When did The Happy Reader reach double figures? We seem to have let several issues pass us by, fooled by its effortless ability to maintain its standards across concept, design and content. So it was a delight to open this new issue and find it as fresh as ever.
The concept remains the same; you probably know it well already but its worth repeating since few titles have established such a precise yet flexible structure.
The small, staple-bound mag is a celebration of reading, split into two parts. The first half features the cover star, in this case Years & Years singer Olly Alexander (above), interviewed in depth about their relationship with books. That’s followed by a second front cover (below) announcing a shift in gear for the second part of the mag, in which a single, classic, book is introduced by editor Seb Emina before its storyline is ransacked for tangential investigations that lend a sense of cultural context to the novel in question – for this issue, Dumas’s ‘The Black Tulip’.
It’s a typically clever and light editorial conceit from its creator, the Fantastic Man team. As I said, it appears effortless each issue.
Highlights this issue include the use of plant markers with text footnotes (above) and a colourful book mark that doubles as a guide to the meanings of various colours tulip (below). Seb’s intro letter eulogises the bookmark as a lost form of self-expression, and this example claims back that role.
One of the many carefully orchestrated parts of the magazine is its careful use of colour. Most pages are monochrome with one spot colour, but regular splashes of full colour appear at intervals. The bookmark is one such splash, as is a typically garish Martin Parr image (‘A quintessential scene of seaside reading…’) on the opening spread (below). A familiar but appropriate image of Dutch tulip farming (also below) adds another break later on.
The second section offers a rumination on the transformation of the individual into a member of a crowd; a look at the race to invent new types of flower (above); the mystery of the neighbour and the inherent risk of joining a new family on marriage. There’s also a guide to garden tools (below) with literary-standard captions.
This is magazine-making at the top of its game, so it’s an easy choice for our latest magazine of the week. Highly recommended for that holiday flight.
Editor-in-chief: Seb Emina
Editorial directors: Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers
Designer: Tom Etherington