Are there any good magazines left?
August 14, 2007 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good magazines left worth reading?

Our New Yorker subscription is coming to an end. We live in the West and are a little burned out on the East coast focus, although overall it was good. In the past we've enjoyed National Geographic and Wired used to be pretty entertaining before it became Business 2.0. Can you recommend any good magazines with engaging writing, primarily longer non-fiction pieces? Right now we're leaning toward The Atlantic. Harper's leaves me feeling a little too bleak and cynical.
posted by mecran01 to Society & Culture (51 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Probably out of your hyperbole, but Make is amazing
posted by sirliberal at 8:08 AM on August 14, 2007

Esquire frequently has long non-fiction pieces.
posted by sharkfu at 8:11 AM on August 14, 2007

The Walrus is an excellent lit and crit magazine that I have gained so much respect for.

A rather good magazine which is mainly non-fiction but has its share of everything is The Sun. I enjoy it, though some people think it hits some somber notes too often.

If you can get it, I also really recommend The Spectator from England. Not The American Spectator, but the original article. It's a great magazine with many great features and columnists, including Simon Hoggart.
posted by parmanparman at 8:15 AM on August 14, 2007

Some good answers here.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:17 AM on August 14, 2007

out of your hyperbole -- what does this mean?

This may or may not interest you, but I came across an issue of Ode Magazine at a grocery store recently, and it was pretty good. It's got a "positive" focus, but I'm OK with that -- it actually had interesting stories about things I'd not heard about before.
posted by amtho at 8:17 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: I hear ok things about n+1 (here's the table of contents of the most recent issue). It's out of NY but seems to have a non geo-specific focus. I don't know where it falls on the political spectrum--or if it even aspires to fall along it--since I haven't yet read the print version I picked up last week.

I also find that the "Best American _____ Writing" (where blank = travel, sports, science, etc.) series of books stands in for magazines very well for me. There's even a Best American Magazine Writing series.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:19 AM on August 14, 2007

Sunset. The Art of Eating. Cook's Illustrated.
posted by Nelson at 8:22 AM on August 14, 2007

You might like the surveys published periodically in the Economist. Caveat: reading that magazine has warped my world view. I've read the Atlantic a few times since I started reading the Economist on a weekly basis (going on three years now). The lefty liberal superiority complex in the Atlantic gets nauseating after a while. If I wanted liberal moralizing, I'd read metafilter for a $5 one time charge.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:23 AM on August 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

I feel the New Republic and the Weekly Standard are good for politics and their occasional social commentary pieces. The Standard has been taking a hit for supporting the terrible war and its sort of fun to see what at least strives to be an intellectually honest magazine make sense of that massive mistake. And, it's also great for people who believe that they should "Know thy enemy" it a million times less obnoxious that the National Review and its ilk.
posted by skepticallypleased at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2007

The Utne Reader?
posted by caddis at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2007

Still waiting for Playboy joke though.....and, in half seriousness, they seem to get good interviews.....:)
posted by skepticallypleased at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2007

Response by poster: hahaha! I was hesitant to subscribe to the Atlantic because it felt a little centrist to me. And the economist is good, albeit a bit conservative and an expensive subscription, but tempting. Sunset is on the list, as we just need an infusion of things Wester. I will find the Best American _______ and dig through it for possibilities. N + 1 is kinda cool, but only two issues a year. I like the whole cultural studies lite thing they have going on.

"Out of Your Hyperbole" is a jab at the thread title, which is indeed hyperbolic. But let's hope that ask.mefi doesn't become overwhelmed by the culture of thread critique that has soured the blue for many.
posted by mecran01 at 8:32 AM on August 14, 2007


I quite like Harper's. The writing and articles are usually quite interesting. It's not always about how America is turning to shit.
posted by chunking express at 8:33 AM on August 14, 2007

Response by poster: We've gotten the Utne reader in the past, but it started to feel self-parodying after a while. Also, we are moderate liberals with four kids, so it didn't seem to speak to us as frequently as we wanted it to. Still, it might be a good means of stoking our dormant hippy aspirations.
posted by mecran01 at 8:36 AM on August 14, 2007

Response by poster: The only problem with Zmag is that there seems to be one solution to every problem. I do like it in small doses.
posted by mecran01 at 8:37 AM on August 14, 2007

For your artistic/film/music needs, there is no finer magazine available today than Paste.
posted by jbickers at 8:37 AM on August 14, 2007

Esquire would fit your bill, I think. I always look forward to it.

Not what you asked for: Make and GAMES are top-notch also.
posted by unixrat at 8:40 AM on August 14, 2007

Fast Company has some good non-fiction pieces, but if you don't like Wired because of its business coverage, you might not like Fast Company. (Though FC does have little if no "gadgets I could never afford" that seems to consume the bloated middle half of Wired)
posted by drezdn at 8:43 AM on August 14, 2007

We're big fans of GOOD magazine at our house. See, it's built right into the title; how can you go wrong?
posted by twiki at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2007

I'd recommend The Economist or The New York Review of Books. The Atlantic has had a few stinkers lately.
posted by mattbucher at 8:51 AM on August 14, 2007

Smithsonian can be a bit stodgy, but presents a nice range of interesting topics...
posted by nkknkk at 8:54 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've heard great things about the Virginia Quarterly Review. I intend to subscribe when some of my currents subs run out (I'm a bit of a magazine junkie).
posted by amarynth at 9:01 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: American Scholar is pretty good, but it's a quarterly.

