‘The appearance is an added incentive’: national trends in literature popularity

Robert James

in Popular Culture and Working-Class Taste in Britain, 1930-39

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780719080258
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702444 | DOI:
‘The appearance is an added incentive’: national trends in literature popularity

Show Summary Details


This chapter explores national trends in literature popularity in 1930s Britain. Bearing in mind the popularity of film comedy, it is surprising that the least-populated category in literature is ‘Humorous’. Unlike the romance genre, which did well in both written and visual form, comedy fared much better in the latter. The trends reveal a gender imbalance in working-class reading habits and point towards conservatism in the reading habits of working-class men. Whereas working-class women tended to cast the net widely and read fiction from a range of authors, men appeared to stick to a relatively small number of their favorite writers, with evidence of the ebb and flow of author popularity among them. A large number of new magazines were introduced during the 1930s, reflecting the growing demand among readers for a type of reading material that did not distract from the many requirements of the day. This increased the trend towards ‘scattered’ reading, answering and responding to working-class cultural competences identified by mass-observers. They were far from being slaves to highbrow literary tastes.

Keywords: literature popularity; national trends; gender imbalance; conservatism; cultural competences

Chapter.  7515 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.