Culture

Which ten books will receive the most attention in China in 2021?

Books on this list are marked as "read" or "want to read" the most times among the books published in mainland China in 2021, making them more representative. 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 find situations that high-scoring books do not rank as well as low-scoring books.

At the end of 2021, douban.com published its annual reading list. It shows the books that Chinese people followed in their reading list in 2020.

Founded in 2005, Douban.com is the largest cultural product review website in China. On Douban, users can comment on products such as movies, TV shows, books and games, and leave their opinions. It is a Chinese version of Yelp+IMDB for multicultural products.

The data for the list on Douban comes mainly from reviews by users in mainland China. This time, it announced several lists in the book field, the main of which are: most popular books, high-scoring books, Chinese novels, Chinese non-fiction literature, foreign novel, foreign non-fiction literature. In addition to these lists, there are also lists for poetry, history-culture, social sciences and other subdivisions, to name a few. Therefore, this annual list gives us an idea of young Chinese people’s preferences for content such as books, movies and TV shows.

In this article we will focus on the most popular books. The books on this list are marked as “read” or “want to read” the most times among the books published in mainland China in 2021, making them more representative. 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 find situations that high-scoring books do not rank as well as low-scoring books.

Notably, four books by authors of Japanese descent made the “Most Popular Books” list, which is unusual. In last year’s list, no books by authors of Japanese descent made the cut.

Moreover, many of these books have no official translations, we have to do it by ourselves. Due to the comlicated literature rhetoric and metaphors, it may not be very accurate. It is always very difficult to do such corss-culture work, right?

1.Klara and the Sun

Author: [UK]Kazuo Ishiguro
Douban score: 8.2.
Evaluated by 19309 people.
Number of pages: 392.
Publication date: March 2021.

Author Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, and “Klara and the Sun” is his latest full-length novel published after the award. According to the author himself, the novel was originally a fairy tale for his daughter. But under the cozy appearance of the story, is a dark prophecy about reality.

“Klara” is the protagonist of the novel, a solar-powered artificial intelligence robot (AF) designed to accompany children. The story originates from Klara’s memories of sitting in a landfill after being abandoned, and unfolds from the narrator’s point of view. It tells the story of Klara’s encounter with the young master Josie, Josie’s illness, Klara’s prayer to the sun to heal Josie and give herself for it, until Josie is cured and grows up healthy, Klara also finished her life as an AF and was discarded in the junkyard.

The book may seem like a fairy tale, it takes us look into the hearts and minds of the many characters from Clara’s position. The story explores the ultimate topic of what love is. Therefore, people with different experiences will get different enlightenment and insight when readiing this book.

2.アルファベット・パズラーズ(The Alphabet Puzzle)

Author: [Japan]Seiichirou Oyama.
Douban score: 7.8.
Evaluated by 21954 people.
Number of pages: 283.
Publication date: May 2021

The author, Seiichirou Oyama, is known as the “god of short reasoning novels”. “The Alphabet Puzzle” is his debut work, and in 2005, this novel was listed on the BEST 10 list of bengue reasoning novels.

The four protagonists are in a mysterious apartment for a battle of reasoning, trying to find the murderer that even the police department has difficulty finding. The novel is divided into four chapters using the letters as clues : P’s delusion, F’s denunciation, C’s last words and Y’s kidnapping. It builds up through the first three cases, introducing the four main characters, and culminates in the fourth chapter of the story.

From the point of view of interest, accident, length and reading threshold, this book is very suitable for beginner reasoning readers. Readers who are new to reasoning novels may want to start with this one.

3.上野先生、フェミニズムについてゼロから教えてください!(Ueno Sensei, please teach me about feminism from scratch!)

Author: [Japan]Chizuko Ueno/[Japan]Eiko Tabusa.
Douban score: 8.9.
Evaluated by 4001 people.
Number of pages: 192.
Publication date: September 2021.

This book is co-authored by Japanese sociologist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, Chizuko Ueno, and manga artist Eiko Tabusa. The former is also the chairman of the NPO Women’s Action Network (WAN) and a leading figure in feminist theory and movement in Japan.

This book is Chizuko Ueno’s first feminist popular science book for the general public. Unlike her more difficult academic works, this book is humorous, down-to-earth, and easy to understand. In a light-hearted, conversational format, it educates the public about the meaning and history of feminism and how to think about work, marriage, and child-rearing in everyday life from a feminist perspective.

