Lovely, thoughtful people give magazine subscriptions as gifts. People who realize that magazines can be useful, even inspiring, no matter what your age. People who like to remind friends they are loved throughout the year. People who have to finish their holiday shopping.
So grab a card, and copy this inside: “Happy Holidays! Your gift is a one-year subscription to…”
50 issues, $50
The Week is a news digest for the impatient and globally curious. Say you had a genius friend who read three-dozen of the world’s best newspapers every day. Then say that friend agreed to write a summary for you featuring all the best stuff he found on every subject.
That’s The Week—excerpts from the top columns, news articles, business deals, real estate, gossip, and even TV listings. Best of all, it’s slim enough to fold in half and read during one good, long soak in the tub. You’ll emerge wrinkled, but utterly prepared for the most arduous cocktail party.
4 issues, $28
Meatpaper is neither pro- nor anti-meat, but it is meat-driven. After many late-night conversations about the pleasures, origins, and preparation of meat, the editors decided to chronicle what they call the Fleischgeist—our culture’s emerging interest in how we relate to our meat. The debut issue features meat-related art, a profile of a San Francisco boutique butcher shop, and several oral histories about the ways meat has sustained or changed people’s lives.
6 issues, $22
Mental Floss is ammo for the know-it-all who needs to know more. The team at Mental Floss turns art, literature, science, and history into compelling beach reading. (Between issues, they do segments for CNN.)
Have product-placement deals ever found their way into novels? How much money can you make off of competitive Scrabble? Who’s the greatest female pirate of all time? You’re getting smarter already.
12 issues, $36
Cricket is a children’s literary magazine for budding laureates. Remember this? With the bugs in the margins that gave you definitions of the hard words? Good times.
The magazine was founded in 1973 as an attempt to create a New Yorker for kids. Today, it’s still inspiring young writers to produce heartwarming poems about the family dog. Preserve your niece’s innocence for one more year before you cave and subscribe her to Tiger Beat.
4 issues, $35
Craft is a mildly subversive do-it-yourself guide for people who already know how to sew their own curtains. Loyal readers know how to turn any photo into a paint-by-number, make silk-screening equipment in the garage, and macramé a ‘70s inspired iPod cover. An excellent gift for the friend who’s already working next year’s Halloween costume.
4 issues, $20
Zoetrope is literary inspiration for aspiring fiction writers, and fuel for avid readers. Since 1997, this short-fiction magazine has won some hefty awards, including the National Magazine Award for Fiction. Featured stories are the work of new, emerging, and established authors. The mix of experience levels creates a sense of anticipation and promise with each new issue. A crucial element of any extended afternoon at the coffee shop.
6 issues, $25
Cook’s Illustrated is culinary expertise for perfectionist chefs. The staff compulsively tests variations on every recipe to arrive at the best possible approach for no-knead bread, fettuccine Alfredo, smothered lamb chops, whatever your palate craves. And if you think they’re zealous about recipe testing, just wait until you see what they do to the microplane graters. The best part? Cook’s Illustrated is one of the last commercial endeavors in America that doesn’t accept advertising.
10 issues, $39
Artforum is a global guide to art history as it unfolds. This month’s issue features a selection of artists’ favorite artists, and overviews of the best films, music, and books of the year. If you know a few starving artists, or a patron who likes to invest in them, Artforum will keep them current on who’s showing what where, and exactly how much it matters.
6 issues, $20
How did apathy become a defining characteristic of cool? Good is a refreshing counterpoint to irritating hipster malaise. Good is pro-enthusiasm, pro-effort, and pro-potential. Its intelligent articles cover movers who want to revamp the status quo using the tools at hand—politics, art, science, literature, products, film, and so on. Articles are insightful, but more entertaining than preachy.
12 issues, $8
Esquire is a lifestyle magazine for smart guys and the women who attract them. It’s been around since 1933, and its formidable writers have helped shaped the literary and political landscape. And yet, each issue devotes several pages to a “Sexiest Woman Alive” feature.
So technically, Esquire is a lad magazine, but one that never condescends. Esquire knows you get the joke, knows you can be kind without sacrificing your backbone. In short, if Esquire were a man, he’d be the guy who makes you want to say yes to whatever he’s asking.