China Bestsellers in September: ‘Humor and Wisdom’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Writerly craft, online serialization, television appearances, and studies of loneliness propelled titles onto the September bestseller lists in China.

In Beijing on October 22. Image – Getty iStockphoto: P Kawasaki

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

‘A Sentence Looking for Another Sentence’
In September, China’s bestseller lists saw Someone To Talk To enter the OpenBook fiction lists at No. 14, a publication of Flower City Press.

‘Someone To Talk To’

This sudden arrival in the rankings—no mean feat in the slow-moving charts of China’s book market—seems to be the result of a combination of television recognition for the author and resonance for the rather difficult emotional framework of his writing. Seen on multiple television shows including Oriental Selection Live Broadcast Room and Lao Yu Talk Show, Liu and his work are enjoying a resurgence of popularity and sales power.

Our associates at Beijing OpenBook talk of Liu Zhenyun’s work as being  based in an exploration of loneliness and isolation. Someone To Talk To, in fact, is hardly new. It won the 2011 Mao Dun Literature Prize, and he’s  not only a novelist but also a screenwriter. Liu has written screenplays of some of his own works, and in film, his stories have won international film-festival attention at times, in Rome and Toronto, for example, as well as in Hong Kong.

Married to the human rights activist Guo Jianmei, Liu seems to make a specialty of evocative titles, such as I Am Not Madame Bovary; The Cook, the Crook, and the Real Estate Tycoon; and I Did Not Kill My Husband.

Liu Zhenyun

While known as a political critic in his own right, Liu, however, seems to have found his greatest drawing power in what’s described as his “humor and wisdom” in relation to difficult subjects about the state of relationships, especially in depictions of family indifference, deception in friendship, and a great search for conversation by people driven to talk their way out of loneliness.

In going over the nuances of this fiction’s appeal, OpenBook’s Wendy Pan says that one sentence from Someone To Talk To has recaptured the reading public’s imagination in the decade since the book was published: “A person’s loneliness is not loneliness. A person looking for another person, a sentence looking for another sentence, is the real loneliness.”

‘Rose and Renaissance’

Also in its first appearance on the OpenBook Fiction list in September is Rose and Renaissance by Zhi Chu. Published by Guangdong Tourism Publishing House, this is one of the many books now being produced from “online literature.” When beginning its life in serial form online, Zhi’s story gathered many fans, who then have followed the book to its published form, encouraged by a radio drama of the same title.

We’re told that merchandise is in play in this book’s success, too, with bookmarks, cards, and other items being generated for sale along with the book itself.

In nonfiction, September saw an unusually large number of new titles arriving on the list—nine slots of 30 were held by books not on that chart in August.

‘Reunion’

The big winner was Reunion by Sun Yue, from CITIC Publishing House, breaking into the bestsellers’ nonfiction rankings at No. 1.

Sun, the book’s author, is the sister of Sun Zhuo, famous with film fans for Dear. In Reunion, Sun describes a father’s search for his son, the craftsmanship here being praised for the use of delicate phrasings in exploring difficult and painful experiences.

So popular is the narrative style and voice of the book that it entered the charts at No. 1 in the first month of its release.

Overall, it’s worth noting that there’s little clarity as yet as to whether some COVID-19 spread-mitigation efforts in China will help booksellers, who in many cities have struggled against stringent rules under Beijing’s “zero infection” goals. As Reuters’ Liz Lee writes, changes in some cities’ regulations for public movement “come even as several major cities including Beijing logged record infections on Monday (November 14), posing a challenge for authorities scrambling to quell outbreaks quickly while trying to minimize the impact on people’s lives and the economy.”

