Why, yes, the stack of unread magazines is now 30 inches high

And here’s the photo to prove it.

And, today, three more — another 1.5 inches’ worth — arrived in the mail: Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Fortune.

What on earth, you may be wondering, is my problem?

Well, let’s see:

I write for a living so I need to see what everyone else is writing, reading, thinking and talking about. (Yes, I could just read tweets and blogs, but not my style.) I have a Big Story coming out next weekend in The New York Times (I’ll post and link to it), and thanks to this diligence know that a competing publication recently tread on some of the same territory. I’m not fussed about it, but I need to know this.

– I love design, cooking and all things related to creating and maintaining a pretty home. Thus I read House Beautiful, Country Living (both US and UK editions, which are very different indeed), Marie Claire Maison, World of Interiors, Elle Decor.

— I love fashion and want to know what’s on-trend, even if I choose to ignore it. Again, living and working in New York City means you can’t risk looking like a hayseed. So I read Vogue, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar. (I’ve written for Marie Claire and would like to write for Vogue. You have to read them to pitch them.)

I have to know what’s happening in the economy. I hope to retire, which means paying very careful attention to our savings and investments, keeping an eye on trends and developments. I also write on business, so need to know what’s going on out there. Thus: Forbes, Fortune, Barron’s, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (by far the best of the lot.) My husband also works in a newspaper business section. Do you know what BRIC stands for? Too easy? How about CIVET? Welcome to our world!

— I’m swamped! I blog three times every week. I sit on two volunteer boards. I write for a living, so am constantly cranking out copy, which leaves little time to read others’. I’m just way, way behind in my reading. Given limited time, and my addiction to news/analysis on radio, something’s gotta give! I try to read books as often as magazines. Given a choice, a book needs to win.

— I need story ideas.

— I seek good material and sources for my next book(s.)

— I need to see what my competitors are peers are producing, how well and how often. Now that I’ve become Facebook friends with some cool writers I admire, I want to be able to shoot them a letter of congratulations on their latest.

— I need inspiration. I need to read great reporting and writing to see how it’s done.

— Pleasure! I just love flipping through the pages. I find magazines fun, sensual and enjoyable, much more than reading on-line. (Yes, I know, this is very generational of me.) So for pleasure, I read The New Yorker and Wired. (I also occasionally read GQ and Esquire for this reason.) I do not, as you can see, read magazines focused on celebrities, shopping or entertainment. Just not my thing, especially with such limited time and attention already.

How about you?

Do you have unread stacks of magazines?

Which ones do you love most, and why?

(Or books and/or newspapers? I read two papers every day, The New York Times and the Financial Times, adding The Wall Street Journal on weekends. I didn’t even show you those piles!)

53 thoughts on “Why, yes, the stack of unread magazines is now 30 inches high

  1. Ah yes, Too Much Content Syndrome. Having what I like to think of as a fairly varied and rich array of passionate interests, I know how this goes all too well. My only known sure-fire cure for preventing such a stack is…well, unfortunately, being too poor to buy or subscribe to too many magazines! As a recently graduated grad. student, the job market and my student loans make sure I don’t fall victim to this. 😉

    I love your collection, it’s probably what my bedside would look like if I had the means. I try to stay on top of The Nation, The New Republic, Foreign Affairs, and most of Wired’s biggest articles for now.

    This is a lovely list; sometimes I even find myself feeling a bit guilty for time and money spent on magazines, for some reason my mind still translates ‘magazine’ as something more along the lines of E! or something, or tabloids, even though I know how stunningly full many magazines are. This is a nice reminder of how productive keeping that pile high (and trying hard to work it down) really can be, and great inspiration for those that haven’t wandered their way into the chaos yet.

    1. Well, I am terribly biased — as I write for magazines! I have a vested interest in people reading them, for sure.

      I also read other magazines (when I have time, which is never) at the library which saves me time and $$$ and space.

      Your list is smarter than mine. I have to admit to a terrible bias…by this point I know my interests and the mag’s you name (all of them smart as hell) are generally focused on politics and/or economics. Not that they are uninteresting, but politics especially tends to have a soporific effect on me. I can’t vote (green card) and I feel so inundated already on these topics.

      I find Wired almost un-put-down-able which is the highest praise I can think of.

      Oh hell, I forgot to include Vanity Fair, which we also get. (I dropped Bon Appetit and Smithsonian.)

      1. Agreed about ‘enough politics as it is’, but I’m too addicted to the stuff; I mainly grab them when they have really intriguing cover stories, like the recent lead from TNR with a journo embedded in Syria.

        Wired is insane, has been for years, so so good; I was so excited a few years ago to attend there NextFest technology festival when it was in Chicago.

        Juxtapoz is also my go-to for brilliant, surreal pop-art, and Vanity Far is often exquisite, though now that it is without my favorite essayist of all time (Mr. Hitchens, my heart is still broken) I’ve not grabbed it lately, to my detriment I’m sure.

