When I’m not reading books, or selling them, I’m most likely talking about books, to everyone and anyone who will listen. One of the many joys of working at Paperchain is being surrounded by book lovers who will happily share their latest reading adventures with me. So I was thrilled to discover The Happy Reader, a new voice in this lively literary discussion.
The Happy Reader is a quarterly publication brought out by Penguin UK in conjunction with the British magazine Fantastic Man. Each issue is divided into two sections: the first part features a rambling, conversational interview with an interesting subject about their reading life; the second part is a dossier of articles based around a Penguin Classic.
The first issue came out in 2014, with Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) appearing on the cover. In the interview, Stevens talks about reading books that were published between 1912 and 1918 — the period in which Downton Abbey is set — to gain a deeper knowledge of the times, as well as his experience of judging the Booker Prize in 2012. Subsequent issues have featured actor Alan Cumming, musicians Kim Gordon and Grimes, and comedian Aziz Ansari.
The books featured in the second part are often lesser-known classics. In the second issue, The Book of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura, inspired articles about the role that tea plays in social gatherings in different cultures, meditations on the pleasures of small rituals in everyday life, an interview with a florist, and instructions for brewing different types of tea. Books and tea: what could be better? C.S. Lewis declared ‘You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.’ For my part, I’m pretty sure that Paperchain is powered by tea and that the shop would come to a grinding halt if we were ever to run out of the stuff!
The Happy Reader is an elegantly designed magazine printed on matte paper, with small pops of colour and a few thoughtfully chosen images throughout. The short and beautifully written articles invite the reader to pause and reflect for a moment, to mentally escape to Corsica or nineteenth century France, to imagine life as a shepherd, or to take some time to brew a perfect cup of tea. Reading each issue feels like an antidote to the fast-paced, glaring world of the internet, with the distractions of multiple tabs and links that lead you endlessly down the rabbit hole. At the same time, the magazine borrows from the design vernacular of the internet, with key ideas underlined and ‘linked’ to notes in the margins. The small format and muted colour palette make this a quieter publication than many, so you may not have noticed it in the shop before. It’s the literary equivalent of that softly-spoken friend who always has the most interesting things to say.
The latest issue is due out this week and features an interview with Ethan Hawke, so keep an eye out for it on our shelves. We’re all eagerly anticipating its arrival!