RSL surveys nation on the idea of ‘literature’

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

COMMENTS

John Rice (18/03/2017 11:15)
" Pleasantly surprised by the '11% read poetry' figure. Encouraging to see such a high percentage and even better to know that after a long career promoting poets and poetry for both adults and children we are at last seeing the positive results of all that effort and dedication."
Pauline Hamblin (17/03/2017 05:08)
" Why then are we closing libraries, if the request is for more?"
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