Are There Any Good Magazines Left Out There?
May 7, 2022 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I miss the analogue experience of flipping through a magazine and getting excited when a new issue was delivered in the mail. Are there any high quality magazines still left out there, and if so, could you recommend me some? Details of what I'm looking for inside.

I would love to switch from phone-scrolling to flipping through/reading a magazine, so I'm exploring the options to possibly get a subscription or two (in the actual mail, not digital). But I have a strong aversion to marketing and super don't want a magazine that exists mostly to sell me things. Here are my specifications:

-I would love a beautifully visual and aesthetically pleasing magazine. Good articles would be nice, but I'm more interested in something that lends itself to easy reading/thumbing through in short doses.

-Of course every magazine will have some ads, but I remember the mainstream magazines I used to read as a teen (Shape, Cosmo, Real Simple, etc) used their articles as basically lists of things you "need" or the same recycled "tips" over and over. I'm not interested in "things" and "stuff."

-If it was not super expensive per issue, that'd be great.

-uplifting, positive, inspiring would be appreciated. but at the very least, nothing that will make me feel bad about myself or the state of the world.

Topics I'm very interested in: self-care, photography (both digital, film, and post-processing), art/creativity (especially about the creative process, inspiration, drawing, painting, etc), health/wellness, Buddhism, outdoor rec (hiking, running, paddling, etc), nature, science

Topics I'm NOT very interested in: fashion, cooking, tech, news/current events, cars, sports, celebrities/hollywood

When I go to Barnes and Noble, there are so many cool-looking magazines on such a wide variety of topics, but they're all like $10-15, so buying different ones every once in awhile seems like it'd get expensive quickly.

So, mefites, any suggestions? Thanks so much!
posted by carlypennylane to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Ok, kind of a weird rec because it's a children's magazine, but my kid gets Kazoo and it's an absolute delight. No ads, visually gorgeous, very positive and uplifting. I look forward to reading over her shoulder every time.
posted by potrzebie at 8:28 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]

Whether or not it will make you feel bad may depend on both you and the specific magazine issue, but ArtForum is worth a try. (It's not incredibly cheap, but something like 6 USD/issue with a subscription.)
posted by eotvos at 8:42 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

Most magazines are much cheaper when you subscribe to them, rather than buying them as single copies at B&N. Advertising pays for a substantial part of a paper magazine's cost, and publishers reward those who pay in advance for the magazine.

I believe Architecture Digest and Smithsonian are still published on paper. National Geographic is too.
posted by lhauser at 8:53 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine is semi-monthly (six times a year, I mean), and gorgeous and well-written. Make any donation and they will sign you up:
posted by wenestvedt at 8:55 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]

I love Ceramic Arts Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated. Highly visual. Yes there are ads, but it's for things like kilns and glazes.
posted by ellerhodes at 8:56 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

If I had more leisure reading time and an urge to subscribe to a print publication, the first I'd choose would be The New Yorker.
posted by Rash at 9:14 PM on May 7 [15 favorites]

I'm not sure how available it is in the US (if that's where you're located) but Womankind ticks so many of your boxes. I don't recall seeing ads in the magazine, although I'm sure it has them. It's full of beautiful illustration and photography (often has a shifting focus by country per edition) and the writing is gentle self care/self knowledge type stuff without being pushy.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:32 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

posted by srednivashtar at 9:37 PM on May 7

Cosmos magazine, a beautiful and well written Australian science magazine, unfortunately it only comes out 4 times a year. COSMOS. The send worldwide.
posted by Lesium at 10:47 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Resurgence and Ecologist is UK-based but not UK-centric on the Arty - Woo - Planet spectrum. Just under $10/issue delivered to your US door. Browse back issues?
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:09 PM on May 7

The Art of Watercolour is quarterly, £8.99 an issue. I spotted my first one on a rare visit to a WH Smiths (hospital edition) last year and carried it everywhere for weeks, admiring the art, enjoying the tutorials, following people on Instagram and generally getting way more than my money's worth. I'm even thinking of getting a subscription and bidding on back issues on fleabay. I'm on Issue 45 now and really, really looking forward to 46 later in the year.

(It's published in English and French, print and digital if that's of interest to you.)
posted by humph at 4:26 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]

Stack is a service where you subscribe and they’ll send you a different, interesting magazine every month. Not cheap, and shipped from the UK, so worse… I’ve a feeling I’ve seen something similar based in the US though, so maybe there is.