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from September 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, September 2022
August 2022 Ranking September 2022 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787020139590 2019-06 The Last Quarter of the Moon Chi Zijian People’s Literature Publishing House
4 2 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
6 3 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
11 4 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
10 5 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 6 9787530221532 2021-10 To Live (2021 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
2 7 9787559664129 2022-08 Take Care Da Bing Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
7 8 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
5 9 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 10 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
9 11 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yilin Press
8 12 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
22 13 9787506368698 2013-06 The World Under the Sky Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787536097261 2022-07 Someone to Talk To Liu Zhenyun Flower City Press
15 15 9787530219218 2019-02 A Wavy Life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
26 16 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
14 17 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes)(2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
21 18 9787533966102 2021-12 Life and Death are Wearing Me Out Mo Yan Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
16 19 9787513349437 2022-08 In The Beginning · Year Wang Shuo New Star Press Co.Ltd
23 20 9787572602825 2021-08 Always Have, Always Will Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 21 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 22 9787506394840 2017-04 The Heaven Trap Jiao Jian The Writer’s Publishing House
20 23 9787020127573 2017-10 White Deer Plain Chen Zhongshi People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787557019891 2022-07 Rose and Renaissance Zhi Chu Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787020127894 2017-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
19 26 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Nai’an,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
13 27 9787506394314 2017-04 White Deer Plain Chen Zhongshi The Writer’s Publishing House
28 28 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787530217962 2018-05 Cries in the Drizzle Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787540491949 2019-06 I Belonged to You (Revised Edition) Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, September 2022
August 2022 Ranking September 2022 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787521746709 2022-09 Reunion Sun Yue CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 2 9787550285880 2016-10 The Complete Book of Dietary Therapy Shi Xiang Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
4 3 9787521733679 2021-09 The Most Tender Upbringing: Be a Gentle but Steadfast Parent Oh Eun-young CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
2 4 9787561346259 2009-05 Yi Ching is Really to Understand Zeng Shiqiang Shaanxi Normal University Press
1 5 9787511320506 2012-08 Su Shu Huang Shigong, Ding Minxiang China Overseas Chinese Press
Not Ranked 6 9787513350006 2022-09 Live up to my heart: Yu Minhong Essay Selection Yu Minhong New Star Press Co.Ltd
3 7 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 8 9787512512184 2020-07 Wang Zhigang Talk About Chinese Wang Zhigang International Culture Publishing Corporation
8 9 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi China Machine Press
18 10 9787559662132 2022-06 Succeed by Others’ Strength Jin Qiang Da Shu Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
17 11 9787508653389 2015-07 The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War Ⅱ Iris Chang CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 12 9787222204331 2021-11 Details of Law Luo Xiang Yunnan People’s Publishing House
19 13 9787208171336 2021-08 In the Affair: Chinese Government and Economic Development Lan Xiaohuan Shanghai People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Orient Press
12 15 9787520802130 2018-05 Do Their Own Psychological Doctor Mo Yu China Business Publishing House
5 16 9787530848890 2010-01 Understand the Ways of the World Day by Day Zhang Yan Tianjin Science & Technology Press
11 17 9787544334792 2011-01 Close to The Buddha Khenpo Sherab Zangpo Rinpoche Hainan Publishing House
23 18 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
14 19 9787559659385 2022-04 Minimalist Learning Liao Heng Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
10 20 9787557027063 2022-04 If History were a Group of Cats: Song, Liao, Jin Dynasty and the Western Xia Regime Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787521745153 2022-08 Toughness Zhang Xiaomeng, Cao Lida CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
25 22 9787521603774 2019-08 The Faith as Premise of Freedom Luo Xiang China Legal Publishing House
15 23 9787555262688 2021-04 Danshari He Quanfeng Qingdao Publishing House
16 24 9787111691020 2021-09 The Underlying Logic: How to See the Essence of Things Liu Run China Machine Press
24 25 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
30 26 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 27 9787101127867 2017-09 Translation and Annotation of the Analects of Confucius Zhonghua Book Company
26 28 9787559313652 2017-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
Not Ranked 29 9787521717648 2020-05 Copyable Communication: Fan Deng’s 10 Expression Lessons Fan Deng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 30 9787571328849 2022-07 Montessori Family Education Li Caixia Jiangsu Science & Technology Press

