China Bestsellers: May’s Television-Fueled Nonfiction Win

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On China’s nonfiction list in May, Fei Zhi’s army of ‘Cats’ books were held at bay by the TV-powered arrival of Li Juan’s ‘My Altay’ at No. 1.

In the Altay region of China’s enormous Xinjiang province. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Dandelion

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

Small Screens to Big Sales
In many cases, China’s book market has become almost a poster child for the connection between television, film, social media, and commercial publishing, and a couple of examples from our associates at Jiang Yanping’s Beijing OpenBook publishing research group in their May report reveal one such example you’ll find in the nonfiction rankings for last month—and another example that may be headed for these lists if the trend holds.

‘My Altay’

At the top of May’s nonfiction list, you’ll see My Altay by Li Juan, a soaring success that went straight to No. 1 in its first appearance on these lists, a release from Flower City Press. Altay is a county-level city in the Altay prefecture inside the Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture, a venue set in northern Xinjiang, near the Kelan River.

Those who know Li’s work will remember that My Altay is a 2010 release, hardly a new book, from this prolific essayist now in her 40s. As is the case of many stories of books’ sudden appearances on the slow-moving Chinese bestseller lists, what made the difference for My Altay was a televsion drama titled To the Wonder. That series, created by Yu Gong & Xiaohui Wang, became the first such television work to be selected for the Cannes International Series Festival’s seventh season (the division of Cannes often called CanneSeries).

Based on My Altay—typically for Li, a collection of essays—the book’s sales are of course running in two directions: attracting newcomers who hadn’t known of Li’s work or this particular collection until now, as well as readers who have known this collection for its 14 years and are picking up new copies to re-read. Two more titles from Li, The Corner of Altay and Winter Pasture, are also selling well.

‘I’ve Just Said’

And in the other instance, a book not on the bestseller list, but perhaps a useful test, is I’ve Just Said by Guo Degang.

Released in April by Writers Publishing House, the books’ visibility shot up when Guo made a live broadcast. Like many successful “influencers,” Guo is the type who can write and talk about bits of life that tend to many to sound profound and defining of society, the publisher’s promotional copy mentioning as Guo’s field, “The rules of life, the etiquette of dinner parties, the origin of midnight snacks, the secrets of love, the persistence of drama fans, the jargon of the industry, the small rivers and lakes of friends, the grievances and hatreds in the crosstalk world.”

His broadcast chops proven, and plenty of film and television experience behind him as a “crosstalk” comic, it seems likely that Guo’s Douyin account—Douyin is the ByteDance-owned Chinese edition of TikTok—are likely to see him onto a spot in June’s chart.

That being said, Guo, like anyone trying to battle his way onto the Chinese bestseller list this summer, will encounter the May list’s glut of the If History Were a Group of Cats series by Fei Zhi.

‘If History Were a Group of Cats,’ Three Kingdoms, Part 5

In May, these perplexingly popular short reads about various dynasties held slots 4 through 16 on the nonfiction list from Guangdong Travel and Tourism Press.

