Economic commentators and political pundits may increasingly dominate our airwaves, but popular novels provide a much better insight into the issues facing society, experts said yesterday.

Bestsellers such as Brick Lane and The Kite Runner should be taken just as seriously as academic works when discussing poverty and international matters, the researchers from the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics claim.

The team scoured the pages of a number of much-loved novels to come up with their Fiction of Development report.

Monica Ali's bestseller Brick Lane was said to have "contributed to wider public understandings of global developments in ways that no academic writing ever has" in its depiction of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London's Tower Hamlets area.

This year's Man Booker Prize winner, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, was praised for its "passionate depiction of the perils and pitfalls of rampant capitalism in contemporary India".

And according to the report, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner "has arguably done more to educate Western readers about the realities of daily life in Afghanistan under the Taliban and thereafter than any government media campaign, advocacy organisation report, or social science research".

Dr Dennis Rodgers, from the University of Manchester, said: "Despite the regular flow of academic studies, expert reports, and policy position papers, it is arguably novelists who do as good a job - if not a better one - of representing and communicating the realities of international development.

He added: "Fiction does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does."