The Magazine Aisle

A simple run to Barnes & Noble is never that simple for me. It all starts out innocently enough. I look over the new release table, wander by the tennis and entertainment books, and spend a great deal of time looking at all of the cookbooks. However, the bulk of my time at Barnes & Noble is spent over in the coffee shop where it’s a classic case of coffee, people watching, and oh yes, magazines.

Magazines have had a rough couple of years. Vogue’s September issue was a bit trim this past season, compared to the mammoth 2007 issue which inspired the documentary “The September Issue.” Advertisers simply aren’t spending as much as they used to and as a result, magazines are getting cheaper, thinner, and lighter. Worst of all, many are simply folding. Gourmet was a major loss last year.

Yes, the magazine section at Barnes & Noble is a bit less crowded than it was a few years back. However, there is hope. Some publications are doing really interesting work in a time when many magazines are suffering. I would never deny the fact that I love Vogue, House Beautiful, and even the occasional Martha Stewart Living. However, there are some dynamic, lesser known publications (listed here in no particular order) that should really be explored on a hot day in the summer, when we are all a slave to air conditioning.

#1: Garden & Gun

Although this magazine has been around for a few years, the quality of the publication is really taking off. Published bi-monthly, Garden & Gun could easily be described as Southern porn. It’s the mint julep, bluegrass, folk festival south that we all claim to live in, but rarely find. Garden & Gun follows the art, design, food, fashion, music, and culture of the southern states. Recent entries looked for the perfect pit barbeque and fried green tomatoes. Recent music articles highlighted fantastic new works by the Punch Brothers. Garden & Gun also has the ability to not take itself too seriously with all its southern charm. It pushes articles searching for the best bourbon up against great stories about Tom Brokaw and his dog. It is a must subscribe.

#2: Saveur

The food related magazine rack is slim these days with the consolidation of many publications and the complete folding of others. I believe a major problem within this genre is the mass amount of publications doing exactly the same thing. You have fine dining, celebrity chef, and weight loss. However, Saveur has decided to do something different. It completely speaks to the true food lovers. Its articles feature fantastic photography, but there is also something much deeper – a true mission to highlight fantastic food, the people and places that make it, and the world that they live in. As often as Saveur might highlight a new chef, it also strives to highlight great food that is found in parts of the world that you would never expect. A recent issue was completely devoted to the food of Los Angeles. It’s a great concept that showcases the fantastic upscale food of Hollywood with the vending trucks in L.A. city center. It’s a great read.

#3: ReadyMade

Design and green living magazines are extremely popular as people try to stretch their dollar and spread their green love around. I’m beginning to think that a lot of these yuppie design magazines look alike. For instance, my bro-mance Lance loves Dwell. I read it from time to time, but it all begins to look the same after a bit. However, one that I really respond to is ReadyMade. ReadyMade spends a great deal of time showing you what real people can do within their often small spaces. The real excitement of ReadyMade, however, is that it always includes fantastic projects that you can do on the weekend to achieve similar looks. It’s a really great travel, design, and urban living magazine.

#4: Yankee

Yankee has been around for forever, but I have always loved the way that it highlights a different part of the country – a place that is the polar opposite of Northwest Arkansas. Each issue brings you the charm, food, design, and most importantly, people of New England. The fall issues, in particular, are spectacular to look at. The editors make sure that every iconic shot of Vermont and New Hampshire are shoved down our throat, and to that I say thank you. Everyone can enjoy a great escape sometime, and this might be as close as we get to a true vacation in today’s economy.

#5: Out

Again, not a new magazine. However, Out has really trail blazed past other alternative publications like The Advocate and Instinct. They have effortlessly blended the marching with the fashion, reality, and fun of younger magazines. Sure they have way too many fashion spreads with angry models, but they also have great writing from Josh Kilmer Purcell and even funny essays from Joan Rivers. Out has also tackled some great covers on Lady Gaga, Anderson Cooper, and Modern Family.


Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.