With the Chinese New Year arriving on February 8th, iUniverse has decided to help celebrate the holiday with some insights on what literature is popular with Chinese audiences. China represents a huge market, with readers who are increasingly open to the West while still retaining a great appreciation of literature. The country has a tremendous literary history, and with more Chinese citizens becoming proficient in English every day, this is a great time to harness this market’s potential.
In the year 2000, a Chinese bookstore would feature about 20 English-language titles, most of which were at least 100 years old. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and other classic writers constituted the extent of what was offered. One particularly popular author was Thomas Hardy, whose tales were appreciated by the Chinese government due to their depiction of agrarian communities, which coincided with Communist Party thinking.
Nonetheless, in the last decade and a half, a much wider spectrum of Western writings has entered China. Here are four genres which are making a significant impact:
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: This genre was given a double-boost by the compounded success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series. Both franchises have been extremely successful with Chinese cinema audiences as well. The action, adventure, and escapism of these books match nicely with the Chinese wanderlust – Chinese travelers are one of the largest tourism markets in the world.
Youth literature: Chinese students have even less time to read than their American counterparts, due to long school hours, mountains of homework, and loads of extracurricular and supplementary classes. However, when they do have time to open a book for pleasure, they often choose fantasy fiction, as mentioned above, or other youth-oriented literature, as seen in the popular Young Adult genre. One particularly popular book has been The Fault in our Stars. Young Chinese readers like a book where youths speak out and show initiative.
Business literature: China has an immense appreciation for entrepreneurs, and also for people who lead the way in business thought. A book that explains how to create and build a company has a good chance of attracting Chinese readers. Steve Jobs remains a man of almost godlike fame and respect in China, and his biography by Walter Isaacson could be seen in the hands of many people in Shanghai’s coffee shops over the past few years. Another extremely popular book was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, who actually was invited to China to lecture on his book.
Self-help: As China becomes a more prosperous society, there has been the inevitable increase in stress levels among its citizens, and this has also led to a spike in depression. Works like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and the Positive Psychology courses of Tal Ben-Shahar (available in Shanghai DVD shops), are viewed as helping people learn how to balance their lives between happiness and the pursuit of material success. Writers who can advise on how to achieve a work-life balance will be very popular in China.
And with that, iUniverse wishes everyone a very happy Year of the Monkey!