It's been a blockbuster year for the leading names of Chinese literature. But if one trend has made 2013 a milestone in the world of books, says veteran literary critic Meng Fanhua, it is a shift in Chinese literary writing away from the traditional focus on rural life.
“The collapse of rural civilization together with the construction of a new one centered on the urban culture is the basic feature of the society today,” Meng says. “The variety of new releases proves the creative power of Chinese writers.”
The year has seen a government push to promote reading, political memoirs, steady growth in e-publishing and a flurry of lauded new work by big-name writers — though critic Chen Fumin says the many new releases by established authors in a single year might just be coincidence.
Chinese do love to read and talk about politics, so it’s no surprise to see books produced by former leaders among the year’s top sellers.
For anyone concerned with the country’s future, collected remarks by former premier Zhu Rongji is a bellwether worth thumbing through. Former premier Wen Jiabao’s book illuminates his views on education. The part memoir, part informal essay collection by Wu Guanzheng, a member of the Party’s top leadership body, is being devoured around the country for glimpses into the personal lives of the decision-making group. Wu’s work, complete with his own illustrations, has been well received for his fresh, individual style.
The new leadership has also recommended a slew of books worth perusing to Party members as well as avid readers. That list includes Analects of Confucius, The Third Industrial Revolution (Jeremy Rifkin) and Old Regime and the French Revolution (Alexis de Tocqueville).
Several books about the country’s history, published in English by China International Publishing Group, have abandoned the usual grand narrative style. Instead, they review the country’s dramatic transformation in the past decades from the vantage point of ordinary people and their daily lives. According to the China Writers Rich List, tallied yearly by publishing observer Wu Huaiyao and his team, this year writers of fantasy stories, of serious literature, of children’s and young-adult reads, and works focused on the world of entertainment enjoyed good sales.
“The younger generation of readers craves fresh stories. Their taste is different from the older generations,” says Wu.
Traditional publishers are now better prepared with strategies to adapt to e-publishing, experts say. They have stopped panicking and learned to apply customized online marketing with weixin (WeChat) and weibo (micro blogs).
“All of the online-reading platforms and channels are roads. We publishers still decide what the views will be along the way, because we don’t build roads, we build cars,” publisher Lu Jinbo said at a forum in Chengdu, Sichuan province, earlier this month.
Veteran publisher Li Bo, with Changjiang Literature and Art Publishing House, agrees and says his company is already creating multimedia dimensions to add to its publications. “A book of 100,000 words may be extended to a knowledge base of millions of words,” Li says.
Based on interviews with critics, sales data from bookstores both online and offline, and information about book lists from key Chinese media, here we present China Daily’s Top 10 Books of 2013, in aphabetical order.
Fiction top five
1 Blossoms By Jin Yucheng
2 The Chronicles of Zhalie By Yan Lianke
3 The Seventh Day By Yu Hua
4 Tales of the Siskin By Su Tong
5 Tu Ziqiang’s Personal Sad Story By Fang Fang
Nonfiction top five
6 Going Out of Liang Village By Liang Hong
7 Hello, I’m Panda By Tan Kai
8 Our Stories: Pingru and Meitang By Rao Pingru
9 Sex of Chinese People in the 21st Century By Pan Suiming and Huang Yingying
10 Zhu Rongji’s Speeches in Shanghai By Zhu Rongji