China Bestsellers in June: Tried, True, and Familiar Hold the Charts

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China’s book sales in June were somewhat subdued by the pandemic, in a month in which Chinese readers clung to favored authors and themes.

Passengers aboard a high-speed train at Jiuquan, formerly known as Suzhou, in the province of Gansu. Image – iStockphoto: Robert Wei

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

Comfort Fiction and ‘Cholera’
In our look at China’s January-to-June statistics for this unusual year, one of the most interesting trends our associates at Beijing OpenBook had spotted was an ongoing struggle for the larger bookstores in the largest cities to reopen. Major chains and recognized big-store hubs were encountering sales drops of 50 and 55 percent by comparison to the first six months of 2019, as digital retail gained some traction.

‘Love in the Time of Cholera’

Parallel to this, bestseller lists, research shows, in June were reflecting a logical interest not only in self-help and self-realization, but also in books directly related to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and prevention of a pathogen’s spread. In fiction, the concerns continued to drive sales of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1985 Love in the Time of Cholera, in an anniversary edition selling 3 million copies.

But where some robust charting really occurred seems to have been in a certain amount of escapism, leading to two familiar sources: the “30 Minutes in Cartoon” nonfiction treatments of various topics by Chen Lei and the fiction of the intensely popular Japanese author Keigo Higashino.

A Higashino title published in May by Nan Hai Publishing Co., The Camphor Keeper, arrived on the list in June at No. 16, along with six other titles from the author. A part of what drives the success of these books is film and television development.

‘The Camphor Keeper’

And a type of magical realism in some of Higashino’s work—as in his abiding hit, Miracles of the Namiya General Store—returns in The Camphor Keeper, which  centers on the guardian of an ancient tree to which the faithful pray in order to have their dreams come true. Not surprisingly, there’s a comfort factor to this work, and that seems to have played into its popularity in a time when even the Chinese capital has been jolted by outbreaks.

As prolific as Higashino is, and as loyal a following as he has in China, The Camphor Keeper is the first of his titles to be released in China simultaneously with its appearance in Japan. To energize that factor, the author wrote an affecting note to his Chinese readers: “The reason I wrote The Camphor Keeper is to pray that readers can have hope for tomorrow.”

National awareness was also at play, in sales for the books on Chinese president Xi Jinping and a newcomer to the nonfiction charts, 100 Questions About National Security.

The 18th of June was, as it is each year, marked out as a halfway point, usually called “618,” in the shopping year in China and much of the month in digital retail was themed around that trigger for discounts. Classics tend to do better in this annual sale-fest, and that seems to have held the nonfiction charts in place without a lot of change. The late Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time did move onto the main nonfiction lists, having appeared in the past on the international nonfiction charts.

At this writing (July 27), the 3:34 a.m. ET update (0734 GMT) of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center places China at No. 26 in the world for caseloads, with 86,570 infections and 4,652 reported fatalities in a population of 1.4 billion.

Per the reporting of Huizhong Wu, Judy Hua, and Ryan Woo for Reuters, it is of some concern that on Sunday (July 26), China reported 61 new cases for the mainland, “up from 46 cases a day earlier, the health commission said on Monday, with new infections not involving people returning from overseas hitting the highest number since early March.” Some 57 of those cases are said to have been domestic transmissions.

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, June 2020
May 2020 Ranking June 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
1 2 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
4 3 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 4 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
6 5 9787559439482 2020-04 Ran Freely (3) Wu Zhe Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
10 6 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
17 7 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 8 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
12 9 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
9 10 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
8 11 9787544280662 2020-03 Silent Parade Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 12 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
13 13 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 14 9787559446848 2020-04 Ran Freely (2) (2020 Edition) Wu Zhe Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 15 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787544299015 2020-05 The Camphor Keeper Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 17 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
7 18 9787559614636 2017-12 Fang Si-Qi’s First Love Paradise Lin Yihan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
18 19 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 20 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 21 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 22 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 23 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
27 24 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
25 26 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yilin Press
29 27 9787559436399 2019-07 Break the Cloud Huai Shang Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
26 28 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
23 29 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
22 30 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, June 2020
May 2020 Ranking June 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 2 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
4 3 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Hunan Literature & Art Press
6 4 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
2 5 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
10 6 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
11 7 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 8 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
5 9 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
15 10 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
25 11 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
13 12 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
7 13 9787010219783 2020-04 100 Questions About National Security Compile Group of 100 Questions About National Security People’s Publishing House
16 14 9787532174997 2020-03 30 Minutes of Song Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Shanghai Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 15 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787544389372 2019-11 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon: Traditional Chinese Festivals Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
24 17 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
23 18 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
27 19 9787559435552 2019-09 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
8 20 9787503567292 2020-01 Xi Jinping in Ningde Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
19 21 9787503567285 2020-01 Xi Jinping in Xiamen Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
22 22 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
28 23 9787544387873 2019-08 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Common Sense of Life Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
26 25 9787530216590 2017-04 Silent Majority Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
18 26 9787544391931 2020-03 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Financial Crisis (The End) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
29 27 9787544388672 2019-09 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Financial Crisis Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
21 28 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 29 9787521708554 2019-09 Style Wu Jun CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 30 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, June 2020
May 2020 Ranking June 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
4 1 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
1 2 9787544280662 2020-03 Silent Parade Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 3 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 4 9787544299015 2020-05 The Camphor Keeper Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 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.
15 7 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 8 9787544280020 2019-08 What Life You Want to Have Yoshino Genzaburo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 9 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 10 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 11 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 12 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
10 13 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
7 14 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 16 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus France Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 17 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
13 18 9787201116693 2017-05 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787513312929 2013-08 And Then There Were None Agatha Christie United Kingdom New Star Press Co.Ltd
14 20 9787550013247 201505 Ferryman Claire McFall United Kingdom Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, June 2020
May 2020 Ranking June 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 2 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
3 3 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 4 9787807639817 2013-07 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Guangxi Science & Technology Press
4 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
5 6 9787540471194 2019-02 Relationship: Bridge to the Soul Christoper Moon Canada Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 7 9787508687216 2018-08 Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty Abhijit V.Banerjee,Esther Duflo United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
6 8 9787547734315 2019-09 Life is Worth Living Nakamura Tsuneko Japan Beijing daily publishing house
Not Ranked 9 9787532772322 2016-08 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond United States of America Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 10 9787220114045 2019-07 Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki United States of America Sichuan People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787521713305 2020-03 What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence Stephen A. Schwarzman United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
17 12 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787210096528 2017-09 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol S.Dweck United States of America Jiangxi People’s Publishing House
8 14 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
7 15 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 16 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 17 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking United Kingdom Hunan Science & Technology Press
12 18 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
14 19 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
15 20 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America 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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