In the form of text combined with comics, the author tells us in a relaxing atmosphere that feminism is not only about women, but also about everyone’s daily life.

4.Stay in the business:Chinese Government and Economic Development

Author: Lan Xiaohuan.
Douban score: 8.9.
Evaluated by 6245 people.
Number of pages: 340.
Publication date: August 2021.

As you can see from the subtitle, the content of this book is related to economics. It is divided into two parts, the upper part explains the micro mechanism, including the basic things of local government, revenue and expenditure, land financing and development, investment and debt, etc. The second part explains the links between these micro behaviors and macro phenomena, including urbanization and industrialization, house prices, regional disparities, debt risk, structural imbalances in the domestic economy, international trade conflicts, and other issues. And The final chapter summarizes and concludes the entire book.

For non-related readers, the book will seem a bit boring and obscure. But it will be a good entry point for people who want to learn about China’s economic system, the history of market-oriented reforms, etc.

5.Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Author: [U.S.]Lori Gottlieb.
Douban score: 9.0.
Evaluated by 6960 people.
Number of pages: 460.
Publication date: July 28, 2021

This book is a memoir of the author, a psychotherapist, telling the story of what happened in the clinic. The content of the book is divided into two parallel stories:

The first story is about four visitors of different ages, identities and encounters, discussing timeless human topics about the meaning of life, death, and love. The other one is the author’s own story. It starts with her breakup with her boyfriend triggering a breakdown, and ends with the author finding herself a psychotherapist. Talking about her inner vulnerability and sadness, and finally getting healed and changed.

This book shows the process of psychotherapy from the perspective of both the therapist and the client, allowing us to discover that no matter how different our backgrounds are, the troubles we face are all alike: Loving and being loved, regret, choice, control, uncertainty, and death are all topics we must learn to face together as human beings. We can all find resonance and hope in this book when we encounter real-life pain and life difficulties.

6.Lectures on Modern Western Thought

Author: Liu Qing.
Douban score: 9.1.
Evaluated by 12110 people.
Number of pages: 384.
Publication date: January 2021.

In this lectures, the author introduces 19 great minds including Weber, Nietzsche, Freud and others. It discusses extensively and systematically the pros and cons of instrumental rationality, how to confront nihilism, the alienation of people by consumerism, fairness and justice in the distribution of wealth, and globalization, among other topics.

In the book we will go through the life stories of these 19 thinkers and learn how their intellectual framework was built. It is friendly for readers learning about modern Western thought for the first time, and the reading experience is smooth. It is a very readable introduction to the history of modern Western thought.

7.The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

Author: [U.S.]George Packer.
Douban score: 8.7.
Evaluated by 3191 people.
Number of pages: 520.
Publication date: January 2021.

George Packer, the National Book Award winner, follows four post-60s Americans from different walks of life – white Southern farmers chasing the American dream, African-American female workers who have lost their factory jobs, elites shuttling between Wall Street and Washington, and Silicon Valley moguls who have made their fortunes through the Internet economy. The book shows four sinking lives, unveils the severe pain of four classes, and writes about the anger and sorrow of a generation.

In addition to the main characters, this book also tells the stories of ten icons of the times, including politician Newt Gingrich, author Raymond Carver, and Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. It presents a picture of American society and the vicissitudes of change over the decades through the life experiences and changes in thinking of various classes and groups. The book also explores the deeper reasons behind the collapse of traditional American social structures.

8.Wencheng (The name of the city in the story)

Author: Yu Hua.
Douban score: 7.8.
Evaluated by 26392 people.
Number of pages: 348.
Publication date: March 2021.

“Wencheng” is a fictional city. The main character, Lin Xiangfu, marries a girl named Ji Xiaomei, who says she is from Wencheng. She left twice after that, leaving a child behind when she left the second time. Lin Xiangfu came all the way south to Xizhen in search of Xiaomei. The subsequent story is thus unfolded.

In contrast to the previous style, the story incorporates the grayish tone of the author’s earlier works. He constructs a war-torn era in the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China, and tells the story of Lin Xiangfu who spends his life in pursuit of Wencheng.

9.Room by the sea

Author: Huang Liqun.
Douban score: 8.0.
Evaluated by 7738 people.
Number of pages: 224.
Publication date: August 2021.

