China / Society

The fantastic five of best-selling translated works

By Mei Jia, Han Bingbin and Sun Ye (China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-22 04:11

Chinese are eager readers of foreign works, and especially of literature, social science texts and academic collections.

Translated books account for a huge slice of the market, and domestic writers often take inspiration from them.

Translated literature continued to top 2012's best-seller lists. Books that perform well worldwide usually do well in China, too.

China Daily's reading team presents 2012's top five translated books, based on sales, critical acclaim and Chinese media rankings. They're listed in alphabetic order.


By Jonathan Franzen, Nanhai Publishing House

The story set in a small US town is the No 1 best-seller on, one of China's biggest online retailers. It examines the meanings of family, marriage and freedom. Readers consider the 2010 book a new classic.

Love in the Time of Cholera

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nanhai Publishing House

This book marked the end of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's writer's block, after the author won the 1982 Nobel Prize. Older Chinese readers have always taken inspiration from such works.

On China

By Henry Kissinger, Citic Press

Kissinger explores Sino-US ties using his face-to-face contact with, and firsthand materials from, policy-shaping Chinese officials. The former US secretary of state champions a balance of power. He concludes China and the United States will create history together and won't go to war. The countries will share the world stage in a non-zero sum game. BBC Trust chairman and Oxford University chancellor Lord Patten says the book is "in many respects an apologia for some of the central preoccupations of Kissinger's life".

River Town

By Peter Hessler, Shanghai Translation Publishing House

Based on several hundred pages of diaries and notes, Peter Hessler has chronicled his observations and reflections to capture the realities of a certain brief period in Fuling, a city along the Yangtze River where the writer stayed as a volunteer teacher for two years. Hessler describes the place and its people "always full of life and energy and hope, which in the end is my subject". It's a best-seller in the US, and Chinese find it thought-provoking because it delves into a time in place few youth know about — or care to.

Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768

By Alden Kuhn, SDX Joint Publishing Company

Sinologist Alden Kuhn's 1990 book has continued to enjoy popularity among China's intelligentsia. It records a mass movement against sorcery during Emperor Qianlong's reign. The movement's development reflects the relations among people, the feudal autocracy and imperial powers. The book employs a broad academic view that involves various research methods, such as psychological and regional analyses.

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