The 100 Best Magazines You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of
How the indie magazine saved print, and where to get started
Print, they say, is dead.
Which is true — for the monthly glossies and newsprinted dailies that once dominated checkout lines and city-corner kiosks. Their relevance, page counts and editorial staffs are dwindling with a quickness, advertisers shunning them in favor of the (largely unfounded) promises of the all-consuming and data-driven world of digital.
But in their place, a new form of print journalism has risen, and even thrived. We’re talking about the world of independent magazines, the unlikely hero of the 24-hour news cycle. According to The Financial Times, alt-mag distribution service Stack reported a 32% growth in subscribers in 2017, with The Guardian having cited 76% growth for the same service back in 2014 (it launched in 2008).
So what are they doing differently? Why are the monoliths of media being put to pasture while frisky young upstarts continue to find purchase? The answer is simple, if a bit hard to define: quality.
An independent magazine, as far we can tell, no longer refers to a staple-bound packet passed around in rock ‘n’ roll venues or high-school hallways, but rather any work of “slow journalism,” which can be thought of as the spiritual antithesis of clickbait.
Where clickbait is hastily assigned and edited, often riddled with factual errors and intended to leave the popular consciousness almost as quickly as it enters it, slow journalism is built for a long and healthy shelf life. It is typically printed on cardstock, distributed quarterly or bimonthly, and filled with rigorously edited longform stories and original photography, illustrations and graphics. Slow journalism is not something to be tossed in the waste bin after a quick skim; it is meant to be displayed, ogled and admired.
Independent magazines also — vitally — tend not to depend on ad dollars for their sustenance. Most come with a bit of sticker shock, which their readers see as a fair tradeoff for quality. Still others (like the Facebook-backed GROW or Away luggage’s Here), may be viewed as marketing vehicles for the tech companies that operate them.
The only remaining question, then, is where to begin your own journey into the world of slow journalism. Luckily, the kaleidoscope of titles covers just about any subject or interest one can think of, 100 of which we’ve compiled and categorized below for your dutiful perusal.
There are a number of exceptional soccer quarterlies available, but Howler is the only one that actually calls it soccer: it’s American-produced, with a special emphasis on U.S.-bred players and the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams.
Because basketball is more than NCAA and NBA box scores: it is a global economy intrinsically connected to the many cultures that celebrate it.
Sneak peek: Follow Franchise on Instagram
A place for writers from many backgrounds — sports, fashion, longform — to comment on the culture of a sport they all love: tennis.
Think of the “journal of sport and culture” as the New Yorker meets Sports Illustrated, in newspaper form. They also have a nascent video division.
Irreverent, accessible coverage of the world’s least irreverent, accessible sport.
A once-American mag relaunched in Paris in 2014. Dense and thorough in the best way, with literary excerpts, photoshoots and interviews profiling a single region, from California to Scotland.
Sneak Peek: Weightlessness in Bhutan (excerpt)
A consistent cocktail of the random and elegant, each issue of Collective Quarterly takes a deep dive into a region over 200 litho-printed pages.
A magazine in which each issue focuses entirely on a single street? That’s right.
Sneak Peek: Notes From a Mobile Phone Diary
Milan-based and photography-heavy, with three very different places per issue (e.g. Japan, South Dakota and Venice).
Sneak Peek: Pantelleria
The nomadic travel guide that literally shacks up in its city of interest — be it Saravejo or Lima — for several weeks to capture the place and its people.
Sneak Peek: Hector Gallo’s Garden of Affections
The thick, glossy photo tome that launched the career of Emily Ratajkowski.
A travelogue, Elska showcases the cities of the world through the photos and stories of the local gay community. “Men presented with a natural style that melds documentary portrait photography with a bit of sexiness,” as they say.
Made by women (sisters Christine and Sigrun Guggenberger) since 2006, this Austria/Berlin magazine is “about freedom, dreams, sex and life” (with some fiction, fashion and poetry to boot).
Artistic nudes, sure, but this French journal is just as much about fashion, cinema and contemporary photography … with the occasional erotic David Lynch photo essay.
“A culture of yours,” this infrequent arts glossy (which, yes, is full of beautiful, occasionally unclothed women but leans toward fashion) is dictated by the photographers and their medium of choice.
