China Bestsellers: March’s Urgent Nonfiction for Students

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

An act of violence among school students may be prompting readers in China to make quick bestsellers of social nonfiction for youngsters.

Buckwheat harvesting in Hebei province, near Zhangjiakou and a wind p0wer plant. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Xenotar

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

A Children’s Bestseller: ‘What To Protect Yourself With’
On March 10, according to authorities in the small city of Handan, a 13-year-old schoolboy allegedly was beaten to death by three of his classmates in the Hebei province of North China, a large province that all but surrounds Beijing. The victim’s body, as reported by Daike Kang for the Associated Press, is said to have been all but unrecognizable, and was found underneath a tarpaulin in an abandoned vegetable greenhouse. The three alleged assailants were arrested.

The six-volume ‘What To Protect Yourself With’ by Chen Jinggon and Mi Nuo, published in November 2023 by Beijing Institute of Technology Press

The incident has triggered what news reports describe as a heated media debate over issues in China of juvenile crime. On Tuesday (May 14), the country’s ministry of education announced a new campaign to address issues including excessive homework and bullying in schools. As we read in Farah Master’s report for Reuters on Tuesday, “Beijing has, since 2021, tried to reform the education sector and ease academic pressure on students, clamping down on a US$120 billion private tutoring industry to cut education costs. Many residents have cited high childcare and education costs as reasons not to have children.”

And our associates at Beijing’s OpenBook are pointing out that in March, as news of this assault was carried in state media and spread through other means, book buyers in China were responding to “high-profile social incidents” of this kind, especially boosting sales of “legal enlightenment books.”

“Children are the flowers of the motherland,” one of our colleagues writes to us, “the hope of the nation and the future of the country. Thousands of families care about their healthy growth.”

One of the key issues brought again into focus by this horrific incident in Handan is the plight of “left-behind children,” migrant kids in rural areas left with grandparents or others by parents who must work in major cities for much of the year.

Since the March 10 murder, many members of the public, OpenBook’s team tells us, have greatly increased their attention to topics including:

  • Campus bullying
  • Laws and regulations on children’s protection
  • Children’s self-protection

‘How Girls Can Protect Themselves” by Pan Lijie, a January release from Democracy and Construction Press

Amplified by social-media dynamics, OpenBook says, sales of books touching on these issues have increased further, one of them being What To Protect Yourself With: The Comic Civil Code (six volumes) by Chen Jinggon and Mi Nuo (published in November 2023 by Beijing Institute of Technology Press), a book that walked right onto the chart for the first time in March at a handsome No. 6.

Another is an even newer book: How Girls Can Protect Themselves by Pan Lijie was published in January by Democracy and Construction Press—the editors of which may want to consider a companion volume on how boys can protect themselves, too, considering the events in Handan.

Like the book by Chen and Mi, Pan’s book wasn’t on the bestseller list at all earlier, but under the pressure of the news from Handan it appeared in March at No. 17. Both this and the No. 6 ranking of What To Protect Yourself With are accomplishments in any of the slow-moving lists of the Chinese market.

The quick response of readers to these issues in March indicates that many readers in China are giving serious attention to these problems, which of course are shared in other world markets as contemporary youngsters encounter increasing demands and tensions in an age of digitized communication and accelerated expectations.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from March 2024 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 2024
February 2024 Ranking March 2024 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
2 2 9787530221532 2021-10 To Live (2021 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
3 3 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
9 4 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
6 5 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 6 9787572608582 2022-10 The Litchi Road Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
7 7 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
4 8 9787536097261 2022-07 Someone To Talk To Liu Zhenyun Flower City Press
15 9 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
8 10 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
12 11 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 12 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes)(2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
13 13 9787572610912 2023-05 The Annoyance of the Gods Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
14 14 9787530222454 2023-06 Cries in the Drizzle Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
22 15 9787513348744 2022-11 The Seventh Day Yu hua New Star Press Co., Ltd.
26 16 9787020178063 2023-04 Notes on Principles Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
18 17 9787530216033 2017-09 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (2017 Edition) Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
24 18 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.
23 19 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
17 21 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yilin Press
16 22 9787201141527 2018-10 Strait is the Gate Andre Gide Tianjin People’s Publishing House
19 23 9787530223192 2023-08 Wavy Life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787543067028 2013-08 Border Town (Revised Edition) Shen Congwen Wuhan Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787559484550 2024-03 Go On a Long Trip at Eighteen Yu Hua Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
27 26 9787533966102 2021-12 Life and Death are Wearing Me Out Mo Yan Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
11 27 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
Not Ranked 28 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Nai’an, Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Nan Hai Publishing Co.

