Blyton more popular than Shakespeare, says survey

The Children's authors Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl have been named as the nation's best-loved writers – over Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, according to a poll of 2,000 people.

The creator of the Famous Five books topped the poll, followed by Dahl and the Harry Potter author J K Rowling. Austen, the author of enduring favourites such as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma, is fourth in the nationwide survey of readers.

She is followed by Shakespeare, Dickens and The Lord of the Rings author J R R Tolkien.

The murder-mystery writer Agatha Christie is eighth, followed by the horror writer Stephen King, who shares the honour with Rowling of being the only two living authors to appear in the top 10. Beatrix Potter and C S Lewis, two other writers who have been read by millions of children, take 10th and 11th place.

The popularity of children's writers continues throughout the top 50, with the inclusion of the former Children's Laureate Jacqueline Wilson and The Cat in the Hat creator Dr Seuss.

Blyton's creations were criticised as sexist and racist during the 1960s, but have recently fallen back into favour. She wrote 700 stories over her 40-year career, and eight million Blyton books, including more than a million Famous Five tales, are still sold worldwide every year.

Jeff Norton, of Chorion, the owners of the Enid Blyton estate, said: "We are delighted that the British public has voted Enid Blyton its best-loved author. Her storytelling is timeless and this result confirms that her books are still a firm favourite today.

"What makes Blyton so successful is her imaginative, exciting and magical style. Her writing has sent countless young readers on thrilling adventures and we hope that new generations will continue to enjoy her enchanting stories."

Philip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, does not appear in the top 50.

Other notable omissions include Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond series, the Winnie the Pooh author A A Milne, Iris Murdoch and the Bridget Jones's Diary author Helen Fielding. The survey of 2,000 adults was commissioned by One Poll, the internet market research company, to mark the 2008 Costa Book Awards.

Britain's top 10 scribes

1. Enid Blyton

2. Roald Dahl

3. J K Rowling

4. Jane Austen

5. William Shakespeare

6. Charles Dickens

7. J R R Tolkien

8. Agatha Christie

9. Stephen King

10. Beatrix Potter