China Bestsellers in May: Online, on Film, Onstage

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

China’s chart-drivers in May: Film and stage adaptations, e-commerce visibility, and a love of ‘addictive’ and ‘fascinating’ history.

A bookselling stand in Hangzhou near the Beijing Hangzhou Grand Canal. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Mark Zhu

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

High Visibility at East Buy
As commonly seen in many Western markets, China’s book-buying population is being influenced by entertainment and by digital retail forces. May’s top three fiction bestsellers, per the tracking of Beijing OpenBook, outline the patterns.

At No. 1 on May’s chart is Chi Zijian’s The Last Quarter of the Moon, published by People’s Literature Publishing House. Also note at No. 16 Mia Jia’s A Wavy Life from Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House, and you’re looking at two books the fortunes of which have been boosted by online-retail algorithmic positioning.

A Hong Kong-based online live-streaming retailer originally called Koolearn was rebranded as East Buy in March. Last summer, when still called Koolearn, the platform had seen its market traction increase around its offer involving products and language instruction, reminding observers that the platform, created by parent company New Oriental, had begun as a tutoring firm.

Once re-established as East Buy, the company this spring has used its East Buy Books “shopping window” to highlight the Chi and Mia books, using videos to explain their appeal.

‘A Wavy Life’

Special attention from one of the platform’s anchors named Ming Ming apparently resonated with many consumers on behalf of A Wavy Life, in particular, and it’s thanks to this special visibility given to these two books, OpenBook’s analysts say, that The Last Quarter of the Moon and A Wavy Life have broken out of the pack as they have.

Meanwhile, the author Jiang Jiajia is feeling the warmth of the screens, with Moments We Shared at No. 6 and Always Have, Always Will at No. 17 (both from Hunan Literature & Art Press) buoyed by news from the State Film Administration that Zhang is the screenwriter on an approved adaptation.

‘Moments We Shared’

A first poster appeared in September for Moments We Shared, with an anticipated release this year.

And To Live by Bi Xiaonan (Hunan Literature & Art Press)—the one entering the chart at No. 26, not Yu Hua’s familiar To Live, which stands at No. 2—has had its stage adaptation rights bought by Wang Keran.

The deal is for all nine stories in the collection for which Wang of Yanghua Drama’s Magnificent Culture will create theater pieces.

In nonfiction, we draw your attention to May’s unusual raft of nine newcomers to the chart—which rarely changes so much from month to month.

History: Now Beyond Those ‘Cats’

‘Fascinating Chinese History’

Publishing Perspectives readers now are very familiar with those many-volume series of comedic and usually cartooned accounts of episodes in Chinese history.

Probably the best known of these serials is Fei Zhi’s ubiquitous “If History Were a Group of Cats” from Guangdong Tourism Publishing House and Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press.

That series alone has a compelling seven of its volumes in the May Top 30.

But also in May, you can spot two newcomers in this robust interest in the nation’s history.

‘Addictive Chinese History’

  • Lu Feng’s Fascinating Chinese History has made its bestseller-chart debut at an auspicious No. 2 (Chengdu Times Press).
  • And Wen Boling’s Addictive Chinese History is at No. 28 (Taihai Publishing House).

Just for the record, there are publishing markets in the world that would be delighted to find such chart-nourishing readership for historical writings, with or without cats.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from May 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, May 2023
April 2023 Ranking May 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
11 1 9787020139590 2019-06 The Last Quarter of the Moon Chi Zijian People’s Literature Publishing House
2 2 9787530221532 2021-10 To Live (2021 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
1 3 9787572608582 2022-10 Lychee in Chang’an Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
5 4 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
6 5 9787513348744 2022-11 The Seventh Day Yu hua New Star Press Co. Ltd
14 6 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
7 7 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
9 8 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
16 9 9787530219218 2019-02 A Wavy Life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
10 10 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
15 11 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
3 12 9787513350976 2023-01 Suzume no Tojimari Makoto Shinkai New Star Press Co. Ltd
13 13 9787530218792 2021-07 Life (2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
8 14 9787573503053 2023-02 Swans and Bats Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
22 15 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) (2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
21 16 9787530217962 2018-05 Cries in the Drizzle Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
25 17 9787572602825 2021-08 Always Have, Always Will Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 18 9787020164776 2020-07 A Late Bloomer Mo Yan People’s Literature Publishing House
27 19 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
23 20 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Tianjin People’s Publishing House
26 21 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 22 9787506344791 2008-12 Street Wizards Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
20 23 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
17 24 9787505738478 2016-10 A Madman’s Diary Lu Xun China Friendship Publishing Company
Not Ranked 25 9787530216033 2017-09 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (2017 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787572610332 2023-03 To Live Bi Xiaonan Hunan Literature & Art Press
4 27 9787533966102 2021-12 Life and Death are Wearing Me Out Mo Yan Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
18 28 9787573604309 2023-01 Knockout Zhu Junyi,Xu Jizhou,Bai Wenjun Qingdao Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787020127894 2017-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
28 30 9787533969608 2022-09 Destiny Cai Chongda Zhejiang Literature & Art Press

