China Bestsellers in August: Familiar Authors With New Success

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The school systems’ reading lists were put away in August, but China’s charts continued to turn over slowly. The fastest moves were in contemporary fiction.

At Givenchy in Shanghai, August 28. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Robert Way

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

Keigo Higashino, the Perennial Charts Success
With students getting the summer’s recommended reading under their belts in July, August saw China’s readership turning to vacation-time contemporary fiction, and this resulted in four popular novels arriving on the charts for the first time:

‘You Are My Glory’

  • You Are My Glory by Gu Man, ranked No. 5, mainly powered by a hit television adaptation: You are My Glory was the only one of the first-time books on the list this month after spending more than two years on the market, a demonstration of the energy that television exposure provides
  • Always Have, Always Will by Zhang Jiajia, published in August and quickly arriving at No. 11
  • The Nameless Town by the ever-popular and prolific Japanese author Keigo Higashino, published in June and entering the list at No. 23
  • Doll by Qin Ming, published in August and moving onto the chart at No. 30

Indeed, the through line here is the arrival of new works from authors well established with the Chinese consumer base.

‘Always Have, Always Will’

By contrast, our associates at Beijing OpenBook point out that Zhang’s Always Have, Always Will is the author’s first new title in three years. But the research team’s Rainy Liu points to the 38 consecutive months that Zhang’s Moments We Shared has been on the list since its release—always in the Top 10. That staying power is in part fueled by shares of passages from his book on various social media and in short videos.

Higashino—who’s known to have several releases in a year—is easily the biggest producer of the group. And his new The Nameless Town is reported to be the start of a series, the “Kamio Detective Collection.” With everything pointing to the new book and the series as likely hits, the OpenBook team points out that the new title is following a distinctive pattern frequently seen in Higashino’s work, in that it’s finding its traction first in physical bookstores.

‘The Nameless Town’

And like Higashino’s book, Qin’s Doll has the readers’ fondness for a series behind it. It’s the third of a series called “Forensic Qinming. The first installment is The Condemned. The second book was The Forgotten, released in 2020. An interesting element of this one, though, is that the series’ starter entered the bestseller lists in 2017 (The Condemned). And the series hasn’t charted again since then until now.

So Doll is a return to the charts for a series that has been missing in the bestseller ranks for four years—surely a big satisfaction to Qin Ming after so much time. As Liu puts it, the OpenBook team sees part of this story being a change of publisher. Qin is new to Beijing Union Publishing. And it’s the energy of that new publishing house, the researchers suggest, that’s driving what they term a revitalization of the series’ intellectual property.

‘Hi, I’m China’ Volume 2

By contrast, the nonfiction list in August shows the typical sluggish movement that—by comparison to many markets in the world—can make the Chinese bestseller array look glacial in its evolution. Only one book entered the nonfiction ranks anew, that one being called, rather quaintly, Hi, I’m China (Volume 2). And it’s in at a low slot, No. 24. The book is a popular-science treatment of geography.

“As soon as its publication, the publisher planned a series of marketing activities in physical bookstores and on social media and short video platforms,” the OpenBook group tells us. CITIC Publishing House capitalized on corporate group purchase arrangements, which helped drive the title’s arrival on the list.

And the children’s list moved even more slowly in August, with no new titles charting amid the natural summer slump in recommendations for kids amid the educational system’s hiatus.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from August of bestsellers in fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, 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 Huawei in Shanghai, August 11. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Robert Way

