Genre: Literary Magazine
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Editor-in-Chief: Seb Emma
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“The average adult reading speed is 300 words per minute, a rate at which Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina will take up to twenty hours (give or take) of your time.”
The Happy Reader is a Bookish Quarterly and is ‘a collaboration between Penguin Books and Fantastic Man‘
The Happy Reader is a unique magazine about reading for anyone who wishes to stay inspired, informed and entertained. With beautiful typography, the magazine is a design object which celebrates the pure pleasure of reading and the calming luxury of being offline.
Each issue is split into two halves. The first half is an in-depth interview with a book fanatic and the second half gets under the skin of one classic work of literature.
For the actor Ethan Hawke, literature has always been both an inspiration and a motif. In our special interview, also taking in music, fame and family, the Brooklyn-based father of four reveals the books that have made him who he is.
Meanwhile in Sweden, The Saga of Gösta Berling by the Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf has for over a century held a special place in the national psyche as well as abroad. In this issue, her wicked novel sends us off on an expedition through Swedish life, nature, food and much more.
When I first came across The Happy Reader it was this issue that caught my eye. Being a bookish person who wants to read more magazines, this was perfect. Anyone who loves Penguin Books will love this magazine which feels like a book club that you can take with you wherever you go. To the touch, it feels almost vintage rather than modern like the glossy magazines you find in the supermarket. It’s a good weight to hold in your hand. I noticed these things when I first held a copy, and there’s something about it that brings pleasure to my bookish nature.
What’s inside is even better. The layout is my favourite of any magazine. It’s simple and feels familiar. It’s not often I spend time looking at a contents page, but with this, I don’t want to miss a single word. It’s aesthetically pleasing to read.
This issue starts by discussing how long it takes to read. The tone of the writing makes you feel at ease and at home. Reading is a pleasure and a comfort, and when you’re reading this, you are very much a Happy Reader. My favourite part has got to be the Snippets section: These are little bookish anecdotes that are both pleasing and funny!
But the main attraction for me this issue is the interview with Ethan Hawke. Unlike other interviews, the ones in each issue of The Happy Reader show you what might happen if you got to sit down with someone famous and talk to them not only about themselves, but about books and reading habits. The interviews are presented conversationally, and give you a real sense of the atmosphere in which the interview took place. Nothing is left out, it feels completely natural and uninhibited. The interview with Ethan Hawke is deep, funny, and includes plenty of references to books, which you can cherry pick and add them to the list of books you want to read. And at the end of the interview, Ethan offers his ‘Spring Reads’ which consists of seven books that he recommends, complete with a short paragraph on why.
There’s even a photo of Ethan reading the Book of the Season: The Saga of Gösta Berling. Before reading this issue I’d never heard of the book, and I’m still not convinced I want to read it, but one thing’s for sure – I now know a lot more about Scandinavia than I did before! Part Two of the magazine doesn’t just discuss the book, it discusses anything related to it. In this case we have a sections about the origin of the Nobel Prize, Wolves, Alcohol, and band names to name a few. All of them relating back to the book.
To finish off, we have the Letters section, which are letters that readers have sent in. These read similarly to the Snippets section, and are very witty!
As with any book club, we close with revealing the next title to be read, which will be: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. A book that I have a love hate relationship with! Safe to say, I’m looking forward to the next issue.
The only reason I gave this issue four stars is because I wasn’t taken in by Part Two, and ended up reading it well after Part One.
Link to the magazine on Goodreads: