 2015-05 The Tough Brilliance (Revised Edition) Jin Yinan The Writer’s Publishing House
18 20 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
17 21 9787521708554 2019-09 Style Wu Jun CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 22 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
12 23 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
19 24 9787544387873 2019-08 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Common Sense of Life Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787503565397 2019-02 Xi Jinping in Zhengding Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
23 26 9787544388672 2019-09 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Financial Crisis Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
13 27 9787540492380 2019-06 The Kids Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
21 28 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
4 29 9787559637406 2019-10 Take It Easy 2.0 Da Bing Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 30 9787544389372 2019-11 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon: Traditional Chinese Festivals Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, December 2019
November 2019 Ranking December 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 2 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 3 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
3 4 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 5 9787208061644 2018-02 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
5 6 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 7 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 8 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 9 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 10 9787221153159 2019-08 Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 Cho Nam-Joo Korea Guizhou People’s Publishing House
11 11 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 12 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
6 13 9787550033566 2019-09 Weathering with You Shinkai Makoto Japan Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
13 14 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
16 15 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
15 16 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus France Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
19 17 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
14 18 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler United States of America Hainan Publishing House
17 20 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, December 2019
November 2019 Ranking December 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.
Not Ranked 2 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 3 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
Not Ranked 4 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
6 5 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 6 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
4 7 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
3 8 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
9 9 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
5 10 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
7 11 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
8 12 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
13 13 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
12 14 9787521702415 2019-02 The American Trap Frederic Pierucci, Matthieu Aron France CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 15 9787513927277 2019-10 Permanent Record Edward Snowden United States of America Democracy and Construction Press
11 16 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
15 17 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
16 18 9787508650890 2015-05 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 19 9787514208788 2013-07 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787300126210 2010-09 Mao: A Biography Ross Terrill United States of America China Renmin University 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.

Jiang Boyan LLC advises authors and right’s holders on global intellectual property and investment opportunities.

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.

Another view of Shanghai’s Yuyuan Garden during new year, with spring festival lanterns. Image – iStockphoto: Eugene Online


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.

Comments

  1. I wonder why the bestseller ranking provided here is different from the one available at the OpenBook website http://www.openbook.com.cn/EN/BestSellers.aspx , according to which “Red Crag” ranks as 3rd in fiction and “Weathering with You” ranks as 4th. The nonfiction bestsellers are also different. Is the ranking methodology different?

    1. Author

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      We have spoken with OpenBook in Beijing and we’re told that the English-language listing you had found is one that has not been updated with the most current rankings data, although the WeChat edition in Chinese was correct.

      That listing, the team there says, will be checked and updated as quickly as possible, although spring festival activities may make the task take a bit of time.

      Our associates apologize for any confusion and we have confirmed, ourselves, that the Chinese edition of the listing is in sync with our material here.

      Many thanks for reading us and, again, for your note.
      -p.

      On Twitter: @PubPerspectives @Porter_Anderson

  2. Thank you so much for the feedback! And I apologize if the previous message was a bit abrupt – I personally really appreciate all the insightful articles and am very grateful for the clarification. Cheers!

    1. Author

      Not at all, good to have your note, as the Beijing team hadn’t realized that the listing you’d found wasn’t yet updated.
      Very helpful of you, and thanks again for reading us.
      -p.

      On Twitter: @PubPerspectives @Porter_Anderson

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