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, September 2022
August 2022 Ranking September 2022 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787110103074 2022-02 Science Comics Loved by Pupils (4 volumes) Sunbook Popular Science Press
Not Ranked 2 9787218146768 2022-09 Manga Elementary School Student Psychology Han Tu Guangdong People’s Publishing House
1 3 9787516528495 2022-04 Comic Math Loved by Children (6 volumes) Qinglan Tushu Aeronautics Industry Press
3 4 9787570711888 2021-12 Ultraman Series Photo Book for 55th Anniversary Tsuburaya Productions Anhui Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 5 9787533274269 2013-08 Guess How Much I Love You Sam McBratney, Anita Jeram Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 6 9787573110930 2022-04 Psychology in Cartoon for Kids (5 volumes) Bai Mingyan Jilin Publishing Group Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 7 9787534818400 2001-10 Mao Zedong’s Poetry Du Gaiyun, Du Xiaohua Zhongzhou Classics Publishing House
10 8 9787566716347 2019-05 Souvenirs entomologiques (2nd Edition) (10 volumes) Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre, Cai Xiaobai Hunan University Press
29 9 9787544288590 2018-06 Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window (2018 Edition) Tetsuko Kuroyanagi Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 10 9787533273460 2013-05 Something from Nothing Phoebe Gilman Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787532767373 2014-08 Charlotte’s Web Elwyn Brooks White Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 12 9787571424022 2022-08 Daily Life of Animals Zhang Chenliang Beijing Science & Technology Press
4 13 9787513936668 2021-11 First Introduction to Law for Children Cao Zhaopeng Democracy and Construction Press
Not Ranked 14 9787543464582 2007-05 My Dad Anthony Browne Hebei Education Press
Not Ranked 15 9787533273477 2013-05 Diary of a Worm Doreen Cronin, Harry Bliss Tomorrow Publishing House
15 16 9787533299224 2018-10 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787559015266 2017-06 Friendship, to be Rented (with Chinese Pinyin) Fang Suzhen, Hao Luowen Xinjiang Children and Youth Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787543464575 2007-06 My Mum Anthony Browne Hebei Education Press
Not Ranked 19 9787570700752 2018-07 The Foolish and the Unhappy Ren Rongrong Anhui Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
27 20 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
21 21 9787122398161 2021-12 Kids Riddles Wu Jiping, Zhao Min Chemical Industry Press
17 22 9787201077642 2013-01 The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787536587717 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: A Dog Called Rat Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787536587700 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: My Good Friend Tie Tou Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
12 26 9787556864454 2022-04 Treasure Hunting in Inner Mongolia Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 27 9787122288486 2017-05 The Journey To The West Wu Cheng’en Chemical Industry Press
Not Ranked 28 9787122289971 2017-05 Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong Chemical Industry Press
Not Ranked 29 9787122280497 2017-05 Water Margin Shi Nai’an Chemical Industry Press
Not Ranked 30 9787122281029 2017-05 Dream of red mansions Cao Xueqin Chemical Industry Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, February 2022
August 2022 Ranking September 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
7 3 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
5 4 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
3 5 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 6 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
9 7 9787532175512 2020-05 13 Steps Kazuaki Takano Japan Shanghai Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 8 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
8 9 9787540485337 2018-03 Tsubaki Stationery Store Ito Ogawa Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
6 10 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 11 9787533936020 2017-02 The Moon and Sixpence William Somerset Maugham Britain Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
10 12 9787521200836 2018-08 Thiaoouba Prophecy Michael Desmarquet Australia The Writer’s Publishing House
12 13 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 14 9787559641182 2020-07 Scream Aki Hamanaka Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 15 9787544296274 2019-09 Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse Otsuichi Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 16 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
13 17 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 18 9787544282086 2016-02 The Moon and Sixpence William Somerset Maugham Britain Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 19 9787573500977 2022-04 Crystal Spiral Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
16 20 9787544269452 2021-11 Malice (2022 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, February 2022
August 2022 Ranking  2022 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787521733679 2021-09 The Most Tender Upbringing: Be a Gentle but Steadfast Parent Oh Eun-young Korea CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
1 2 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
3 3 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi Japan China Machine Press
4 4 9787508653389 2015-07 The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War Ⅱ Iris Chang United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
15 5 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
6 6 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
10 7 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 8 9787115536198 2020-05 Heart: Kazuo Inamori’s Philosophy of Life Kazuo Inamori Japan Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
5 9 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 10 9787111551287 2016-10 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool United States of America China Machine Press
7 11 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Japan Qingdao Publishing House
12 12 9787521741124 2022-04 The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness Eric Jorgenson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
14 13 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
13 14 9787801445445 2003-04 You Can Heal Your Life Louise L. Hay United States of America China Astronautic Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787111635574 2019-10 The Working Methods of Kazuo Inamori Kazuo Inamori Japan China Machine Press
Not Ranked 16 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
8 17 9787508680965 2017-12 Predictably Irrational (Revised Edition) Dan Ariely United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
20 18 9787210096528 2017-09 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol S. Dweck United States of America Jiangxi People’s Publishing House
19 19 9787511714152 2012-08 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
Not Ranked 20 9787111635574 2019-10 The Working Methods of Kazuo Inamori Kazuo Inamori Japan China Machine 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, 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, and more on the Chinese book publishing market is here.

More on the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

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 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 (Fellow, 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.