THEORIES about why people have favourite numbers took centre stage when author Alex Bellos gave a talk as part of yesterday’s Swindon Festival of Literature events.

In preparation for his latest book, Alex Through the Looking-Glass, The Guardian journalist surveyed 44,000 people across the globe online to find the most popular number with seven topping the research.

Alex, who studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Oxford, said he was inspired to write his new release while giving talks for his first maths book Alex’s Adventures in Numberland.

“I’d always get asked what my favourite number was but I don’t have one. I couldn’t believe that so many people did and the great thought they’d go into when explaining what it was,” he said.

“The response to this book has been really good and this is the most media attention I’ve received about anything that I have done. There’s been a lot of interest in the survey and the emotional responses we have towards numbers.”

Alex previously lived in Brazil while he served as the Guardian’s South America correspondent writing his first book Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life and was the ghostwriter for Pelé: The Autobiography, which he worked on with the football icon.

Alex said that despite negative headlines about Brazil’s ability to hold the forthcoming World Cup they’ll do a fine job when the festival of football kicks off next month.

“A lot of people wrote that London would struggle hosting the 2012 Olympics and they did a good job. I think the World Cup will be fine,” he said.

The Swindon Festival of Literature, now in its 21st year, runs until Saturday. To see the programme visit