Literature in Britain today

Royal Society of Literature finds that Public libraries are crucial to sustaining and building engagement in literature.

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The Royal Society of Literature has published Literature in Britain Today. 2000 members of the public were asked to define 'literature', to identify writers of literature and to explain in what ways literature matters to them.

Key findings

  • In the last six months, 75% of adults have read something they consider to be literature
  • 88% said that literature should be part of everyone's education
  • 90% of people who have read a novel in the last six months consider that novel to be literature
  • 56% of people who do not currently read literature would definitely or probably like to read it in the future
  • 67% believe that literature comforts people in times of stress
  • 81% of people agree that literature helps people understand other points of view
  • The public's definition of literature is very broad
  • The writer most commonly considered to be a writer of literature is Shakespeare, with Dickens coming a close second
  • The living writer most commonly considered to be a writer of literature is JK Rowling
  • In total 400 writers were named as writers of literature
  • Out of these 400 writers, half are living, 69% are novelists, 31% are female, and 7% are Black, Asian or Mixed Race
  • 20% of people cannot name a writer of literature
  • 15% of people believe that literature is too difficult to understand 

The factors most likely to encourage more reading of literature are recommendations of what to read, cheaper books and more local libraries

More information.