It’s all too easy to get stuck in an Internet rut, clicking through the same two or three pedestrian websites every day. The more sites that pop up, the more overwhelming it seems to find a new favorite corner of the web. Well, never fear — we’ve taken out all of the leg work for you with these 10 culture blogs that are must-reads. Binge away!
The New Inquiry has been publishing some of the most enriching blog content that the web has to offer since 2012. The online magazine parses everything from corporate Twitter accounts to the controversy behind a drug that helps kick heroin addiction — and, bonus points, all their content is free. Thanks to the subscribers of their monthly magazine (at $2 a month, we highly suggest you consider subscribing), The New Inquiry is able to produce cerebral, engaging content, all for $0.00.
2. Open Culture
If you’re going to call yourself “the best free cultural and educational media on the web,” you better deliver. Luckily, Open Culture more than lives up to its self-inflicted hype. Founded by Dan Colman, director and associate dean of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program, Open Culture serves to curate free educational media available online and turn it into interesting, digestible content. Their sources include over 900 free online courses from top universities, 600 free eBooks, 550 free audiobooks and much more. Such a wide array of sources allow them to cover everything from music to psychology to art.
In its own words, Atlas Obscura celebrates “a different way of looking at the world.” We can pretty much guarantee that you’ve never seen a travel blog like this before. The site both suggests places to go and publishes longer posts, detailing everything from the wild terrains of Israel to the new ways that mines are being used.
The literature, culture and politics magazine n+1 recently relaunched their website, complete with online-only content. You can also read through articles from the the magazine’s past issues (some content is for subscribers only). Oh, and be sure to read what is very possibly the only advice column worth reading, Kristin Dombek’s “The Help Desk.”
This is the kind of site we check first thing in the morning, mostly because they somehow manage to produce listicles that, when you read them, don’t make you feel like part of your brain has been removed. We especially like this one of “10 Potentially Great TV Shows That Never Aired.” With an easy to navigate layout, it’s easy to get sucked into Flavorwire for hours on end.
6. The Toast
The Toast is the brainchild of Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg, and it is one of the funniest culture blogs out there. Their recent post “Western Art History: 500 Years of Women Ignoring Men” should be classified as NSFW, but only because it might leave your co-workers worrying why you’re laughing hysterically at your desk. In between their clever, funny posts, though, are poignant and engaging pieces, like this one about the death of a close friend, and pop-culture-driven think pieces, including one about the semiotics of Taylor Swift’s hair.
7. Mental Floss
Everybody has that friend who punctuates nearly every one of their sentences with fun and obscure facts; no matter which topic you bring up, they can tell you at least five interesting things about it. Mental Floss is the dot-com equivalent of that friend. They post everything from tips on making your bedroom more efficient to facts about giant isopods. Does anyone need to know that isopods gorge themselves? Well, no, but such knowledge does provide for the potential opportunity that one day we might be the friend who knows countless fun and obscure facts.
Vulture’s motto is “devouring culture,” and that it does. A subsect of New York magazine, Vulture tackles film, TV, music, art, theater and books, and does so in a clever, engaging way. Case in point: their “Sitcom Smackdown,” a bracket-style look at which television show ranks best. Oh, and when you need a five-minute work break, Vulture’s got your back: The site posts quizzes that somehow create the illusion of being more highbrow than those on Buzzfeed. At least your Orange is the New Black binge is being put to good use, right?
Okay, so, yes — Grantland is predominantly a sports blog, but it’s perhaps the most cerebral sports blog of all time. Alongside more standard sports journalism, Grantland has quietly published engaging pieces of cultural criticism. Recent must-reads include an oral history of the 8 Mile rap battles, a very hilarious look at how apathetic both MTV and celebrities were at the MTV Movie Awards and a critical look at Letterman’s retirement. With writers like Chuck Klosterman, Justin Halpern and Bill Simmons, Grantland was bound to become more than just a sports blog.
Named after 19th century journalist and critic William Hazlitt, this online magazine is published by Random House of Canada. The idea behind its founding is simple: A good writer can make any topic interesting. As a result, Hazlitt publishes pieces on a wide array of topics, everything from the definitive ranking of Easter treats to the seductive power of LeBron James to short stories inspired by trashy tabloid “news.
The above list is, of course, just a small selection of the many incredible culture blogs out there. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Black Balloon Publishing is an independent press headquartered in New York, NY, with both print and digital distribution channels. We've published literary fiction, nonfiction and memoir, and we're willing to grow our reach in any direction that suits. Our books evolve, rotate, get mapped onto cities and light up your screen. We champion the weird, the unwieldy and the unclassifiable. The Airship is our blog and chief propaganda vehicle.
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