China Bestsellers in January: Fond Memories Drive Sales

In News by Porter Anderson

The run-up to the Year of the Dragon in China’s bestseller charts was energized by entertainment and humorous education books for kids.

The ‘Chess Pavilion’ as seen from the eastern peak of Mount Hua in China’s Shaanxi Province. The area is featured in one of January’s bestselling books for young readers, ‘Treasure Hunting in Shaanxi.’ Image – Getty iStockphoto: Jatuphot Phuatawee

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

Entertainment and Social Media
In the kind of twist that even many book marketing wouldn’t think of or try to pull off deliberately—or admit they’d tried to pull off deliberately—the author Yu Hua, whose To Live (Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House, a 2021 edition) returned to No 2 in the OpenBook fiction list in January, seems to owe some of his success to his late nonfiction-writer friend Shi Tiesheng.

‘I and the Temple Earth’

Shi is at No. 1 on the nonfiction list with I and the Temple Earth (People’s Literature Publishing House, 2011). But this is a book by a man who died at age 59 in 2010.

Not that the work wasn’t highly valued on its own—it’s considered by some to a very fine work of modern essay in Chinese—our associates at Beijing OpenBook point out the book seems to be benefiting from the memories shared about Shi by his friend and fiction author Yu, who appeared on a book themed variety show called Read on the Island, discussing the close friendship. As clips from the show were passed around, not only the late Shi’s I and the Temple Earth made progress on the charts but so did Yu’s To Live, which has long been one of the “classics” that Chinese consumers like to read more than once.

‘To Live’

It’s unclear whether the fact that Yu’s work is fiction and Shi’s is nonfiction has anything to do with it, but those “short videos” which now command so much bandwidth on Chinese social media channels were the key to sales movement.

OpenBook’s team estimates that there are as many as 450,000 live social-venue broadcasters in operation on the mainland currently, meaning that getting their attention is a good idea.

Another show-driven success, Blossoms Shanghai by Jin Yucheng (Shanghai Literature & Art Press) began airing in its series adaptation by director Wong Kar-wai, and worked its way up to No. 5 in fiction in January.

‘Blossoms Shanghai’ poster art for the 30-episode TV series

Not only is the book a Mao Dun Literature prize-winner but the show has been a favorite on the awards circuit, with 14 wins and at least two other nominations so far.

Ge Hu, Yili Ma, and Yan Tang star in the series which, by Western standards, is incredibly long, at 30 episodes—not an unusual count in Chinese television series.

The show started running on December 27 and is a production of CCTV, Tencent Video, Jiguang TV, Dragon TV, and Jiangsu Satellite TV.

The ‘Comic+’ Trend in Children’s Books

In January, as the Chinese market worked its way toward the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, OpenBook’s group was watching a sustained sales dynamic in the children’s sector called “comic+.” It’s a pattern of presenting educational content to young readers with humor and graphical treatment to make what our associates call “boring or difficult to learn” material more fun.

‘Treasure Hunting in Shaanxi’

For example, Comics + Wang Yangming teaches kids about  learn the wisdom of Ming Dynasty calligrapher and philosopher Wang Yangming. The book’s illustrations are meant to lead a child to walk down a pathway toward  cartoons, leading children to “walk into” the 15th-century thinker’s neo-Confucianism.

And Comics + Etiquette is focused, as the title suggests, on etiquette, comportment, best behavior, and other concepts beloved of parents, who seem to be buying up the title  and hit the potential parenting needs of parents with the slogan 

Treasure Hunting in Shaanxi, which entered the chart in January at No. 3, even is credited to an author who writes by the name Jingding Comic. Published by 21st Century Press Group, the book takes that trending humorous touch to the Shaanxi Province, in Northwest modern China, full of some of the oldest parts of Chinese history and considered part of the cradle of Chinese civilization.

