China Bestsellers in March: Adaptations on the Rise

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

A stage adaptation and the work of a strong translator were behind some of the standout books on China’s bestseller charts in March.

The pink Yunnan cherry blossoms in March this year drew tourists to that city in the northwestern area of the province. Image, March 15 – Getty iStockphoto: Gujiang xie

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

Stage and Translation Driving Book Sales
Our China bestsellers report—based on the research and interpretive guidance of our associates at Beijing OpenBook, as you’ll recall—shows the fiction chart for in-country fiction in March with more upheaval than commonly is spotted on this slow-moving gauge.

‘The Seventh Day’ by Yu hua

At the top of the fiction list, you’ll see:

  • Lychee in Chang’an by Ma Boyong, ranked No. 1
  • The Seventh Day by Yu hua, ranked No. 2
  • Knockout by Zhu Junyi, Xu Jizhou, Bai Wenjun, ranked No. 3

And four books entering the month’s list of novels for the first time is, actually, quite a moment for the mainland’s rankings.

This, however, doesn’t mean they’re all new writings.

The second-highest standing among these four newcomers is the 1922 stalwart Siddhartha: An Indian Novel.

In March, the list:

  • Suzume no Tojimari by Makoto Shinkai, ranked No.10
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, ranked No. 23
  • The Wavy Water by Yan Zhen, ranked No. 25
  • Preference of Poseidon by Lin Qian, ranked No. 26
Not Just Film and Television

We’ve become accustomed to seeing book sales bolstered in China (as in so many book markets) by new productions released in cinemas or on television and especially in streaming formats. But this time, a top driver was theatrical works, stage productions.

‘Siddhartha’ by Hermann Hesse, translated by Jiang

The Seventh Day moved into the N0. 2 slot on the strength of director Men Jinghui’s stage adaptation featuring actors Chen Minghao, Mei Ting, Huang Xiangli. One of the most perceptive comments from our associates at OpenBook is that Jinghui’s book on stage gave him a chance to emphasize his concept’s parallel dynamics of life and death beside “the integration of literature and drama.”

But in yet another departure, Siddhartha is a classic that this time seems to have benefitted from the impact of its translation.

Not unlike the popularity of Jiang Yi’s translation of All Quiet on the Western Front, her translation of Siddhartha is thought to be behind the chart-bounding success if this small book about inward discovery.

Nonfiction, and Chatting Wisely

In nonfiction, there were 10 entries in the Top 30 for March, though most were returning from previous appearances in the ranks. Of particular note:

  • Continue the Chat Wisely by Lin Sicheng, ranked No. 1
  • I Hear the World Colorful by Wu Jing, ranked No. 20
  • A Sideline to Make Money by Angie, ranked No. 23
  • Revelation by Li Shuo, ranked No. 26

And could there be a more plainly smart title than Continue the Chat Wisely (Jiangsu Fine Arts Press)?

‘Continue the Chat Wisely’

Not unlike the Japanese bestselling author Takuro Yamaguchi’s Answering Well published in 2018, this is a book designed to help readers navigate the sometimes bruising nature of contemporary intereaction, as our associates at OpenBook put it, “to help resolve embarrassment, eliminate speaking tension, and learn to answer.”

This kind of practical book, the team in Beijing tells us, “hits the reader’s needs,” a fact that might be expected to keep it around and charting for some time to come in the evolving character of conversational exchange, espeically in various social media.

We’re told that a considerable point-of-purchase discount has also helped the book establish itself as a title able to bound right to the top point on then nonfiction roster.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from March 2023 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 2023

 

