The Happy Reader

A few weeks ago, watching either Jen or Sanne on their book vlogs, I learnt of a wonderful new quarterly magazine all about books (or Bookish Quarterly as it says on the bottom of the front cover) appropriately called The Happy Reader. I had to get my mitts on it and did forthwith super swiftly. Now two issues in and read, with a third having just arrived I thought I would report back on what has instantly become my new favourite quarterly so that you don’t miss out on it.


The Happy Reader is a collaboration between Penguin Books and the brilliant magazine Fantastic Man and what they have come up with is a cool and quirky magazine that comes in two halves. The first half is an interview with a well known reader about their reading life, and through the books they have read getting more insight into their life in general. The second half of the magazine is dedicated to a particular Penguin Classic and a host of features based around the book that either enhances your reading of the book or makes you want to go and read the book. Having read one book featured in one issue and not having read the other I can say that the idea behind the second works as planned in both cases.


In the first issue we were given the treats of both actor Dan Stevens and one of my favourite books of all time, Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. The first half of the magazine sees author Naomi Alderman interviewing Dan Stevens about judging the Man Booker, Downtown Abbey, his latest film The Guest etc. Initially I was thinking is this just going to be him plugging his movie but actually what unravels, because they are talking about their mutual love of books, is a really insightful interview about all of the above plus his being in adaptations of famous books, working on audio books and discussions on books I now want to read like Iron John by Robert Bly. I was sold on the books and sold on Dan, plus I loved the insight into the Man Booker judging and what he read during filming of Downtown Abbey and how he concealed books on set. You will have to read the interview to find out all…


In the second half of the magazine it goes all things The Woman in White. We have a fashion shoot of, erm, women in white clothes and also some really, really fascinating and quirky articles that connect to the book in various ways. Each month editor Seb Emina introduces the book in a way that magically refreshes the memory of anyone who has read it, yet doesn’t give anything away if you haven’t, just the desire to go and buy it. As it was a book that was serialised Henry Jefferys looks at how people of the time became addicted to it, like they might a substance, and Lilie Ferrari discusses how you write a serialised gripping drama as she used to on Eastenders.


If that wasn’t enough there is also an article on women associated with colours (lady in red, woman in black, etc) by Emily King which is brilliant, the history of some of the iconography of the book and its adaptations, a map for The Woman in White walk around London and a recipe for Count Fosco’s favourite chocolates. Brilliant.


Issue two focuses the first half on an interview with rock star Kim Gordon, who I have to admit (the shame) I had not heard of until I read this though I recognised the bands she had been in, by the end of which I wanted to read her memoir Girl in a Band. Interestingly she talked a lot about the memoirs she has read, or in some brilliantly honest cases half read and got bored of, as well as what she likes to read on tour and the reading of her informative years. She also talked about her love of The Good Wife which I have recently started and become addicted to and so felt she was a kindred spirit. She also recommends seven corking books (Dan Stevens also does this) at the end of her interview all of which I want to go and read from a wide spectrum of authors and genres. Again you need to read the article to find out what they are…


The book that The Happy Reader focuses on this time is The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura which I have never heard of before but thanks, again, to Seb Emina really want to read as it seems a book that defies genres. There are some more wonderful articles (bar one which was interesting though about floristry not tea) that look at tea in some unusual ways. Nicholas Lezard looks at ‘Teaism’ which in Japan is a formal ceremony, a chain of specialist tea shops I am so going to in September in Washington D.C and in the UK is the great debate on how tea should be prepared and poured. (I am a milk after not before man!) There are also articles on the designs of original/formal tea rooms, Japanophilia (cultural obsession not something rude), the importance of tea in prisons as well as a guide to some of the finest teas by Jeff Koehler.


So as you can see lots and lots and lots to love about The Happy Reader which does as it says on the tin and will have you happily reading away. I am very excited to read Issue 3 which features comedian Aziz Ansari and the travel writing classic Granite Island by Dorothy Carrington which has not long arrived. I haven’t managed to read that book yet (or even get it) but I might try and get M.P. Sheil’s The Purple Cloud in time for Issue 4 this autumn.

If you would like to get your mitts on The Happy Reader or subscribe then head here (it is a bargain for what you get). Have any of you already subscribed and if so what do you think? Have you read any of the books mentioned in the issues so far? What are your thoughts on literary magazines and the like anyway?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Penguin Books, Random Savidgeness

13 responses to “The Happy Reader

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings

    The only literary journal I read is “Slightly Foxed” – which I do love… I’m tempted by this one, I must confess, though it’s fitting the reading of these inbetween books that’s the issue! 🙂

  2. Kateg

    Just subscribed (and ordered the back issues). I can’t wait to read it as I love the Penguin Classics and it will be so fun to get a package from England!

  3. I’ve just subscribed and read issue two and loved it. Forgot to order a back copy of the first though, which sounds even better.

  4. I’m so glad I discovered The Happy Reader. Such a brilliant little magazine. It’s always a real treat to read and I have brought books after seeing them on it.

  5. mee

    Volume 3 just arrived in my house too! After reading your post about the previous 2 volumes, seems I’m gonna get the back issues too. It’s nice to have the complete series I guess. And since it’s still early you can get them all from the beginning.

  6. As I think I’ve said before, I adore this quarterly. It has just the amount of everything for me. A little celeb, a little random article……a little poem. It’s just perfect. I treat it as a book club and am absolutely DYING to see what Autumn’s book will be…………………but I won’t 😀 AND, as you say, so ridiculously cheap!

  7. I thought this sounded wonderful when I saw it on Jen’s vlog, you have made me even more interested!

  8. I love The Happy Reader! One of the only print publications I’ve stuck too (it’s not too stuffy). I do want to try Slightly Foxed though, are you subscribed to that?

  9. This is my all-time favourite literary magazine (and really beautiful). It makes so much sense for Penguin to publish their own journal that I can’t believe they didn’t do it before!

    I found the Dan Stevens interview particularly enlightening…I had no idea he was such a prolific reader!

  10. Reblogged this on it's a teenage librarything and commented:
    This sounds like a fab mag. I’m off to buy a copy now.

  11. Thanks for sharing info about this journal. I hadn’t heard of it before but I shall certainly be ordering a copy today. Looking forward to settling down with a glass of red wine and a literary journal from Penguin Classics. Bliss!

  12. Sounds wonderful. I’ve just subscribed.

  13. I love literary mags but rarely read them because most are only available on subscription and I just can’t add that much more reading material to my life! Oh for the days when newsagents were filled to the brim with literary quarterlies you could pick up at whim as one-offs. I assume those days once existed, anyhow.

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