At the end of 2023, published its annual reading list. It shows the books that Chinese people followed in their reading list in 2023.

Founded in 2005, 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 2023, 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. 我在北京送快递 (I Delivered Packages in Beijing)

Author: Hu Anyan

Douban Score: 8.2

Evaluated by: 35,192 people

Number of pages: 296

Publication date: March 24, 2023

“I Delivered Packages in Beijing” is a poignant and introspective memoir by Hu Anyan, a writer and laborer who has traversed various cities in China, working in diverse roles such as a security guard, convenience store clerk, and bicycle shop salesperson. The book delves into his experiences as a delivery courier in Beijing, a city known for its hustle and bustle, and his reflections on the nature of work, freedom, and the pursuit of a meaningful life.

Hu Anyan’s narrative is a candid account of the daily grind and the emotional toll of labor-intensive jobs. He describes the physical and mental challenges of working as a courier, including the impact of long hours and the pressure to meet delivery quotas. His observations are not just about the job itself but also about the people he encounters and the societal structures that shape the lives of workers like him.

The book has resonated with readers, earning a high rating on Douban, with many praising its honest portrayal of the struggles and triumphs of ordinary people in modern China. It has been recognized as the No. 1 book in the 2023 Chinese Literature (Non-Fiction) category on Douban’s annual list and has received accolades from various media outlets.

Hu Anyan’s writing style is accessible and engaging, making it an excellent read for those interested in understanding the human side of China’s rapid urbanization and the lives of the people who keep the city running. His journey from a delivery courier to a writer is a testament to the power of storytelling and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

2. With a faint light (밝은 밤)

Author: [Korea] Choi Eunyoung

Douban Score: 9.0

Evaluated by: 10,083 people

Number of pages: 296

Publication date: August 2023

“Bright Nights” is a powerful and evocative novel by Korean author Choi Eunyoung, which has garnered widespread acclaim and a high rating on Douban. The book is a multi-generational narrative that explores the lives of four generations of women, their friendships, struggles, and the resilience they exhibit in the face of adversity. It has been described as a female-centric version of “To Live,” and it resonates with readers for its poignant portrayal of women who are not merely objects of sympathy or mere accessories to men’s lives.

The story unfolds as the protagonist, a 31-year-old woman named Lee Ji-yeon, moves to the coastal town of Hee-ryeong after her divorce. There, she unexpectedly reunites with her grandmother, whom she hasn’t seen in many years. Through the discovery of old photographs and letters, Ji-yeon learns about the lives of her ancestors, including her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother, and how their experiences have shaped her own.

The novel delves into themes of family, identity, and the passage of time, offering a rich tapestry of emotions and historical context. Choi Eunyoung’s writing is praised for its authenticity and depth, as she weaves a narrative that is both heart-wrenching and inspiring. “Bright Nights” is a testament to the strength and complexity of women’s experiences across generations, and it invites readers to reflect on the interconnectedness of our lives and the legacy we inherit from those who came before us.

3.一百年,许多人,许多事 (A Hundred Years, Many People, Many Things)

Author: Yang Yi / Yu Bin

Douban Score: 8.7

Evaluated by: 5,989 people

Number of pages: 429

Publication date: January 2023

“A Hundred Years, Many People, Many Things” is the sole oral autobiography of Yang Yi, a centenarian who has witnessed the tumultuous changes in China over the past century. Born in 1919, Yang Yi’s life story is a microcosm of China’s history, from the warlord era to the present day. This book, compiled and written by scholar Yu Bin over a decade, offers a detailed and intimate account of Yang Yi’s experiences, her family, her education, and her encounters with significant historical figures.

Yang Yi, a renowned translator known for her work on “Wuthering Heights” and other literary classics, shares her memories of growing up in a prominent family, her time at Southwest Associated University during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and her life as a translator and writer. The book is not only a personal narrative but also a historical document, providing a unique perspective on the events and people that shaped modern China.

The autobiography is rich with personal anecdotes, historical insights, and a collection of over 150 historical photographs, offering readers a vivid and authentic glimpse into the past. Yang Yi’s storytelling is marked by her characteristic optimism and resilience, reflecting her belief that life is worth living and that every moment is a victory.

“A Hundred Years, Many People, Many Things” is a testament to the enduring spirit of a woman who has lived through extraordinary times, and it stands as a valuable resource for understanding the personal and collective history of China in the 20th century.