February 2023 Ranking March 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
5 1 9787572608582 2022-10 Lychee in Chang’an Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 2 9787513348744 2022-11 The Seventh Day Yu hua New Star Press Co.Ltd
1 3 9787573604309 2023-01 Knockout Zhu Junyi, Xu Jizhou, Bai Wenjun Qingdao Publishing House
6 4 9787530221532 2021-10 To Live (2021 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
8 5 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
2 6 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 7 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 8 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
10 9 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 10 9787513350976 2023-01 Suzume no Tojimari Makoto Shinkai New Star Press Co.Ltd
9 11 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
11 12 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
7 13 9787020139590 2019-06 The Last Quarter of the Moon Chi Zijian People’s Literature Publishing House
15 14 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
21 15 9787573503053 2023-02 Swans and Bats Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 16 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 17 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) (2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
19 18 9787530219218 2019-02 A Wavy Life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787559664129 2022-08 Take Care Da Bing Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 20 9787505738478 2016-10 A Madman’s Diary Lu Xun China Friendship Publishing Company
23 21 9787530217962 2018-05 Cries in the Drizzle Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
24 22 9787572602825 2021-08 Always Have, Always Will Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 23 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Tianjin People’s Publishing House
29 24 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 25 9787530221525 2021-07 The Wavy Water Yan Zhen Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787572607004 2022-06 Preference of Poseidon Lin Qian Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 27 9787533969608 2022-09 Destiny Cai Chongda Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
30 28 9787533966102 2021-12 Life and Death are Wearing Me Out Mo Yan Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
28 29 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
27 30 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, March 2023
February 2023 Ranking March 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787558063183 2019-10 Continue the Chat Wisely Lin Sicheng Jiangsu Fine Arts Press
3 2 9787559664464 2022-10 Wish You Love Yourself Too Fang Qi Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 3 9787511320506 2012-08 Su Shu Huang Shigong, Ding Minxiang China Overseas Chinese Press
2 4 9787549629916 2019-11 Sales is to Play with EQ Wang Xiaoyi, Guan Peng Wenhui Publishing House
1 5 9787515830292 2022-01 Chinese Communication Wisdom Sun Yuzhong China Industry and Commerce Joint Publishing Co. Ltd
11 6 9787520813624 2021-06 Parents’ Language Li Yun China Business Publishing House
Not Ranked 7 9787222204331 2021-11 Details of Law Luo Xiang Yunnan People’s Publishing House
6 8 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi China Machine Press
28 9 9787559662170 2022-09 Oysters in the Shell are the Hearts of Adults Nini Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
19 10 9787020084357 2011-04 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
8 11 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
14 12 9787572608377 2022-09 It’s A Long Journey Lu Sihao Hunan Literature & Art Press
20 13 9787557028657 2022-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Southern Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
10 14 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Qingdao Publishing House
9 15 9787513349369 2022-09 From the Limit: Correspondence on Feminism Chizuko Ueno New Star Press Co.Ltd
16 16 9787542247216 2018-01 DUZHE (Essence) (vol.22) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
15 17 9787542247209 2018-01 DUZHE (Essence) (vol.21) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
17 18 9787542247223 2018-04 DUZHE (Essence) (vol.23) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
18 19 9787542247230 2018-04 DUZHE (Essence) (vol.24) DUZHE Gansu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787214232793 2022-06 I Hear the World Colorful Wu Jing Jiangsu People’s Publishing House
29 21 9787563940615 2014-10 Accompany Children Through The Six Years Of Primary School Chai Yibing Beijing University of Technology Press
Not Ranked 22 9787571315252 2021-01 Take Care of Children’s Spleen and Stomach Li Aike Jiangsu Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 23 9787505747098 2019-05 A Sideline to Make Money Angie China Friendship Publishing Company
12 24 9787801445445 2003-04 You Can Heal Your Life Louise L.Hay China Astronautic Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787521603774 2019-08 The Faith as Premise of Freedom Luo Xiang China Legal Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787559852533 2022-10 Revelation Li Shuo Guangxi Normal University Press
5 27 9787530848890 2010-01 Understand the Ways of the World Day by Day Zhang Yan Tianjin Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 28 9787559313652 2017-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
4 29 9787547252949 2018-11 Leadership Zhang Tingting Jilin Literature & History Press
Not Ranked 30 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, March 2023
February 2023 Ranking March 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787218164434 2023-02 Manga Self-Management for Elementary and Middle School Students (4 volumes) Han Tu Guangdong People’s Publishing House
12 2 9787556096244 2019-11 Dreaming of Being a Wolf King (5 volumes) Shen Shixi Changjiang Children’s Press
1 3 9787218146768 2022-09 Manga Elementary School Student Psychology Han Tu Guangdong People’s Publishing House
2 4 9787548047698 2016-11 Sun Tzu’s Art of War Sun Wu Jiangxi Fine Arts Press
23 5 9787121387975 2020-09 Destroy This Book in the Name of Science! Mike Barfield Publishing House of Electronics Industry
10 6 9787553524238 2022-11 Little Detective Find It (3 volumes) Olivier Tallec Shanghai Culture Publishing House
17 7 9787530599679 2021-09 The Art of War in Comics (3 volumes) Sun Wu Tianjin People’s Fine Arts Publishing House
