Tyranny of the Happy Ending

British librarians recently tallied up the number of times they’ve loaned out 50 classic novels over the past 20 years. They found that some authors — specifically Charles Dickens and Jane Austen — are more widely read than before, while others — George Eliot and Thomas Hardy — have suffered a decline in popularity. Determining what people are actually reading (as opposed to which books they merely buy or download — with the best of intentions!) is a lot trickier than you might think. But if anyone has a decent grasp on which literary works are standing the test of time with the average reader, it’s librarians.

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