Hey guys, it's only World Book Day – that thing from school and also apparently adult life. Bad news, though: according to a new survey, one in five people in the UK cannot name a single author.
The study, from the Royal Society of Literature, also revealed that 15 percent of people find literature too difficult to understand. A quarter of those surveyed said they had not read any literature within the last six months.
Children's writer Michael Morpurgo, whose books every reluctant British schoolkid since the 1970s has been forced to read out loud in class at least once, expressed his view that reading literature is valuable. He told The Telegraph: "There seems to be a gulf that shuts off 20 percent of people from the benefits of literature, a gulf that I know the RSL and others are determined to bridge."
Apparently the situation is particularly dire among young people, so I headed out to ask a few people who basically resembled myself and everyone else in the VICE office if they could name an actual author.
VICE: Can you name one single author of literature?
Ricardo: Uhhhh….I don't really know… like er…I'm not really an expert about that.
So you can't name any books?
No, I don't read. I just watch movies or… But I mean one book, Siddhartha. Yes. You know Siddhartha? It's a Hermann Hesse book – it's an old one. It's, like, the life of a prince living in India and… yeah, it's a good book.
Did you know that one in five people in the UK can't name a single author? Does that surprise you?
Not really, no.
Because we don't have time. I mean, I do like to read, but I don't have time – and another problem is that I'm not focusing. It's impossible to read because if I start I'm like…
Do you find films easier to focus on?
Exactly. But I mean reading is fine. It's the best thing because it's good for your brain, but I can't.
VICE: Can you name an author in five seconds?
Julian: I'm gonna lose so bad.
Just name one.
Yeah, any author.
Oh, George Orwell.
That's not bad, a lot of people would say, like, Shakespeare or JK Rowling.
Nah, George Orwell, man. He's ma boy.
Did you know that one in five people in the UK can't name a single author? Why do you think people don't read?
There's so many instant stimulations that are going on right now. Like, you've got the internet, obviously, and other things that distract you. And reading takes time. I don't read as much as I should.
Is that because you're busy?
I have these great chats with people about living in a world of, like, instant gratification and how we're all kind of connected with dating apps, Instagram. All these other like little things that we can easily just distract ourselves with. Getting these little hits of gratification – I think us as human beings find that a lot easier than doing stuff that takes time and effort especially with stuff like reading.
VICE: Can you name literally any author?
Clayton: Just someone I like?
Did you know that one in five people in the UK can't name an author?
Really? Oh that's sad.
Does it surprise you?
I guess, because I don't really see that. I'm in a group of people who like stuff like literature and creative stuff like that.
Why do you think people don't read?
I went to a really shit school. I went to this all-boys state school in the south of England. It was when people were made to read out loud in class, because the school system was really traditional. It makes you feel embarrassed and you associate that with a negative thing and you don't want to read books any more.
Can you name an author of literature?
An author of literature – well, from the Netherlands, or…
Anywhere. Just an author..
Well, it's really difficult to…
You can say a Dutch author.
Err, I know one, but she writes children's books.
VICE: Can you name an author?
Shalisha: Oh god, I haven't read in ages. I mainly read poetry.
Erm, Maya Angelou?
Congrats. Did you know that one in five people in the UK can't name an author?
Well, that would be expected.
Why do you think that?
Because I feel like people don't really read unless they need to, for like educational purposes.
Why do you think that is?
Probably just social media.
VICE: Name an author.
Corey: Erm, JK Rowling.
Cool. Can you name someone who's not JK Rowling?
Err, JR Tolkien.
VICE: Can you name an author in under five seconds?
Jess: Charles Dickens.
Can you name anyone else?
Jane… whatever her name is. Jane Austen. Do I win anything?
Nope. Does it surprise you at all that a lot of people don't read?
I mean, it's really sad. It's really, really sad, but it doesn't surprise me at all because some people come out of primary school not being able to read and write. It's a really high percentage. I couldn't tell you a percent, but it's really high.
Why do you think it's sad?
Because it develops your imagination, and people are so kind of dumbed down by PlayStation. I grew up in Spain and I was kind of free and at one with nature, like climbing trees – like the girl version of Mowgli – so I think it's just another side of your imagination that people might not have always gone down.