Stack summer reading
Summer: a time to slob in the sun while reading everything you’ve had no time to read the rest of the year. In celebration, we’ve rounded up the most compulsive print of the season, and throughout August, we will be building a list of independent magazines to pack in your suitcase. Some will be lovely glossy beach flicks, others will be more weighty — deep, cover-to-cover reading to nourish your brain as it rests on its sun lounger. We’ll be updating twice weekly, so check back in…
Sometimes, on holiday, you have the time and space to dedicate yourself to doing something that will make you look really clever: reading an LRB article all the way to the end, say. Other times you just want to kick back with a magazine about cornichons. Club Sandwich is an annual food title from France (this is the first edition that’s been printed in both French and English), and this issue is entirely dedicated to the pickle. It’s really silly: expect essay titles like, ‘A Jarring Experiment’ and ‘I’m in a Pickle’. But it’s also surprisingly thoughtful; a piece on canned food evolves into a meditation on mortality: “Who would still make jams if they didn’t have the hope of living at least enough time to eat them?” The most glorious thing about Club Sandwich, though, is the artwork. Lush and very sexy, our favourite bit is a photograph by the artist Julia et Vincent, of a naked woman straddling a pickle.
The news cycle is so relentless, and relentlessly terrible, getting more than a fleeting grasp of what’s going on can feel hopeless. Enter Delayed Gratification: each issue focuses on three months in the recent past, returning to news events once the dust has settled to get a slower, fuller picture of what actually happened. In the most recent issue, for example, the beginning of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan officials on 5 February links to an interview with Kimberley Motley, the only practising foreign defence lawyer in Afghanistan.
Pieces are considered and rich in detail; reading DG gives you an unfamiliar feeling: you are gaining actual insight. And it’s not all hard news: the magazine is also famous for its infographics and so makes for fun poolside reading; our favourite in this issue is a flowchart explaining how the 1830 flight of a Russian duke in drag led to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing in the halls of the Capitol in 2019.
(Disclaimer, Delayed Gratification are our friends and we share an office with them, but everything above is still totally true.)
The latest issue of satirical fashion title Buffalo is themed around ‘imitation’, and rips off everyone from Donatella Versace, to Cher, to 032c. Unfortunately, there are about three copies left of it on earth. But, by some wild stroke of fate, at the time of writing Buffalo’s 2018 ‘holidays’ issue is in stock on their website. Disguised as a Spanish travel brochure, this includes a fashion shoot inspired by the ancient Spanish ritual of ‘baby jumping’ (every infant in the village is layed out on mattresses while ‘masked devils’ leap across them to purge them of original sin); a series of interviews with Spain’s hottest young trap stars entitled ‘Trio De Asses’; and a Q&A with Alex Cameron that starts off as a bit of a joke and ends up being weirdly moving. All in all: beach read nirvana.
Second only to summer reading is the joy of summer eating. Cannily combining the two is fabulous food and culture journal The Gourmand. Issue 12, which has a mouse as its cover star, features an interview with Pulitzer-winning art critic Jerry Saltz, taking his love for “refreshingly shit coffee” as a starting point for a conversation about how taste, like art, is subjective. This is the pleasure of the Gourmand: stories are consistently thoughtful, and literary, but are approached from such original angles that they never feel heavy. Every issue has a collection of recipes at the back inspired by the contents. Nuno Mendes’ bacon cornbread fingers with chipotle maple butter looks indulgent and time-consuming enough for perfect holiday cooking.
Inspired by the pleasure gardens of 18th Century London, this is a magazine less about the practicalities of plants and soil, and more about the symbolic significance of gardens as places to escape to. Themed Au Natural, one lovely feature in this latest issue is a series of photographs of naturist ramblers, doing things like climbing trees and firing up barbecues. There is also an extended section on ‘The Bush’, accompanied by literary bush trivia, like the fact that Victorian critic John Ruskin failed to consummate his marriage because of his revulsion upon finding out that, in reality, the female form was rather different from the classical ideal. Hand luggage-wise, Pleasure Garden may pose problems: it’s enormous. But it’s so lush and green and summery, it had to make the cut.
Started by Rob Hewitt so that his skate-mad seven-year-old daughter would have something to inspire her, Oh-So is a celebration of female skaters around the world. The cover star for this second issue is Britain’s youngest ever Olympian, Sky Brown; who at 10 became the first girl to complete the 720 (two complete circles in the air after jumping off a ramp). Q&As are very brief, so there’s actually not much reading involved here, but if it’s summer optimism you’re after, you can do no better. Quotes about the wonderful freedom of skating spiral wildly across the page, mimicking the movement of the women featured. It’s joyful.
The twenty-fifth issue of The White Review features an interview with notorious Argentinian serial killer Ricardo Melogno that is quite simply the most compulsive thing you will read this summer. Melogno is lucid and inexplicably empathetic. He also worships the devil using a chalice Pope Francis gave him on a recent prison visit. This story about the Pope, unbelievably, is true. The White Review has a habit of printing excessively long pieces, which can feel a little indulgent. But this Melogno interview is so exquisite it merits 14 pages and more.
California Sunday is an independent magazine inserted into select Sunday copies of the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. Issues come out every two months and the journalism is in-depth. The June issue features a beautifully written feature on Stephanie Montgomery, who was raped in the strip-club where she worked. She told the manager and the police about it and nothing happened, so she put up a billboard on the entrance of the city’s busiest highway with the message, “I’m Stephanie, I was raped by a guy like this in a place like that. I told the club and the police, but no one did anything. So I painted this billboard.” The August issue just launched and it’s excellent, leading with a story about what — and who — it takes to raise a family.