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 2008 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 sister who likes hipster culture minus the pretense: Venus Zine is chock-full great coverage on women in music, culture, fashion, and art. They also have a killer DIY section featuring recipes, how-to’s, and practical advice.
For the brother who’s totally over Rolling Stone: Formerly a Grateful Dead fan ‘zine, Relix has been putting out music news, reviews, and interviews since the 70s. Their tastes run the gamut from jam bands to Ryan Adams, always with an eye on new and exciting acts. Each issue also includes a CD sampler of featured songs.
For the aunt who always wants to hear stories about your life: Billed as a quarterly of true stories and original art, Fray is a new magazine full of compelling personal narratives organized around a theme. The newest issue contains stories of geekdom and obsession, including a pocket protector collection and one girl’s primordial love for naked mole rats. Deliciously humorous and entertaining as well as educational, Fray sates the hunger for a good story.
For the friend whose “artsy-ness” never fails to make you feel inferior: The Believer’s beautiful pages and eclectic mix of material covered is almost intimidating in its apparent high-brow ambiance. Your artsy friend is bound to extrapolate meaning from the artwork and essays that you could only dream to understand.
For the dog-lover (but not Dog Fancy-er): The Bark is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year as the “modern dog culture magazine.” What is dog culture, you ask? Everything from health nutrition information to pet fashion to new books featuring canine protagonists.
For the independent, sassy Jewish mom: When up against bigger Jewish-centered magazines like Moment and Hadassah, quarterly magazine Lilith stands out for its unapologetic (yet non-hostile) feminist stance and its commitment to ideas and stories that matter but have perhaps not made it to the mainstream.
For the Spanish-speaking wannabe: The monthly magazine Think Spanish is written in Spanish for English speakers, with vocab words bolded in the text and defined on the side of the page. The format allows people to read seamlessly if they understand the articles and learn new words if they don’t. The articles aren’t exactly hard-hitting, but they’re interesting enough to keep readers engaged.
For the tech-geek in your office: The electrical engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum has been churning out some great issues lately. The magazine features plenty of articles on new tech-developments that could interest laypeople, and enough hard-core nerdiness to impress even the most jaded of computer dorks.
For anyone interested in psychological health: Psychotherapy Networker describes itself as a resource for therapists, but the cheeky bimonthly never fails to transcend its intended audience with broad-based appeal. From the science of happiness and mindful approaches to depression, to our cultural relationship with insomnia and new ways to approach sex, the articles are intellectually rigorous and provide fascinating into the human mind.
For optimists (or, curmudgeons who seriously need a lift): There isn't a better magazine than Greater Good, published by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Greater Good reports on innovative research into altruism and compassion. Far from wonky, its savvy editors fuse findings with real-world relevance, showing how "the science of a meaningful life" impacts everything from education to public policy.
For more great publications, check out the nominees for the 19th annual Utne Independent Press Awards, and Utne Reader's 2007 Gift-Giving Guide. From environmental to spiritual coverage, from best design to best writing, there's bound to be a perfect-fit publication for everyone on your holiday gifting list.