the Writers are Reading
Musto (columnist, The Village Voice):
"The only magazine I really read voraciously the second it comes is New York. Partly it’s because they’re our competition, but also because there are significant differences–they cater to a more ‘upscale crowd’–so I want to check out what’s going on across the tracks, as it were.
"The front of the book has tons of power-broker gossip and celebrity news with light featurettes; the back of the book has reviews that enlighten (Peter Rainer) or appall (John Simon); and the middle of the book features stories and interviews that sometimes interest me too."
Lance Morrow (columnist, Time):
Morrow doesn’t have much enthusiasm for magazines these days. The exceptions include:
o The American Scholar: "Anne Fadiman does a terrific job of getting interesting essays in there."
o The New York Review of Books: "Robert Silvers is an intelligent guy. He maintains a standard."
o National Review’s website: "Oddly enough. It’s cheeky and so on. Fast off the mark."
o Time, Newsweek and US News & World Report: "I read them out of duty."
Richard Preston (author of The Hot Zone):
"I’m embarrassed to answer this question! The truth is, I don’t read very many magazines. I don’t even read The New Yorker as thoroughly as I should. The one notable exception is Science. I read it and love it. Science is one of the best magazines in the world. For example, the Feb. 16 issue, on the human genome sequence, is one of the most important magazine issues of the twenty-first century."
Inigo Thomas (columnist, Slate):
"I have a subscription to one journal, The London Review of Books, where I once worked, and it’s not for sentimental reasons that I believe it’s the best political and literary review. I’m fond of the unexpected discovery at Niko’s Magazine and Smoke Store on 11th Street and 6th Avenue. Some purchases are regular acquisitions; others are more whimsical choices–a sudden enthusiasm for flying, for example. The Internet has made many magazines and newspapers more accessible and better known. Until recently, I never read Technology Review or The New Scientist and only occasionally bought The Los Angeles Times or The Washington Post. Now, I often look at these publications, and I’m glad that I can."
Susan Orlean (staff writer, The New Yorker):
Susan Orlean subscribes to Vanity Fair, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler ("good yuppie porn") and Allure. Orlean admits that she’s a "grazer." She recently bought Yahoo Internet Life, but was bored by it, and lately she has cancelled her subscriptions to the more "hobby-oriented" magazines: Vogue, Architectural Digest, Runners’ World, Gourmet, and Martha Stewart Living.
Joel Stein (staff writer, Time):
Stein enjoys reading Time, Inc.’s Entertainment Weekly, which he says is a "very smart" magazine and a fun way to keep up with pop culture. Harper’s and The New York Times Magazine, are the only two magazines he routinely buys, for their superb prose. Occasionally, when he has a "long plane ride or something," Stein purchases The Economist. "It blows me away every time," he says. "If you read that magazine once every two months, you’re the smartest person in the world. You can engage in any conversation."
Elizabeth Kolbert (staff writer, The New Yorker):
Because she covers local politics for the magazine, Kolbert stays abreast of city happenings through New York, The New York Times Magazine and Crain’s. To keep her political muscles flexed, Kolbert says she also reads The American Prospect, The Weekly Standard and The Nation. She’s loyal to Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly. For kicks, Kolbert affirms, she will sometimes grab copies of Gourmet or Wired from Condé Nast’s free pile.
Andy Borowitz (contributor to The New Yorker, Newsweek and The New York Times):
"In my writing I tend to traffic in pop culture and current events, so I don’t find magazines that cover those subjects terribly diverting," says Borowitz. "As far as I’m concerned, the more recondite and specialized the subject matter, the better." How recondite, exactly? "I’ve got a soft spot for peer reviewed medical journals," he says. "There’s one called Minimally Invasive Surgical Nursing that is a particular favorite of mine." Borowitz readily concedes that he is "not especially interested in surgery or nursing," and that he finds the magazine "totally incomprehensible." Still, he insists that "anything in our society that attempts to be minimally invasive should be supported."
Malcolm Gladwell (staff writer, The New Yorker; author of The Tipping Point):
Gladwell reads Sports Illustrated ("Religiously, cover to cover, since I was eight."); The New York Review of Books ("So I can pretend to be an intellectual."); The New Yorker ("Because I work there."); and Car and Driver ("I’m a car nut."). "I guess the reason I like most of them–Car and Driver and Sports Illustrated, in particular–is that they are wonderful sources of raw information," says Gladwell. "I feel I learn things that I can put to use elsewhere, in my writing or just in my everyday understanding, that goes beyond what I would learn in general interest magazines."
Paul Krugman (op-ed columnist, The New York Times):
"Gosh. I subscribe to Business Week just to keep up on trends and have an idea of what’s happening; and to The New Yorker, for the cartoons and to have some sense of the cultural world. I’m also a big fan of James Surowiecki, who does their business stuff. I get Fortune, where I used to write, and which often has really interesting business stories. I used to get The Economist, but finally just got exasperated with their politics and lack of reporting.
"Slate was my old forum, and I still check it several times a week; the shorter lead time makes it better in some ways than any print journal, and I’m a particular fan of Robert Wright. I read Salon religiously during the election morass, when I thought they were perhaps the best news source; most of the time I think they’re annoying, too much celebrity worship etc."
Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America):
Barbara Ehrenreich was trained in biology. But she abandoned the field in 1968–right after earning her Ph.D–for the writing life. These days she keeps up with scientific developments through Scientific American and Discover.
A self-declared "slut" of the writing world–she says she’ll write for anyone from Harper’s to Time–Ehrenreich also reads The New York Review of Books, the To Do List and The Baffler, a Chicago-based magazine that analyzes business culture. She says the Baffler has a young, very irreverent staff who "deconstruct things like management books" with a lot of humor.
She tries to keep up with left-wing opinion by reading The Progressive, Dissent and The Nation. "I can keep up with right-wing opinion by watching TV or by reading the papers. I used to get The New Republic but I thought that the center-right position was sufficiently represented by TV."
The leftist writer and organizer turned conservative commentator, subscribes to The Nation, The Weekly Standard, National Review, American Prospect, The New Republic, The New Criterion, Roll Call, and The New York Review of Books. He also reads Dissent avidly.
Cyndi Stivers (editor-in-chief of Time Out):
The fully tally must be at least 100 titles. My accountant thinks it’s inconceivable that I could possibly look at them all, but I’m a very efficient skimmer, and I read whatevere grabs me. Rather than name all the same magazines everyone else probably will, let me single out one that continually surprises me: a brithis weekly my husband brought home called The New Scientist. Like The Economist, it presents what could be deadly dry material with sly humor, and it has great display type and short news squibs. My favorite item last year explained why paper cuts hurt so much: Chemicals used to make the paper get trapped in the jagged would by paper fiber… which also do not allow the cut to bleed and flush itself out. On the other hand, "A cut with a razor causes little collateral damage, as NATO would say, and leaves little foreign matter behind because it is so smooth and clean." Love it.
Stephen Fried (journalist and author):
Stephen Fried has a problem.–He doesn’t have enough room in his house for all the magazines he collects. Fried, and award-winning investigative journalist who lives in Philadelphia, subscribes to The New Yorker, Scientific America, Taxas Monthly, New York Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair.