Fri 16 Jun, 2006 06:33 pm
50 BEST MAGAZINES
Contributors. Tim Bannon, Geoffrey Black, Barbara Brotman, Julie Deardorff, Cara DiPasquale, Leo Ebersole, Monica Eng, Robert K. Elder, Jimmy Greenfield, Kelly Haramis, Cristi Kempf, Lilah Lohr, Patri
June 15, 2006
This story contains corrected material, published June 16, 2006.
We drew from all quarters of the periodicals universe in compiling this year's selections. And what can we say about the choices? They're eclectic, accessible and they reflect the tastes of folks who spend a lot of their time immersed in the world of words and images. But magazines are changing a bunch. In the last 12 months, we saw the curtains drawn on Cargo and Organic Style, which made our cut in 2005. Yet some, like gracefully aging performers, remain on the stage: The Atlantic and Harper's. We still like them, as our list shows. But our selections are meant to be a conversation starter, so look them over, then tell us which magazines would be on your list.
50 BEST MAGAZINES
1. The Economist. In a class by itself as the best English-language newsweekly, with each issue unavoidably reminding readers of the weaknesses of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. Published in Great Britain, The Economist's strength is international coverage, where it does not feel moved to cover a faraway land only at a time of unmitigated disaster. Even its coverage of the U.S. can be superior to the competition; witness a very solid special section recently on Chicago. And it doesn't let its reporting be undermined by its generally conservative editorial policies, as underscored by a recent look at the declining fortunes of Iraq war partners President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair with the cover headline "The Axis of Feeble."
2. Dwell. Lost in too many home magazines is an old-fashioned sense of fun and practicality. That explains why Dwell has found a niche, mixing the playful and affordable with strong design imbued with a younger-skewing feel. It's cool, modern and eco-friendly, reflecting a certain defiance of traditional norms (not looking down its noses at pre-fab homes) and adroit in its use of experts.
3. Wired. Meaty reporting and flawless case studies of techie arrogance and cluelessness keep us coming back to this revered bible, though the product guides and even the music and book reviews remain unfailingly useful. The cheeky attitude toward everything sacred in geek culture is also a plus, but our wish going forward is that we get fewer movie tie-in issues and more provocative cover stories.
4. The New Yorker. The erudite and supremely inquisitive editor David Remnick deserves a lot of credit for returning this venerable institution to our hearts and minds. Wonderful writing and reporting from its stable of talented writers (Nicholas Lemann, Elizabeth Kolbert, Katherine Boo, David Sedaris) and the trenchant and searing opinions of Hendrik Hertzberg make The New Yorker a must-read. And the brilliant cartoon caption contest? A winner every week.
5. ESPN the magazine. It owns a niche that no one knew existed: the sports fan who doesn't care about the box scores but is fascinated by the people playing the games. Good, witty writing combined with clever editing lets this magazine deliver the goods every time out.
6. Esquire. This cheeky men's mag is also a must-read for women who appreciate in-depth coverage of politics, wry pop culture critique and side-splittingly funny fashion advice for the guys in their lives. With just the right mix of fashion, music, how-to and humor, Esquire practically dares you to skip a page. If you do, you could miss out on one of the magazine's deliciously comprehensive guides on subjects ranging from restaurants to bars to gadgets.
7. Consumer Reports. Few industries have been quite so polluted by commercial interests as magazines, with too many advertorials and too much advertiser-friendly content raising serious questions about editorial objectivity. So let us all please remember this old war horse, eschewing advertising and giving us the straight scoops on our consumer culture, be it running shoes or life insurance policies. In our celebrity- and opinion-dominated age, where being interesting is often more important than being right, it's a bit bland, yes, but totally trustworthy; sort of like C-Span in print.
8. Blender. This 5-year-old is the cool kid at the school of rock magazines. Its mix of need-to-know music news, irreverent criticism and fun celebrity gawking makes it the perfect companion for today's audiophiles. They want only the best song on the album. They want it with one click. They want to take it with them.
9. Gourmet. Love it for the worldview it applies to food, taking readers on glorious food travels. Love it for its expanded "Gourmet Every Day" section, which gives time-crunched cooks a bounty of fast, creative recipes that make it possible to put in a full day at the office and then whip up for dinner (in less than one hour) Moroccan-spiced chicken paillards on a bed of couscous with olives.
10. The Atlantic. We adore this 150-year-old granddaddy of periodicals because it keeps us smart and in the know with cover stories such as the recent "The Day After Roe," projecting the upcoming upheaval over the landmark abortion ruling. Also regular features "Word Fugitives" and "Primary Sources" are entertaining cultural barometers.
11. Men's Vogue. One of those magazines that seem not only unlikely but also unnecessary. That is, until you pick up an issue and find yourself engrossed in Kevin Conley's terrific profile of painter Walton Ford on a trek through the Berkshires, or A.A. Gill's amusing piece on the British custom of birdshoots. The magazine takes its clothes, and its huggable hunks (George Clooney was clothed in camel on the cover of the premier issue; Tiger Woods was grinning in glen plaid on the second) quite seriously. But good writing -- whether about hair restoration (in a first-person essay by the terrific Robert Sullivan) or artists in collaboration (as in Eric Konigsberg's profile of the art-world hot pair Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker) -- knows no hetero, homo or metrosexual boundaries.
12. Cook's Illustrated. If somebody would invent a Cook's Illustrated for our entire lives, not just food and the kitchen, we'd be in seventh heaven. This magazine makes the most complicated cooking problems simple with a no-nonsense practicality and honor that make it a sort of Consumer Reports for our stomachs. In sometimes quirky ways, it offers consistently great counsel, especially in producing definitive techniques for classic dishes, such as beef stroganoff, roast chicken and meatloaf.
13. Cottage Living. In almost two years of publication, this lifestyle/shelter magazine has figured out how to define "cottage" with a blend of decorating, gardening, cooking and travel articles celebrating a simple, comfortable, stylish way of life. Every issue includes a home design plan if you're ready to build your own.
14. Mother Jones. This liberal stalwart continues to go where other mainstream magazines dare not tread. A recent special report, "Last Days of the Ocean," offered a thorough examination of an ominous issue, looking at everything from the consequences of overfishing to asking this post-Katrina question: Are we loving our coasts to death?
15. Men's Health. The front sections are packed with useful tips, quick stats, ab workouts and advice from old pros such as Jimmy the Bartender. But the magazine is balanced with well-written in-depth essays. Our favorites are the writers who abuse their bodies through sleep deprivation, drug abuse or ultramarathon camp, and then save us the trouble of going through the same thing by detailing their hellish experiences.
16. Harper's. From its justly famous Index of provocative statistics up front to its satirical collision of scientific indings at the back, Harper's epitomizes intelligent editing. Political passion, aesthetic intelligence and a keen sense of the absurd -- what more could you want?
17. Interview. Remember what it was like to go see a double feature? Neither do we. But when you read the star-on-star interviews you get a double dose of insight into some wonderful performers and often learn as much about the interviewer as the interviewee.
18. VegNews. This hard-hitting, political and entertaining vegetarian staple should be on every magazine fan's plate. We love the fantastic roundup of stories that informs readers of everything from which ballparks serve veggie dogs and burgers to a forthcoming KFC in India with vegetarian dishes.
19. Lucky. Another staple from the Conde Nast family, the almost 6-year-old "magazine about shopping" is, yes, frivolous, but it redeems itself well by offering useful and practical tips for the chic-minded. Although you easily can live without all the "stuff" filling its pages, it's an insouciant excuse for indulging your retail fantasies.
20. Conceive. The perfect companion for anyone experiencing fertility problems or thinking about starting a family, it covers sex, fertility treatments, miscarriages and success stories (pregnancy and adoption). Conceive doesn't ignore the social issues (negotiating maternity leave and dealing with all those presumptuous questions).
21. French Vogue. Despite the sticker shock of about $16 per issue, it's a must for fans of fashion as art. This fan particularly loves the editor's putting herself and daughter in every issue's party coverage.
22. New York Magazine. They broke the JT LeRoy hoax story. They showed us beauty in a 278-square-foot apartment. They dared to put a guy with a tracksuit and a paunch on the fashion page. Sometimes highbrow, sometimes sleazy, but always smart, fresh and fearless, New York is equally at home with mobsters, society babes and the literary legends.
23. Vanity Fair. Did you see that Martha Stewart profile? The one that revealed that Ms. M.'s color scheme for her Bedford estate extended to the black horses, which were kept inside during the day so they didn't develop a reddish tint? Did you catch what happened when V.F. turned a real reporter loose on Lindsay Lohan? Wielding its society cachet like a lethal weapon, the magazine that brought you the Deep Throat scoop delivers truths that are better than fiction, month after month.
24. Giant. Why do we look forward to seeing this pop-culture bimonthly sticking out of our undersize mailbox? Because it doesn't take itself too seriously (every story and review is nice and short; lots of lists; cheesecake photos). But also because it does take itself seriously enough to include literature, politics and smart questions.
25. O. The Oprah Magazine. On daytime TV and the printed page, Oprah Winfrey knows how to get women's attention. In her eponymous magazine, her rules call for consistently good writing, spectacular photography and a sensible balance between the frivolous and real-world concerns. O editors also show their smarts by publishing stories that treat men like human beings, not sex-starved mates for whom women only live to satisfy.
26. PC Magazine. It walks that fine line between being informative and being impenetrable. The editors know what you want to know, and that's all they give you -- in language you can understand. They try to guide the moderately tech-savvy through the baffling hardware and software choices they face, while keeping intermediate and advanced users engaged.