When I first read the name, I thought it was a sunny seaside romance, but after reading it, I realized the opposite. The book depicts a world of abnormal lovers in the city: An abandoned daughter and her adoptive father in an old apartment, a country diviner and his sick son, a sleepwalking otaku, a middle-aged woman living alone and a three-flowered cat – 12 stories in all.

The book focuses on subtle thoughts and imagery. The author’s writing is fine and the structure is clearly layered. She uses bright words to describe everyday minutiae, yet reverses them at the end to reveal the darkness behind the characters. This book is worthy of the word “monstrous love” on the spine, and it is a collection of short stories that makes people sweat after reading it.

10.桶川ストーカー殺人事件(Murder of Shiori Ino)

Author: [Japan]Kiyoshi Shimizu.
Douban score: 9.1.
Evaluated by 10527 people.
Number of pages: 328.
Publication date: February 2021.

On October 26, 1999, a young woman, Shiori Ino, was stabbed to death in front of JR Okegawa Station in Saitama Prefecture, Japan.

The victim had been stalked for a long time and reported to the police several times before her death, but the police did not pay attention to it and eventually failed to prevent the tragedy from happening. Reporter Kiyoshi Shimizu in the process of investigating the incident, in accordance with the guidance of the information left by the victim’s life, multiple visits to check. He found the perpetrator as a journalist after the police belittled the tip and investigated it poorly. In turn, it exposes the police’s indifference and perfunctory treatment of the victim’s life report, as well as their attempts to discredit the victim and cover up the facts of malfeasance after the crime.

The case sparked strong social repercussions and prompted the introduction of Japan’s Stalking Behavior Regulation Act.

This book is a full account of the event.

In addition to the books on the Most Popular list, some readers may be interested in other book lists on Douban in 2021. Below we will briefly list the book lists and scores of these rankings for your reference only.

Top 10 of high-scoring books

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear 9.2

There’s a Lot of Shit in Nokcheon 9.1

Głos Pana(The voice of Lord) 9.1

Tirteen Talks 3-“We’re all footnoting the big issues” 9.1

Lectures on Modern Western Thought 9.1

Project Hail Mary 9.2

桶川ストーカー殺人事件(Murder of Shiori Ino) 9.1

Sie kam aus Mariupol 9.1

To the Finest School I know 9.1

Becoming Beauvoir:A Life 9.0

Top 10 of Chinese novels

Wencheng 7.8

Laughter and Tears:A Novel 8.5

Room by the sea 8.0

Friftwood 8.7

Family Life 8.6

Lost Person 7.9

The Knife & Words 8.1

At Dawn 8.3 (by Hsi-Ning Chu)

Two banks 7.8 (by Deng Anqing)

The Fist 7.9

Top 10 of non-fiction Chinese Literature list

To the Finest School I know 9.1

Nobody 8.6 (by Chen Nianxi)

True Stories 8.5

My soul rides on the back of paper 8.6

Reputation – My Simple Thoughts on Reputation, Wealth and Power 8.5

Living is a shout to the sky 8.2

Rereading the 20th Century Chinese Novel 8.5

Ten years of Liang Zhuang 8.1

The Making of an Ordinary Woman 8.2

All Realms 7.9

Top 10 of foreign novels list

There’s a Lot of Shit in Nokcheon 9.1

Klara and the Sun 8.2

La vita bugiarda degli adulti(The Lying Life of Adults) 8.2

El Retorno 8.6

Tres Tristes Tigres(Three Sad Tigers) 9.0

流俗地(Liu Su Di) 8.9 – a novel written in Chinese by a Malaysian author

一人称単数(first person singular) 7.5

Schwindel. Gefühle(Vertigo) 8.7

Prowadź swój plug przez kości umarlych(Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead) 7.9

El ruido de las cosas al caer(The Sound of Things Falling) 8.2

Top 10 of non-fiction foreign literature list

Becoming Beauvoir:A Life 9.0

Women at Work: Interviews from The Paris Review 8.9

Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China 8.3

猫を棄てる 父親について語るとき(Abandoning a Cat: Memories of my Father) 7.4

There Is Simply Too Much to Think About: Collected Non-fiction of Saul Bellow 9.3

The Sadeian Woman:An Exercise in Cultural History 8.7

Rimbaud 9.1

Conversations with Raymond Carver 8.4

Confessions of a Bookseller 8.2

圏外編集者(External editors) 8.1

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