      2. Well, that’s one hell of a story for sure. I guess it depends *which* politics….American, no. Foreign, much more so.

        VF is very variable. It can be fantastic or utter celeb-fawning-rich-fawning drivel.

    1. We got NG and let it go as we never read it. I kept it (in the garage) feeling guilty for not doing so.

      One reason I read so much (and I need it to be even wider) is to get some sense of the Zeitgeist. But this is also very much part of my job.

  2. So true about the physical joy one can get out of flipping through the pages of a magazine (even if the first 25 pages are ads!), or cracking open a book or unfolding the front section of the newspaper. Generational or not, that feeling just can’t be beat by on-line media!

  3. …I am nowhere near as busy as you are Caitlin – hope I can call you Caitlin :-).

    My biggest problem is procrastination but I still buy magazines and hoard newspaper clippings for when I’ll be free and whenever that happens, I zone out to the world of print media with lifestyle magazines taking the front seat usually followed closely by fashion magazines….

    1. Of course.

      I love shelter books like House Beautiful, and hang onto them for years. After I posted this photo, I attacked the pile and ditched 3 or 4 and chose about 10 to tackle today, a windy, rainy Sunday here in NY with few other appealing options. But I have to really make myself make the time.

  4. I know what you mean about the house magazines – I have years-old copies of Country Living and English Garden and Renovate Your Money Pit Listed Building and suchlike titles, ‘cos they’re just too damn gorgeous/useful to throw away!
    Other than these, which tend to be impulse buys, the only print media I get regularly are Empire (big movie buff) and my local paper (shout-out for the Hexham Courant!). I am well acquainted with the pain that a packrat mentality brings, so I try to limit the amount of crap that flows in through my front door, even in the seductive guise of beauty, knowledge and intellectual stimulation!

    1. Country Living has THE most gorgeous photos. Sometimes I put one in a frame for a while.

      Good to know you’re still reading the local paper. In the U.S. and Canada, newspaper readership has been falling terribly and 24,000 journos were canned in 2008. My last newspaper job was in 2006 and I doubt (sigh) I’ll find another. At its best, it’s the most fun you can have and get paid.

  5. pcpb

    I love magazines, but a greatly reduced income has forced me to pare down my purchases in the last few years. However, I do believe in allowing oneself some luxuries, so I bought myself a subscription to World of Interiors last Christmas. It’s a long-term favourite since I acquired my first copy from a recycling box by someone’s gate!

    In more affluent times I also subscribed to Country Living and BBC Homes and Antiques and bought numerous other magazines and newpapers for the sheer pleasure of buying something new to read with my lunch.

    I have a treasured collection of vintage magazines including the first two volumes of Picture Post, numerous copies of The Countryman magazine from the 1940s-70s, several copies of the 1970s Nova magazine and a big box of miscellaneous homemaking, garden and women’s interest publications.

      1. pcpb

        Just remembered, I have some 1940s National Geographic magazines, which I find much more interesting than modern editions!

    1. WOI is such a delicious magazine. I never regret the $12 (!!!) or whatever unholy sum it is these days I spend, although I buy it only a few times a year.

      I love reading older magazines, for their design, the ads and to see what was deemed important at the time.

      It can get costly, indeed. I get to claim these mags as a business expense, which helps. If my husband was not covering business, I suspect we would quickly drop four of these.

  6. Ha! Content overload.

    You know, I am extactly the same with on-line content. I read a TON of blogs. Some for entertainment but most to learn about, well, blogging. What i do love about magazines though is the tactile nature and the calm when flipping through them it leaves me with and hey, there’s no place to comment….hmmmm……

    Fast Company, Wired, Vanity Fair, Toronto Life…..short list and barely managable.

    Good luck on your NYT article. it’s good to actually know a real writer.

    1. It’s quite odd, both for reader and writer, after being accustomed to the back and forth of blogs (when civil) and the “push” nature of old media versus the “pull” required of new…one must seduce. I hate writing for old media when a piece I know has a lot of emotional power gets NO mail…? None? Or maybe the magazine couldn’t be bothered printing what they did get.

      Sounds like you’re in TO…I wrote for Toronto Life a million years ago and was a Globe reporter in the 80s.

      The Times piece runs next Sunday, front page of the business section. Because of the subject matter (secret for now), I think it will get a lot of attention. I got a very close look at a secretive and much-watched culture.

      1. Cool! Please link it to your blog or send me an email. I will try to look out for it. Sounds exciting and you sure have one of the 7 social triggers down pat. Check out Sally Hogshead to find out which one.

  7. Wow! That’s quite a reading list! With as busy as you are, I’m double pleased that you’ve been stopping by my blog. My reading is usually dictated by what I’m currently teaching, will be teaching, or ideas for my blog.

    1. I LOVE your blog and have been telling people about it, here and on Facebook. Having lived in France, speaking French and determined to retire there, even part-time, I am learning a lot. You put a lot of effort into your posts, which few bloggers seem to do.