There is the Trade Journal Cooperative, that does similar, but even pricier, and I’m not sure that’s the kind of magazine you’re after.
posted by fabius at 5:54 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]

I subscribe to Smithsonian and it's consistently interesting, has good photography, and is only $12/year.
posted by indexy at 8:38 AM on May 8 [9 favorites]

Aramco World is a free magazine put out by the Saudi oil company. Interesting articles and great photography about topics related to the Arab world (art, culture, food, geography etc...)
posted by vespabelle at 10:17 AM on May 8

I've always been interested in getting a subscription to Adventure Journal but it's already a bit pricey at $15 an issue and adding another $7.50 per issue for shipping to Canada makes it cost more than I'm willing to pay.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:18 AM on May 8

The New Yorker is much more appealing in print than online, has more illustration than in the past, great writing, cartoons. Smithsonian is glossy and lavish. Vanity Fair is celeb-focused, but is beautiful and has good writing. Consider Harper's or the Atlantic, as well.
posted by theora55 at 10:46 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]

This misses two of your no’s (car and expensive), but in case someone digs this up in the future with different tastes, 000 is one of the most beautifully shot magazines I’ve ever seen, and if you’re interested in long-form articles about Porsches and Porsche history, it’s definitely for you.

My wife hates cars, btw, but always reads it because of the photography.
posted by hwyengr at 1:30 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

Can't help you with the price thing as quality mags with few ads are expensive, but these are the titles I sell (or have sold) at my Toronto store that people love:

Berlin Quarterly
American Chordata
Get Familiar
Stranger's Guide
The Skirt Chronicles
The Gentlewoman
posted by dobbs at 3:48 PM on May 8 [4 favorites]

The Sun
is great. It's ad-free, and consists of photography, essays, poetry, interviews, and short fiction. The only thing is, while it can be uplifting at times, it can also feel heavy. So, it might not fit what you are looking for exactly, but you could check out the site.

The New Yorker is great too, but if you are looking for something mainly visual that is uplifting, not sure it exactly fits the bill- it's very article-heavy.
posted by bearette at 5:02 PM on May 8 [4 favorites]

I’ve heard Kinfolk sort of set a whole trend for a certain style of lush hipster homesteading. Gorgeous photography and layouts.
posted by forkisbetter at 4:43 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]

For starry eyed Euro space political weirdness printed on nice heavy stock, it's hard to beat Room.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:32 AM on May 9

I've been getting Whalebone Magazine for the last few months and it's been a delight. They do a theme for each issue, and it runs $5/mth, shipped.
posted by bizzyb at 11:47 AM on May 9

I really like Enchanted Living, which is fairytale/folklore/lowkey-witchy stuff and really gorgeous photography. It's a lifestyle magazine, sort of? The ads are minimal and on-theme, and it's generally fairly light. It is a quarterly, not a monthly, though, and about $7 per issue with a subscription.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 12:00 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]

This reminded me of how I used to drool over the annual Illustration and Typography issues of Communication Arts. It was a little pricey, but it's beautiful to page through and each issue is substantial enough that even as a broke student I felt like I got my money's worth in inspiration. I don't remember much about the ads or writing, most of the magazine is dedicated to showcasing their competition winners. I just might have to go hunt down the latest copy now...
posted by yeahlikethat at 1:13 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]
"Four times a year for over 40 years Parabola has gathered the wisdom of the world’s spiritual traditions to illuminate the central questions of life."

e.g. articles from this current issue , themed 'Ancestors' (online if anyone wants to peruse)

Prophets without Robes or Staffs - by Roger Lipsey
Hammarskjöld, Havel, Mandela, Thunberg

A Good Start - by Tracy Cochran
A Dutch Village, ‘Guernica’, and the power of remembering

The Gates of Paradise - by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David R. Kopacz, M.D.
Shamanic memories from an Indian visionary
posted by aesop at 1:28 PM on May 13

Oxford American is the one print subscription I still have, and it's great. It's not super-cheap, but it has lots of photo features, the annual Music Issue is brilliant (and in my opinion worth the whole subscription) -- you get a compilation album (and digital download code) with it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:55 PM on May 14

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