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Best-selling list reveals shift in Chinese taste

By Mei jia, Han Bingbin and Sun Ye  (China Daily)

09:55, January 09, 2013

(Xinhua Photo)

The best-selling lists from both online and offline bookstores reveal the major trends of 2012 that show shifts in Chinese readers' taste.

Many of this year's cinematic blockbusters are based on novels. This has in return triggered a fever for the original fictions.

Among them are Liu Zhenyun's Back to 1942 and Chen Zhongshi's White Deer Plain. The movie adaptations of these two novels, by acclaimed directors Feng Xiaogang and Wang Quan'an, became the center of public attention with their controversial stories.

The Canadian novel Life of Pi, which was translated into Chinese in 2005, enjoyed renewed popularity after Ang Lee's movie grossed approximately 560 million yuan ($89.9 million) on the Chinese mainland in 2012.

"People went back to books to seek deeper meaning and satisfy the curiosity aroused by the big screen," veteran critic Lei Da says.

TV also offered publishers a chance to adapt, like in the case of A Bite of China. The print version is as popular as the TV documentary series and is ready to tease the taste buds of foreign readers with its English version.

The mysterious past is still a topic enjoyed by book lovers. Many people try to make sense of their present lives by discovering what used to be. But rather than reading history reviews, readers prefer books that focus on a small section of life with detailed narrative accounts.

For example, in Yefu's memoir collection Xiangguan Hechu (Where's My Hometown), the thought-provoking changes of a turbulent era are reflected through the heartrending ups and downs of his family.

In Alden Kuhn's bestseller Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768, social and political predicaments are revealed in a widespread and mysterious anti-sorcery movement.

Children's books continue to contribute to literary revenue. Veteran creators like writer Yang Hongying (with the Smiling Cat series) and illustrator Xiong Liang (with Plum Rain Fairy 2) present popular and high-quality books.

Translated books occupy a large part of the children's book section. For example, The Les P'Tites Poules series has been reinvigorated by new collections.

A popular online game, Plants VS Zombies, has been turned by Chinese publishers and veteran children's book writers into a best-selling storybook.

Facing the pressures of busy urban life, white-collar professionals and young people turn to Chicken Soup for the Soul types of books to seek the so-called positive energy to heal, inspire and encourage themselves.

British psychologist Richard Wiseman's Rip It Up: The Radically New Approach to Changing Your Life has been also rendered into Chinese, with the title literally meaning "positive energy", and is hot among readers.

Also hot is the reprint of counseling psychologist Tiffany Chang's Meeting the Unknown Self and translation of South Korean professor Kim Rando's Youth, Painful Splendor.

In the past two years, some science geeks have attempted to refute rumors with humor. They've tackled life-threatening questions like "do we eat or not eat genetically modified food" and confirmed our suspicions. Yes, high heels are slowly killing us.

Among the most popular books are three installments of Truth About Eating by Yun Wuxin and Rumor Grinder by experts from Cao Tianyuan's Does God Toss Dice? has been a favorite quantum theory introduction.

Lei, the critic, believes the overwhelming zeal for literature, brought about by Nobel laureate Mo Yan, shows Chinese writing has been upgraded to greater influence and artistic power.

"I believe it will continue to grow," Lei says

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