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, March 2024
February 2024 Ranking March 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787530214657 2015-01 We All Live in Disparity Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
3 2 9787020084357 2011-04 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
4 3 9787557031589 2023-11 If History were a Group of Cats: The Ming Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
9 4 9787557030162 2023-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Late Yuan and Early Ming Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
5 5 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga China Machine Press
Not Ranked 6 9787505754942 2022-08 Happiness is laughing Out loudly: Prose Collection of Liang Shiqiu on the Wisdom of Life Liang Shiqiu China Friendship Publishing Company
11 7 9787559435224 2019-04 The Book of Answers Wei En Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 8 9787557028657 2022-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Southern Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
8 9 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
14 10 9787010009223 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.1) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
23 11 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
24 12 9787557025847 2021-11 If History were a Group of Cats: Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
18 13 9787010009230 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.2) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
19 14 9787010009247 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.3) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
10 15 9787512622456 2013-12 Nothing In Life Can Not Be Put Down – Hongyi Wisdom Of Life Song Mo Tuanjie Press
20 16 9787010009254 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.4) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
7 17 9787540483432 2017-11 Jottings in Sickbed (Commemorative Edition 2021) Shi Tiesheng Hunan Literature & Art Press
22 18 9787557024413 2021-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Prosperity of the Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787503561634 2017-08 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
Not Ranked 20 9787557021856 2020-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Wei, Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
12 21 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 22 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
25 23 9787557020149 2019-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Three Kingdoms Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
26 24 9787557023041 2020-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Sui and Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
27 25 9787557020132 2019-09 If History were a Group of Cats: The End of Eastern Han Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
15 26 9787115543424 2020-09 Cognitive Awakening: The Driving Force Behind Self-Change Zhou Ling Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
17 27 9787020135639 2018-03 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787557030599 2023-06 If History were a Group of Cats: Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787511384126 2021-03 The World is Worth It: Live Your Life the Way You Like Ming Xi China Overseas Chinese Press
Not Ranked 30 9787550285880 2016-10 The Complete Book of Dietary Therapy Shi Xiang Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, March 2024
February 2024 Ranking March 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787547062630 2023-12 Comic Ultimate Collection of Ancient Essays Bing He Cha Hua, Wu Chucai, Wu Diaohou Wanjuan Publishing Corporation
Not Ranked 2 9787549288861 2023-08 Good Night Baby: Classic Early Childhood Reading (40 volumes) Wen Zhi Chang Jiang Press
5 3 9787556878871 2023-11 Treasure Hunting in Shanxi Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
13 4 9787531333227 2008-06 Xili Hulu The Little Pig (Zhuyin Version) (Vol.2) Sun You Jun Chunfeng Art & Literature Publishing House
11 5 9787531332091 2008-05 Xili Hulu The Little Pig (Zhuyin Version) (Vol.1) Sun You Jun Chunfeng Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 6 9787576329513 2023-11 What to Protect Yourself With: The Comic Civil Code (6 volumes) Chen Jinggen, Mi Nuo Beijing Institute of Technology Press
6 7 9787555287766 2020-06 New Big-Head Son and Small-Head Father CCTV Animation Group Co. LTD Qingdao Publishing House
Not Ranked 8 9787559423726 2019-11 Psychology Manga for Elementary School Students (3) – Emotional Self-Control Xiao He Institute of Psychology Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 9 9787559421524 2019-11 Psychology Manga for Elementary School Students (1) – Social Skills Xiao He Institute of Psychology Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 10 9787559422200 2019-11 Psychology Manga for Elementary School Students (2) – Self-Confidence Xiao He Institute of Psychology Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 11 9787559423733 2019-11 Psychology Manga for Elementary School Students (4) – Self-Help Xiao He Institute of Psychology Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 12 9787559423740 2019-12 Psychology Manga for Elementary School Students (5) – Positivity Xiao He Institute of Psychology Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 13 9787559423757 2019-12 Psychology Manga for Elementary School Students (6) – Humor Xiao He Institute of Psychology Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 14 9787559450876 2021-01 Psychology Manga for Elementary School Students (Series 2) Dook Elementary school Reading Research Club-Psychological Group Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
