Between the covers: What’s really going on in the world of books

Englishwoman Helen Russell set out to discover Denmark's mysteries in The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country

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The Independent Culture

The idea that Denmark is the happiest country in the world is rapidly gaining currency, most recently thanks to the book The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by the Englishwoman Helen Russell (Corinthian, £12.99).

Now, a study by the Centre for Children’s Literature at Aarhus University shows that Danish children aged nine to 12 are reading more, with 61 per cent reading books for pleasure in their free time – a fact that researchers attribute to Læselyst, “love of reading”, campaigns in schools. “We believe that a child’s willingness to read is more important than any snobbery about what they read,” Nina Christensen, from the university’s department of aesthetics and communication, said recently.

“If a child wants to read about horses or sexy vampires or man-eating zombies, then they should be able to.” Meanwhile in Britain, where the last secretary of state for education believed that children should be reading Middlemarch and not Twilight, the proportion of children who read outside school every day has dropped (from 38 per cent in 2005 to 33 per cent in 2013). As they don’t say in Denmark, go figure.

For literature lovers who are already sick of February fauxmance, there’s solace in the Authors’ Club’s Valentine’s Day Massacre at the National Liberal Club in London on Tuesday. “It’s a scripted performance piece on the principle that ‘happiness writes white’”, says its organiser, Suzi Feay. “I’ve woven poems about the dark side of love – disillusionment, infidelity, break-ups, obsession, despair – into a narrative with different voices.” The poets include Max Wallis (book reviewer and model), Pele Cox (former poet-in-residence at the Royal Academy), and Heather Wells (of The London Magazine). “The funny thing is, overall the script is veering so far into territories of wistfulness and yearning that it actually is rather romantic, dammit!” says Feay. Tickets are £10-15 from

Bad Luck to Milan Kundera and Salman Rushdie, whose announcements of their new books for 2015 were rather buried by the discovery of an unpublished novel by Harper Lee. Kundera and Rushdie publish The Festival of Insignificance and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights in June and September, respectively. Kundera’s is his first for 12 years.