It seems like every time we enter a bookstore, a new literary magazine has popped up, and while we love exploring these new publications, it can get a bit overwhelming (not to mention expensive).
Thankfully, we've cut out the guesswork for you and put together our list of our favorite literary magazines, with everything from beloved classics to newer zines that you may not have heard of yet. Happy reading!
Published by Emerson College, Ploughshares is a mix of stories, poems and reviews. One of the most unique aspects of the magazine is that each issue is guest-edited by a prominent author. Past editors have included Seamus Heaney, Raymond Carver, Sherman Alexie and Lorrie Moore. Ploughshares is released three times a year, in April, August and December.
Though it’s only 15 years old, Tin House has become a staple among literati. Publisher Win McCormick set out to “create a literary magazine for the many passionate readers who are not necessarily literary academics or publishing professionals,” and that he did. Tin House serves up a mix of fiction, poetry, nonfiction and interviews, and is accessible to a wide range of readers. (Translation: You do not need to live in New York and work in publishing to enjoy this stellar magazine.)
Founded in 1939 at Kenyon College, The Kenyon Review has published internationally known writers such as Allen Tate, Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell. Nowadays, it’s a great resource for both well-known names and up-and-coming ones, as well.
A quarterly magazine edited by and for artists and writers, BOMB was founded in 1981 by a New York City-based group who wanted to produce a publication to showcase conversations about art and writing without the interference of journalists. Each issue features original fiction and poetry, “Artist on Artist” essays and reviews.
Spoiler Alert: One Story features one story per issue. Every three to four weeks, subscribers are sent, well, one story in the mail or straight to their digital devices. The promise: This story will be so amazing that you won’t be left hungry for more. The magazine never publishes the same author twice, so readers are always offered new, engaging voices.
This is one of the newer magazines on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less special. Founded in 2010, the annual Little Star publishes an eclectic and often experimental mix of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. They’ve featured many well-known names, including Lydia Davis, Joy Williams and Ann Beattie. Little Star is also a great place to find new authors to fall in love with.
Always full of original, captivating content, Hobart began in 2001 as an online magazine but grew to a biannual print magazine in just two years. Several of the mag’s pieces have been selected for anthologies or awards. Both Roxane Gay’s story “North Country” and Black Balloon Publishing author Mike Meginnis’s “Navigators” were selected for The Best American Short Stories.
The first issue of McSweeney’s, published in 1998 and edited by Dave Eggers, exclusively featured work rejected by other magazines; it’s this kind of forward thinking that continues to define McSweeny’s. Each issue is a stunning display of original work, from writers such as Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Stephen King and Ann Beattie.
And, now, a literary magazine that absolutely no one has heard of. We are, of course, kidding. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone, in the publishing world or otherwise, who hasn’t heard of The Paris Review. Established in Paris in 1953 and moved to New York in the ‘70s, this is a literary magazine staple, and each issue remains chock full of outstanding poetry, nonfiction, fiction and interviews.
Since 2006, [PANK] has been committed to publishing great experimental prose and poetry. Poets & Writers wrote that [PANK]’s "vision is innovative and eccentric" and the Times called it “a raft of experimental fiction and poetry." It remains one of the most original literary magazines in the game.
It pained us to condense this list to just 10 (frankly, we could list our 100 favorite literary magazines, given the time and energy), so please tell us your favorite magazine in the comments below! We'd love to hear about why you like it, how you found it and why we should all pick it up.