Our researchers are asking questions about generating a diverse and socially inclusive canon fit for the twenty-first century, while stimulating literacy and readings cultures across the UK and beyond. Most importantly, we want to know which novels have shaped the lives of the British public, through a series of surveys.

The research has various strands. Firstly, the team helped the BBC gather data on the way in which general public engaged with The Novels That Shaped Our Worlds list of 100 novels, which were revealed in 10 categories including Identity, Love, Sex and Romance, and Rule-Breakers. Through a series of nQuire surveys, we aimed to find out which novels the public had read, and what they thought about these works of fiction.

We are currently on the second strand of our project: The Big Book Review. Our Big Book Review survey is a continuation of Professor Karina van Dalen-Oskam’s research into the ways in which readers were asked to assign ‘literary quality’ to contemporary novels. This project is called The Riddle of Literary Quality and is designed to understand how unconscious biases – the stereotypes that certain groups may have about individuals or other groups of people that we are not aware of – are part of our reading pattern, publishing industry, school curricula etc. 

Thirdly, our Novel Memories research seeks to understand how people have remembered stories and characters they read in the past. We want to explore how people’s mood at a specific point in time when reading fiction has shaped their emotional understanding of the story, but we also want to know how people associate certain emotions with characters and books. We’re also interested in understanding what particular novels had a major impact on your life, and why? We will then ask you to reread these novels to see how your opinion of these novels has changed. For more information, contact Professor Sebastian Groes.