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, May 2023
April 2023 Ranking May 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
12 1 9787554617502 2021-06 Parent-child Communication Skills Training Li Jing Guwuxuan Publishing House
Not Ranked 2 9787546431116 2022-11 Fascinating Chinese History Lu feng Chengdu Times Press
Not Ranked 3 9787511334060 2013-05 Flexibility: Good for a Lifetime Su Wenyuan China Overseas Chinese Press
1 4 9787558063183 2019-10 Continue the Chat Wisely Lin Sicheng Jiangsu Fine Arts Press
5 5 9787020084357 2011-04 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 6 9787563956302 2017-09 Humor Makes You Glamorous Pan Hongsheng Beijing University of Technology Press
3 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
Not Ranked 9 9787530892268 2014-12 Science of Medicative Diet for Food Therapy Song Jingdong Tianjin Science & Technology Press
4 10 9787559664464 2022-10 Wish You Love Yourself Too Fang Qi Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
2 11 9787530848890 2010-01 Understand the Ways of the World Day by Day Zhang Yan Tianjin Science & Technology Press
11 12 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
27 13 9787572602603 2023-03 Insightful Yang Tianzhen Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 14 9787571315252 2021-01 Take Care of Children’s Spleen and Stomach Li Aike Jiangsu Science & Technology Press
22 15 9787572608377 2022-09 It’s A Long Journey Lu Sihao Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 16 9787540483432 2017-11 Jottings in Sickbed (Commemorative Edition 2021) Shi Tiesheng Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 17 9787557028657 2022-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Southern Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
7 18 9787559662170 2022-09 Oysters in the Shell are the Hearts of Adults Nini Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 19 9787516833445 2023-01 Meditations and thoughts James Allen Taihai Publishing House
21 20 9787520802130 2018-05 Be Their Own Psychological Doctor Mo Yu China Business Publishing House
23 21 9787559313652 2017-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
8 22 9787801445445 2003-04 You Can Heal Your Life Louise L.Hay China Astronautic Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787557030162 2023-05 If History were a Group of Cats: the End of the Yuan and the Beginning of the Ming Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
26 24 9787559330260 2018-06 If History were a Group of Cats: The Spring-autumn and Warring State Period Fei Zhi Heilongjiang Fine Arts Press
30 25 9787557024413 2021-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Prosperity of the Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
28 26 9787557017477 2019-02 If History were a Group of Cats: Qin, Chu, Western Han and Eastern Han Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
24 27 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Qingdao Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787516826447 2020-07 Addictive Chinese History Wen Boling Taihai Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787547238677 2019-02 Flexibility: Good for a Lifetime Su Wenyuan Jilin Literature & History Press
29 30 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

