RSL surveys nation on the idea of ‘literature’

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.

The Royal Society of Literature today (1 March) published the findings from a nationwide survey of people aged 15 and up. The results took into account each interviewee’s idea of what ‘literature’ means, and asked those who don’t read what might make them read more.

Of the respondents, 75% considered themselves readers of literature, and 13% readers, but not of literature. 11% claimed not to read at all. Regarding types of literature:

  • 51% of those surveyed had read a novel in the last six months
  • 50% a magazine
  • 23% a biography
  • 23% a history book
  • 22% a children’s book
  • 20% a short story
  • 11% poetry
  • 10% a self-help book
  • 6% a comic or graphic novel

Of the 400 writers named as ‘writers of literature’, 31% were female; 7% were Black, Asian or Mixed-Race in ethnicity; and 49% were dead. The most commonly named writers were white male novelists. 20% of people could not name anyone.

While 15% of people said that literature was ‘too difficult to understand’, 56% of those who don’t currently read literature would definitely or probably like to in future. The most common reason for not reading was not having enough time.

The factors found most likely to encourage people to read more literature were:

  • recommendations of what to read
  • cheaper books
  • more local libraries

Read the full report

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