Folklorist | Writer | Artist

Who decides what's part of the canon of English literature? Why are some books considered more 'literary' than others? And can computers help us understand literary quality?

Novel Perceptions: Towards an Inclusive Canon brings together an international team of literary scholars, computational linguists, sociologists and psychologists to map the public's reading preferences and investigate how the canon — the books generally agreed to be good, important and worth studying — continues to be shaped by a variety of factors.

Based at the University of Wolverhampton and led by Prof Sebastian Groes, this radically interdisciplinary project explores the role of novels in contemporary British culture: what do we really think makes a good book?

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project works with partners including Libraries Connected, The Reading Agency, the British Library and the Being Human festival, alongside surveying the nation's reading habits with BBC Arts' The Novels That Shaped Our World.

During my year on the project, I devised and coordinated a travelling roadshow of events and activities throughout 2021 and 2022 exploring what we read and why, from book-themed walks around Exeter to Literary Confession Boxes (where people could confess their guiltiest reading pleasures).

Want to add your voice? The project's Big Book Review survey aims to be the largest ever survey of attitudes towards contemporary fiction. How many of these 400 novels have you read? Take the survey and have your say!