27. Vogue. Still the leader of the pack in all things fashion. Sure, the jeweled $500 sandals on the back page are beyond most people's price point, and the heiress quotient gets a little high. But the stories are witty, Jeffrey Steingarten is a world-class writer about food (really, about anything) and the pictures of wealthy people's island getaways -- ooh, la, la!
28. Spin. It's not at all pretentious, which is rare for a music magazine, nor does it try too hard to be cool, and it conveys a strong point of view without preaching.
29. Time/Newsweek. Hello, old reliable! Hello, old reliable! We still can't see how you differ, but that's OK. With your relentlessly formatted weekly ration of arts, culture, celebrity reporting and, well, news, we can catch up on everything in about 15 minutes. For that alone, we would remain faithful to you. That, and the fun we have when you both come up with the same cover.
30. Self. Makes the case that magazines for women don't have to be superficial. Its editors urge us to find our inner beauty, and instead of rolling our eyes at the hokeyness, we believe them. Reading Self is like chatting with women who strive to be stronger, wiser, healthier and more beautiful -- for no one but themselves.
31. Whole Dog Journal. A perennial favorite, this monthly "guide to natural dog care and training" offers well-written, how-to advice on dog owning, positive training and holistic health. Annual reviews of dog foods are a calling card.
32. Saveur. Some consider this food magazine elitist; rather it's intellectual, and worth a look for anyone who likes to cook. So much thought goes into the stories and recipes, many of which you will find nowhere else. The home cook is always celebrated (admittedly, sometimes said home cook is from an elusive region in Turkey), and the content always cares more about thoroughness than trendiness.
33. Essence. Any magazine that has the nerve to take on the misogyny of the rap industry deserves respect, which Essence did with it's "Take Back the Music" campaign. Socially conscious, informative and stylish, Essence also is the one publication that you can count on to find stories by and about strong, smart and beautiful African-American women.
34. Parents. Who needs a baby guidebook when you have this monthly mag? Moms and dads can easily chart their kids' milestones with the "As They Grow" feature. From humorous "Baby Bloopers" to practical stories (sun safety and product recalls), this gold-standard offers accessible information for parents on the go.
35. Fine Homebuilding. For serious weekend warriors, this is simply the best magazine to curl up in bed with. Lot of projects, lots of great how-to pictures. Written by contractors, builders, people in the know. Celebrating 25 years this year.
36. Baseball America. Some of us just have to know the ins and outs of the Lansing Lugnuts, the Altoona Curve and practically every other professional baseball team known to man. We love our baseball, and there's no better place to get our fill than from the magazine that long ago succeeded The Sporting News as baseball's bible.
37. Reason. The ideological conservatives have sharply raised their publishing game in recent years with the Weekly Standard and the National Review. Lesser-known but even more engaging is this monthly libertarian publication, which is especially good at putting the politically right-leaning to the test when it comes to a less-government-is-better ideology. How can you not want to read a story headlined "Blogging Bigmouths Botch Bomber Brouhaha" (on dumb conspiracy theories claiming Islanic terrorism inspired a University of Oklahoma suicide last year)?
38. Domino. Conde Nast, the hydra-headed beast that produces half the magazines in the universe, invented the idea of the women's shopping magazine, the aforementioned Lucky. Now they've given us Domino, a shopping magazine for the home. It's a breezy, younger, hipper take on such shelter rags as HG and Elle Decor -- and also quite a bit more downscale. Which means you might be able to afford the cute ideas/stuff they're pushing.
39. Lincoln Lore. Everything you wanted to know about the 16th president of the United States, and then some. For 77 years, the Lore, published by the Lincoln Museum in Ft. Wayne, Ind., has been examining every conceivable aspect of Lincoln and his world. After nearly 1,900 issues, its editors still haven't run out of things to say.
40. LensWork. Small in format but large in vision, this beautifully produced publication is consumed with one theme -- black-and-white photography by contemporary imagemakers. Published six times a year and printed in Canada, LensWork is not a technical how-to manual but a showcase for fine art photography. LensWork is a visual treat.
41. Chicago. A vibrant city needs a vibrant city magazine. This monthly has found the right balance between hard-nosed reporting and the guilty urban pleasures of food, real estate, politics and shopping. Terrific recent stories include "Barack Obama. 2008?," "The Catholics of Chicago" and a fascinating look at "Money in Chicago." The editors also are doing a much better job now of covering the suburbs (especially Naperville!).
42. Bark. Billing itself as the voice of modern dog culture, this quarterly offers an assortment of literature, reviews and essays, along with practical articles on canine health and training. We're foolishly fond of the "Smiling Dogs" pages displaying readers' photos of their happy pets.
