The Happy Reader is a seasonal literary magazine produced by Penguin. Each edition is split into two parts. In the first part, there is an interview with a famous individual who you wouldn’t necessarily affiliate with literature. They talk about their life, their career and of course, books. In the second part, the magazine focuses on a specific book: giving a synopsis of the book, why it was chosen for that season along with loads of short segments and features that are associated with the book in one way or another.
One thing I must address first is the way the magazine looks. Ranging between about 60-70 pages an issue, they encompass a vast range of interesting topics that are, altogether, presented beautifully. During the interview section of the magazine, the editors isolate certain quotes from the celebrity and draw your attention to them on a monochromatic page. There are professional images combined with wonderful typography which help to bring together an fantastic aesthetically-pleasing collection. I personally have a little stack of them on my bookshelf with a dainty tea cup on top and I can’t wait to keep adding to it.
The first section is laid out more like a chatty conversation where the celebrity and interviewer discuss all matter of life and culture in a relaxed, unassuming manner which makes it for a very easy read. That said, these parts don’t tend to be my favourite parts because, as a 16 year old, I find that I miss a lot of the cultural references they mention due to merely not being born or too young to remember but I suppose that’s because I’m probably not their target audience so that’s really only a minor criticism that cannot be helped. They do frequently underline specific references and explain them more on the side of the interview but I can rarely fully understand it in the context in which it is spoken of. Nevertheless, it is always interesting learning about other people that I’ve never heard of or I’ve never thought to give more attention to. I think we’re all quite a nosy generation so I love to hear about the little tales and interests they have which encourages me to support them on their chosen platform, be that listening to Sonic Youth for half an hour or joining my mum as she watches re-runs of Downton Abbey. It’s definitely the most interactive part to the magazine so it’s a shame that I cannot experience to the extent others may be able to but that’s not to say I don’t get anything out of it!
The second section is the best bit for me. The brief yet somehow detailed articles are always interesting and out of the ordinary. I think it’s a great way of introducing you to a new book that isn’t just a book review but a handful of items that take you in various directions while all coming together at the end to provide a unique first impression of the novel. In each edition of the magazine, they exclusively look at one book. Now these books aren’t ever going to be the newest YA release nor the biggest best-seller classics, no, rather they are ‘forgotten literature’, the stories that were written years ago but have a newly reinstated relevancy to today or the books by those familiar authors that are, for whatever reason, never mentioned next to their world famous counter-parts, but I adore that. I adore that you can discover something new (but old at the same time!); it’s quite like that feeling of walking into a bookshop, picking up anything that draws you in, buying the book and reading it without any expectations – I think it can be hard to do that sometimes when you have the mountain of to-read books beside your bed glaring at you but I certainly think it’s worth it. The items can range from articles about soap operas and recipes for chocolate truffles (mhmm) to an ultimate guide on making the perfect cup of tea and the debate that will always stand: water or milk first? (water OBVIOUSLY guys).
On the whole, I rate these magazines highly. For £3 each, it’s not exactly going to break the bank for a light read on a rainy Sunday afternoon or when the reading slump is just too much to handle. I can’t say I’ve ever found them in bookshops so I personally order mine from Amazon but I know Waterstones always have thin, short novels on the counters just below the till so it’s worth taking a look there if you’re ever nearby (which, let’s be honest, is a lot of the time, huh? Yeah me too…)
Happy Reading Bookworms!