4 8 9787559621337 2019-04 Butt Detective: Detective and the Fraud Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
6 9 9787550286214 2016-11 Butt Detective: The Missing Lunch Box Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
7 10 9787550286122 2016-11 Butt Detective: Disappeared Popular Dessert Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
5 11 9787559608390 2018-01 Butt Detective: The Criminal Appears Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
8 12 9787550286085 2016-11 Butt Detective: Big Crisis of Small Director Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 13 9787521739077 2022-07 The Grolltroll Barbara van den Speulhof CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
9 14 9787550286238 2016-11 Butt Detective: Looking for the Rainbow Diamond Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
11 15 9787511052568 2020-08 Butt Detective: Snow Monster in Deep Mountain Troll Dolphin Press
28 16 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil 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
30 18 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787536587700 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: My Good Friend Tie Tou Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787555287766 2020-06 New Big-Head Son and Small-Head Father CCTV Animation Group Co. LTD Qingdao Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787536574366 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Stratego Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
27 22 9787566716347 2019-05 Souvenirs Entomologiques (2nd Edition) (10 volumes) Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre,Cai Xiaobai Hunan University Press
Not Ranked 23 9787536574397 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Clever Little Prodigy Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787536574380 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Who’s the Smart Guy? Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787536574373 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Great Adventure of the Castle Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
13 26 9787533299224 2018-10 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787556865970 2022-09 Hilarious Classical Chinese: Whether to Laugh or Cry Chen Wei, Ha Ha Xing Qiu 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 28 9787556865994 2022-09 Hilarious Classical Chinese: Laugh Their Heads Off Chen Wei, Ha Ha Xing Qiu 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 29 9787556865987 2022-09 Hilarious Classical Chinese: Laugh Side-Splitting Chen Wei, Ha Ha Xing Qiu 21st Century Press Group
16 30 9787110103074 2022-02 Science Comics Loved by Pupils (4 volumes) Sunbook Popular Science Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, March 2023
February 2023 Ranking March 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
19 1 9787513350976 2023-01 Suzume no Tojimari Makoto Shinkai Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
2 2 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
3 3 9787573503053 2023-02 Swans and Bats Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
1 4 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 5 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
4 6 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 7 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
13 8 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
11 9 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 10 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
17 11 9787544269452 2021-11 Malice (2022 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 12 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
Not Ranked 13 9787544296274 2019-09 Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse Otsuichi Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 14 9787513348362 2022-08 Look Back Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
Not Ranked 15 9787532175512 2020-05 13 Steps Kazuaki Takano Japan Shanghai Literature & Art Press
18 16 9787540485337 2018-03 Tsubaki Stationery Store Ito Ogawa Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
6 17 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 18 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
10 19 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
14 20 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, March 2023
February 2023 Ranking March 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi Japan China Machine Press
2 2 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
4 3 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Japan Qingdao Publishing House
3 4 9787513349369 2022-09 From the Limit: Correspondence on Feminism Chizuko Ueno Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
5 5 9787801445445 2003-04 You Can Heal Your Life Louise L.Hay United States of America China Astronautic Publishing House
6 6 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 7 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
10 8 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline (Revised Edition) Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
13 9 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
11 10 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
9 11 9787521733679 2021-09 The Most Tender Upbringing: Be a Gentle but Steadfast Parent Oh Eun-young Korea CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
16 12 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
Not Ranked 13 9787801873057 2004-09 The Master Key System Charles F.Haanel United States of America New World Press
20 14 9787515902241 2012-07 Letters to Louise: The Answers are Within You Louise L.Hay United States of America China Astronautic Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787559621719 2018-10 Continue the Chat Wisely Yamaguchi Takuro Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 16 9787111635574 2019-10 The Working Methods of Kazuo Inamori Kazuo Inamori Japan China Machine Press
Not Ranked 17 9787559652317 2021-09 Ueno-Sensei, Would You Teach Me Feminism from Scratch? Chizuko Ueno Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
12 18 9787521736816 2022-01 Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 19 9787521715637 2020-06 A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success Maye Musk Canada CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 20 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

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 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 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.