Insider: The Happy Reader

by Stine Fantoft Berg in December 2015
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The love child of Fantastic Man and Penguin Books, the latest issue of literary magazine The Happy Reader hit the shelves last week. It’s built on a simple but original concept; the first half features an interview with a famous book lover (Canadian musician Grimes this time around) and the second half features stories inspired by ‘the book of the season’ (Èmile Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames).

Here, editor Seb Emina pulls back the curtain on the making of the issue – read on for tales of outlandish words, ‘proper’ women’s shoes, and terrible zombies.


In the making of this issue I…

Steak frites when, early in the process, a few of us met up over dinner in Paris (where I live) to talk about the book of the season, Èmile Zola’s journalistic novel Au Bonheur des Dames.


As well as Au Bonheur des Dames, which is about the rise of the Parisian department store in the 19th century, I read The Everything Store, Brad Stone’s book about Jeff Bezos and Amazon. It’s uncanny how similar the two stories are.


Was sidetracked by
Fear the Walking Dead, the TV show they made as a spin-off from The Walking Dead. It was really bad and for some reason I watched every single episode. Such a waste of time.

Worked from
My desk, the sofa, the cafe over the road, three desks at Penguin’s Covent Garden HQ, my bed, the train, the bus.


That you should be able to balance a proper woman’s shoe on the tip of your finger. (At least that’s what I was told. Is it true? I want it to be.)

happyreader - shoe

Made sure that
I paid a visit to the Bon Marché, the department store that inspired Émile Zola’s novel, and wandered around with my thoughts for an hour.

happyreader - bonmarche

Lost sleep over
a comprehensive collection of outlandish words (including ‘asterisms’ and ‘sassafras’) from Joanna Newsom lyrics. For some reason I stayed up to a seriously antisocial hour so as to compose a 24-word footnote about them for the cover interview.


Was excited about
Finally getting to hear the new album by our cover star Grimes, then realising it’s totally amazing.

Was relieved that
We received some great missives for the letters page.


And everyone should buy a copy because
Every piece is a joy to read.

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