Friday, June 18, 2004

Top 50 Magazines

Tipped by James Callan, I checked out the Chicago Tribune's just published list of top 50 magazines in English. An interesting list, though stocked with the usual suspects. But they did give props to a few of my favorites:

Seems to me the best English magazine on the planet right now is The New Yorker (ranked #6), which broke the definitive Abu Ghraib stories and continue to publish investigative pieces that put the dailies and the newsweeklies to shame. Add to that the literary ripostes from Louis Menand, occasional reports from Philip Gourevich, and fine arts reviews, and you have a magazine that has finally left the dark ages ushered in by Tina Brown.

If I must starve on a one magazine diet, I'd pick The Economist (#3) to subsist on. Many aren't thrilled with its gimme-the-free-market-or-gimme-death slant, but if you read it from cover-to-cover every week (which I aspire to, but typically don't) you'll know more about what's going on today than you will from any other weekly or monthly magazine.

A few others: I don't read the Atlantic Monthly (#17) every month, but they continue to publish the most provocative counterintuitive pieces around. The intellectual giant New York Review of Books (#36) should place higher, and I got no problems with tech bible Wired being in the top 10, though the top spot is a bit of a stretch. Entertainment Weekly's (#30) always a fun read while propped on the can (even when Owen Gleiberman is at his most detestable), and Jane's (#9) easily the most readable chick-rag for a guy.

"10 Ways to Her Scream!" and "5 Tips to Get Ripped Abs!" are headlines that never fail to grab my attention. That's probably why I often pick up the Cosmo for men, Men's Health (ranked very high at #8) at the airport for some light airplane reading. Useful guy stuff, and not as embarrassing to lug around as Maxim.

Which magazines did the Trib ignore? For one, there's a glaring shortage of provocative 'zines and design mags. Where's Adbusters or I.D., or even Wallpaper*? They leave out a whole category of the most cutting-edge publications. No hipster rags like Black Book or Flaunt. No niche zines like Giant Robot or Bitch.

Among the publications I subscribe to that missed the cut: McSweeney's one-of-a-kind The Believer, irreverent and witty musings on literary cornucopia, and essential if you like to read really good graduate school English essays. A criminal omission. Others: the movie nerd bi-monthly Film Comment, which has been going through an identity crisis, and Harper's, strong but increasingly militant.

Most appalling is the absence of the zippy, colorful Lucky, a nirvana for a few of my closest pals. Ask not what you can do for shopping, ask what shopping (and reader-friendly layouts) can do for you.