Our records indicate that at least some of the series’ entries were published as early as 2019, suggesting that Group of Cats fandom is hardly fading.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from May 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, May 2024
April 2024 Ranking May 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
4 3 9787572608582 2022-10 The Litchi Road Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
3 4 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
9 5 9787536097261 2022-07 Someone To Talk To Liu Zhenyun Flower City Press
6 6 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
8 7 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
7 8 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 9 9787506344791 2008-12 Street Wizards (Revised Edition) Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
12 10 9787572610912 2023-05 The Annoyance of the Gods Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
10 11 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
17 12 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 13 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787574902343 2024-03 Letter of Human Mai Jia Flower City Press
15 15 9787559484550 2024-03 Go On a Long Trip at Eighteen Yu Hua Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
29 16 9787530223192 2023-08 Wavy Life Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
14 17 9787530221396 2021-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes)(2021 Edition) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
18 18 9787506384209 2015-11 Street Wizards (2) Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
21 19 9787521208740 2020-01 Street Wizards (3) Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
25 20 9787533966102 2021-12 Life and Death are Wearing Me Out Mo Yan Zhejiang Literature & Art Press
11 21 9787572616099 2024-03 The Journey to The South Ma Boyong Hunan Literature & Art Press
23 22 9787521220858 2022-12 Street Wizards (4) Feng Jicai The Writer’s Publishing House
19 23 9787513348744 2022-11 The Seventh Day Yu Hua New Star Press Co., Ltd.
26 24 9787201141527 2018-10 Strait is the Gate Andre Gide Tianjin People’s Publishing House
24 25 9787020178063 2023-04 Notes on Principles Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
27 26 9787506331746 2005-05 Distant Savior Dou Dou The Writer’s Publishing House
30 27 9787530216033 2017-09 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (2017 Edition) Yu Hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Tianjin People’s Publishing House
22 29 9787530222454 2023-06 Cries in the Drizzle Yu Hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787573508775 2024-03 Until August Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, May 2024
April 2024 Ranking May 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787536094352 2021-09 My Altay Li Juan Flower City Press
1 2 9787530214657 2015-01 We All Live in Disparity Yu Hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
3 3 9787020084357 2011-04 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
2 4 9787557031589 2023-11 If History were a Group of Cats: The Ming Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
4 5 9787557030599 2023-06 If History were a Group of Cats: Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
6 6 9787557030582 2023-06 If History were a Group of Cats: The Spring-autumn and Warring State Period Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
5 7 9787557030162 2023-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Late Yuan and Early Ming Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
8 8 9787557017477 2019-02 If History were a Group of Cats: Qin, Chu, Western Han and Eastern Han Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
10 9 9787557020149 2019-09 If History were a Group of Cats: Three Kingdoms Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
11 10 9787557020132 2019-09 If History were a Group of Cats: The End of Eastern Han Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
9 11 9787557028657 2022-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Southern Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
15 12 9787557023041 2020-10 If History were a Group of Cats: Sui and Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
18 13 9787557024413 2021-05 If History were a Group of Cats: Prosperity of the Tang Dynasty Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
13 14 9787557025847 2021-11 If History were a Group of Cats: Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Fei Zhi Guangdong Tourism Publishing House
17 15 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 16 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
7 17 9787111495482 2015-04 The Courage to Be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga China Machine Press
16 18 9787208171336 2021-08 In the Affair: Chinese Government and Economic Development Lan Xiaohuan Shanghai People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787513344180 2024-01 The Corner of Altay Li Juan New Star Press Co., Ltd.
20 20 9787201161693 2020-08 Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure Robert de Board Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787552706673 2022-03 I’ve Never Loved The World So Much Shi Tiesheng Duzhe Press Co., Ltd.
19 22 9787512622456 2013-12 Nothing In Life Can Not Be Put Down – Hongyi Wisdom Of Life Song Mo Tuanjie Press
24 23 9787010009223 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.1) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
26 24 9787010009230 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.2) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
27 25 9787010009247 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.3) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
28 26 9787010009254 1998-07 Mao’s Selected Works (vol.4) Mao Zhedong People’s Publishing House
22 27 9787115543424 2020-09 Cognitive Awakening: The Driving Force Behind Self-Change Zhou Ling Posts & Telecommunications Publishing House
21 28 9787505754942 2022-08 Happiness is laughing Out loudly: Prose Collection of Liang Shiqiu on the Wisdom of Life Liang Shiqiu China Friendship Publishing Company
23 29 9787511373274 2018-06 Game theory Zhai Wenming China Overseas Chinese Press
Not Ranked 30 9787536099876 2023-07 Winter Pasture Li Juan Flower City Press

