Survey reveals Britain to be a nation of book lovers

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The Independent Culture

Britain is still a nation of book lovers, according to a survey which found that reading is a sociable activity which plays a major role in our lives.

Britain is still a nation of book lovers, according to a survey which found that reading is a sociable activity which plays a major role in our lives.

More than 50,000 people took part in the first national study of the country's reading habits.

The results show that reading is not an isolated, introverted experience - 92% of people talk about books with their friends and 97% are willing to accept recommendations about what to read.

Discussing books as a social activity increases with age, fewer young people - only 71% - were interested in doing so.

The vast majority of readers - 87% - are happy to lend books to friends, while 96% of people give books as presents and 95% like to receive them. But only 80% of under-16s want books as presents.

Books tend to be kept in the bedroom or the lounge. Some 76% of people say they read to help them get to sleep while 29% admit they read to be aroused.

Only 52% of people have books in children's rooms while just 27% admit to having books in the bathroom.

A substantial amount of people feel there are still some books they "ought" to have read. This feeling is particularly true among 40-45 year olds (92%) while under-16s feel the least guilty (68%).

The survey found 69% always read to the end of a book. The 25-39 age group have least patience and under-16s appear to have most staying power.

New writers will be encouraged by the fact that 96% of respondents are prepared to try first novels while 95% would read a book without knowing anything about the author.

The survey found that 72% of readers are influenced by book reviews. Almost half of under-16s stick to a few favourite writers but by the time they reach their late teens they are more adventurous and only 13% remain loyal to a few authors.

The majority of those surveyed - 66% - read to escape everyday life, particularly the 17-24 age group and especially women (71%). And 49% of women enjoy a good cry over a book while 82% of men dislike weepy books.

An overwhelming 80% of people say they use a library, with the highest percentage in the under-16s age group. Only half of those surveyed feel they can afford books they want but 73% of women and 65% of men think that if they have loved a book, they have to buy it.

Gordon Kerr of Waterstone's, which helped organise the study, said: "The Reading Habits survey confirms that, despite the increasing number of activities competing for our leisure time, books and reading remain very much an intrinsic part of people's lives and environments."

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