In a digitally advancing world, we find ourselves mourning the loss of monthly magazines and dearly departed daily newspapers. Sometimes, paper is preferred. Perhaps it’s homier to stack the magazines in the bathroom and fold the newspaper ever so carefully for the morning commute. Perhaps it’s just nice to see your name printed on an address label from time to time. For those of us who still believe in a paper trail, TMN’s readers and writers present their favorites in the world of print.
I enjoy reading about science the way a certain breed of clueless mom watches her kids play sports: with a sort of wide-eyed, joyous wonder and excitement coupled with completely unearned, vicarious pride. I read an article about nuclear fission or fusion (whichever’s harder?) and think, “Yes, wow, PEOPLE are doing this! Hooray for us!” For me, New Scientist is the one magazine that best captures the spirit of energized curiosity that I hope inspires all scientific inquiry. While accessible to morons like me, it isn’t dumbed-down so much that I feel condescended to, either. Editorially, the magazine has a refreshingly unapologetic left-leaning political bent and a great sense of wry, British humor, and the design is clean and simple, lacking the clutter of some of its contemporaries. It’s also the only magazine, of any stripe, that I read in one sitting from cover to cover, every time. —Pasha Malla
My longest-standing subscription is Private Eye, the fortnightly magazine that cheerfully sticks a finger up at the establishment and does whatever it can to insult and annoy those who operate within it. “Street of Shame” is essential reading for British journalists, even the ones who get lampooned by it. “Rotten Boroughs” is equally essential reading for uncovering tales of corruption and idiocy in Britain’s local councils. The Eye is funny, merciless, and rarely manages to get internet stories right, but I love it in any case. My every-second-Wednesday lunchtimes would not be the same without a cheese and pickle sandwich, a cup of tea, and the Eye. —Giles Turnbull
At the end of March, I received a form letter from the editor of the Dallas Morning News. Subscription rates were increasing (about 40 percent)—then, last week, the paper laid off 200 more people. They’d previously decimated the arts coverage and now rely mostly on wire services for much of the front-page section, so I’m not sure exactly what’s left to cut. My wife and I put the paper on hold for a week to see if we could get by with online news.
So I’m feeling particularly nostalgic for the Denver Post, circa 1988. The first section was full of good investigative reporting—locally, nationally, and even sometimes internationally—to compete against the Rocky Mountain News. And the arts section included great criticism: Joanne Ostrow on television, Howie Movshovitz on film, and a healthy stream of book reviews. It turns out the moment when the strong local newspaper had a working business model was wonderful but fleeting.
My wife and I are sticking with our subscription to the Dallas Morning News. We know the paper’s dying; we’re just not ready to say goodbye. —TMN reader Neil Robinson
A friend of mine (actually a friend, not me incognito) recently managed to completely miss the colossal news story about Somali pirates. She came into my office today yelling, “They shot them in the face! In the face!” after a friend of hers discovered in conversation that she had no idea about any of it and enlightened her in Saw II-esque detail. This girl’s a huge blog and Google Reader addict, but failed to set up her feeds to catch the main stories. Dude, it happens.
Never mind missing the main stories: There are weird little reports that fit a slot in the news cycle for a few hours and then get pushed out, possibly never to return—a la Chloe in this season’s 24. Add to that the fact that every outlet covers a story from a different angle, and you come up with three simple reasons to fell trees, and then turn them into The Week. I read the short, glossy magazine in its entirety every week. It summarizes how most major outlets covered the big stories; offers short, often funny paragraphs on science breakthroughs (lobsters definitely feel pain!); and informs me about everything from the existence of tan-through bikinis to the new Jane Austen zombie novel.
Both because it is excellent and because I have paid my subscription six years in advance, I very much hope it doesn’t fold. —Lauren Frey
On a complete whim I subscribed to Weird Tales a few months back—it was one of those deals where one minute you are on the Wikipedia page for “time dilation” and, next thing you know, you are staring at a screen reading “Thank you for your order” with your debit card laying on the desk in front of you. Having never read the magazine (although knowing it by reputation) I had no idea what I was getting into, and was pleasantly surprised when my first issue arrived. I half expected the stories therein to be one step up from fan-fic at best, but they are really great—even my wife, who claims to loathe nerd-lit (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc.) quite enjoys them. The articles I can take or leave, but the quality and diversity of the fiction is well worth what I paid. Assuming I paid a reasonable amount. Honestly, I have no idea. —Matthew Baldwin
I’ve pimped Lapham’s Quarterly at TMN before, but it really is an amazing magazine. The newest one, on crime, lists Homer, Murakami, William S. Burroughs, Hawthorne, Solzhenitsyn, and Sophocles among its contributors. Read one issue and you’ll be hooked. —Anthony Doerr
I love the Boston Globe. With far too many friends living in that fair city as opposed to my own, I’m tempted to send them daily updates about all the excellent things going on over there. I learn about the new ballets and seasonal festivities and affordable eateries in Boston sooner than I do the ones here in New York—and without any obligation to attend them all. And though I initially bristled at the switch from “Sidekick” to the newer “g” section, I’ve found it charming and engaging, and the cover illustrations are wicked clever to boot. —Bridget Fitzgerald
I can’t think of favorite print periodicals without remembering my five-year love affair with the recently shuttered Rocky Mountain News. As a college student in Colorado in the mid-’80s, it was my constant companion. My first attraction, I now hate to admit, was its looks—it was a tabloid. Unlike the competition, the Denver Post, a broadsheet, I could read the Rocky in class. (Which might have had something to do with the five-year college career). Second, it was chock-full of talented writers. The Rocky had sports guys who could pull even a non-jock like me into a story. There were outdoors guys who could stir my already adrenaline-overdosed body into craving another backcountry ski trip or desert hike. And there was a columnist, John Coit, who wrote a column [pdf] that ran on Christmas Day, 1985, in which he wrote about the 2,133 letters he received after soliciting readers for Christmas memories. The column ends with one of his own memories, a sad Christmas spent “drunk and heartbroken” with a friend and the gift that the memory of that sad day brought to them in the present. The column ended with words of hope: “And I’m finally OK. The column is working, there’s a good woman in my life, all the wounds are healed. God is in His Heaven, so to speak.” Tragically, Coit died of a heart attack two weeks later, 11 days after marrying that good woman.
