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Literary magazines

Read all about it! It appears the appetite for books and culture is undiminished by world turmoil and strife. Alan Geere explores the world of literary magazine publishing.

By Alan Geere

Literary magazines

London Review of Books

What’s it about: ‘Europe’s leading magazine of culture and ideas’ – explanation on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: September 22, 2022 issue: 40 pages of 370mm x 275mm. Matt paper, self-cover, stitched. £5.45 cover price. ABC of 91,859 (Jan-Dec 2021). Published every two weeks by London Review of Books in Bloomsbury, London.

Cover: Nearly full-page image of a man with a dog and a plant for a head by British-born contemporary artist Alexander Gorlizki. One strapline about what’s inside and a difficult to see masthead partly obscured by the illustration.

Content: Run-down of what’s inside on page two along with brief biographies of the reviewers and a lengthy who’s who at LRB. Letters from Germany, Barbados and Canada attest to the international reach. That one story mentioned on the cover runs over 12 pages before similarly generous reviews about apartheid, Rikers Island and ‘Household goods in late medieval London’. A long poem, unusually set flush right, takes concentration to read as does ‘Diary’, which is two facing pages of dense type. Two pages of classified offer everything from saving the planet to staying in a castle.

Digital: Website at has content from the print publication plus links to video and podcasts. Plenty of action on social media with 347k likes on Facebook and 318k followers on Twitter. Also healthy engagement on YouTube and Instagram.

What they say: “A reader recently described the LRB as ‘the best thing about being a human’.” – uhm… maybe… a discussion point raised on the website.

Verdict: This serious, in-depth publication does a lot more than it says on the tin. It may be published from London, but its reach in terms of both content and readership is worldwide. And, yes, there are books but a lot more besides as the cover story in this issue about ‘Scotland’s ferry fiasco’ demonstrates. Enter at your own risk.

Literary Review

What’s it about: ‘For people who devour books’ – top of the website.

Vital statistics: September 2022 issue: 68 pages of 280mm x 210mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £4.95 cover price. “Reaches 80,000 readers”, according to the media pack. Published eleven times a year, with a double issue at the end of the year covering December and January, by The Literary Review in Soho, London.

Cover: Dramatic illustration from resident artist Chris Riddell (aka the Observer newspaper cartoonist) of a Chinese dragon. Six informative coverlines touting the authors and six more short come-ons give a healthy clue to what’s inside.

Content: A generous spread of contents across pages two and three followed by a page about the contributors with short biographies. Divides across genres of books from biography to crime by way of history and fiction. All reviews are generous, with at least a page, plus small illustrations. Some combine titles on a similar topic. All wrapped up in an understated design that accommodates some neat, short headlines like ‘Sulphur & Sensibility’ and ‘Wall Street Journals’. Letters, a prize crossword and just enough ads to bring a change of pace.

Digital: Suitably stylish website at has highlights from the current issue, reviews galore and an archive going back to 1979. Links to Facebook with 3.9k likes, and Twitter (33.5k followers) plus a presence on Instagram.

What they say: “Literary Review is set in Adobe Caslon and Janet. The latter is a digitization of an engraved typeface designed by the artist and typographer Reynolds Stone, and named after his wife” – one for the typographers hidden in the credits.

Verdict: More to read about what to read than ever seemed possible. The slew of contributing reviewers bring a diversity of tone and approach which makes every piece an adventure in literary land.

The Bookseller

What’s it about: ‘At the heart of the book trade since 1858’ – strapline under the masthead.

Vital statistics: September 23, 2022 issue: 40 pages of 295mm x 225mm. Matt paper, self-cover, stitched. £5.95 cover price. Published weekly by The Stage Media Company Ltd in Southwark, London.

Cover: Bold single subject cover (lurking under an advertising wrap for Guinness World Records) with the giant coverline ‘Going for Zero’, promoting the 15-page Climate Focus.

Content: Editor’s letter and a perfunctory contents panel before launching straight into that Climate Focus section that stretches across features, Q&A, opinion columns of all persuasions, author interview and even a book extract. News, bookshop spotlight, six pages of best-seller charts, showing the new Richard Osman novel sold ten times more than its nearest rival. Not reviews here, but previews looking at children’s books for Christmas. Some job ads (remember them in a magazine?) at the back.

Digital: Engaging website at which has genuinely newsy news and feature content plus the all-important best-seller list, updated weekly. All go on social media with 242k followers on Twitter, 16k likes on Facebook plus activity on YouTube and Instagram.

What they say: “I spent 10 years practising as a criminal barrister. My first job in the media was as a reporter for William Reed, publisher of The Grocer” – managing director Hugh Comerford details the, er, diversity of his career on the website.

Verdict: A trade title with a distinctly consumer feel. Clever use of colour and graphics plus some seriously weighty journalism make this a title to both enjoy and revere. Since being sold to theatre trade title The Stage in October 2020, these two industry heavyweights have continued to represent their respective worlds with the authority they deserve.

