The New York Review of Magazines

What is Your Dream Magazine?

By Candice Chan

This year we tried a variation on our usual “What are they reading?” question. We asked five magazine insiders to tell us what sections they admire (i.e., would love to steal) from their favorite magazines to create one epic-ultra-super magazine to rule them all.

Which magazine has your favorite design and why?
O’Brien: Bon Appétit. It’s beautiful and inviting and absolutely accessible. There is a tone — a flavor, if you will — that infuses the entire magazine and that matches and enhances the subject matter.

Bertsos: Bon Appétit. I swear, sometimes I feel like the food is in 3-D. So I try not to buy it too often, because it makes me too hungry!

Johnson: Wired, because the artwork is very clever, the photography is excellent, it’s typically very clean and very creative and interesting.

Henig: New York magazine. The white space, the fun graphics, the great photography — and the way they preserve but translate that design on the website — are so engaging and well-executed.

Rosen: The Guardian’s G2. Seamless type treatment among all Guardian properties: newspaper, magazine, website.

If you could choose one magazine from which to steal the writing, which would it be and why?
O’Brien: The New Yorker. Not always the flashiest or the “sexiest” writing out there, but always immensely satisfying. I open each issue knowing that I’m going to find intelligent, graceful prose. I appreciate that the magazine runs long stories and doesn’t tart them up.

Bertsos: Can it be a newspaper? Specifically, the Modern Love column in The New York Times. I would pay $5 just to read that every Sunday; it features the best, least-cheesy essays on relationships I read anywhere.

Johnson: Definitely The New Yorker. I think far and away they have the best writing.

Henig: The New York Times Magazine. So few publications these days are able to invest in pieces that require months of reporting. The Times can, and it shows. Voice and color shine through.

Rosen: The Atlantic: Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens, James Fallows, and on and on . . .

Which magazine has your favorite front of book section and why?
O’Brien: New York’s Intelligencer does exactly what a “front of the book” section should, in terms of mixing items that seem surprising and fresh and of immediate connection to the reader.

Bertsos: Okay, obviously I’m biased, but Glamour. We don’t treat the “front of book” like a second-class section, and it shows. The shorter form allows us to pack in all the most current stuff women want to read about. Pick it up — you’ll see!

Johnson: Harper’s Magazine — I’m a little biased because I was an intern there. There are no problems trying to pick up the interesting information because it’s very simply presented.

Henig: I’m a sucker for the Harper’s reading section. Varied, smart and sure to provide good dinner party conversation fodder.

Rosen: The New York Times Magazine: The Way We Live Now, Deborah Solomon, Diagnosis, On Language — consistent high standards.

If you could steal the art and/or photography from any magazine, which would it be and why?
O’Brien: A number of magazines come to mind here. The New York Times Magazine is one, so is The Atlantic. Bon Appétit literally makes me salivate. I also think Sports Illustrated is very good — but I guess I can’t steal from my own magazine. I suppose, though, if forced to choose, it would be National Geographic. There’s never an issue that doesn’t astonish me at least once with a photo.

Bertsos: Departures — you know, that luxe travel/lifestyle mag that is sent free to people with an AmEx platinum card? I’m not one of them, but when I manage to snag someone else’s copy, I feel like I’ve got something really expensive in my hands.

Johnson: Vanity Fair photography is hard to beat — Annie Leibovitz for profile photography. In terms of art design, I think Wired is really first rate.

Henig: Art + Auction. The pages are so big and glossy, so everything really pops.

Rosen: Purple: Just look at it.

If you could steal one writer from any magazine, who would it be and why?
O’Brien: All right. I’ve been thinking about this for way too long — and have already spent way too much time reading stuff on the web by Pat Jordan, J.R. Moehringer, Christopher Hitchens, Steve Rushin (I’d be stealing him back!), Hanna Rosin and Carlo Rotella. Put me down for coveting Anthony Lane.

Bertsos: Again, I’m going with a newspaper for this one: Ariel Kaminer, also known as the “City Critic” for The New York Times. She’s got a finger directly on the pulse of culture — and she’s a funny writer.

Johnson: Right now I’m obsessed with the financial meltdown, so I would steal Michael Lewis from Vanity Fair. As a reporter he has excellent access and gets to the heart of the people at these investment banks, and really tells compelling stories.

Henig: Atul Gawande. That man can do no wrong.

Rosen: Kinky Friedman from Texas Monthly. He’s left the mag, but he was the perfect capper for the idea of his state, which is always represented superbly by TM.

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