OpenBook’s Children’s Bestsellers, May 2024
April 2024 Ranking May 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787534633362 2005-05 Bronze and Sunflower Cao Wenxuan Jiangsu Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
7 2 9787221116604 2014-05 The Magic School Bus (Early Chapter Book) (20 volumes) Joanna Cole, Bruce Degen Guizhou People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 3 9787501609413 2015-04 Bronze and Sunflower Cao Wenxuan Foreign Literature Press
2 4 9787556878871 2023-11 Treasure Hunting in Shanxi Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
8 5 9787556869589 2023-01 Treasure Hunting in Beijing Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
3 6 9787536574366 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Stratego Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
4 7 9787536574397 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Clever Little Prodigy Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
5 8 9787536574380 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: Who’s the Smart Guy? Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
6 9 9787536574373 2016-01 Mi Xiaoquan’s Brain-teaser: The Great Adventure of the Castle Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
19 10 9787536587694 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: I am a Pupil Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
10 11 9787556869572 2023-01 Treasure Hunting in Shanghai Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 12 9787570819706 2024-01 Transports HOLLO BOOKS Tomorrow Publishing House
25 13 9787536587724 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: Look at This Family Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
30 14 9787536587717 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: A Dog Called Rat Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787536587700 2018-04 Mi Xiaoquan School Experience: My Good Friend Tie Tou Bei Mao Sichuan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787110092743 2019-01 The Natural History Book Dorling Kindersley Limited Popular Science Press
13 17 9787556869855 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Neimenggu Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 18 9787556869664 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Shaanxi Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
17 19 9787556869831 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Hainan Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
18 20 9787556869848 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Heilongjiang Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 21 9787513726856 2024-02 The Story of Song Qingling Qin Wenjun China Peace Publishing House
12 22 9787556869602 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Chongqing Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 23 9787556869824 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Xinjiang Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 24 9787570819874 2023-12 Seas and Oceans HOLLO BOOKS Tomorrow Publishing House
Not Ranked 25 9787556869695 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Yunnan Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
15 26 9787556869596 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Tianjin Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
27 27 9787556869619 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Shandong Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
23 28 9787556869626 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Sichuan Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
Not Ranked 29 9787556869701 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Henan Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group
29 30 9787556869640 2023-02 Treasure Hunting in Zhejiang Jingding Comic 21st Century Press Group

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, May 2024
April 2024 Ranking May 2024 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 2 9787201141527 2018-10 Strait is the Gate Andre Gide France Tianjin People’s Publishing House
8 3 9787201112695 2017-03 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
10 4 9787573508775 2024-03 Until August Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 5 9787521748239 2022-12 Goodbye, Eri Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
5 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
1 8 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
9 9 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation (Revised Edition) Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
2 10 9787544280020 2019-08 What Life You Want to Have Yoshino Genzaburo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 11 9787513348362 2022-08 Look Back Tatsuki Fujimoto Japan New Star Press Co., Ltd.
11 12 9787544298995 2020-09 Miracles of the Namiya General Store (2020 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 13 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
19 14 9787541166051 2023-04 Six Lying College Students Akinari Asakura Japan Sichuan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 15 9787544269452 2021-12 Malice (2022 Edition) Keigo Higashino Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 16 9787559614711 2018-01 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson Britain Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 17 9787511379054 2019-10 The Moon and Sixpence William Somerset Maugham Britain China Overseas Chinese Press
Not Ranked 18 9787551169615 2024-02 Before You Go Tommy Butler United States of America Huashan Literature & Art Publishing House
20 19 9787201100159 2015-12 The Moon and Sixpence William Somerset Maugham Britain Tianjin People’s Publishing House
18 20 9787533936020 2017-02 The Moon and Sixpence William Somerset Maugham Britain Zhejiang Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, May 2024
April 2024 Ranking May 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.
6 4 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline (Revised Edition) Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
5 5 9787522200514 2021-05 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B. Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
16 6 9787521758399 2023-09 Elon Musk Walter Isaacson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 7 9787557677428 2020-05 What if: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Randall Munroe United States of America Tianjin Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 8 9787574217324 2024-02 Why Is Hunger Good? Yumi Ishihara Japan Tianjin Science & Technology Press
4 9 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 10 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
11 11 9787555262800 2017-12 The Power of Insensitivity Junichi Watanabe Japan Qingdao Publishing House
9 12 9787220126437 2022-08 Somewhere Towards the End Diana Athill Britain Sichuan People’s Publishing House
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.
Not Ranked 14 9787574207653 2023-03 What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Randall Munroe United States of America Tianjin Science & Technology Press
13 15 9787544295390 2019-03 What to expert when you’re expecting Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 16 9787521755459 2023-06 Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be Becky Kennedy United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd.
8 17 9787111551287 2016-10 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool United States of America China Machine Press
18 18 9787505737488 2016-12 What Life Should Mean to You Alfred Adler Austria China Friendship Publishing Company
19 19 9787201142708 2018-12 Klingsor’s Last Summer Hermann Hesse Germany Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 20 9787508633558 2012-07 Thinking, Fast and Slow Daniel Kanneman 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, 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.

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