Sure, I’ve had flings with other print periodicals. But nothing like the day-in day-out, never go a day without it, Rocky Mountain News. Or maybe I should say, nothing like the day-in day-out, never go a day without it Rocky Mountain News writers. —TMN reader Thornton Reese
The Surfer’s Journal isn’t cheap. However, for those of us who don’t get in the water as often as we’d like, there are pages of lovely photography and a proper grown-up’s reverence for the sport to remind us of what we’re missing. It’d be nice to get better writing on the whole (less the breathy look-at-me style of recent Esquire, more the Plimpton or Thompson-era look-at-that of Sports Illustrated), but that’s not what I buy it for. I buy it because I wish I lived by the beach. I don’t, but this brings me closer. —Rosecrans Baldwin
In recent years, I have managed to get a lot of free magazine subscriptions. Still, only the ones I pay for are the ones most worth getting. To wit: Bitch Magazine. It almost folded last year due to a lack of funding, but its readers and supporters pulled through with donations and new subscriptions, and it carries on today. I had never subscribed before, but the idea of losing Bitch was unbearable, and I am really happy getting it in the mail every few months. I love lying on my bed and going through the entire issue, I love the book recommendations, I love that even though I may disagree with some of the opinions, at least everything is well written and smart. Unlike, say, Elle, which had a May 2009 “blue issue” that celebrated water preservation by photographing Drew Barrymore in a giant private swimming pool. —Meave Gallagher
My four mainstays are: the Believer, the New Yorker, Harper’s, and the Ensign (a Mormon monthly akin to the Jehovah Witness’s Watchtower, but thicker, glossier, and better annotated). I read the Believer in the bed, bath, or shower. Every now and then I wedge my face between the pages and inhale. I love the ink smell. The New Yorker and Harper’s are for the treadmill or elliptical machines, stoplights and congested traffic, lines and queues, airports. The Ensign is for church; it’s also a quick-and-dirty primer in the art of faith-promoting propaganda, the elegant tear jerk. The Ensign (which means: flag, emblem, symbol, or sign) is also an excellent last resort for chatty airplane seatmates, best hoicked out blatantly and with a nonchalant evangelical preamble—like, e.g., “Yeah, I’m from Utah, a Mormon. See? May I share with you my own special testimony?—followed immediately by uncomfortably direct and prolonged eye contact. If that won’t shut them up, only earplugs will. —TMN reader Matt Evans
- David Remnick said in an early interview that he planned for “his” New Yorker to follow the news cycle slavishly (like every other contemporary U.S. periodical).
- When Kurt Vonnegut died, the New Yorker appeared not to notice, concentrating instead on the Virginia Tech Massacre, which occurred at about the same time.
- When John Updike died, the New Yorker devoted a fair amount of space to his memory, but the COVER that week also included this word:
- I’m paraphrasing but I believe it bears repeating: The New Yorker’s cover said, essentially: UPDIKE DIES/BEYONCÉ LIVES.
- Spelled backward, BEYONCÉ means THIS IS THE HEARSE BEARING ALL YOU HOLD DEAR TO OBLIVION.
- So it goes.
- I wish the New Yorker would stop chasing skirts and ambulances and return to publishing material of abiding interest.
- Fortunately, we have The Morning News for that now. —TMN reader Brian Kimberling
I have kept every issue of ReadyMade since subscribing in fall of 2007. Granted, I have not yet attempted any of the projects in any of those issues, but I appreciate the scope: They love modular buildings for backyards, and there are always at least a dozen clever ways to reuse junk that piles up around the house. Plus they are way into organization, which I would like to be but have no willpower for. Admirably, my boyfriend modified this bike-wheel pot rack for his kitchen, and it turned out really well. I am extremely envious of this, as I have wanted to make one since issue no. 28 arrived, but am unable to make one in my own kitchen (landlords and low ceilings, ugh). —Meave Gallagher
National Geographic isn’t just for the dentist’s office. The photos are fantastic, sure, but what really catches my eye are the fantastic maps, diagrams, and charts. The articles span continents and centuries and run the high school geography gamut from people to places to things to society—always smart, meticulously researched, and enlightening. So stop reading over my shoulder on the subway, and go get your own! —Kate Schlegel
Only recently I let my third subscription to the Economist lapse. Though the weekly never disappoints, I never fail to lose pace with my subscription—and before long I’ve got a month-high stack of content on the bedside table. Then I begin to question whether I’m really Economist material, if maybe I shouldn’t take a break for a few months. Which is where I’m at now. How I’m spending the downtime: reading The Economist Book of Obituaries, a compendium of one of the magazine’s best columns, one in which we’d all (eventually) love to see our name in print. —Andrew Womack