4. 同意 (Le Consentment)

Author: [France] Vanessa Springora

Douban Score: 8.7

Evaluated by: 8,229 people

Number of pages: 219

Publication date: February 8, 2023

“Le Consentment” is a powerful and poignant memoir by Vanessa Springora, which has sparked a significant conversation about consent, power dynamics, and the exploitation of minors. The book recounts the author’s experience at the age of fourteen when she was seduced and manipulated by a French writer, Gabriel Matzneff, who was more than thirty years her senior. This relationship, which was later romanticized and exploited by Matzneff in his literary works, left Springora feeling trapped and unable to define her own narrative.

Springora’s memoir is a courageous act of breaking the silence surrounding her traumatic experience. She challenges the cultural norms that allowed such a relationship to be normalized and even celebrated in certain literary circles. The book has had a profound impact, leading to legal changes in France regarding the age of consent and prompting a broader societal examination of the ways in which power is wielded and abused.

“Le Consentment” is not only a personal account but also a social critique, questioning the privileges granted to certain individuals based on their status and the consequences of such entitlement. The memoir has been widely acclaimed for its clarity, precision, and honesty, and it has resonated with readers around the world, offering a stark reminder of the importance of addressing and preventing such abuses of power.

5.ぼくはあと何回、満月を見るだろう (How Many Full Moons Can I See?)

Author: [Japan] Ryuichi Sakamoto

Douban Score: 9.0

Evaluated by: 3,560 people

Number of pages: 322

Publication date: June 21, 2023

“How Many Full Moons Can I See?” is a deeply personal and reflective memoir by the renowned Japanese musician, composer, and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto. The book chronicles his life and thoughts after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, offering insights into his artistic philosophy, family history, and his vision for the world after his departure.

Sakamoto, known for his innovative music and contributions to film scores, including his work on “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and “The Last Emperor,” shares his journey with cancer and his determination to continue creating art until the end. The memoir also includes a touching 后记 (postscript) written by his friend, Suzuki Masanori, which documents Sakamoto’s final days.

The book is a testament to Sakamoto’s enduring spirit and his commitment to his craft, even in the face of adversity. It serves as a poignant reminder of the finite nature of life and the importance of cherishing every moment. Sakamoto’s reflections on his life, his work, and his legacy are a gift to his fans and to those who appreciate the power of music and the resilience of the human spirit.

Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away on March 28, 2023, leaving behind a rich legacy in the world of music and art. His memoir stands as a final chapter in his extraordinary life, offering readers a glimpse into the mind of a true artist and the beauty of his soul.

6.生き延びるための思想 (Thoughts for Survival)

Author: [Japan] Ueno Chizuko

Douban Score: 9.0

Evaluated by: 2,151 people

Number of pages: 320

Publication date: December 2022

“Thoughts for Survival” is a profound and thought-provoking work by Ueno Chizuko, a leading figure in Japanese feminist theory and activism. The book delves into the intersection of feminism, war, and violence, challenging the traditional narratives and offering a fresh perspective on the role of women in society.

Ueno Chizuko, known for her influential works such as “Feminism from the Ground Up” and “The Patriarchal Capitalism,” presents her summative work on the themes of state, violence, and gender. She begins with the 9/11 attacks and traces back to the comfort women issue and the Gulf War, examining how gender dynamics play a role in the new configuration of state and violence systems. Ueno emphasizes the importance of life over all else, stating that feminism is a philosophy of survival, advocating for a society where the weak can be respected in their vulnerability.

This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand Ueno Chizuko’s feminist theory and her vision for a more equitable world. It is a testament to her academic prowess and her commitment to social justice, providing readers with a deeper understanding of the complexities of gender, power, and the pursuit of peace in the modern world.

凯列班与女巫 (Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation)

Author: [Italy] Silvia Federici

Douban Score: 9.1

Evaluated by: 2,026 people

Number of pages: 392

Publication date: May 2023

“Caliban and the Witch” is a groundbreaking work by Italian scholar and Marxist feminist Silvia Federici, which explores the history of women during the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Europe. The book delves into the mass witch-hunts that took place between the 15th and 18th centuries, where tens of thousands of women were executed, primarily targeting peasant women and slaves.

Federici argues that the witch-hunts were a form of warfare against women, aimed at suppressing their resistance to the spread of capitalist relations and their control over their reproductive powers. The book challenges traditional Marxist narratives by highlighting the role of women’s labor and reproductive capabilities in the process of primitive accumulation, which is a key concept in understanding the development of capitalism.

