China’s March Bestsellers: New Gathering of Old Favorites

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The late start to primary and secondary schools in parts of China meant fewer class reading lists than usual influencing the bestseller charts.

A March 8 shot at Nanjing’s Jiangsu Garden Expo Park, a 1.3-square-mile development built on reclaimed quarries and industrial sites. Image – Getty iStockphoto

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

When School Reading Lists Are Delayed
Catching up now with our March China Bestsellers’ rankings, we’re looking at yet another springtime month when Chinese classics once again ruled the charts—in all Top 20 positions, in fact, on Beijing OpenBook’s master fiction list. In fact, our colleagues at OpenBook point out that only one title, Thiaoouba Prophecy by Michel Desmarquet, was new to the Top 30.

‘Thiaoouba Prophecy’

In March, six books moved back into the Top 30 ranking, another testament to the abiding popularity of what the vast Chinese readership thinks of as its contemporary classics:

  • Fortress Besieged by Qian Zhongshu, No. 19
  • 13 Steps by Kazuaki, No. 20
  • First Frost (The End) by Zhu Yi,  No.26
  • Hidden Love by Zhu Yi, No. 27
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, No. 29
  • First Frost by Zhu Yi, No. 30

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in the fact that this year’s March list isn’t as heavily influenced as it usually is by educational curriculum reading lists.

‘First Frost’

Our colleagues at OpenBook point to delayed openings of primary and secondary schools in many parts of China this year, as tough spread-mitigation measures were deployed to try to contain outbreaks. “The return to school in some areas was delayed until April,” Wendy Pan tells us, “so the market shows a lack of recommended reading for students in March.”

Perhaps the key point, however, for those looking at the market’s performance is that in a March that was unusually free of the usual seasonal classroom drivers, the readership turned not to new material but to the tried-and-true. Tradition counts heavily in the slow evolution of bestseller lists in China.

In the case of the 1993 Thiaoouba Prophecy, which is fantasy tinged with spirituality, the book entered the Chinese market in 2018 and got into the Top 30 in July 2020 for a five-month stay on the lists. Its re-entry now, the OpenBook team says, has to do with a lot of new online video attention. It became a bit of a meme this spring, in other words, and found some new footing at No. 24 in the overall list and No. 7 in the foreign authors fiction listing.

‘Blue Flame,’ Volume 1

In nonfiction, the Beijing Winter Olympics have sent Blue Flame and Blue Flame 2 skating onto the charts at Nos. 18 and 19, being the autobiographical titles from 27-year-old Japanese skating star Yuzuru Hanyu. The books arrived on the Chinese market in 2020 but only now have slid into place, the “Prince of Skating,” as some call him. And as it turned out, he had some ups and downs in the Beijing games, including a couple of falls and an ankle injury. On March 1, as his books arrived on the charts, he withdrew from the 2022 world championships, citing ongoing trouble with that ankle. Perhaps there’s time now to work on Volume 3.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from March 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.