43. Psychotherapy Networker. Noted for its well-crafted articles by therapists about the art and technique of therapy as well as the full range of psychological research and questions, it's honest and thoughtful. And, for anyone who's ever been a client, it gives a bird's-eye view into the therapist's mind.
44. Everyday Food/Monthly. It is small, clean, simple, gorgeously photographed and offers lots of ideas for what to cook. The petite size of this Martha Stewart publication makes it easy to tote in your purse and archive on a small bookshelf, where its attractive colorful spines are a decoration in themselves.
45. World Soccer. There are lots of football (for the thousandth time, football, not soccer) magazines, and very few great ones. One doesn't exist that covers the world like Britain-based World Soccer. Want to know about potential player signings in the Japanese league? You'll find it here. There are pundits and prognosticators, and when it comes to sussing out rumors of player movements, World Soccer is right more often than anyone else.
46. Twins. Welcome to the kinder, gentler world of twin parenting, where no one seems to mind if you have 2-foot dust bunnies under the bed and a baby screaming in the background whenever you answer the phone. Like twins' parents themselves, Twins can seem harried and unpolished, but it's also big-hearted and high-minded and it never kicks you when you're down. Special kudos for putting kids who aren't model-perfect on the cover.
47. Blueprint. A trip to the pokey might sour a lot of people on life, but not Martha Stewart. When life gives her lemons, apparently she starts a new magazine. This charming venture is the magazine her younger readers may have been wishing for. It's geared toward first-time homeowners (or aspirants), but it also offers designs for living beyond household concerns ("Sexy Dresses That Work Overtime"; "423 Solutions for Better Rooms, Meals, Hair, Sleep"; "The Machine Washable Living Room"). The staff offers advice on how to create a better shoe rack, entryway, pantry, home office, top drawer, back yard, and on and on.
48. W. An oversize monthly that offers a dazzling look at the beautiful people and what they wear. We love its daring photography and just-the-right-length profiles of Hollywood types and the intelligentsia.
49. Wisconsin Trails. Yes, there's more to that place up north than water parks and Brewers games. This lovingly designed and thoughtfully edited monthly explores the state's rivers, recipes, history, weather, characters and even its own brand of humor (the Special Humor Issue included a centerspread of a dairy cow).
50. Vogue Knitting. It's a niche publication, yes, but because knitting has hit the Trend-O-Meter, newbies should know about it. The instructions are always reliable, and the designs are fabulous. And every issue contains Very Easy, Very Vogue projects that are quick and relatively simple to make.
Well, fan me with a blowtorch. I subscribe to 4 magazines, and 2 are in the top 10.
Interesting - I subscribe to several periodicals, of which 6 are on that list, with 2 "Top 10"s also. I was surprised to see Wisconsin Trails there - and pleased - I've been a subscriber for many years ... great magazine.
I don't reconize any ethnic-specific magazines.
The Economist.. some of my best friends read it. (me, blank)
Dwell.. I suscribed right away. Style a tad clean for me, but I loved the writing. bought a copy at the upscale market this last week, it sucked. No wit left at all, and any apparent knowledge of people without big budgets down the drain.
New Yorker Started reading it at age 10, still do and I'm nearing a hundred. Just got a continuation bill this week..
Esquire subscribed one year, back in the early eighties maybe
Gourmet subscribed one or two years, back in the early eighties maybe
Atlantic suscribed in late seventies or early eighties
Mother Jones subscribed in late seventies, a year, same with the Nation.
Harpers subscribe more years than not, thanks for the reminder
Vanity Fair must be too cool for me, I've always found it boring.
Vogue took it a year or so. No consequence.
Newsweek read it in the sixties and seventies
Saveur I received a year or two's subscription as a present. Never went bonkers over it, and I like food mags.
Fine Homebuilding Would that I could afford to subscibe to all the Fine this and that mags. I still buy it off the stand once in a blue moon.
Huh, I guess House and Garden didn't make it, or Arch. Digest, the magazine I love to hate, or that great english mag, Gardens Illustrated, great before it was bought out, that is.
Eventually some of these magazines were deductible for me, these and some professional magazines like Progressive Architecture, back when I took it, or Landscape Architecture magazine. I still like decor and foodie publications, though I don't ever really need to see one again. I guess I just like the visual pulseing.
I read about 7 of them. The Whole Dog magazine is a holistic approach to caring for your dog. I'm terminating my subscription once it's over. Not worth the $$.
Not only is there no SI, which is criminal, but there's also, let's see, no Food & Wine (similar to Gourmet), no Smithsonian, no National Geographic and no Business 2.0. The only purely regional mags are Wisconsin Trails and Chicago, big shocker, eh?
Looks to me like a random list, though I do subscribe to one. How the heck can you lump together magazines in so many genres? (I didn't notice any skin mags, but I think every other type was there.)
There's also no Scientific American and no New Scientist. In fact, there's no scientific magazines there whatsoever. Scandalous.