The Critic

What’s it about: ‘The magazine of ideas for open-minded readers’ – strapline across the top of the cover.

Vital statistics: August/September 2022 issue: 112 pages of 265mm x 205mm. Matt paper, self-cover, stitched. Double issue. £7.10 cover price, usually £6.95. Published 10 times a year by Locomotive 6960 Ltd in London.

Cover: Colourful illustration of a couple dancing amid the ruins of London beneath the main coverline ‘End of the party’. Three other cross-refs plus the classy masthead and crafty fox logo.

Content: The contents span two pages, taking in Columns, Features, Books, The Critics and the enigmatic ‘Table Talk’, which is more than food and drink. The artfully designed features come thick and fast covering, amongst other things, political issues, religious affairs, economics, environmentalism, history, art and architecture. A healthy 20+ pages of book reviews are followed by ‘The Critics’ looking at just about every medium possible. Lest it all gets too serious, there is also a strip cartoon and ‘The diary of Dilyn the dog’, whose literary days are now probably numbered.

Digital: Pointer to the website from the cover, it has plenty of content including features, columnists, books and a chance to listen to the podcast. Find your own way to Twitter, with 18.2k followers, and 2.6k likes and 3k followers on Facebook.

What they say: “A new one even by the standards of cycling turds: a rising crescendo of angry bell ping-ping-pinging from behind you…you belatedly realise, the dick’s actually on the pavement clearing people out of his way” – editor Christopher Montgomery takes to Twitter with the latest transport news.

Verdict: Launched in November 2019, and not to be confused with the American prime-time adult animated sitcom also called The Critic, the magazine has something for everyone and, indeed, everything for someone. Not the cheapest on the newsstand, but worth it as a treat.

The New York Review of Books

What’s it about: ‘The premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language’ – confident assertion on the Twitter page.

Vital statistics: October 20, 2022 issue: 72 pages of 370mm x 275mm. Gloss paper, self-cover, stitched. £7.99 cover price. Audited circulation of 131,598 in 2020. Published 20 times a year by NYREV Inc in New York.

Cover: Big picture of a man with a distinctive hairstyle covering his eyes, which we later learn is a painting called Hidden Jacometto. Eleven separate promos for inside containing a total of 17 names including T.S. Eliot, the Queen and Agatha Christie.

Content: The page three contents are a simple list of the informative headlines (Symphilosophizing in Jena, anyone?), reviewers and the books being looked at. Kicks off with a retrospective about the Queen, before three pages dissecting Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers. All reviewers are given space to develop their thesis and although the simple four-column design works well, two full pages of type can look rather daunting. A page of classified at the back gives an insight into the cultural (‘Archaeology / gastronomy / walking tours…’) and social (‘Active, fit 81-year-old man seeking…’) mores of readers.

Digital: A surprisingly upfront website at promises Politics, Literature, Arts and Ideas plus opportunities to shop and subscribe. Go to Twitter for 2,311,023 followers (yes, 2.3m) and 689k likes on Facebook.

What they say: “28-year-old nature girl seeks intellectual or sensorial connections with scholarly types,” personal ad has respondents dusting off the academic CV.

Verdict: Plenty of full-page ads from book publishers around the world tell their own story of the esteem this likeable publication is held in. The words just keep on coming across the acres of available column inches, but clever use of drop caps and inset pictures mean that, mostly, it is an engaging read.

The Times Literary Supplement

What’s it about: ‘Where curious minds meet’ – from the ‘About’ section on Facebook.

Vital statistics: September 23, 2022 issue: 28 pages of 370mm x 290mm. All newsprint, stitched. £4.50 cover price. Last ABC in 2019 of 30,223. Published 50 weeks a year by The Times Literary Supplement in the mini-Shard that is the News Building by London Bridge.

Cover: Illustration of ‘Deer by Lake’ to tease a review about the life of the original Bambi author. Four other cross-refs, and big TLS masthead and lots of white space.

Content: Simple contents panel on page two goes from Biography to Afterthoughts by way of Philosophy, Sport and Travel amongst other headings. Mostly a page devoted to each topic with thoughtful illustrations. A melange of three books on the Himalayas gets a double-page spread, while ‘In Brief’ assembles seven reviews and a lesser-known work by Picasso. A fiendish crossword and a column on back page revisiting the ‘Oxford comma’ debate.

Digital: Website at with enough teased content before being invited to subscribe. Links to Twitter (75.3k followers) and Facebook with 83.5k likes plus a presence on Instagram. Opportunities to listen to the weekly podcast on a variety of platforms.

What they say: “Advertising in the TLS is more than a transaction. It’s a relationship” – a testimonial on the ratecard from an American university comes over all lovey-dovey.

Verdict: Uses the large format to its full extent employing mainly a three-column template with an arty white space that is filled with pull-quotes, captions or… nothing. One of the marquee names of British publishing that has been around for 120 years and shows all the confidence that only longevity and experience can bring.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list to receive the magazine, please register here.