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers, March 2022
February 2022 Ranking March 2022 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
6 2 9787515350264 2018-01 In the World (3 Volumes) Liang Xiaosheng China Youth Press
2 3 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 4 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 5 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 6 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
7 7 9787506368698 2013-06 The World Under the Sky Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
12 8 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
9 9 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 10 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yilin Press
15 11 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
11 12 9787506394840 2017-04 The Heaven Trap Jiao Jian The Writer’s Publishing House
10 13 9787533966102 2021-12 Life and Death are Wearing Me Out Mo Yan Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
16 14 9787506394314 2017-04 White Deer Plain Chen Zhongshi The Writer’s Publishing House
24 15 9787530219218 2019-02 A Wavy Life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
20 16 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
21 17 9787530221532 2021-10 To Live (2021 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
19 18 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) (2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787532175512 2020-05 13 Steps Kazuaki Takano Shanghai Literature & Art Press
8 21 9787559455758 2021-12 Heliotrope & Zjz Ying Cheng Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
26 22 9787530221099 2021-02 Wencheng Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
23 23 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
Not Ranked 24 9787521200836 2018-08 Thiaoouba Prophecy Michel Desmarquet The Writer’s Publishing House
22 25 9787555291183 2020-11 The Black Lotus Bai Yu Zhai Diao Gong Qingdao Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787559455000 2021-06 First Frost (The End) Zhu Yi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 27 9787555285298 2020-03 Hidden Love Zhu Yi Qingdao Publishing House
25 28 9787572602825 2021-08 Always Have, Always Will Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 29 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787559452788 2020-12 First Frost Zhu Yi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, March 2022
February 2022 Ranking March 2022 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787561346259 2009-05 Yi Ching is Really to Understand Zeng Shiqiang Shaanxi Normal University Press
3 2 9787544334792 2011-01 Close to The Buddha Khenpo Sherab Zangpo Rinpoche Hainan Publishing House
1 3 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
4 4 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi China Machine Press
5 5 9787222204331 2021-11 Details of Law Luo Xiang Yunnan People’s Publishing House
12 6 9787521603774 2019-08 The Faith as Premise of Freedom Luo Xiang China Legal Publishing House
Not Ranked 7 9787521733679 2021-09 The Most Tender Upbringing: Be a Gentle but Steadfast Parent Oh Eun-young CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
7 8 9787111691020 2021-09 The Underlying Logic: How to See the Essence of Things Liu Run China Machine Press
8 9 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 10 9787557025847 2021-11 If History were a Group of Cats: Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
9 11 9787208171336 2021-08 In the Affair: Chinese Government and Economic Development Lan Xiaohuan Shanghai People’s Publishing House
13 12 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 13 9787544394796 2022-03 Chinese Art History for Dummies Yi Gongzi Hainan Publishing House
11 14 9787550043657 2021-11 Speechless Time Answers Everything Ji Xianlin Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
27 15 9787559313652 2017-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
Not Ranked 16 9787010009223 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.1) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787511568687 2021-01 At the Turn of Xiajiang River: The Story of Chen Xingjia Chen Xingjia People Daily Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787559643346 2020-09 Blue Flame Yuzuru Hanyu Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 19 9787559646767 2020-12 Blue Flame (2) Yuzuru Hanyu Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
16 20 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
20 21 9787557024413 2021-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Prosperity of the Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
17 22 9787549632725 2020-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (5) Chen Lei Wenhui Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787521736816 2022-01 Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
29 24 9787559330260 2018-06 If History were a Group of Cats: The Spring-autumn and Warring State Period Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
21 25 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787010009230 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.2) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787010009254 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.4) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787010009247 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.3) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
22 29 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
23 30 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, March 2022
February 2022 Ranking March 2022 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787570711888 2021-12 Ultraman Series Photo Book for 55th Anniversary Tsuburaya Productions Anhui Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
1 2 9787521726473 2020-12 A Dog Named Money Bodo Schafer CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
Not Ranked 3 9787569903423 2015-07 Harvard at 4:30 a.m: Best Gift for Pupils from Harvard Wei Xiuying, Wei Fenglian Beijing Times Chinese Press
24 4 9787536574397 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Clever Little Prodigy Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
25 5 9787536574366 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Stratego Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
29 6 9787536574380 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Who’s the Smart Guy? Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
30 7 9787536574373 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Great Adventure of the Castle Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 8 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 9 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 10 9787536587717 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: A Dog Called Rat Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787536587700 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: My Good Friend Tie Tou Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 12 9787536593749 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Game of the Wise Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
17 13 9787550286122 2016-11 Butt Detective: Disappeared Popular Dessert troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
16 14 9787550286238 2016-11 Butt Detective: Look for the Rainbow Diamond troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
18 15 9787550286085 2016-11 Butt Detective: The Big Crisis of Small Director troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
19 16 9787550286214 2016-11 Butt Detective: The Missing Lunch Box troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 17 9787536593756 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Password Discovery Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
20 18 9787559608390 2018-01 Butt Detective: The Criminal Appears troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
15 19 9787559621337 2019-04 Butt Detective: Detective and the Fraud troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
8 20 9787571318536 2021-07 Finger Plays of Left and Right Brain Development for Children Aged 0-6 Li Caixia Jiangsu Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 21 9787115545824 2020-10 Lamb Going Up the Mountain: Chinese Graded Reader (Lv.1)(10 volumes) Sun Pei Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
4 22 9787530141847 2014-12 Who Stole My Time Beijing Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787536593459 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: ‘Have a Meal’ Restaurant Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787536593442 2020-05 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Magic Lamp Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
7 25 9787533299224 2018-10 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787539135168 2006-10 Les P’tites Poules: I Want to See the Sea Christian Jolibois, Christian Heinrich 21st Century Press Group
21 27 9787558900648 2017-07 Winter of Three Hairs (With Chinese Pinyin) Zhang Leping Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House
9 28 9787020144532 2018-10 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone JK Rowling People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787539168999 2011-10 Les P’tites Poules: I am Not a Coward Christian Jolibois, Christian Heinrich 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 30 9787539135182 2006-10 Les P’tites Poules: I Want to Have a Star Christian Jolibois, Christian Heinrich 21st Century Press Group