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, May 2023
April 2023 Ranking May 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
6 1 9787110104880 2023-04 Child, You Should Learn to Protect Yourself (4 volumes) Wang Weihao Popular Science Press
1 2 9787218146768 2022-09 Manga Elementary School Student Psychology (4 volumes) Han Tu Guangdong People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 3 9787534633362 2005-05 Bronze and Sunflower Cao Wenxuan Jiangsu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
3 4 9787572124556 2022-05 Young Nie Haisheng Li Ming Changjiang Children’s Press
2 5 9787549286492 2023-03 Introduction to the Civil Code of Comics Sen Ke Chang Jiang Press
11 6 9787572809026 2022-12 This Is Chinese Power Super Project Comes Young Lions Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 7 9787550121584 2014-12 The wanderings of Sanmao Zhang Leping Nanfang Publishing House
21 8 9787536574366 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Stratego Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
23 9 9787536574397 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Clever Little Prodigy Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 10 9787221116604 2014-05 The Magic School Bus (Early Chapter Book) (20 volumes) Joanna Cole, Bruce Degen Guizhou People’s Publishing House
26 11 9787536574380 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Who’s the Smart Guy? Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
27 12 9787536574373 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Great Adventure of the Castle Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
7 13 9787521739077 2022-07 The Grolltroll Barbara van den Speulhof CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
24 14 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
4 15 9787548047698 2016-11 Sun Tzu’s Art of War Sun Wu Jiangxi Fine Arts Press
25 16 9787533264062 2010-12 Let’s Get Mung Beans, Momma! Zeng Yangqing,Wan Huaguo Tomorrow Publishing House
29 17 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
28 18 9787536587717 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: A Dog Called Rat Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
5 19 9787218164434 2023-02 Manga Self-Management for Elementary and Middle School Students (4 volumes) Han Tu Guangdong People’s Publishing House
30 20 9787536587700 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: My Good Friend Tie Tou Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787559649461 2021-06 Spirited Away Hayao Miyazaki Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
12 22 9787559621337 2019-04 Butt Detective: Detective and the Fraud Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
14 23 9787559608390 2018-01 Butt Detective: The Criminal Appears Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
13 24 9787550286122 2016-11 Butt Detective: Disappeared Popular Dessert Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
15 25 9787550286214 2016-11 Butt Detective: The Missing Lunch Box Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
16 26 9787550286085 2016-11 Butt Detective: Big Crisis of Small Director Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
18 27 9787559467546 2022-09 Good Behavior: Those Little Things That My Grandparents Taught My Parents, And My Parents Taught Me Long Xiaotian, Cao Qun Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 28 9787533274269 2013-08 Guess How Much I Love You Sam McBratney, Anita Jeram Tomorrow Publishing House
17 29 9787550286238 2016-11 Butt Detective: Looking for the Rainbow Diamond Troll Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 30 9787559644633 2020-12 My Neighbor Totoro Hayao Miyazaki Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, May 2023
April 2023 Ranking May 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787513350976 2023-01 Suzume no Tojimari Makoto Shinkai Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
2 2 9787573503053 2023-02 Swans and Bats Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 3 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 4 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
5 5 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 6 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
13 7 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
12 8 9787544269452 2021-11 Malice (2022 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 9 9787544296274 2019-09 Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse Otsuichi Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 10 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 11 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
14 12 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
17 13 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 14 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 15 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
Not Ranked 16 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
10 17 9787550020108 2016-12 Your Name Makoto Shinkai Japan Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
20 18 9787540485337 2018-03 Tsubaki Stationery Store Ito Ogawa Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 19 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
11 20 9787550033566 2019-09 Weathering with You Makoto Shinkai Japan Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, May 2023
April 2023 Ranking May 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
3 2 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 3 9787516833445 2023-01 Meditations and thoughts James Allen Britain Taihai Publishing House
2 4 9787801445445 2003-04 You Can Heal Your Life Louise L.Hay United States of America China Astronautic Publishing House
5 5 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Japan Qingdao Publishing House
6 6 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 7 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline (Revised Edition) Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
4 8 9787513349369 2022-09 From the Limit: Correspondence on Feminism Chizuko Ueno Japan New Star Press Co.Ltd
11 9 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
10 10 9787521733679 2021-09 The Most Tender Upbringing: Be a Gentle but Steadfast Parent Oh Eun-young Korea CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
9 11 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
Not Ranked 12 9787505737488 2016-12 What Life Should Mean to You Alfred Adler Austria China Friendship Publishing Company
13 13 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
12 14 9787515902241 2012-07 Letters to Louise: The Answers are Within You Louise L.Hay United States of America China Astronautic Publishing House
18 15 9787542669018 2020-06 The Memoir of Literature (1989-1994) Mu Xin, Chen Danqing United States of America Shanghai Joint Publishing Company
17 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
15 17 9787111635574 2019-10 The Working Methods of Kazuo Inamori Kazuo Inamori Japan China Machine Press
16 18 9787505745681 2018-12 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind Gustave Le Bon France China Friendship Publishing Company
Not Ranked 19 9787505738966 2017-05 How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America China Friendship Publishing Company
7 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.

At last report, OpenBook monitored more than 18,000 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 more than 4,800 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 2022, OpenBook tracked around 76.21 billion RMB in sales (US$10.62 billion).

Retail outlets include:

  • Traditional bookstores
  • Supermarkets
  • Campus bookstores
  • “Professional” stores, which are 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 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 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.

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.