The business of books banned on the mainland is a schizophrenic enterprise. Shelves in some of the bookstores can be packed with compelling commentaries in one row and another can offer conspiracies concocted by anonymous authors. Memoirs can be of the powerful as well as the promiscuous – and sometimes both appear in the pages of the same book. The spotlight has fallen on the business after Lee Bo, the co-owner of Causeway Bay Books, vanished without a trace from the city last week, prompting his wife to make a police report only to have it withdrawn when he allegedly sent her a letter saying he was on the mainland assisting with investigations. Read more: Anything to declare? My encounter with the ‘censors’ at Chongqing Airport While industry insiders say the disappearance of Lee, along with four of his colleagues, has not caused more books to fly off the shelves, more people have become curious about the trade. For the booksellers, the works are categorised as “best sellers” or “selling well for a long time”. A best seller has a short shelf life, catching buyers’ attention with provocative titles, and then fading into oblivion. Watch: Chief Executive CY Leung ‘very concerned’ about missing booksellers Politically sensitive books with titles like Apocalypse of Chinese Communist Party fall into this category and are published here almost every year, with each new version predicting yet again the collapse of China’s ruling party. Such books tend to have badly photoshopped covers and entertaining yet unsubstantiated details. The quick reads are also produced in double quick time. Paul Tang, the owner of bookstore People’s Recreation Community, said he once received a call from a local publisher when disgraced leader Bo Xilai ( 薄熙來 ) was officially investigated in 2012. Three days later, a book about Bo’s corruption arrived with a fresh smell of printing ink. “We only purchase 20 to 24 copies of these types of banned books from publishers. They sell out very quickly,” Tang said. Read more: Sensitive China-related books remain available in Hong Kong despite mysterious bookseller disappearances The books tend to be popular with mainland tourists who risk having them confiscated by Chinese customs officials whom many believe have an updated list of books that are forbidden on the mainland. Walter Zha, a literature professor from East China Normal University in Shanghai, visits Hong Kong four to five times a year to keep himself updated on new banned books. Once, on his way back to Shanghai, a customs official confiscated a book he had. It was a memoir of China’s first premier, Zhou Enlai ( 周恩來 ). “There is no use arguing with them. Just buy another copy next time,” Zha said. The listing above is a look at 10 famous banned books that have a record of “selling well for a long time,” based on the rankings of websites promoting such books. cultural indexes from Yazhou Zhoukan and rankings by publishers, booksellers and scholars. The five racy reads are a sampling of the“best sellers” often peppered with conspiracy theories.