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, March 2022
February 2022 Ranking March 2022 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.
2 2 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
4 3 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 4 9787532175512 2020-05 13 Steps Kazuaki Takano Japan Shanghai Literature & Art Press
7 5 9787521200836 2018-08 Thiaoouba Prophecy Michel Desmarquet Australia The Writer’s Publishing House
3 6 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
10 7 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 8 9787208061644 2021-03 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
12 9 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 10 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 11 9787536094857 2021-11 First Person Singular Haruki Murakami Japan Flower City Press
Not Ranked 12 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
17 13 9787559641182 2020-07 Scream Aki Hamanaka Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
18 14 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 15 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
6 16 9787540485337 2018-03 Tsubaki Stationery Store Ito Ogawa Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 17 9787541159466 2021-07 Can Not Shusuke Michio Japan Sichuan Literature & Art Press
20 18 9787533955168 2019-02 Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky Russia Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 19 9787544296274 2019-09 Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse Otsuichi Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 20 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, March 2022
January 2022 Ranking March 2022 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
2 2 9787111495482 2020-03 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi Japan China Machine Press
14 3 9787521733679 2021-09 The Most Tender Upbringing: Be a Gentle but Steadfast Parent Oh Eun-young Korea CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
3 4 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 5 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 6 9787559643346 2020-09 Blue Flame Yuzuru Hanyu Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 7 9787559646767 2020-12 Blue Flame (2) Yuzuru Hanyu Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
12 8 9787521736816 2022-01 Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
6 9 9787511714152 2016-10 How to Talk so Teens will Listen and Listen so Teens will Talk Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish United States of America Central Compilation & Translation Press
8 10 9787505737488 2016-12 What Life Should Mean to You Alfred Adler Austria China Friendship Publishing Company
9 11 9787505745681 2018-12 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind Gustave Le Bon France China Friendship Publishing Company
19 12 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
13 13 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
5 14 9787201146171 2019-05 The Why Cafe John P. Strelecky United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787111551287 2021-04 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool United States of America China Machine Press
15 16 9787521719499 2022-01 Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
10 17 9787553522838 2021-06 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone Lori Gottlieb United States of America Shanghai Culture Publishing House
16 18 9787521719253 2020-08 The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) Philippa Perry Britain CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
18 19 9787210096528 2017-09 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol S.Dweck United States of America Jiangxi People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787115536198 2020-05 Heart: Kazuo Inamori’s Philosophy of Life Kazuo Inamori Japan Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House

 


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 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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