Bright illustrations, fun text and cartoon characters are credicted in this book with putting across to the vacationers in the family car’s backseat the importance of the ancient Silk Road and the dangerous magnificence of the areas mountains.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from January 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, January 2024
December 2023 Ranking January 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 9787020139590 2019-06 The Last Quarter of the Moon Chi Zijian People’s Literature Publishing House
2 9787530221532 2021-10 To Live (2021 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
3 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
4 9787536097261 2022-07 Someone to Talk To Liu Zhenyun Flower City Press
5 9787532148004 2013-03 Blossoms Shanghai Jin Yucheng Shanghai Literature & Art Press
6 9787572608582 2022-10 The Litchi Road Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
7 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
8 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) (2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
9 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
10 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
11 9787201141527 2018-10 Strait is the Gate Andre Gide Tianjin People’s Publishing House
12 9787572610912 2023-05 The Annoyance of the Gods Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 9787570217588 2023-07 Blossoms Shanghai Jin Yucheng Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co., Ltd.
15 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
17 9787505738478 2016-10 A Madman’s Diary Lu Xun China Friendship Publishing Company
18 9787530216033 2017-09 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (2017 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
19 9787506344791 2008-12 Street Wizards (Revised Edition) Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
20 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
21 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yilin Press
22 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
23 9787530222454 2023-06 Cries in the drizzle Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
24 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
25 9787513348744 2022-11 The Seventh Day Yu hua New Star Press Co., Ltd.
26 9787530223192 2023-08 Wavy life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
27 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
28 9787530220481 2021-05 Ordinary Word (2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
29 9787020178063 2023-04 Notes on Principles Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
30 9787020176892 2023-05 Blossoms Shanghai Jin Yucheng People’s Literature Publishing House