The book is divided into five parts, covering the daily struggles of peasants and workers before the 15th century, the impact of land privatization and population policies, the rise of the mechanical body view, the large-scale witch-hunts in Europe, and the repetition of witch-hunting strategies in the Americas.

“Caliban and the Witch” is a significant contribution to feminist theory, offering a unique perspective on the intersection of gender, labor, and capitalism. It has been praised for its scholarly rigor and its ability to shed light on the often-overlooked role of women in the history of economic systems. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in feminist theory, economic history, and the social dynamics of power.

8.赶时间的人 (The Man in a Hurry)

Author: Wang Ji Bing

Douban Score: 8.5

Evaluated by: 4,733 people

Number of pages: 288

Publication date: February 10, 2023

“The Man in a Hurry” is a collection of poems by Wang Ji Bing, a deliveryman who has traveled over 150,000 kilometers on his job, equivalent to running back and forth along the Great Wall of China fifteen times. Through his poetry, Wang captures the lives of those who, like him, are constantly on the move for survival, including other deliverymen, migrant workers, cleaners, and nannies. These poems, often written on cigarette boxes or scraps of newspaper during breaks, reflect the poet’s observations of the urban hustle and the dignity of labor.

Wang Ji Bing’s work resonates with the experiences of many who feel lost in the city, unable to find a place to call home, while their roots and family grow increasingly distant. His poems are raw, direct, and filled with life, offering a unique perspective on the struggles and resilience of everyday people. One of his poems, “The Man in a Hurry,” has been widely circulated online, with over 20 million reads, earning the praise of readers as “the poetry of true laborers.”

This book is a testament to the power of poetry as a means of expression and a form of solace for those who find themselves caught in the relentless pace of modern life. It is a celebration of the human spirit and a reminder that even in the most mundane moments, there is beauty and meaning to be found.

9.多谈谈问题 (Talk More About the Issues)

Author: Wu Qi

Douban Score: 8.7

Evaluated by: 4,220 people

Number of pages: 432

Publication date: March 2023

“Talk More About the Issues” is the 33rd installment of the “Dan Du” (Single Reading) series, edited by Wu Qi. This collection features nine long interviews with scholars and practitioners from various fields, addressing enduring issues that define our current era. The interviews explore topics such as the polarization of psychology on the internet, the spiritual confusion of ordinary people, the misuse of historical narratives, the unfairness of elite education, and the deterioration of the ecological environment.

The book emphasizes the importance of asking questions as a means of maintaining basic dignity in a time of collective sorrow and societal challenges. It also introduces a new comic section, showcasing the “semi-free” life experiences of a new generation through the work of young comic artists.

The interviews in this volume are conducted by authors like Xu Zhiyuan, Guo Yujie, Bai Lin, Yang Xiao, and Xiao Yu, with subjects including Zhong Shuhe, Dai Jinhua, Jing Kaixuan, Luo Xin, Xiang Biao, Michael Sandel, Lv Zhi, and Cui Qinglong. These discussions delve into the complexities of our world, offering insights and perspectives that encourage readers to engage in critical thinking and dialogue.

“Talk More About the Issues” is a thought-provoking read for those interested in understanding the challenges of our times and the role of individuals in addressing them. It is a testament to the power of intellectual inquiry and the pursuit of understanding in the face of uncertainty and change.

10.疼痛部 (The Ministry of Pain)

Author: [Netherlands] Dubravka Ugresic

Douban Score: 8.8

Evaluated by: 3,255 people

Number of pages: 320

Publication date: May 2023

“The Ministry of Pain” is a novel by Croatian-Dutch writer Dubravka Ugresic, which delves into the experiences of individuals who have been displaced by the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The narrative is fragmented, reflecting the disorientation and loss of identity that comes with being a refugee. The protagonist, a university professor, finds herself teaching a language that no longer officially exists, as the countries that once spoke it have split apart.

The book explores themes of memory, identity, and the struggle to maintain a sense of self in a world that seems to have forgotten the past. Ugresic’s writing is characterized by its sharp wit and poignant observations, offering a unique perspective on the human condition in times of crisis.

Ugresic, who herself was forced to leave Croatia due to her opposition to the war and nationalism, uses her own experiences to inform the narrative. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards and has been translated into over thirty languages. “The Ministry of Pain” is a testament to her ability to capture the essence of displacement and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

The novel has resonated with readers, earning high praise and a place on the 2023 annual foreign literature list. It is a powerful exploration of the complexities of language, history, and the personal stories that are often lost in the grand narrative of political upheaval.