One of the titans of the literary world, Granta has been publishing award-winning nonfiction, photojournalism and — above — contemporary fiction since 1889 (it was founded by Cambridge University students). You can also buy a digital-only subscription to access their extensive digital archives, though that would kind of defeat the purpose of this article.
Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern
A radical re-envisioning of the literary journal as a medium, no two issues are the same. Some are traditionally formatted with an emphasis on one region or subject; Issue 16 was a deck of playing cards; 17 was a stack of disparate mail. They also publish a popular satirical blog: McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Sneak Peek: It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherf*ckers
You get three issues a year, two of which are spearheaded by guest editors from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. The roster of writers whose early work has appeared is a who’s who of the American canon: David Foster Wallace, John Irving, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Joy Williams, John Ashberry, Ray Carver.
Sneak Peek: Therefore by Andrés Cerpa
Supplements original fiction and poetry with literary criticism, author interviews and food writing. Especially notable for its “New Voices” section, which highlights previously unpublished authors.
Francis Ford Coppola’s literary journal lies at the intersection of fiction and film, with a tightly edited table of contents (3-4 stories) and a guest curator from the world of pop culture (Nick Cave, Julian Casablancas) in every issue.
Award-winning British style mag characterised by fashion-forward spreads featuring male celebs and intellectuals, top-shelf art direction (hence the awards), and a delightfully impish editorial voice.
Men in This Town
Based on the popular Australian street style blog, MITT focuses on “capturing men with a distinct look in their natural habitat” — in other words, finding regular dudes with dope style on the street all over the world and then interviewing them to get a peek into the rest of their lives.
Straight out of London with a supremely posh (and undeniably cool) take on men’s fashion — product recos, vintage style inspo, plus profiles of celeb gents we could all take some sartorial cues from.
Hall of Fame watch geek Benjamin Clymer’s site has become the preeminent resource for timepiece enthusiasts of every stripe, and their eponymous mag delivers the same thoroughly-informed, well-researched, beautifully shot horology porn.
A global authority on the intersection of street and pop culture, Highsnob is the thinking man’s destination for elegant, beautifully shot trend reporting on sneakers, streetwear, music, art and design.
Oak the Nordic Journal
A gorgeously bound hardcover that takes as its subject Scandinavian artists, makers and designers, with deep dives into traditions of Nordic craftsmanship.
Sneak Peek: Olafur Eliasson: A Studio Beyond
Le Petit Voyeur
Annual or biannual
An ad-free, limited-edition collection of edgy artists with a healthy dose of unusual, compelling (artistic) nudes.
Sneak Peek: This year’s special super hard-to-cop release of sultry sci-fi nudes by Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama
A sumptuous exploration of contemporary photography and visual art to feast your eyes upon.
Iconoclastic publication presenting and highlighting artists of color on their own terms. Printed in Texas.
Sneak Peek: Earlier this year, Forbes shortlisted the magazine in a guide to notable women-run indie mags
A magazine that incorporates technology as much into its format as its content: a corresponding app enables you to scan icons in the magazine for accompanying video and/or audio content.
A collection of articles and essays from some of the best minds in modern-day startup culture: think design, experiential, tech, strategy and more.
A magazine for the makers, tweakers and fiddlers, encompassing everything a DIYer could ever want to learn.
As its name states, this mag is meant to provide a moment away from the screen for people who are consumed by them. It explores this world through interviews with the people moving the industry; think pieces and scoops on brand-new gadgets and technologies.
Weapons of Reason
More of a “publishing project” than a magazine, this print piece uses highly stylized graphics and illustrations to discuss the global challenges of modernity.
Sneak Peek: Though megacities are a recent phenomenon, many traits of the modern metropolis have their origins in our past / The youth of Tokyo are miserable, but the city’s elderly aren’t faring much better
A handsomely photographed publication for “discerning and curious individuals who just happen to smoke weed.”
A deep dive into your morning vice: coffee, from the baristas to the beans to the culture around your cup o’ joe.
The Cocktail Lovers
One man and one woman, determined to find the best cocktail bars in London (and occasionally abroad).
Pretty much the bible of booze, Imbibe is the best in the game for cocktail recipes, spirited travel ideas and non-boozy beverage trends.
Tattoo culture, from its history and traditions through its modern-day practitioners, as told through profiles, essays and photography,
A stand-in for getting up close and personal with the cars (and car owners) at auto shows.
At the crossroads of conceptual photography and Formula One comes a magazine you’ll want to dismember and tack onto your garage walls.
