For a bookworm like me, magazines can be hard to justify. Usually at five bucks a pop now, it’s not the $1.50 mad money buy at the grocery store like it was when we were kids. And they certainly don’t have the depth of a book – so when you do the math (especially if you’re keen on buying used books or Kindle deals) spending cash on something that’s going to take an hour to read almost seems silly.
But… I do have a soft spot for magazines. Big, giant “news magazine” websites utterly overwhelm me, and with the exception of some of the PBS formats, I avoid news television like the plague – I find it highly sensationalist and low on unbiased content delivery. Magazines may not directly address those issues (and let’s face it – there’s always an agenda – I just want to know who it belongs to) but they do offer something the web and tv can’t offer people like me (the content fatigued). They provide easily digestible information, over a breadth of topics that I wouldn’t normally encounter in my daily navigation through information, in an area that already speaks to my interest. A tidy solution to a very first world problem.
So obviously I kind of feel like a kid in a candy store (or if you were nerdish kid like me, a kid in a bookstore) when a new magazine that speaks to me and isn’t frivolous trash hits the market. I bet it’s killing you that I haven’t mentioned the name yet. I think a little suspense adds to the thrill. Just kidding. It’s Rodale’s Organic Life magazine. It’s a new/old favorite – it was previously known as Organic Gardening, which many of you have likely read. I thumbed through a few issues back in the day, but it never quite made it onto my subscription list, which is reserved for the elite publications – currently I only pay for Saveur (and even then I wait anxiously in the fall for the $5 per year subscription sale on DiscountMags and buy multiple years at the lowest rate – see how economical I am with these things!?). I get a few other B-list mags with rewards points (love RecycleBank for this) like This Old House and Cooking Light. But I try to keep my magazine reading habit under control, because even good things must have limits. But I’m happy to report I’ve got another reliable read on the elite list.
I am loving Organic Life so far, with the two issues they have out (and full disclosure – I did receive them gratis to review). I feel like I need to read and own them all. In addition to gardening, which is still covered in detail, they’ve expanded the content to really encompass the larger lifestyle that gardeners enjoy – cooking, living lightly and economically on the Earth, and appropriate forays into home decor and management, as well as health/beauty/fashion, where it fits in. And they’ve managed to do this without diluting the central message of an organic, well-centered lifestyle. It’s just a natural expansion of where organic gardening leaves off when the produce gets grown and picked, and just becomes a life, lived organically. And I absolutely love the “almanac” section printed on brown paper tucked in the back, with helpful hints and tips for gardening and home management, like the almanacs of yore. If you’re economical about the amount of paper you keep at home and don’t plan to reserve the whole magazines in your library, it’s very easy to tear out the almanac for easy reference.
For the most part, I love the beautiful photographs and the layout. I only have two complaints – some of the text in the sidebars and shorter articles is very tiny and a bit hard to read, and I have pretty average eyesight for a middle-aged lady (Somehow I crossed the bridge to middle-aged mama recently, and that’s the first time I’ve written it out – whew, over that hump! I think I’m okay. I’m glad to have made it here.) At any rate, I really found some of those difficult to get through. The only other “didn’t love it” thing came from the commuter perspective – I usually read magazines on crowded commuter trains to and from work, and some of the sidebars were in thin inch-and-a-half wide paragraphs on the inside margin closest to the spine, in order to showcase the photograph. For those of you that aren’t public transit commuters, this is annoying because one bit of proper etiquette when you’re riding shoulder to shoulder (literally) with thousands of other people on a train or bus is you stay compact to your own space, so you ought to fold back your magazine (or newspaper, or whatever) to single page width so it’s not in someone else’s face and you’re not elbowing them every time you turn a page. So narrow inside margin text isn’t so hot with that. Other than that – it was just the right ratio of long article to sidebars to recipes to photos, and there wasn’t so much advertising in it that I got annoyed or felt like it was a sales pitch in disguise.
I think one of the reasons I like it so much and it’s Saveur-level straight out of the gate is that they landed none other than James Oseland, who is the former Editor-in-Chief of Saveur (and they have all the luck landing genius editors – both Oseland’s predecessor and replacement have also been great). So Rodale got a really good deal in getting such a great Editor at the helm. I have high hopes for it, and am already anxiously awaiting the next issue in my mailbox. It sure makes a two-hour one-way commute tolerable!