At the end of last year, douban.com, a Chinese cultural goods evaluation website, released its annual film list. Founded in 2005, douban is the largest cultural goods evaluation website in China. It is the Chinese version of Yelp, for movies, TV dramas, books and games. All users can rate these works and write down their own comments.
As a result, its annual list is one of the most important in the field of cultural consumer goods in China. Douban’s annual list can clearly describe the trend of young Chinese consumers’ interest in movies, books and TV dramas.
This year, we will translate its annual list of films and books for foreign readers’ reference. In the field of books, Douban has released several lists, the main of which are: most popular books, high-scoring books, Chinese fiction, non-fiction Chinese literature, foreign fiction, non-fiction foreign literature. In addition, there are many detailed lists according to book classification and content areas, so I won’t repeat them.
Both rankings are based on douban’s own data, mainly from Chinese mainland users’ reviews.
We will focus on the introduction of Chinese fiction and non-fiction Chinese literature, because most of the books on the list lack English materials, hence our introduction may have greater value.
Although 2020 is a disaster for the film industry, books are better. Because many people are locked up at home, they have more time to read. On the other hand, when they are no longer working, many people begin to develop other hobbies and skills, which also promotes the sales of knowledge and tool books.
But on the whole, due to the poor development of the publishing industry in China in recent years, the growth of book sales is not optimistic. In fact, according to the Xinhua News Agency, the size of China’s book retail market was 97.08 billion yuan in 2020, down 5.08% from the same period last year. We can only say that this is much better than the film industry after all.
It is worth noting that although Douban’s list is very influential in China, it has never made its evaluation criteria public. As a result, you may see that works with lower scores have better rankings than works with higher scores. At the same time, douban’s ranking does not refer to box office or sales. Unlike movies, there is no need to supplement the sales list of Chinese books, because most of the bestsellers are familiar to readers all over the world and there is no need to introduce them.
List of Chinese novels (top 5)
1. The Submarines at Night
Author: Chen Chuncheng.
Douban score: 8.6.
Evaluated by 6777 people.
Number of pages: 224.
Publication date: September 2020.
Submarine at Night is the first collection of short stories written by writer Chen Chuncheng. Collected nine stories, not only about the real Chinese landscape and countryside, but also about the fantasy future and universe. The theme walks between fantasy and reality: teenagers wandering at the bottom of the sea, ancient inscriptions in the mountains, words integrated with all things, trimming clouds, casting swords and making wine, saxophone under the iron curtain, the auditorium in the blue whale.
This collection pays more attention to writing than content, so it may be more difficult for non-Chinese readers to detect its beauty. Many book reviews believe that the author focuses more on the beauty of the writing itself than stories, scenery or characters. Some book reviews believe that the content is empty and reading for a long time can easily lead to aesthetic fatigue. Some acrid comments pointed out that this collection of novels is more like a collection of essays, but the “story” itself is not good enough to talk about.
2. Qiu Yuan
Author: Yang Benfen.
Douban score: 8.9.
Evaluated by 4026 people.
Number of pages: 280.
Publication date: June 1, 2020.
“QiuYuan” is a person’s name. The book revolves around an old woman who tells the story of her and her mother. QiuYuan was born in 1914. In the first half of her life, she experienced one of the most chaotic and suffering periods in Chinese history, while in the second half, she saw the dawn of the birth of New China and a series of new problems and troubles.
The most noteworthy thing about this book is not just the story in the book, but that the author Yang Benfen is the prototype of one of the protagonists in the book. The writer was born in 1940 and was 80 years old when the book was published. Therefore, to a large extent, her stories have real experience as the background, and the credibility is relatively high. Many readers think that the text of the book is simple, the story is sincere and touching, and the details are full of truth. Although the story recorded in the book is relatively insipid, it is still magnificent and sighing in the history of China’s upheaval.
3. Fifteen Days in Two Capitals
Author: Ma Boyong.
Douban score: 8.2.
Evaluated by 6755 people.
Number of pages: 584.
Publication date: July 2020.
Fifteen days in two capitals is a long historical novel written by Ma Boyong. The story of this book comes from a true record of Zhu Zhanji in the History of the Ming Dynasty, and the author Ma Boyong uses his consistent foresight and playful style to imagine the rich stories behind the short records of the history books.