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers, August 2021
July 2021 Ranking August 2021 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
8 2 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
20 3 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
9 4 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 5 9787510874451 2019-05 You are My Glory Gu Man Jiuzhou Press
Not Ranked 6 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
3 7 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
7 8 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
4 9 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 10 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787572602825 2021-08 Always Have, Always Will Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
17 12 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
1 13 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
13 14 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
16 15 9787555285298 2020-03 Hidden Love Zhu Yi Qingdao Publishing House
6 16 9787559455000 2021-06 First Frost (The End) Zhu Yi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
15 17 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yilin Press
22 18 9787530221099 2021-02 Wencheng Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 20 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
24 21 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 22 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 23 9787544297905 2021-06 The Nameless Town Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 24 9787020164776 2020-07 A Late Bloomer Mo Yan People’s Literature Publishing House
11 25 9787559452788 2020-12 First Frost Zhu Yi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 26 9787521210033 2020-09 Sit for a While Tea House Jia Pingwa The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
28 28 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 29 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 30 9787559654465 2021-08 Doll Qin Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, March 2021
July 2021 Ranking August 2021 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
26 2 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi China Machine Press
2 3 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
17 4 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
11 5 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 6 9787549632725 2020-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (5) Chen Lei Wenhui Publishing House
6 7 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
8 8 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
9 9 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
10 10 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
16 11 9787572201882 2020-08 The Value Zhang Lei Zhejiang Education Press Co.,Ltd
22 12 9787547739549 2021-05 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Beijing daily publishing house
4 13 9787557024413 2021-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Prosperity of the Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
29 15 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Eiko Yamashita Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 16 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
12 17 9787557023041 2020-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Sui and Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
23 18 9787101127867 2017-09 Translation and Annotation of the Analects of Confucius 0 Zhonghua Book Company
13 19 9787559313652 2017-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
7 20 9787559643926 2020-08 Master of Learning Li Zheyuan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
28 21 9787532179862 2021-06 Big Girl Yang Lan Shanghai Literature & Art Press
14 22 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
27 23 9787559639134 2020-06 The Rise of China Jin Yinan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 24 9787521731224 2021-06 Hi I’m China (2) Institute for Planets CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
15 25 9787559330260 2018-06 If History were a Group of Cats: The Spring-autumn and Warring State Period Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
Not Ranked 26 9787521210255 2020-08 The Tough Brilliance Jin Yinan The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 28 9787557021856 2020-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Wei, Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
20 29 9787557017477 2019-02 If History were a Group of Cats: Qin, Chu, Western Han and Eastern Han Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787521701579 2019-09 Hi I’m China Institute for Planets,The China Society on Tibet Plateau CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, March 2021
July 2021 Ranking August 2021 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787534633362 2005-05 Bronze and Sunflower Cao Wenxuan Jiangsu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
7 2 9787558900648 2017-07 Winter of Three Hairs (With Chinese Pinyin) Zhang Leping Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House
9 3 9787536574397 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Clever Little Prodigy Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
20 4 9787521726473 2020-12 A Dog Named Money Bodo Schafer CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 5 9787536574366 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Stratego Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
1 6 9787534618727 1998-07 The Straw Hut Cao Wenxuan Jiangsu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
12 7 9787536593749 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Game of the Wise Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
14 8 9787536593756 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Password Discovery Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
19 9 9787536574380 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Who’s the Smart Guy? Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
17 10 9787536593442 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Magic Lamp Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
18 11 9787536574373 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Great Adventure of the Castle Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
16 12 9787536593459 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: ‘Have a Meal’ Restaurant Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
4 13 9787559706522 2018-05 The Foolish and the Unhappy (With Chinese Pinyin) Ren Rongrong Zhejiang Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
3 15 9787544288590 2018-06 Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window (2018 Edition) Tetsuko Kuroyanagi Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 16 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787536587717 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: A Dog Called Rat Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787536587700 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: My Good Friend Tie Tou Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
6 19 9787533299224 2018-10 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl,Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
8 20 9787532767373 2014-08 Charlotte’s web Elwyn Brooks White Shanghai Translation Publishing House
28 21 9787536587731 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Trouble of the New Deskmate Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 22 9787536587793 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Comedy King Comes Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787536587755 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Secrets of Nature Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
29 24 9787536587762 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: If I Have a Time Machine Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
30 25 9787536587748 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: A Lot of Fun Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787536596313 2019-12 Mi Xiaoquan’s Idioms Comic Games Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787536588110 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Undercover Deskmate Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787533274269 2013-08 Guess How Much I Love You Sam McBratney,Anita Jeram Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787536588103 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: The Future Me Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787536588202 2017-11 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Meet Mr.Cat Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, March 2021
July 2021 Ranking August 2021 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 2 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 3 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
8 4 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 5 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 6 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 7 9787544297905 2021-06 The Nameless Town Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 8 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 9 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 10 9787208061644 2021-03 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
10 11 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 12 9787532175512 2020-05 13 Steps Kazuaki Takano Japan Shanghai Literature & Art Press
15 13 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 14 9787540485337 2018-03 Tsubaki Stationery Store Ito Ogawa Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
16 15 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
2 17 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787544281331 2015-12 The Red Finger Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787530221297 2021-05 The Virtual Clown Keigo Higashino Japan Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 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, March 2021
July 2021 Ranking August 2021 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
6 2 9787111495482 2020-03 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi Japan China Machine Press
2 3 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
4 4 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
3 5 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 6 9787540471194 2019-02 Relationship: Bridge to the Soul Christoper Moon Canada Hunan Literature & Art Press
14 7 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
12 8 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
7 9 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Eiko Yamashita Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
10 10 9787111635574 2019-10 The Working Methods of Kazuo Inamori Kazuo Inamori Japan China Machine Press
17 11 9787220114045 2019-07 Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki United States of America Sichuan People’s Publishing House
9 12 9787547734315 2019-09 Life is Worth Living Tsuneko Nakamura,Hiromi Okuda Japan Beijing daily publishing house
Not Ranked 13 9787549635573 2021-07 Talktive People Talk Like That Moeko Ono Japan Wenhui Publishing House
20 14 9787115536198 2020-05 Heart: Kazuo Inamori’s Philosophy of Life Kazuo Inamori Japan Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
16 15 9787210096528 2017-09 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol S.Dweck United States of America Jiangxi People’s Publishing House
18 16 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 17 9787532772322 2016-08 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond United States of America Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787521728330 2021-03 How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need Bill Gates United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 19 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 20 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

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, Jiang Boyan 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.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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