What magazine to subscribe to?

A few years ago, I — yes — subscribed to a paper magazine (US News). I didn’t continue my subscription because I stopped reading it. I stopped reading it because, frankly, there wasn’t that much worth reading a week after I heard it on NPR.

I find I spend entirely too much time reading at a computer and far too little time reading elsewhere. I want to subscribe to a magazine that will actually be interesting. Thought-provoking. Challenging, even.

So here’s what I’m considering, just looking at their websites:

The New Yorker

Seems to have articles with a lot of depth, some interesting fiction in each issue. I guess I’d call it literary. I like what they have to say and the intelligence behind it.

It seems I’ve got to love it for its use of diaeresis marks in print.

The others I’m looking at include The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and The Nation. Of these, The Nation perhaps looks the most interesting. But I’m leaning towards The New Yorker right now.


24 thoughts on “What magazine to subscribe to?

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Economist.

    The New York Review of Books (which is really a vehicle for essays).

  2. drblanco says:

    The Economist is also very good for news. It includes lots of world news that’s not widely covered. It’s also less biased than the Atlantic Monthly, or New *, or Harper’s, or the Weekly Standard, etc., if that’s what you’re looking for. I don’t subscribe to any magazines currently, but pick up the Econ for plane trips.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Economist. It is so packed with content that I carry it around for a week, reading interesting bits here and there. I never finish it. The next week another one comes and I toss the old one. They bring a very interesting, non-U.S. perspective to events in both the U.S. and abroad.

    I’m not surprised you cut off US News. It, Time, and Newsweek are all crap.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Watch [i]Shattered Glass[/i].

  5. Ramesh says:

    The Atlantic is not a monthly, these days. It is published 10 times a year. I hate weekly print magazines – never get time to finish one issue before I receive another.

  6. tim says:

    subscribing to the Economist is one of ten best things I’ve done. And that’s a fact.

  7. Karl Hasselström says:

    I’ll recommend The Economist as well. There’s more finance news in there than I care to read, but even so it’s easily the best news magazine I’ve ever read.

  8. M. Grégoire says:

    Do you want news, analysis, or literature/culture? There are many good magazines that mix all three, but their specialties vary.

    The Economist really is very intelligent (though more packed with world news than deeper analysis). The greatest problem with it is that it is just too much to read on a weekly basis.

    The New Yorker is good, but rather on the literary/cultural intelligentsia side.

    Personally, I’d recommend the Atlantic, which has great analysis but cannot really be classified as either right-wing or left-wing. Plus, they have Corby Kummer writing about food and cooking.

    Try a few different magazines for three months, and see which you actually look forward to reading.

  9. carl nygard says:

    Economist +5 For every reason mentioned by previous readers.

  10. Mark Dominus says:

    I came here to recommend The Economist, but I see that someone else got here first.

    Here are some big reasons to read The Economist:

    * It is run from England, which means that unlike American newspapers, it has a clear notion that there are parts of the world that are not in the U.S.A. Where Time Magazine has had one paragraph about the Zimbabwean economic and political collapse this year, the Economist has covered it weekly as it happened.

    * Unlike most finance-oriented magazines, it has a clear morality. Most money magazines, like say Business Week, seem to consider financy and moneymaking as an end in itself. The Economist never loses sight of the idea that business and trade should be pursued because they make people more prosperous, and that prosperity brings peace and freedom and happiness.

    * Every month there’s a long “special report” section with a collection of related articles on some country or important issue.

    And some smaller reasons:

    * Every week their letters column is full of letters from eminent authorities pointing out their mistakes. A typical issue might have letters from the president of the World Bank and the Moroccan tourism minister rebutting claims made in their articles.

    This is interesting for several reasons. First, it demonstrates that important people actually give a crap about what the Economist says about them. Second, that those people think it’s worth trying to correct them. And also, that The Economist thinks it’s worth bringing their own errors to your attention.

    Compare this with the letters column of (say) TIME magazine, where the typical letter is from some fat hosuewife in Kansas, saying “Kudos on your uplifting portrait of Reverend Howell. We need more inspirational articles like this in these dark times.”

    * Their science and technology section is excellent. Their books-and-arts section is excellent.

    * Every week they carry an obituary of some really interesting person that you’ve never heard of. Check out http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12252747 for example.

  11. I must go against everyone else’s suggestions of the Economist. It’s generally quite indifferent. The quality of the articles very much depends on how much you know about a given subject. If you know a lot about something, you’ll notice all the howling (i.e. neither subtle nor insignificant) inaccuracies and distortions. On the other hand, if you don’t know much, it will, er, help you to feel like you do: it’s a fine publication if you want confirmation bias reinforcement. Oh, and its endorsement of Obama notwithstanding, it generally has atrociously conservative politics.

    Harper’s is relatively decent, as is the New Yorker. That said, the only magazine that I actually take the time to read any longer is Nature, which is absolutely wonderful (but very expensive).