The main characters of the book, including a patrol, a female doctor, a grass-roots official and a crown prince, depict the customs along the Grand Canal in the Ming Dynasty. Ma Boyong has always been good at recording fantasy historical stories from history books and telling real historical backgrounds from fantasy stories. This book is still a good choice for readers to learn about Chinese history in a recreational way.
However, Ma Boyong’s problems remain in the book. On the one hand, Ma Boyong is good at writing history, but not good at expressing emotions. On the other hand, Ma Boyong’s stories are often gripping in suspense, the plot unfolds fascinating, yet the ending is sometimes hastily scribbled.
Author: Chen Yingzhen.
Douban score: 9.3.
Evaluated by 408 people.
Number of pages: 420.
Publication date: June 2020.
Night Trucks collects six short or medium-sized stories written by Chen Yingzhen from 1967 to 1982, including “Night Trucks”, “One Day of Commuters”, “Wan Shang Emperor” and two novels about the Vietnam War, focusing on Taiwan’s “back street” of food, corruption, luxury, splendor and happiness after the two world wars, reflecting on the collapse of the environment, human scars, and the loss of culture.
Through the stories in the Washington Building in Taipei in the 1980s, the book tells the story of people’s alienated lives, repressed dreams, humiliated dignity and quietly hurted hearts in the era of rapid economic development. In those stories, a man called Huang Jingxiong resigned to pursue his movie dream but was devastated by working. Zhang Weijie is a young man from faith to disillusionment with capitalist civilization. Wen Xiuying is a female worker who was suppressed by a strike. Lin Dewang is a multinational company employee from poor background and deranged at the end of the workplace. The stories of these “determined to succeed” office workers, these young people who cannot return home, tell the prophecy of the times in which we live.
Night Trucks has left a vivid portrayal of Taiwan’s rapidly changing era as vivid as capillaries. Today, when I read it, it is as kind as looking at myself in the mirror, and I can see the projection of the present era and ourselves. Due to the time difference between the development of Taiwan and Chinese mainland, today’s mainland readers feel particularly kind to read these stories from 40 years ago.
5. Xiao Yao You
Author: Ban Yu.
Douban score: 7.8.
Evaluated by 3285 people.
Number of pages: 293.
Publication date: may 2020.
Xiao Yao You is a collection of Ban Yu’s novels, which contains seven short ormedium-sized works with different styles and stories spanning 30 years, showing the social features of northern China.
The protagonists of the story include a fallen novelist, a man raising ants, a sick girl, a lover in pursuit of a comet, a vanishing father, and so on. These people are ordinary and clumsy, struggling in difficulties. The rapid development of China has led to rapid changes in social form, and people often feel powerless in this change.
However, some book reviews believe that Chinese stories of the times are easy to fall into the stereotype, and the author has not made much progress in the style and narrative methods that he is good at. If you are familiar with Ban Yu’s previous works, the interest of this book will decline.
List of non-fiction Chinese Literature (Top 5)
1. The Lost Satellite
Author: Liu Zichao.
Douban score: 9.0.
Evaluated by 2445 people.
Number of pages: 416.
Publication date: July 2020.
This is a travelling book. Liu Zichao is both a writer and a journalist. Over the past nine years, the author has gone deep into the hinterland of Asia several times and went to the mysterious Central Asian countries: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In this land, which is between the edge of globalization and the gap between great powers, start an exploration of history and modernity.
History, culture, religion and nationality are all slowly unfolded in travel notes. The history of Central Asia has a lot of entanglements with the neighboring powers, sometimes we see the shadow of China, sometimes we see the Soviet Union, or today’s Russia. The Central Asian region has always had its own unique charm, everything is like a satellite out of orbit, full of vitality, loneliness and struggle.
Some book reviews believe that the book records more of what the author saw with his own eyes than the truthful study of history and culture, so it focuses more on modern society and modern people. As a result, there are also criticisms that there are some mistakes in the book.
Author: Yan Lianke.
Douban score: 8.1.
Evaluated by 1574 people.
Number of pages: 296.
Publication date: may 2020.
This is a piece of prose. The author Yan Lianke describes the women around him, including his mother and aunts, sisters, brothers’ wives, and his granddaughters.