7 15 9787533299224 2018-10 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787543480568 2011-08 Butterfly-Pea Flower: Classic Chinese Children’s Poems Jin Bo Hebei Education Press
Not Ranked 17 9787513944229 2024-01 How Girls Can Protect Themselves Pan Lijie Democracy and Construction Press
Not Ranked 18 9787530761243 2014-11 Dear Mr. Henshaw Beverly Cleary New Buds Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787531366218 2024-02 Little mouse Xi Li and Hua La Bai Bing Chunfeng Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787570714964 2022-05 Little Slap Fairy Tale – Black Bear and Forest Cabin Zhang Qiusheng, Wang Yimei Anhui Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
16 21 9787558900648 2017-07 Winter of Three Hairs (With Chinese Pinyin) Zhang Leping Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 22 9787533259563 2009-03 Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787572126666 2022-06 Big-Head Son and Small-Head Father – Toy Hospital Zheng Chunhua Changjiang Children’s Press
Not Ranked 24 9787531366201 2024-02 Walnut Mountain Ge Cuilin, Zhang Weixin Chunfeng Art & Literature Publishing House
14 25 9787533274269 2013-08 Guess How Much I Love You Sam McBratney, Anita Jeram Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787573114662 2022-06 Vater und Sohn E.O. Plauen Jilin Publishing Group Co., Ltd.
4 27 9787559706522 2018-05 The Foolish and the Unhappy (With Chinese Pinyin) Ren Rongrong Zhejiang Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787115547033 2021-09 The River, Our Beginning National Museum of China Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787115547019 2021-09 Commerce, From Shells To Silk National Museum of China Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787115547002 2021-09 How Do We Travel the World National Museum of China Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, March 2024
February 2024 Ranking March 2024 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.
5 2 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 3 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
2 4 9787201141527 2018-10 Strait is the Gate Andre Gide France Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 5 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 6 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
4 7 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 8 9787573508775 2024-03 Until August Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 9 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
10 10 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s world Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
8 11 9787544269452 2021-12 Malice (2022 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 12 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
17 13 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
11 14 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye, Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 15 9787544280020 2019-08 What Life You Want to Have Yoshino Genzaburo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 16 9787544297059 2020-03 Love in the Time of Cholera (3 Million Sold Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 17 9787532969623 2023-09 Netochka Nezvanova Fyodor Dostoevsky Russia Shandong Literature & Art Press
20 18 9787513348362 2022-08 Look Back Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan New Star Press Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 19 9787559478207 2024-02 Dune Frank Herbert United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 20 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, March 2024
February 2024 Ranking  March 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga Japan China Machine Press
2 2 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
3 3 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 4 9787521758399 2023-09 Elon Musk Walter Isaacson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
11 5 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
Not Ranked 6 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline (Revised Edition) Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
5 7 9787111551287 2016-10 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool United States of America China Machine Press
15 8 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Japan Qingdao Publishing House
10 9 9787544295390 2019-03 What To Expect When You’re Expecting Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 10 9787505737488 2016-12 What Life Should Mean to You Alfred Adler Austria China Friendship Publishing Company
6 11 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.
7 12 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
14 13 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 14 9787505745681 2018-12 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind Gustave Le Bon France China Friendship Publishing Company
13 15 9787520711531 2019-11 A Compass to Fulfillment Kazuo Inamori Japan Orient Press
Not Ranked 16 9787220126437 2022-08 Somewhere Towards the End Diana Athill Britain Sichuan People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787508661766 2016-06 The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle Germany CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
16 18 9787505738966 2017-05 How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America China Friendship Publishing Company
Not Ranked 19 9787111635574 2019-10 The Working Methods of Kazuo Inamori Kazuo Inamori Japan China Machine Press
18 20 9787111703631 2022-04 The Effective Executive Peter F. Drucker United States of America 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.

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, 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.