China Bestsellers April 2020: A Watchful Market, a Reawakening Chart

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As extensive coronavirus testing continues, China’s book market charts a restart in April, with consumers’ favorite Japanese author Higashino Keigo and an influencer’s big push for Mai Jia’s new book.

In Shanghai, an April 8 shot. Image – iStockphoto: Robert Wei

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
A ‘Key Opinion Leader’ Rocks a Book Release
When we looked at the March bestsellers in China, the familiar patterns of the coronavirus COVID-19’s damage were in evidence, although the Chinese market had been the first to undergo them, of course.

Image: Worldometer, June 11, 2020

Bookstores had been shuttered, some valiantly trying to manage with special delivery to customers. And Beijing OpenBook, our partner in producing these reports, expected to see some real energy return to the charts in April.

As Matthew C. Klein was reporting for Barron’s in the latter part of April, “The big headline was that China’s gross domestic product was 9.8 percent lower in the first three months of the year than it was at the end of 2019. That’s equivalent to a 34-percent drop at an annual rate.”

An extraordinary test of most of Wuhan’s population at the end of May revealed, as Reuters reported, what officials said were no new confirmed cases and some 300 asymptomatic carriers of the virus. And as this story is published, the early June 11 update at Worldometer reports China to be 18th in the world for caseloads, with 84,209 cases and 4,638 deaths.

What can be seen in the book market, OpenBook’s information tells us, is new energy behind both some consumer favorites and some more recent titles.

In fiction, for example, Life is Like Ocean by Mai Jia rose nine places to the top of the fiction list. This big jump is attributed to the efforts of Wei Ya, a “KOL”—a “key opinion leader”—on the Taobao platform, who staged a live online program on April 12 in support of Mai Jia’s book.

And so popular is this kind of retail influence among many Chinese young adults that in some recent surveys, it’s reported that as many as half the respondents said they’d like to become “key opinion leaders,” themselves.

But in no market, it seems, do China’s readers get far from the popular and prolific Japanese author Higashino Keigo.

As it happens, Keigo has yet another new release in China and that latest title, Silent Parade, entered at No. 6 in April—no KOL needed, thank you very much. “Higashino Heat” is a thing, at least among our associates at Beijing OpenBook. They’ve watched this super-seller’s reception grow for years.

Silent Parade was first published in 2018 in Japanese, and was released in Chinese in March. After a dearth of new books in February and March because of the pandemic, the consumer base apparently was primed for new Keigo content.

Silent Parade is off to major sales in both physical and online retail channels, we’re told.

And at No. 23, you see the return to the chart of a title first seen there in 2017, To Kill a Mockingbird. While the Chinese book market as we see it in April is not yet “back to normal”–and that massive testing of millions in Wuhan was a preventive against fears of new infection clusters–what this sighting of Harper Lee’s 1960 title does represent is an abiding curiosity among many Chinese readers for prominent American literature.

Because Jean Louise Finch in the book is six years old, China’s primary and secondary schools recommend the book for students, our OpenBook advisers say.

And World Book Day on April 23 played a role in the showing the title made, with Mockingbird promotions from digital retail outlets highlighting it as a classic consumers’ choice.

In nonfiction, not to be missed in April: two new books on the journey of Xi Jinping to his arrival as president of the People’s Republic, Xi Jinping in Ningda move onto the chart for the first time at No. 8, and Xi Jinping in Xiamen entered at No. 23.

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, April 2020
March 2020 Ranking April 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
10 1 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
3 2 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 3 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 4 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
2 5 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
Not Ranked 6 9787544280662 2020-03 Silent Parade Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 7 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
1 8 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
6 9 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 10 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 11 9787559614636 2017-12 Fang Si-Qi’s First Love Paradise Lin Yihan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
29 12 9787530216774 2017-07 Ordinary Word Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
8 13 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
23 14 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
16 15 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 16 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
26 17 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
11 18 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
28 19 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 20 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
30 21 9787020127894 2017-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 22 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 23 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yilin Press
25 24 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
21 25 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
20 26 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
22 27 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
17 28 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
27 29 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Nai’an,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787201116693 2017-05 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Tianjin People’s Publishing House

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, April 2020
March 2020 Ranking April 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 2 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
3 3 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
6 4 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Hunan Literature & Art Press
4 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
12 6 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
5 7 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 8 9787503567292 2020-01 Xi Jinping in Ningde Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
11 9 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
7 10 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
22 11 9787559435552 2019-09 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
8 12 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
10 13 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
23 14 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
15 15 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
13 16 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
14 17 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
24 18 9787544387873 2019-08 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Common Sense of Life Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
29 19 9787530216590 2017-04 Silent Majority Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
18 20 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
25 21 9787544388672 2019-09 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Financial Crisis Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
21 22 9787521708554 2019-09 Style Wu Jun CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 23 9787503567285 2020-01 Xi Jinping in Xiamen Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
26 24 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787530216712 2017-04 A Unique Pig Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
20 26 9787544389372 2019-11 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon: Traditional Chinese Festivals Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 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
16 28 9787540481551 2018-11 The Emotional Quotient Lesson of Kevin Tsai: Live for Yourself for One Time Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
27 29 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
17 30 9787540493691 2019-11 Because This is Your Life Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, April 2020
March 2020 Ranking April 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787544280662 2020-03 Silent Parade Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
1 2 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 3 9787208061644 2018-02 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini USA Shanghai People’s Publishing House
7 4 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 5 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 6 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 7 9787544280020 2019-08 What Life You Want to Have Yoshino Genzaburo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 8 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 9 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee USA Yilin Press
11 10 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787221153159 2019-08 Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 Cho Nam-Joo Korea Guizhou People’s Publishing House
10 12 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 14 9787201116693 2017-05 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 15 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
13 16 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler USA Hainan Publishing House
8 17 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall UK Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 18 9787539982830 2015-06 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 19 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
16 20 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, April 2020
March 2020 Ranking April 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen USA Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
5 2 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
3 3 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B. Rosenberg USA Huaxia Publishing House
Not Ranked 4 9787807639817 2013-07 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Guangxi Science & Technology Press
4 5 9787540471194 2019-02 Relationship: Bridge to the Soul Christoper Moon Canada Hunan Literature & Art Press
8 6 9787508687216 2018-08 Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty Abhijit V.Banerjee, Esther Duflo USA CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 7 9787547734315 2019-09 Life is Worth Living Nakamura Tsuneko Japan Beijing daily publishing house
Not Ranked 8 9787220114045 2019-07 Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert T. Kiyosaki USA Sichuan People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 9 9787532772322 2016-08 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond USA Shanghai Translation Publishing House
9 10 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal USA Cultural Development Publishing House
6 11 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie USA Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 12 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 13 9787111551287 2016-10 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool USA China Machine Press
Not Ranked 14 9787210096528 2017-09 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol S.Dweck USA Jiangxi People’s Publishing House
10 15 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio USA CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
14 16 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang USA SDX Joint Publishing Company
11 17 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W. Hawking UK Hunan Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 18 9787201151304 2019-09 One Two Three . . . Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science George Gamow USA Tianjin People’s Publishing House
16 19 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
12 20 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos USA Peking 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 January 1, 2020, OpenBook monitored more than 10,000 online and offline bookstores.

The online channel includes digital retailers such as large self-operated online stores, platform stores, and small- and medium-sized stores. The offline channels include 4,495 bookstores. Coverage includes most of the state-owned and influential privately owned bookstores in 30 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet are not included in OpenBook’s system.

In 2019, OpenBook tracked around 71.72 billion RMB in sales (US$10.1 billion).

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. And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

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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