I think you should face the truth: the New Yorker has pretty much the best writing in an English language weekly or monthly magazine (I'm a Canadian, BTW).

How can you give up Anthony Lane? Or Tad Friend? Or Elizabeth Kolbert? Or Ken Auletta? Or Adam Gopnik?

The New Yorker could write about library paste and it would be interesting.

posted by KokuRyu at 9:02 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For longer non-fiction pieces, I've got to recommend The Atlantic. Nothing makes me happier than opening my new issue and finding the lead article with pages and pages of text unspoiled by big graphics or ads. I particularly recommend any issues with articles by William Langewiesche. But now I'll have to go and sample some of these other recommendations too. Ah, the joys of a good magazine!
posted by bepe at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2007

I like The Believer.
posted by thinman at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2007

Cabinet is eclectic and interesting.
posted by puppy kuddles at 9:45 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife is an editor at a DIY-type magazine and routinely brings home dozens of magazines from different publishers. The one I've enjoyed the most is New Internationalist. Natural History Magazine has loads of good science writing (samples from its online archives). And if you're into booze, there's Modern Drunkard. (Unfortunately, my wife does not bring home copies of Modern Drunkard.)
posted by cog_nate at 9:53 AM on August 14, 2007

The New Yorker is very, very well edited, which is damned hard to find in a magazine these days. I read it and the Economist in large part because I don't cringe over bad style when I read them (and they are both full of interesting stuff). My wife likes the New York Review of Books too.
Harpers, Atlantic, New Republic all have very uneven writing, which I find annoying.
You find the New Yorker east-coast-centric? I'm always amazed by how LA-centric is often seems.
posted by johngumbo at 10:03 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

No fiction in it, but every new issue of Arthur makes my day. A recent issue is available in PDF for preview.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:05 AM on August 14, 2007

Arthur, Harpers, Bitch, ReadyMade and Res are all on my regular newstand list.
posted by klangklangston at 10:16 AM on August 14, 2007

Most definitely seconding The Believer and Cabinet.
posted by melorama at 11:09 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Does no one like Vanity Fair anymore? I'll say it then. Vanity Fair!

I also would heartily support Ode Magazine. It looks at the world from a positive slant so not as bleak and depressing as Harpers and the Atlantic can be. But you don't get the long articles like you do in the New Yorker.

The Sun is also a good one. The best part of it is the "Readers Write" section, where the editors pick a word (or words), like "Redemption" or "Sunday morning" and readers write in what it means to them. This section runs for pages and is one of my favorite features of any magazine I've ever read (and trust me, I read lots of magazines!).

I like the Spectator as well, though it's not as regular a read of mine.

The Economist is another one I really like. It makes things I never thought I would have been interested in interesting.

Also, the Utne Reader publishes its Independent Press Awards
every year so you might find some good ideas there.

Finally, run out and buy the Best American Magazine Writing books. I have all (except the most recent) of them and the articles are brilliant.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:11 AM on August 14, 2007

At our house, we get Harper's and the London Review of Books. The LRB is obviously a little more England-centric, and I can't keep up with it like my boyfriend does (I am in grad school, I only have so much free time), but most of it is just good writing. You learn a lot, because they tend to have people who are experts in their fields review the books.

I also read Bitch, and I got the Virginia Quarterly Review for awhile, but I didn't really have time to keep up with it (again, grad school). I can't recommend the VQR enough; good writing, combination of literary stuff and long nonfiction pieces. There might be too much lit for you if you are looking for something more general though.
posted by SoftRain at 11:12 AM on August 14, 2007

"Overall Monocle comes across as fresh, original, careful not to be influenced in its editorial choices by the media system's herd logic (no stories on the "hot topic of the moment", and zero -- zero! -- celebrities and people gossip)".
posted by iviken at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

Probably not what you're looking for, but anyone who finds Scientific American unsatisfying should try American Scientist.
posted by neuron at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2007

As for the New Yorker, you must realize that nothing else comes close. Sure, Tina Brown nearly destroyed it in the 1990s, but it has bounced back very nicely under David Remnick.

And all you NYer fans should read Thurber's The Years with Ross.
posted by neuron at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you have an interest in science, Seed is a particular favorite around my house.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2007

I've heard great things about the Virginia Quarterly Review. I intend to subscribe when some of my currents subs run out (I'm a bit of a magazine junkie).

