The Happy Reader #11

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This bookish magazine for summer 2018 presents a landmark interview with OLLY ALEXANDER and a free-roving parade through the novel THE BLACK TULIP.

OLLY ALEXANDER, lead vocalist with British pop group YEARS & YEARS opens up about being young, gay and famous, explains a key literary reference in a new song, and namechecks, among others, James Baldwin, Andrew Holleran and Flannery O’Connor.

The articles that follow strive to unlock the meaning of THE BLACK TULIP, an unputdownable novel set in the Dutch Golden Age, with contributions from DEBORAH LEVY, RICHARD BENSON, CHARLIE CONNELLY and NEAL FOX.

In this issue:


On the cover, singer OLLY ALEXANDER photographed by Daniel Riera with styling by Stuart Williamson


The Interview: OLLY ALEXANDER by Paul Flynn — The readerly road of the Years & Years superstar

Books Olly’s been given 


The Book of the Season is THE BLACK TULIP by Alexandre Dumas, originally written in French and published in 1850 as LA TULIPE NOIRE

Introduction: Floricultural thriller by Seb Emina

Psychology: Beware of the mob by Jane C.Hu — Losing oneself in the crowd

Cast of characters

Horticulture: Botany now by Richard Benson — Alchemy of the petal

Memoir: A strange neighbour by Deborah Levy — Mr John lived downstairs

Art: Mural murder mystery by Aaron Peck — Dutch painting on a Belgian building

Nine worst in-laws by Jean Hannah Edelstein — You can’t vet them all

Travel: Dumas on tour by Charlie Connelly — Making it all up on the road

The golden pigeon by Thomas Bird — China’s pigeon speculation bubble

Diary: Queen of the night by Rebecca May Johnson — The escapism of blank earth


Now read Frankenstein

The Happy Reader is a collaboration between Penguin Classics and Fantastic Man.

The concept of The Happy Reader is simple: the first half is a long-form interview with a notable book fanatic and the second half explores one classic work of literature from an array of surprising and invigorating angles.