      I have a post coming up soon about the challenges of speaking other languages — incluant les faux amis.

  8. That is quite the stack! … I’m thinking I’d need (need mind you!) at lease a week at a delicious beach house … cocktails obligatory … to make a decent dent on that… 🙂

  9. Wow, that is an impressive stack. Aside from the little stack of National Geographic i’m waiting to re-read, I don’t really read mags much. Most people find it surprising when I say I read Nat Geo more for the writing than the photography. I’m continually amazed (after a couple of decades pouring through this mag) at how polished, smart, and yet incredibly accessible this mag is to a very large range of people. Paired with the internet, it’s a helluva cost effective way to get an education.

    The massive stack of photography books I have on my shelf – that I can’t help but add to – is another story altogether…

      1. Nosy girl! 🙂 Of course…several golf magazines, PDN (our trade mag for photogs), Photoshop, Neiman Reports (journalism). I do not read the golf mags, I do love PDN (tons of great info and images, tips applicable to any freelancer in any business) and sometimes the Neiman report. He doesn’t read my women’s or shelter books but he does read all the business/financial ones as that’s his work as well. We both read Wired.

        I forgot — he jealously guards his stack of Monocle, which I glance at.

      1. Love PDN – i read the online version and it’s great. We have a similar industry mag here called Capture. I do read that from time to time but it’s such a slim mag that I finish it by the time I get off the bus at home!

        You know, that would make such a great portrait of the two of you – both guarding your respective stacks. You should do it some time!

  10. I have a box somewhere in my storage that has magazine issues from huge events – 9/11, Diana and Charles’ wedding, the years my sons were born. I love the glossy, over-the-top gorgeous photography, the stories and the way they can be propped on the chest to read in a reclined position and then tossed aside until you feel like picking them up again.
    For the first time in ages I indulged in a Chatelaine this weekend and sat in my comfy chair to devour it cover to cover.
    98 per cent fluff – I know, but it was luscious.
    Congratulations on your NYT story – I can’t wait to read it.

  11. Exactly! We’ve kept copies — less amusing — from 9/11. And the toss is fun!

    I used to write fairly often for Chatelaine; my last piece ran in 2007, a big medical invesigative story. Thanks for the thumbs-up on the NYT story. I’ve done a lot for them, but none that sent me cross-country to do the reporting.

  12. I shamefully have piles of newspapers and clippings lying about thinking “i’ll do something with that at some point, or i will write something around that at some point” i never do! im always picking up bits people leave on trains and buses, sounds rather tramp like but true! I LOVE fashions magazines like you too and keep clippings of those for make up ideas – which I know I never be bold enough to try out but I keep the idea there anyway to try and feel cool. To be honest your pile looks a lot more organised than my hidden secret if you like which is stuffed away in drawers and surreptitiously slid in-between books on the bookshelf…. 🙂 xx I currently have a poetry quarterly journal to read and a few shop magazines to flick through which is literally just pictures of outfits I wish I could afford!

  13. As a recent college graduate, I’m just waiting for my address to become permanent enough to make magazine subscriptions worthwhile–I have definitely missed my National Geographic in the past few months, and I know that my wish list would expand exponentially if I let it.

    But I will say that your affinity for print magazines can’t be solely a generational thing, because at age 23 I get very excited at the prospect of picking up a newly arrived magazine but shrug my shoulders when it comes to reading online editions. This causes me to hope that the print magazine market sticks around for a while, given that I aspire to a career writing for them.

    I just found your blog and am enjoying flipping through your posts–thanks for writing!

    1. Thanks…so glad you’ve stopped by and are enjoying the blog.

      Magazines are very sensual! I love ripping out pages and getting ideas and inspiration. I toss them into my bag and always have something to read; my Kindle is ALWAYS dead….:-)

      1. Kindle? What’s that? Haha…there’s just something special about interacting with a printed book or magazine. I love flipping through and not knowing exactly what I’ll find when a new issue comes in the mail, and I’ve read an awful lot of articles on subjects that I would probably not think to Google search, simply because I happened across them in a magazine I was reading. I read National Geographic cover-to-cover when I got it, and now I do the same with Smithsonian. This was called being a nerd in high school, but now I just call it being a curious person 🙂

      2. Nice article–having served my time working retail over Christmas, I can definitely relate to this. It sure would be nice if disorderly shoppers could be shown a yellow card and thrown out! How did you go about selling this to Smithsonian? I’m trying to begin a career in magazine journalism and would definitely appreciate any advice you are able to offer.

      3. I’ve been writing for a living for many years and have a wide network of people to refer me to editors they know and have worked with.

        I offer plenty of tips at my website.


        I consult/coach other writers, but only for an hourly fee. You might enjoy my retail memoir, Malled; there’s a link to it on the Welcome and About sections of this blogsite.

  14. Pingback: Our Favourite Mags.. « Hocus Pocus

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