The author records the life difficulties faced by these women in the changes of the times, as well as the glory of their human nature. In the rapid development of China, they not only have material, economic, forced to make a living, but also have a unique, self-willed personality.
However, some readers think that these women are too beautiful and brilliant, and the story may have been artificially cut. There is also direct criticism that the author does not record the real women, but symbolizes the ideal for women. Some people call it just a vulgar and old-fashioned tribute.
3. The Moment of Epiphany
Author: Zhang Yueran.
Douban score: 8.3.
Evaluated by 1637 people.
Number of pages: 232.
Publication date: June 1, 2020.
This is not only a literary review, but also a creative experience and reading guide. Some readers may buy it as a reference book.
Literary criticism itself is a matter of opinion, we do not do much evaluation. In learning to write, using book reviews as writing guidance is not a good starting point, but some Chinese readers still have this misunderstanding. Book editors will also cater to the market, packaging similar books as “writing courses”. In fact, this book is not a writing guide, but a literary review.
It should be noted that this book is not only far from a textbook, but also has a certain degree of literariness.
4. Between the Snow-capped Mountains and the Snow-capped Mountains
Author: Qiao Yang.
Douban score: 8.4.
Evaluated by 463 people.
Number of pages: 303.
Publication date: July 2020.
The author Qiao Yang spent his childhood and adolescence in Sichuan. In her twenties, she went to Yunnan and lived in Feilai Temple in Meili Snow Mountain and Wunongding Village in Baima Snow Mountain for nearly 20 years. During these 20 years, she lived with the Tibetans in the snow-capped mountains, listening to their stories or jokes, observing them, and being observed by them until she became one of them. She lived with the nature there, felt them, and was felt by them, until she became one of them.
From subtropical dry and warm valley thickets at an altitude of 2000 meters to alpine rocky beaches at an altitude of 5000 meters, Fritillaria, all kinds of wild mountain fungi, alpine rhododendron, Artemisia annua and Sequoia koraiensis, the author records the unique nature and humanities of the area.
It should be noted that the author is not only a writer, but also has a certain degree of professional research on plants and ecology.
5. The 10th Anniversary of Yi Du
Douban score: 8.3.
Evaluated by 599 people.
Number of pages: 768.
Publication date: December 1, 2019.
The 10th Anniversary of Yi Du is divided into two volumes: Immigration of Time and The Outside the World.
The first volume focuses on “the nature of the times”, turns its attention from the indescribable moment to the cultural conditions of human society in different ages, and tries to ask how the Internet and new technologies affect social psychology, how popular culture slowly engulfs society, and how the relationship between urban and rural areas has come to today step by step.
The second volume focuses on “spatiality”, outlines the cultural picture of New York, Berlin, Cairo, Venice and other cities, and revisits the places where Brodsky, Benjamin, Aswani and others lived and worked through literature and history. in today’s rampant conservatism and populism, it helps readers re-examine the world and themselves.
Yi Du is an one-way space brand publication. It unites a new generation of writers and readers, focusing on novels, poems, cultural reviews, ideological essays, non-fictional reports and works of art, advocating quiet, in-depth and elegant reading, and respecting sober, unique and dynamic voices.
Douban not only gives a list of Chinese books in 2020, it also gives a list of foreign books that have attracted the most attention of Chinese netizens. But I think for most readers, we don’t seem to need a specific introduction to these books, so we simply list the titles as follows:
Top 10 foreign novels list
往復書簡 初恋と不倫（Reciprocating slips: first Love and infidelity）8.4
República luminosa 8.8
Normal People 8.2
Fly Already 8.2
坂の途中の家（Home on the ramp） 8.3
The Testaments 8.9
Top 10 of non-fiction foreign literature list
Retour à la Reims 9.0
La frantumaglia 9.1
Unseen Hand 8.6
SAKER MIN SON BEHÖVER VETA OM VÄRLDEN 8.3
Reading the Romance：Women，Patriarchy and Popular Literature 9.1
Looking for THE STRANGER: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic 9.2
L’Autre Langue à portée de voix. Essais sur la traduction de la poésie 9.3
Un Long Samedi 8.5
The View from the Cheap Seats：Selected Nonfiction 8.7
A Poetry Handbook:A Prose Guide to Understanding And Writing Poetry 8.4