W00t! And I didn't even have to whore myself out to get us a plug. :)

Our next issue, which we're putting to bed now, is focusing on South America, and features some pretty stunning articles about the hordes of people who pick through trash to sell the recyclables, the blind mayor who insists that he has a second sight (and plays soccer with the journalist to prove it), and lots of other strange goodness. About a third of the content of each issue goes up online, so that'll give you an idea of what we're about.

A few sample articles from the past few issues that you might like (although I worry about the "bleak" aspect with a couple of these) are J. Hoberman's Laugh, Cry, Believe: Spielbergization and Its Discontents, Ashley Gilbertson's Last Photographs, Matt Power's One More Martyr in a Dirty War: The Life and Death of Brad Will, Erik Campbell's The Accidental Plagiarist: The Trouble with Originality, and Pauline Chen's The Gross-Out Factor.

But now I'm just avoiding wrapping up the beta test for our new electronic submission system. :) Back to work...
posted by waldo at 1:39 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

seconding (etc) playboy... nice simple solid cosmopolitan writing. esquire has seemed to become a decent rag again and has been holding my attention recently. and surprisingly i really enjoy businessweek. (its "businessy" but any mag that is weekly has two advantages 1) the ability to be more topical and b) the ability to dedicate mroe pages to a topic (perhaps from various points of view, writers, etc) due to the fact that they have more real estate to fill on a regular basis than a monthly...

posted by chasles at 1:59 PM on August 14, 2007

I like the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and Symmetry for my monthly dose of particle physics. I also like Scientific American and the Wilson Quarterly.

But, surprisingly, no one has mentioned the Shotgun News.
A couple months back they had an great article on the history and weapons of the German and Austrian Sturmtruppen in the First World War. There are a lot of advertisements to sort through before you get to the articles. I usually hit the magazine rack before I pick up refrigerated or frozen goods in case an article keeps me reading for too long but isn't good enough to make me want to buy it..
posted by Seamus at 3:30 PM on August 14, 2007

seconding twiki on GOOD magazine
posted by andythebean at 4:35 PM on August 14, 2007

Stop Smiling: The Magazine for High-minded Lowlifes

I've recently been turned on to this one and I find it fantastic. The Southern issue is amazing, if that's your cup of sweet tea.

Also: Esquire is quite good. And Playboy is not as good as it once was, but it's still better than almost everything else. Paste is pricey, but worth it.

The Believer will never be as good as Might.

I've taken The New Yorker since I was a freshman in college. I can't imagine my life without it.
posted by ColdChef at 5:18 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

GOOD is not bad. More style than substance so far, but I'm holding out hope for it.
posted by ColdChef at 5:19 PM on August 14, 2007

I'll second Monocle. Fantastic design (oh, the grid) and the form factor makes me want to grab it. I could sit around just looking at it - oh yes.
posted by fredoliveira at 7:40 PM on August 14, 2007

coppola (dont laugh!)'s young fiction writer-oriented magazine zoetrope looks promising...i just like my paris review and granta, though. didn't like harper's, utne, or the atlantic. the dalkey archive has a newsletter, i think it's called contemporary literature review or something like that...or maybe i'm getting dalkey mixed up with nyrb. sorry.
posted by ifjuly at 8:14 PM on August 14, 2007

McSweeney's Quarterly is really interesting. It's intimately associated with the makers of The Believer, which is mentioned above. McSweeney's used to change its format each month-- comic book, DVD, CD, novel, etc.
posted by daviss at 8:31 PM on August 14, 2007

Just as ColdChef says, "I've taken The New Yorker since I was a freshman in college. I can't imagine my life without it." 36 years for me now.
posted by Rain Man at 9:55 PM on August 14, 2007

Current events-wise we get The Atlantic, Harper's, The New Yorker, Z, and The Nation. Of those I really really really really hate The Atlantic. I cannot wait for that subscription to run out. Chain restaurants are awesome whaaaa? I mean, seriously, even if they were, why am I reading that in a magazine? "The status quo is perfect. Never change!!" Great. I'm glad you're being paid for that. And the piece on Quirkiness in the latest issue? Their tone is so off for me. As far as I can tell they have a commitment to being beside the point.

Of those, Harper's is my favorite. The New Yorker should be my favorite, as I skip over almost everything NY-centric and love Seymour Hersh, but it's actually the one that leaves me feeling the most bleak -- as it's where I learned about ocean acidification.

So if it's among those my advice is keep The New Yorker and/or get Harper's!
posted by birdie birdington at 9:42 PM on August 16, 2007

(whoa, why did I reply to a two day old thread.)
posted by birdie birdington at 9:45 PM on August 16, 2007

i get: mother jones, Garden Design, Dwell, intersection, and the Surfers Journal

along with the economist, and the new yorker. i second the monocle recommendation and Good magazine as well... but both of the aformentioned (along with dwell) are more fluff than substance.
posted by specialk420 at 10:44 PM on August 20, 2007

oh and if you really want to go down the rabbit hole... you could subscribe to the unparalleled Vice Magazine for a year.
posted by specialk420 at 10:46 PM on August 20, 2007

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