Ah, holiday gift crunch time. No matter how much planning you do, there’s always something of a scramble towards the finish line. Take a deep breath, Utne Reader is here to help with its 2009 Alternative Press Gift Guide. The best part of gifting one of these alternative publications? Not only will you sustain the intellect of the recipient, you’ll support the independent press. Plus: No wrapping and certainly no waiting in line at the post office!
For the brainy new mom: Aptly subtitled “the magazine for thinking mothers,” Brain, Child speaks to moms interested in lively discussions about motherhood and child-rearing, with personal—and political—stories that always expand the conversation.
For the bibliophile who’s wondering where all the book reviews have gone: The elegant, oversized pages of Bookforum are filled with reviews that consistently pack the depth, personality, and variety that most newspapers and magazines gave up on years ago.
For the budding writer: Give a bimonthly dose of inspiration and support in the form of Poets & Writers, the magazine of the eponymous literary nonprofit. Its tools for writers are invaluable, and it’s a must-read for anyone who cares deeply about the big picture of books and literature.
For the tinkerer who rarely leaves the workshop: The name IEEE Spectrum may not sound like the a great read, but the official magazine the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers consistently publishes fun, readable, and fascinating science writing. When your uncle looks at your DVD player and says, You know, I can fix that, this magazine could keep him occupied.
For that funky friend who kicks it old school: Wax Poetics digs between the grooves of the coolest soul, jazz, hip hop, and rap recordings on the planet. The best of the bi-monthly’s audacious visuals revolve around underground album art and priceless archival footage from the cool to the psychedelic. The swaggering prose, which focuses on the music’s roots, is unapologetically geeked out.
For the silent soldiers of the bicycle army: That’s what Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac calls daily bike commuters, and this pocket-size pub targets its pedal-pumping demographic with literary-minded essays, poems, and interviews—a distinct and welcome change from the product-pushing focus of mainstream bike mags. On a more practical tip, Bicycle Times does the gear thing but keeps it real with actual rubber-on-road testing instead of high-touch photo spreads. This upstart publication from the makers of longtime mountain bike mag Dirt Rag also delivers news and features on the bicycling lifestyle.
For the cousin who doesn’t not believe in God, but just can’t get with the dogma: Geez magazine, which prides itself on making “holy mischief in an age of fast faith,” takes aim at the pious and the politically-motivated moneychangers and says “Amen” to community, contemplation, and big, open-ended questions about the meaning of it all. True believers, agnostics, and wary atheists are all welcome—as long as they don’t take themselves or their belief systems too seriously.
For those who revel in the esoteric: From the Pitch Drop Experiment to the workout machines of the 1800s, Cabinet digs up some of the most esoteric, hyper-intelligent, and strangely compelling ephemera in the independent press.
For the foodie who already has enough recipes: Gastronomica is a quarterly journal of food and culture that is sure to sate the appetite of the culinary-inclined person in your life. Each issue serves up an eclectic array of food-related musings on everything from edible cockscombs in Italy to eating with your hands—all with a healthy side of literary panache.
For Your Arty friend: Esopus, published by the non-profit Esopus Foundation Ltd., is a visual playground for anyone more interested in images than words. This twice-yearly art journal provides a free-form space for a wide variety of visual artists to display their work. Esopus is a work of art in itself, experimenting with paper stock, pullout posters, booklets tucked away in a sleeve on the page, and a CD glued to the back page. In the latest issue, a button in a bag is glued to a photo of a box full of buttons in bags.