Iron & Air
Instead of putting forth its own idea of what motorcycling culture should be, Iron & Air writes and photographs bikers as they are.
Looks like an eco-friendly adventure travel magazine, actually an ode to the vehicles that make those journeys possible.
The only print publication dedicated to women guitarists and bassists, this mag is chock-full of great, underrepresented names from around the world.
Sneak Peek: The Truth Behind the Supposed Decline in Guitar
Under the Radar
An American music rag co-founded by a husband and wife billed as “the solution to music pollution,” Under the Radar occasionally taps music icons to interview other icons, with memorable results.
Sneak Peek: The last interview and cover with Elliott Smith before his death: “Better Off Than Dead”
A newer title out of Australia, Happy Mag’s features keep an eye on the up-and-coming youth music, culture and art around the world.
It’s wax as in vinyl, and inside you’ll find coverage of hip-hop, jazz, reggae, blues and more, interspersed with history lessons and takeaways about important books and films.
Sneak Peek: A Mac Miller Interview from the archives
In the spirit of teen music rags and fan zines of yore, Shindig! covers present and past popular music history in an earnest voice still untouched by Pitchfork’s heady, stuffy style.
The Surfer’s Journal
This reader-supported surf culture mag out of San Clemente, CA, bills itself as “more book than magazine” and doesn’t disappoint. Coffee table-worthy even for the most landlocked.
Not to be confused with the Libertarian monthly (or the seminal Hoobastank ballad), this Reason is dedicated to artful shred photography, hard-hitting gear reviews and cheeky reporting on the sport’s most progressive young riders.
Dedicated to exploring “the many facets of radical culture,” Huck not only provides a healthy dose of skate, surf and snow, but also music, art, pop culture and activism — all shot with a gritty, realist eye.
MC really shines in the photography department — delivering supremely artful snaps of not only the skate and surf cultures that serve as its main focus, but plenty of travel and culture as well. Oh, and babes.
The Ski Journal
Eye-popping photography from snowcapped peaks all over the globe, accompanied by charming dispatches from fellas who are skiers first, writers second.
SCIENCE AND NATURE
Instead of preaching to the traditional green thumbs, The Plant offers unusual and inspiring horticultural insights through interviews, stories and photography.
Award-winning and published in partnership with MIT Press, Nautilus tackles one topic per issue via leading scientists, journalists, philosophers and artists.
A gardening tome that acts both as a how-to guide (to planting, making jam, using tools) and an “antidote to the mad whirl of digital.”
The ocean in magazine form, both figuratively (the English and Italian editions highlight our multifaceted connections to the sea) and literally (the paper is made from algae).
Instead of man versus wild, Beside breaks down our relationship with nature (from migration to fly fishing), advocating for symbiosis.
Made for chefs, by chefs. Includes recipes and tales of the tribe from an outstanding number of their own.
A cheeky, graphic-tastic food-and-wine mag meant to blur the lines between gastronomy and the creative arts.
For the resident roast-heads, a travel magazine that visits the most coffee-happy cities in the world.
Sneak Peek: Iconic San Francisco Coffee Drinks (excerpt)
Put A Egg On It
Not just eggs! This art and literary mag shares essays on all things epicurean and celebrates food at its most fundamental: like, say, the pleasure of breaking bread.
Sneak Peek: A Bitter History
A new location each time, with 160 pages of foodie adventures — expect trips to beloved street vendors and stories, photos and recipes from local chefs (be it Denmark or Baja).
Sneak Peek: Jorge Vallejo
Each issue meditates on a number of great films that begin with the same letter via poetry, illustration, fiction and essays. Next up is H.
Sneak peek: A preview of Issue G
Cahiers du Cinema
Quite simply, the most influential film magazine ever conceived, having literally created the notion of “auteurism” and counting Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard among its editorial alumni. We should also mention that it’s in French.
Sneak peek: Cahiers du Cinema’s annual top 10 lists
That Cineaste is traditional in format — interviews with directors, festival reviews, critical essays on film — makes it no less radical in politics: it’s been a champion of independent, foreign and avant garde cinema for the entirety of its 50 years in circulation.
Published by the Film Society at Lincoln Center since 1962, America’s answers to Cahiers reviews film and its societal impact with a rigorous lens.
Little White Lies
Film subjects high (Agnes Varda’s Faces Places) and low (Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper) are reviewed with equal fervor in this poppy film journal.
Go inside the private homes and spaces of the world’s most stylish, interesting creatives.
A handsome, collectible title for lovers of graphic design and visual art, with a healthy dose of informed critique as well.
See how the other half lives in this digestible, expertly curated look inside the homes and minds of international creatives, intellectuals and people of good taste.
Contemporary culture magazine made by an architecture critic that looks at what it means to be alive and sharing space with others in this day and age.
Sneak Peek: As covered by 032c, The REAL REVIEW Tells Us What It Means to Live Today
Covered in fabric wallpaper, issues of Cabana celebrate the unsung details of interiors, from textures playing well to materials aging with character to the possibilities unfolding from orchestras of colors.
Sneak Peek: A look into the founder Mondadori Sartogo’s own gorgeously maintained home, courtesy the Telegraph
In-depth English-language reportage (and fiction and visual arts) from a locale where most Americans don’t seek out journalism.
Biannual (six-issue limited run)
As migration speeds up (in terms of people, goods, ideas), Migrant Journal slows us down to discuss its ramifications via journalism, academia and more.
The media arm of the slow movement: covering news “three months after the dust has settled.”
Old-school journalism in format (broadsheet newspaper), new-school protest in content (cataloging resistance movements around the world).
The podcast that championed reason and open debate in our polarizing times, now in coffee-table form.
A UK-based feminist glossy that focuses away from the mainstream (straight, white, cis, able-bodied) to explore different gender roles and beauty ideals.
At 20 years, the literary-based Gertrude is the longest consecutively published queer journal — although, sadly, they recently moved the “journal” part online. However, they now publish (in print) fiction and non-fiction themed “chapbooks” and have their own quarterly, subscription-based book club.
Inspired by the phrase from Clueless, an ode to the “disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand-ticket-holding friend of Dorothy.” Fashion, art, culture and fiction, all from a “Cakeboy” perspective.
An exploration of trans-male culture, focusing on a different theme each issue. Started in 2009, the magazine also creates apparel and throws events around San Francisco. (Note: The upcoming issue #20 appears to be the last, though you can still subscribe and receive the last two.)
Interviews, essays and original style photography by an NYC-based creative agency, with a focus on “women, queer and POC creatives.”
An oldie but goodie founded in 1952, this magazine is run by a not-for-profit organization with the goal of connecting photographers to the broader community.
GUP is an acronym for Guide to Unique Photography. It can and will make you feel uncomfortable, sometimes.
Doesn’t take itself too seriously but still has a discerning eye for all things photographic, plus a very open policy on calling for submissions from readers, often showcasing upcoming artists.
Each issue is published around a very specific theme, with each collection also printed on a specifically selected stock of paper.
A photo journal with a self-proclaimed lack of genre and style, solely looking to feature a wide range of work across themes and experience levels. Looking to take nothing away from the photographers, all pieces are published sans graphics or text.
Blends a Planet Earth-esque approach (issues goes by names like Altitude, Frozen or Woods) with personal narrative touches while adventuring through the natural world.
Sneak peek: Friluftsiv
As swashbuckling as it gets. One issue tackles kayaking past polar bears and crushing waves off Tasmania.
Portland-based quarterly offering a main course of adventure, alongside sizable sides of artwork, motorcycles, surfing and camping.
Sneak Peek: Redwood Oysters
A gorgeous, brand-new tome all about … hunting? Modern Huntsman seeks to bridge the hyper-charged rhetorical gap between advocates and dissidents.
Sneak Peek: Give an Inch, Take a Mile
The online gear kings also do a print version with 220 pages of round-ups, reviews and field reports.
Sneak Peek: Inside the World’s Best Hiking Boot Repair Shop
A trade publication with surprisingly good looks and well-informed commentary on the business of education.
Each month, B investigates a single successful brand, complete with behind-the-scenes stories and photos.
Business of Fashion
Insights on any and everything related to the fashion industry (even tangentially).
This magazine (and agency) operates at the heart of startup culture, advising brands on how to stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape.
Relaunched in 2009 with a glossy, design-forward presentation, Worth caters to high net-worth individuals with wealth management advice and lifestyle recommendations.
Additional reporting by Athena Wisotsky, Kirk Miller, Danny Agnew, Alex Lauer, Tanner Garrity and Eli London
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.
Suggested for you