Crime novels are voted the nation's favourite books

It is the genre that has turned the likes of Ian Rankin, Denise Mina and Val McDermid into household names in Scotland.

The success of writers like Ian Rankin has helped crime to become the nation's favourite when it comes to choosing a book.
The success of writers like Ian Rankin has helped crime to become the nation's favourite when it comes to choosing a book.

Now crime novels have come out well on top in a survey of the nation’s reading habits - revealed to coincide with the annual literary celebration.

More than one in four Scots said detective novels and thrillers were their genre of choice, according to the Mori Scotland survey, ahead of sci-fi, fantasy and biographies.

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Science fiction was the second most popular option among younger readers aged 16 to 34 while historical fiction was the second preference of those aged 55 and over.

Eight out of 10 Scots said they read or listened to books for enjoyment, with nearly 40 per cent of those polled saying they do so on almost a daily basis. Of those, roughly half said they read or listened to more than 10 books every year.

Organisers of Book Week Scotland, which is being held for the fifth time, released details of the survey of 1000 adults ahead of the first events being held today, including an official launch in Glasgow with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has instigated her own “reading challenge” for primary school pupils.

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, which runs the initiative, said: “It is hardly surprising that the country which gave us Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Iain Banks, Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre and many others has bred a generation of crime enthusiasts.

“We are a nation bursting at the seams with hard boiled literary talent, and if recent releases such as Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project are anything to go by, that isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

“It’s also very heartening to see that almost half of Scottish people read a book for pleasure most days or every day. Reading has many proven health benefits, not least stress reduction and memory improvement, but above all it is a really enjoyable pastime.”

Jenny Niven, head of literature and publishing at national arts agency Creative Scotlands, which funds Book Week Scotland to the tune of £200,000, said: “There’s a school of thought that says reading as a habit is dying out and that new forms and technologies or ways of consuming media are diminishing our desire to read.

“It patently isn’t true – we’re simply finding ever more interesting and inventive ways to enjoy and engage with what people write.”

A host of Scotland’s best-known writers are taking part in special events between today and Sunday, including Jenni Fagan, Liz Lochhead, Alexander McCall Smith, James Robertson, Ewan Morrison, Alasdair Gray and Ann Cleeves.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop added: “We are a nation of readers, with 79 per cent of people surveyed by Book Week Scotland reading for enjoyment, making reading Scotland’s most popular cultural pastime.

“We’re lucky to live in a country that has inspired so many successful authors. Book Week Scotland is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate reading and literature. Our national book week has gone from strength to strength since it was established in 2012.”

The results of a separate Book Week Scotland poll to find the nation’s favourite “page to screen” adaptation will be revealed this week.