I definitely shouldn't have read this book when I was 9

FEW TERRORS ARE QUITE AS DELICIOUS as cutting into the first box containing a magazine of which you’ve just printed 5,000 copies. Exciting, of course, but utterly, utterly terrifying. Half the copies were already on their way to distributors’ warehouses and there was no going back. What if it was back to front? Or — more realistically, and a genuine keeps-you-up-at-night worry — what if any of the articles didn’t finish but just trailed off into nothing because of last-minute editing

Yeah. Nightmare.

So though there’s been lots of wild and encouraging developments this week, I’d say my predominant emotion is, in fact, relief. It’s here, it is actually possible to read it and some bona-fide humans have done so and claim to have enjoyed it. I’ve spotted one howler of a typo so far, which isn’t bad for 68 pages. I won’t tell you what it is; I’ll leave it as a special kind of Easter egg for the sharp-eyed reader.

All readers will smile like this.

Anyway, yes, wild and encouraging developments: we launched subscriptions this time last week and somehow Backstory now has 323 (and counting) subscribers, from New Zealand to New York, Illinois to, well…Islington (welcome!). We sold another 52 copies in the first three days in our shop. And, all being well, it’ll be on the magazine shelves in bigger branches of Waterstones from this Friday. Not bad for week one.

I’d love you to join us. Just use the code IWASHEREFIRST for 10% off a subscription, delivered to your door for as little as £10.53 a year. (Valid until 30th April.)

You’ll get two issues of the mag and our gorgeous Backstory tote bag. And as an exclusive perk for subscribers (including our existing books subscribers), you’ll get invited to watch digital live-streams of our in-shop events with big-name authors… just as soon as we’ve figured out the tech. (Hoping to launch that by mid-summer at the latest.)


As a little taster, I thought you might enjoy one of my favourite pieces from the mag, which is the Backstory team recalling their childhood reading:


Backstory’s booksellers cast their minds back to what they read on childhood summer holidays


My holidays were mainly spent at home in not-so-sunny Oldham. I was a bookworm from a young age, thanks to my mum, so I spent much of the holidays in our local library. You could only check out six books at a time: I would max out my library card and within a day or two return all the books proudly, all read. I will never forget the grilling from my mum after a letter arrived from the library: they had spotted my “inappropriate” Sweet Valley High order, and I should consider it cancelled. Oops.


When I think of childhood holidays, I think of the green-leaved forests of the Smoky Mountains, of white sand between toes, of warm ocean water. I think of how much I hated reading for much of my childhood. Only when I was about nine, when I read Harry Potter for the first time, did I fall in love with stories. Later on, I shifted into classics: Austen and Dickens and Steinbeck. I would wake early on family trips and read crouched in the hotel bathroom until everyone else got up, contentedly wrapped up in a make-believe world before the day began.


It was the summer of unfortunate events. Having discovered the sardonic world of Lemony Snicket in the first week of summer break, I spent my days in and out of Balham Library trying to get through all 13 books in the series. Unfortunately, they never seemed to have the right book at the right time: The Grim Grotto (number 12) sat on the shelf when I needed The Miserable Mill (number 4) and as soon as I’d finished The Austere Academy (number 5), The Ersatz Elevator (book 6) had slipped into the backpack of some other bookish pre-teen. Snicket’s promised miserable ending (The End, number 13) remains unread.


The year is 2010. I’m by a pool somewhere in Spain. I don’t know where exactly – I’m 11 years old and unconcerned with trivial details like my precise location. All I know for certain is that I’ve gorged myself on fruit for breakfast. The day is stretched out before me, blue and dazzling and hot. The pages of my book are beginning to loosen in the sunshine and the edges are lightly stained with strawberry juice. As the sun beats down, I turn the final page. I close my eyes and lie still for a moment. Then I reach under my deck chair and pull up my next book.


I was very lucky to be born to two dedicated any-time-of-night-or-day readers, who saw no difference in the books that you read midweek and the ones you packed tenderly in your rucksack to lug to the beach. Holidays in Australia weren’t all sun and sand, though. There were also long stretches in the front yard getting sunburnt while painting the box the fridge came in, before retiring to the couch for several hours of uninterrupted Enid Blyton, imagining that I too could be a little English girl at boarding school, where I would (hopefully) get into endless “scrapes”.


I forget why, but I graduated quickly from the first few Harry Potters to celebrity memoir. For a time, I was very concerned by Ruby Wax’s ups and downs. On one summer holiday, I used my pocket money to buy Richard Branson’s autobiography from the airport Smiths. I was about eight or nine and must have drawn some quizzical glances around the swimming pool. My parents were very liberal, but still. I might not have known what Losing My Virginity meant, but I can confirm it was a page-turner.


Hope you enjoyed. There’s lots more in the mag, and most of it isn’t by us! Contribs include Ed Caesar, Hollie McNish, Julia Armfield, Sophie Mackintosh, Alice Vincent and Tim Shipman.