  12. sean says:

    Well, I see the conservative contingent got here first with the Economist, but even a pansy liberal such as myself agrees that it’s a good magazine to read. I personally prefer the New Yorker, though, because it is broader. You can get straight new from any number of sources on the web, but the New Yorker has longer, well-written pieces on more obscure topics that you can’t find online.

  13. Maxim Khailo says:

    International Socialist Review.

    You can pick this up at your local Barnes & Noble and read through it. Many here have suggested the Economist. I recommend that to, but to get a polar opposite point of view, you should also read the ISR.

    It is one of the most challenging Magazines you will read.

    Another I recommend is Adbusters…

  14. anotherwannabe says:

    The New Yorker has its biases which are subtle but got so increasingly irksome that I stopped my subscription. A pity, because I can experience so well why it’s the literary flagship of America. Harper’s and The Atlantic don’t have the same verve, edginess, wit.

    The Economist has its biases too and in fact they are not as subtle. The figures trotted out invariably belong in the category of lies, damned lies, and statistics. Which isn’t to say I don’t agree with many of its conclusions.

    “Nature” was recommended. I found “American Scientist” (main publication of Sigma Xi, as opposed to “Scientific American” which has been dumbed down over the years) has plenty of intellectual bite over a broad range of topics. No politics however.

  15. drblanco says:

    I’m didn’t realize the Economist is so popular. I didn’t make my recommendation as a political conservative, because I’m not. The Economist does have its biases, but they’re pretty apparent, and I don’t know of any other publication with its breadth of world news.

  16. Alastair says:

    I clicked through from Planet to mention The Economist …. but see that’s covered! I don’t buy it every week now (expensive) but can thoroughly recommend it as well. Buy it for a week or two and see what you think. I think it’s the best weekly there is.


  17. John Goerzen says:

    Thanks everyone for the feedback.

    I have no local newsstand or bookstore (nearest one is 45 miles away), which is why I’m asking here. Thanks again.

  18. Joe Rayhawk says:

    The American Interest is a fairly new project from political philosophy heavyweights Francis Fukuyama, Josef Joffe, and Walter Russell Mead. As an offshoot of The National Interest, you can expect the densest level of original global political analysis. For a sample of the sort of thing the editors are known for, check out

    It also showcases its fair share of intellectual conservatism, which many circles never seem to even attempt to expose themselves to.

  19. Claire says:

    We dropped [i]The Atlantic[/i] after it shifted its politics dramatically to the right. No doubt good for sales, but not so good for us.

    [i]Harper’s[/i] often has really good in-depth articles as well as a bunch of little snippets of things from all over. The book reviews tend to be a bit more obscure and focused on things I’m not especially interested in. ([i]The Atlantic[/i] had better, or at least better for me, book reviews, I think.)

    I’ve never been all that excited by the fiction in either magazine.

    If you’re interested in politics, history, and public policy, [i]The Wilson Quarterly[/i], put out by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, might be worth a look. Each issue usually has a section with several articles on a given topic, generally covering all sides of that issue. It also usually has a few other interesting articles, plus excerpts from a wide range of scholarly work, plus pretty good nonfiction book reviews.

    A Wilson Center membership also gives you discounts in the Smithsonian shops, if you’re visiting Washington, D.C. (And, for that matter, [i]Smithsonian[/i] magazine also used to be a very nice magazine to read, covering several different scientific or historical topics each issue, often by serious scholars, but written for a general audience.)

    1. Claire says:

      Two more magazines I read on a regular basis are [i]Locus[/i], which reviews science fiction and fantasy, and these days tends to review the particular kinds of science fiction and fantasy that I enjoy; and [i]Cabinet[/i], which is a small artsy/weird culture magazine that is just generally amazing. Neither is great for current events, but [i]Locus[/i]’s reviews might give you a glimpse of a future, and [i]Cabinet[/i] may give you insight into some odd happenings in the past or present.

  20. I’ll also add my shout out for The Economist. It has in-depth interesting articles on a global level and on a national level.

  21. I rather like the New Yorker—I read it more-or-less cover to cover each week.

    That said, if you’re looking for something with _news_ value, I don’t think the New Yorker is going to be your best value—as others have said, the Economist is probably a good choice, though I occasionally find its conservatism annoying.

    The New Yorker will provide you with many good, in-depth articles on varied subjects, but it’s also going to come with a healthy dose of local socialite material, short fiction, and varied discussion of pop music/opera/dance/art/fiction/poetry and the like.

    I never would have anticipated reading articles about opera.

    Maybe this actually makes it more appealing. :)

    Oh, and be aware that every single issue, there are several pages are devoted exclusively to stuff that’s going on in New York _that week_. So there is a little myopia.

  22. I’ve subscribed to The New Yorker for over 20 years. It’s wonderful.

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