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, January 2024
December 2023 Ranking January 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 9787020084357 2011-04 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
2 9787557031589 2023-11 If History were a Group of Cats: The Ming Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
3 9787530214657 2015-01 We All Live in Disparity Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
4 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
5 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga China Machine Press
6 9787557030162 2023-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Late Yuan and Early Ming Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
7 9787521758399 2023-09 Elon Musk Walter Isaacson CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
8 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 9787020135639 2018-03 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
10 9787559435224 2019-04 The Book of Answers Wei En Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 9787557028657 2022-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Southern Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
12 9787540483432 2017-11 Jottings in Sickbed (Commemorative Edition 2021) Shi Tiesheng Hunan Literature & Art Press
13 9787557024413 2021-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Prosperity of the Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
14 9787010009223 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.1) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
15 9787521754803 2023-03 Believe Cai Lei CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
16 9787115543424 2020-09 Cognitive Awakening: The Driving Force Behind Self-Change Zhou Ling Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
17 9787512622456 2013-12 Nothing In Life Can Not Be Put Down – Hongyi Wisdom Of Life Song Mo Tuanjie Press
18 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 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
20 9787010009230 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.2) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
21 9787010009247 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.3) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
22 9787010009254 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.4) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
23 9787557020149 2019-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Three Kingdoms Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
24 9787557025847 2021-11 If History were a Group of Cats: Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
25 9787208171336 2021-08 In the Affair: Chinese Government and Economic Development Lan Xiaohuan Shanghai People’s Publishing House
26 9787557020132 2019-09 If History were a Group of Cats: The End of Eastern Han Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
27 9787557514259 2016-08 The Book of Magic Answers Mei Sen Jilin Fine Arts Press
28 9787557023041 2020-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Sui and Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
29 9787559669131 2023-07 Cognitive Breakthrough Zhang Qi Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
30 9787557021856 2020-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Wei, Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, January 2024
December 2023 Ranking January 2023 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 9787502097974 2023-06 New Big-Head Son and Small-Head Father CCTV Animation Group Co. LTD Emergency Management Press
2 9787555287766 2020-06 New Big-Head Son and Small-Head Father CCTV Animation Group Co. LTD Qingdao Publishing House
3 9787556878871 2023-11 Treasure Hunting in Shanxi Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
4 9787557029029 2023-01 Chinese Award-winning Picture Book Series (10 volumes) Chen Bochui, Sun You Jun, Zhou Rui Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
5 9787557417826 2022-07 The Things Hidden in the Ultimate Collection of Ancient Essays (10 Volumes) Xin Xin Shi Ji Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Publishing House
6 9787558187926 2020-08 Xiaobazhang Tonghua (8 volumes) Zhang Qiusheng Jilin Publishing Group Co., Ltd.
7 9787533299224 2018-10 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
8 9787531332091 2008-05 Xili Hulu The Little Pig (Zhuyin Version) (Vol.1) Sun You Jun Chunfeng Art & Literature Publishing House
9 9787544288590 2018-06 Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window (2018 Edition) Tetsuko Kuroyanagi Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 9787559706522 2018-05 The Foolish and the Unhappy (With Chinese Pinyin) Ren Rongrong Zhejiang Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
11 9787531333227 2008-06 Xili Hulu The Little Pig (Zhuyin Version) (Vol.2) Sun You Jun Chunfeng Art & Literature Publishing House
12 9787532767373 2014-08 Charlotte’s Web Elwyn Brooks White Shanghai Translation Publishing House
13 9787534633362 2005-05 Bronze and Sunflower Cao Wenxuan Jiangsu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
14 9787533274269 2013-08 Guess How Much I Love You Sam McBratney, Anita Jeram Tomorrow Publishing House
15 9787536574366 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Stratego Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
16 9787536574397 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Clever Little Prodigy Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
17 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
18 9787536574380 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Who’s the Smart Guy? Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
19 9787536574373 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Great Adventure of the Castle Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
20 9787536587717 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: A Dog Called Rat Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
21 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
22 9787511064998 2023-08 Social Emotional Intelligence Comics for Primary School Students (2 volumes) Wai Wai Tu Tong Shu Guan Dolphin Press
23 9787558900648 2017-07 Winter of Three Hairs (With Chinese Pinyin) Zhang Leping Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House
24 9787536587700 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: My Good Friend Tie Tou Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
25 9787534256301 2009-09 Dreaming of Being a Wolf King (2018 Edition) Shen Shixi Zhejiang Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
26 9787507851069 2022-05 The Book of Mountains and Seas for Children (6 volumes) Zhang Jiajie, Zhang Zihang China International Radio Prsee
27 9787221116604 2014-05 The Magic School Bus (Early Chapter Book) (20 volumes) Joanna Cole, Bruce Degen Guizhou People’s Publishing House
28 9787531350408 2017-08 Different Bobo Bear – Naughty Mushroom Xiao Mao, Shen Yuanyuan Chunfeng Art & Literature Publishing House
29 9787533255879 2008-03 New Year’s Reunion Yu Liqiong, Zhu Chengliang Tomorrow Publishing House
30 9787572127489 2022-07 The Radish is Back Fang Yiqun Changjiang Children’s Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, January 2024
December 2023 Ranking January 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787201141527 2018-10 Strait is the Gate Andre Gide France Tianjin People’s Publishing House
2 2 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 3 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
3 4 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
4 5 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 6 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
6 7 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 8 9787544775717 2019-06 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (New Edition) Jules Verne France Yilin Press
8 9 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 10 9787532969623 2023-09 Netochka Nezvanova Fyodor Dostoevsky Russia Shandong Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 11 9787544783392 2021-01 The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe Britain Yilin Press
9 12 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
Not Ranked 13 9787540244392 2019-05 No Longer Human Osamu Dazai Japan Beijing Yanshan Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787544774635 2019-01 How the Steel Was Tempered (New Edition) Nikolai Alexeevich Ostrovsky Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Yilin Press
11 15 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye, Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
7 16 9787544269452 2021-12 Malice (2022 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 17 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s world Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
13 18 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
10 19 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 20 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, January 2023
December 2023 Ranking January 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi,Fumitake Koga Japan China Machine Press
2 2 9787521758399 2023-09 Elon Musk Walter Isaacson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
1 3 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
4 4 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 5 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.
15 6 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
5 7 9787111551287 2016-10 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool United States of America China Machine Press
12 8 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B. Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
13 9 9787505737488 2016-12 What Life Should Mean to You Alfred Adler Austria China Friendship Publishing Company
11 10 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.
8 11 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Japan Qingdao Publishing House
18 12 9787505745681 2018-12 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind Gustave Le Bon France China Friendship Publishing Company
Not Ranked 13 9787544295390 2019-03 What to expert when you’re expecting Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 14 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline (Revised Edition) Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 15 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
16 16 9787210096528 2017-09 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol S.Dweck United States of America Jiangxi People’s Publishing House
9 17 9787552029185 2020-04 The Awakened Family: How to Raise Empowered, Resilient, and Conscious Children Shefali Tsabary United States of America Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press
17 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.
Not Ranked 19 9787511372826 2018-10 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie, Zhai Wenming United States of America China Overseas Chinese Press
19 20 9787521736816 2022-01 Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond 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.

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, 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 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, more on the Chinese book publishing market is here, and more from us on Asia and its publishing markets 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.