9 indie mags you should read this summer

If you’re in search of some fresh and inspiring reading material to take on holiday this year (or to read in office with a coffee if you're not going away), then look no further than these gorgeous magazines.

Large-scale commercial magazine publishing houses may be under pressure from every angle these days, but the independent design magazine scene has never been so exciting, with new titles launching regularly on every esoteric topic you can think of.

We’ve gathered a sterling selection of magazine recommendations from those in the know. So here are nine magazines for you to check out while the sun is still shining...

01. Special Request

Special Request is a new broad culture journal, currently on issue 2

“It is too simple a thing to look at one part of a culture... culture is the combination of many different things working in concert.” This is the mantra by which the beautifully produced journal Special Request operates.

Its lofty ambition is to explore “the entire human experience piece by piece... subjecting it to sometimes forensic, sometimes scathing, sometimes interesting analysis from the world’s finest minds.”

Jeremy Leslie, founder of magCulture, is a fan, and recommends the newly-released second issue, which celebrates the golden age of television across 124 pages of 120gsm offset stock, finished off with a gold-foiled 400gsm cover.

Leslie picks out some personal highlights from the issue: “Antoine de Caunes recalls Eurotrash, Ben Loory and Haruki Murakami offer some new fiction, and the visual highlight is Alex de Mora and Marisha Green’s still-life tribute to Beavis and Butthead,” he says. 

“It closes with an image of an old-fashioned cathode ray television set, floating away against a 70s New York skyline.”

02. Berlin Quarterly

European title Berlin Quarterly combines in-depth reportage, literature and visual culture

Calling itself a “European review of long form journalism, literature and the arts”, Berlin Quarterly is a fascinating blend of in-depth reportage, literature and visual culture that Steve Watson, creator of indie mag subscription service Stack, firmly recommends.

“It’s a heady mix of essays, fiction, poetry, photography and artwork,” Watson enthuses. “Based out of the German capital, it wears that city’s bohemian reputation on its sleeve.”

It's definitely worth slipping into the suitcase for when you fancy getting stuck into some meatier content.

03. The Plant

The Plant is produced in Barcelona twice a year

According to its creators, The Plant magazine delivers content by plant lovers, for plant lovers, in a “simple, personal and cozy way”.

It’s currently on its 11th issue, Leslie recommends taking a look. “Horticulture is just a starting point for this magazine, now a mainstay of the indie scene,” he explains.

“Ryan Lowry’s opening photographs of the landscape, cacti and fences of the US-Mexico border set a manifesto-like tone that continues throughout issue 11. Mercedes Villalba looks at the resilience of nature, and Lindsay Sekulowicz examines Amazonian artefacts to learn how humankind has always cultivated nature.”

“Against all this, a guide to growing Aloe Vera may seem prosaic – but this element remains a key part of the magazine,” adds Leslie. The Plant’s team describes itself as “a curious observer of ordinary plants and other greenery”, and this simple love for natural life shines through on every page.

04. Racquet

Racquet says it's about tennis, but it covers so much more, so beautifully

Rather like The Plant, Racquet is “one of those indie titles that purports to be about one thing (in this case, tennis) but in fact uses that as a prism through which to explore all sorts of things. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to turn the page and read about,” says Rob Alderson, former editor-in-chief of Printed Pages, who now heads up WeTransfer’s editorial division, This Works.

A quarterly title that celebrates the art, ideas, style and culture that surround tennis, Racquet “fondly remembers the swashbuckling sport of the tennis boom of the 1970s and ’80s” and aspires to “restore some of that swagger to today’s game.”

“It looks and feels beautiful – as a lot of indie titles do – but the writing is exquisite and it’s edited really well too, which makes for a perfect print experience,” adds Alderson.

05. Shelf Heroes

Each copy of Self Heroes issue F includes a free Fifth Element woven patch, three postcards and a sticker

A wonderfully simple editorial premise lies at the heart of the intermittently printed fanzine Shelf Heroes, the magazine “created by people who love cinema.”

It’s working its way through the alphabet, and celebrating a diverse batch of films that start with each letter: “Some great, some not so great.” Issue one, as you might expect, was A – with films including Alien, Apocalypse Now, Avatar and American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt.

“Shelf Heroes has now reached the letter ‘F’ – and I can’t wait to dive into Festen, First Blood, Fargo and Four Weddings,” chuckles Watson.

06. The Happy Reader

The Happy Reader is a book-loving collaboration between Penguin Classics and Fantastic Man

A collaboration between Penguin Classics and Fantastic Man, The Happy Reader is a ‘virtual book club’. It's now on its ninth instalment, which includes a focus on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

“This classic is contextualised by musician Andy Partridge writing about sailor’s songs, a visual taxonomy of messaging flags, and a treasure hunt – although the prize has just been won,” reveals Leslie. 

“It’s all fronted with a lengthy interview with model/actress/bookshop owner Lily Cole, all beautifully presented as ever.”

Clearly The Happy Reader is worth a look this summer, as Watson picked it out as well. “I can’t think of better beach reading,” he grins.

07. Pit

Pit is a new magazine for BBQ aficionados

Nothing says summer like a sizzling barbecue, and Pit magazine has capitalised on our enduring passion for cooking outdoors over a open flame with an artisan publication like no other.

According to the team, it’s all about “the smell of smoke in the air, the singed hairs on your fingers and the pink ring on a rack of ribs you cooked at the end of your garden.”

But within that overarching topic, the magazine delves into global cultures: “From the American BBQ to the Polynesian Imu fire pits, Jamaican jerk drums and mackerel grills lining the shores of the glittering Bosphorus in Istanbul.”

Pit plans to release three issues during the (hopefully) warm months of the year, with the second due out in August. “I’m really hoping I can get hold of it in time for the holidays, to give us some inspiration over the coals,” says Watson.

08. Real Review

Real Review issue 4 reviews everything from the EU flag to Japanese boyfriends for hire

The quarterly flagship publication of the Real Foundation, Real Review was named Launch of the Year at the 2016 Stack Awards. Since then, according to Watson, it has gone from strength to strength.

“Its roots are in architecture, but this ingenious review ranges far and wide to challenge the way we see the world,” he explains.

Leslie is also an advocate, drawing attention to the title’s unique format: square, with a vertical fold.

“Real Review deserves praise too for its editorial design and content,” argues Leslie. “It examines contemporary life with a spare and intelligent vocabulary that both tests and thrills. Content and form that should be at utter variance somehow complement each other perfectly.”

09. mono.kultur

Each issue of mono.kultur is dedicated to one artist from various fields

Also hailing from Berlin, quarterly A5 title mono.kultur focuses on art and culture, or more specifically the creative minds who make the most exciting music, film, literature and visual art happen. One at a time.

Each issue features just a single interviewee, carefully selected and beautifully designed. Its online description is a paragon of German efficiency: “Questions and answers. Conversations with the interesting few. In full length and depth, extensive and unfiltered.”

The current issue, 43, is dedicated to artist/musician Fatima Al Qadiri, and it’s Leslie’s final pick. “The presentation is smart but simple, with text and photography clearly defined and separate,” he begins.

“The exciting part is the additional images, printed on a special acetate substrate called Stafix – static electricity makes these ‘stick’ to the pages of the magazine, allowing the reader to peel off and replace images over other images.” What better way to spend your summer?

To explore the indie mag scene in more depth, magCulture will be running its fifth-annual ModMag conference in London on 2 November, an event that never fails to inspire.

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