China Bestsellers in August: A Nobel Laureate Hits the Charts

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Acclaimed author Mo Yan has raced onto the charts in China with his first book since his 2012 Nobel win–and is a hit on social media.

On the banks of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, August 30. Image – iStockphoto: Julien Viry

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Mo Yan: ‘A More Complex Color’
Quick entries on China’s charts tracked by our associates at Beijing OpenBook in August include The Only One at No. 1 by Mu Suli from Jiangsu Literature and Art Press, and A Late Bloomer at No. 6 by Mo Yan from People’s Literature Publishing House.

A Late Bloomer

Both of those titles were published in July, making their auspicious entries onto the charts somewhat unusual, as even successful new releases in China can take several months to work their way into the Top 10.

In the case of A Late Bloomer, however, it’s not a surprise that the book is doing so well in the data OpenBook gathers, of course, because Mo is the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. This is his first work published since he accepted the award, and the focus of the new work is on his hometown of Gaomi, in Shandong Province.

In fact, Mo writes in A Late Bloomer about what it was like to return home after becoming a Nobel laureate, but the book—said to read like a memoir—actually has fictionalized elements, hence its presence on the fiction chart. That’s not a surprise, of course, the Nobel committee having cited his “hallucinatory realism” in “merging folk tales, history and the contemporary.,”

On the release of his new work, Mo said, “Because of the 2012 Nobel Prize incident, my identity as a writer has added a more complex color.

“In today’s business society and online information society, when a person with such an identity returns to his hometown, the people and things he encounters are much richer than in the past.”

Mo Yan

Mo Yan

So, it might be added, are that person’s fortunes. Mo Yan opened an account on Chinese social media platforms on September 3 with a short video introducing the new A Late Bloomer. The video drew more than 31 million views on the same day, Rainy Liu at OpenBook tells us. “In this era,” she says, “the enthusiasm for short video can be converted into business opportunities”—which is obvious, of course, in the 800 million active users said to be fans of the recently controversial TikTok platform.

And as the annual midsummer burst of student reading lists eases, some of the previous high-riders such as Red Crag by Luo Guangbin and Yang Yiyan from China Youth Press have taken their traditional seasonal tumbles, Red Crag diving 11 points from No. 6 in July to No. 17 in August.

Overall, OpenBook’s staffers report market improvement in August, as the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic conditions in much of China have become relatively more stable.

Nonfiction, they say, is benefiting from publishers’ and authors’ growing awareness of the potential for social-media marketing of key titles, as referenced in our report last week on the Beijing conference this month.

The Only One

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.

At this writing, the 4:23 a.m. ET (0823 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 90,369 cases in China’s population of 1.4 million, with 4,737 fatalities.

The South China Morning post has a report from Alice Yan in Shanghai in which she reports that Yannan province’s outbreak of new cases is drawing a “wartime mode” response, in an effort to halt the contagion there quickly. The region is near Myanmar, which itself has had a rise in cases.

While Phase 3 trials of a vaccine development reportedly are going well, Yan writes, Huashan Hospital infectious disease specialist Zhang Wehnhong is warning that deployment of a vaccine could take a year in itself and that “Now that Europe is having a second wave, it is inevitable we will see a second wave of infections” in the winter.

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers, August 2020
July 2020 Ranking August 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787559439833 2020-07 The Only One Mu Suli Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
5 2 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
1 3 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
2 4 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
7 5 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 6 9787020164776 2020-07 A Late Bloomer Mo Yan People’s Literature Publishing House
8 7 9787559439482 2020-04 Ran Freely (3) Wu Zhe Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
3 8 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 9 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
13 10 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
10 11 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
17 12 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 13 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 14 9787559446848 2020-04 Ran Freely (2) (2020 Edition) Wu Zhe Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 15 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
12 16 9787559442680 2020-06 Break the Cloud (2) Huai Shang Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
6 17 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
28 18 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
18 19 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
15 20 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
22 21 9787530216774 2017-07 Ordinary Word Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
21 22 9787544280662 2020-03 Silent Parade Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
24 23 9787559436399 2019-07 Break the Cloud Huai Shang Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
27 24 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 25 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Nai’an,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
30 26 9787569930337 2019-06 Underachieve Mu Gua Huang Bejing Times Chinese Press
Not Ranked 27 9787569930344 2019-08 Underachieve (2) Mu Gua Huang Bejing Times Chinese Press
20 28 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787559637949 2019-11 Short Stories from Notebook of a Grave Robber Chronicles Nanpai Sanshu Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 30 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House

 


OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, August 2020
July 2020 Ranking August 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787559643872 2020-08 May You 2.0 Da Bing Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
2 2 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 3 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
1 4 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
10 5 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Hunan Literature & Art Press
7 6 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
6 7 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
5 8 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
18 9 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 10 9787559642943 2020-07 Goodbye My Loneliness Liu Tong Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
8 11 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
12 12 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
19 13 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 14 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
17 15 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
11 16 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
13 17 9787532174997 2020-03 30 Minutes of Song Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Shanghai Literature & Art Press
27 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
Not Ranked 19 9787503568404 2020-07 Xi Jinping in Fuzhou Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
23 20 9787535447340 2014-02 The Poignant Culture Traveling Yu Qiuyu Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
14 21 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 22 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
29 23 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
20 24 9787549631698 2020-05 30 Minutes of Science History in Cartoon Chen Lei Wenhui Publishing House
22 25 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
15 26 9787559435552 2019-09 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
21 27 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
Not Ranked 28 9787521708554 2019-09 Style Wu Jun CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
26 29 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 30 9787559639134 2020-06 The Rise of China Jin Yinan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, August 2020
July 2020 Ranking August 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) 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.
3 3 9787208061644 2018-02 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
4 4 9787544280662 2020-03 Silent Parade Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 5 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 6 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
12 7 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
8 8 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 9 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 10 9787544299015 2020-05 The Camphor Keeper Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 11 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 12 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
16 13 9787544280020 2019-08 What Life You Want to Have Yoshino Genzaburo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 14 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 15 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 16 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
20 17 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall United Kingdom Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall United Kingdom Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
7 19 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
19 20 9787201116693 2017-05 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, August 2020
July 2020 Ranking August 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 2 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
1 3 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
5 4 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
4 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
6 6 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 7 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 8 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking United Kingdom Hunan Science & Technology Press
8 9 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
7 10 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
9 11 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
11 12 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 13 9787521702415 2019-02 The American Trap Frederic Pierucci,Matthieu Aron France CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
16 14 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
18 15 9787547734315 2019-09 Life is Worth Living Nakamura Tsuneko Japan Beijing daily publishing house
14 16 9787544775830 2019-07 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin Press
Not Ranked 17 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
19 18 9787301269381 2019-09 A Gobal History:From Prehistory to 21ST Century L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
15 19 9787544768559 2017-07 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin Press
17 20 9787544768511 2017-06 Three Days to See (New Edition) Helen Keller United States of America Yilin 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 585 publishers in operation today, according to the Publishers Association of China.

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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