Reading historical fiction varies by country – part 1

After looking at survey results through a gender lens, I thought readers might be interested in a country lens. I’ve chosen to compare US and UK, since these countries had the most participants. One hypotheses is that favourite authors will vary – let’s see what emerges.

NOTE: I’ve looked for questions prompting significant differences rather than minor variations that are unlikely to be statistically relevant. Additionally, on a percentage basis more men participated in the UK group than the US.

What type of story appeals to you?

Story Preferences US & UK

Preferred time periods:

In some cases, US and UK readers prefer different time periods.

  • 3000 BC to 1000 AD: UK 34%, US 16%
  • 6th to 12th centuries UK 44%, US 27%
  • 17th Century UK 19%, US 33%
  • 18th Century UK 25%, US 45%

Reflecting on your favourite historical fiction books, how relatively important are the following factors?

While factors such as superb writing and the dramatic arc of historical events were of similar importance to US and UK readers, other factors showed wider variation.

Characters both heroic and human: UK 51% said it was very important, US a whopping 65%

Romance and/or sex: UK 56%, US 37% said this factor was unimportant; Hmm that’s interesting.

Where do you purchase/acquire books?

There was a marked difference in library usage with UK at 25% and US at 38%

What book format are you reading?

While e-book usage and mixed e-book and print had small variations, mostly print books showed a larger discrepancy: UK 50%, US 39%

Price Considerations:

On average, UK readers look for cheaper pricing of e-books than US readers

Where do you find recommendations for good books?

From Facebook, Goodreads or other social media: UK 39%, US 55%

And in contrast, browsing the book store: UK 53%, US 39% and from the books section of my newspaper: UK 23%, US 11%

Do you use blogs, social media or other online sites for reading recommendations or discussion?

Yes: UK 68%, US 83%

My head is spinning, so I’ll save the conclusions and insights for you, dear readers. On Thursday I’ll post the favourite authors by country.

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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16 Responses

  1. Interesting, Mary. The numbers seem to suggest that US readers are drawn to books that cover time periods during which the US was a country. Also, US readers being drawn to characters both ‘heroic and human’ is consistent with the adventurous, pioneer spirit the US is known for. Of course those conclusions are purely speculation. One must wonder if the UK has been around too long to be interested in sex anymore …

    1. Let the speculation begin, Carol! I agree with your comment on time periods and the ‘heroic & human’ dimension certainly fits the American dream mythology. The bit about romance and sex may have something to do with having a higher %age of men in the UK sample – just a guess, of course!!

  2. I’m really enjoying these posts, thank you.

    I wonder if the US readers were reading books about 17th and 18th century America, or worldwide?

    Which leads to another question: do we prefer to read about our own country’s past, or enjoy roaming the world’s history through fiction?

  3. I’m not sure that you can draw much of a conclusion from the point about price, since books are generally much higher priced in the UK.

  4. Interesting information. I’ve heard the English like a good mystery novel. I personally love historical fiction based on characters from the past. Have you heard of the book, “Inventing Madness,” by author J.G. Schwartz? The book describes a bit of Jewish history with an ending guaranteed to bring the reader to tears.

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