Indie Reads: Our Favorite Magazines 2017


by Claire Fitzsimmons

You know that dream where you run a café, or write a novel, or travel the world, or raise 14 cats, or ocean swim with the sharks? Well, mine would run something like this: manage a cool independent magazine store like this one in Bath, England. It would have stacks of independent magazines from all over the world on a crazy range of subjects from mental health to kids’ lunch boxes, everyday fashion and creative maker projects. It would be representative of the niches in all our lives, reflecting our collective imagination. And it would offer magazines as the places we lean into for inspiration, knowledge, connection and even respite. 


As that’s not happening anytime soon (I’m scratching that itch by curating the magazines on offer to our members at The Indie Alley), here is our round up our favorite Indie Magazines (US based) from 2017. Grab a coffee, take a couple of hours out, and select any of these – we’re pretty confident you’ll find something here that appeals. Even better, subscribe to a magazine service like Stack Magazines, which will send you monthly magazine surprises – like those beauty boxes but for your brain and for your life. 



Ok, we’re guessing you know this one, as well as that cool, clean, utterly unattainable aesthetic that comes with it. But we like it still, like a guilty pleasure, for its belief in slowing down, doing good, figuring out what community means, and how simplicity can actually have a place in our lives. See also their just gorgeous books on interiors, cooking and entrepreneurs. 



Not handmade, but with an aesthetic that could be. UpperCase brings its love of typography together with a love of vintage, craft, design and illustration. Each issue feels like a labor of creative love. 



Just into its second edition focusing on Workaholism, Berkeley based Anxy magazine takes on mental health and reimagines how we talk, present and think about it – no mean feat given how complex that subject is. Somehow it pulls it off – doing away with stigma, and bringing in honest, raw, impactful narratives on what all our personal lives look like.


Timothy McSweeneys Quarterly Concern

Dave Egger’s much loved, San Francisco based literary journal. Famed for its ever-changing formats – no two issues are the same in design – this one is going to keep you on your toes. 


The California Sunday Magazine

From the team at Pop-Up Magazine, this still relative newcomer is already making an impact. A finalist for seven National Magazine Awards and the first title in 25 years to win the National Magazine for Photography in consecutive years, they have cemented their place in long-form journalism and cinematic photography. Their piece on chef Daniel Patterson remains one my favorite long-form reads from this year.


Good Magazine

The magazine to read when you need to renew your faith in the world, this is people doing good, and hopefully inspiring you to do the same. It’s not wishy-washy though: the magazine covers positive initiatives in the worlds of business, politics, the environment, education, culture and design amongst others. 


The Gentlewoman

A new take on the classic Woman’s Magazine: this is style with purpose. Smart perspectives on real women as we live our real lives. ‘Cover stars’ have included Zadie Smith, Sofia Coppola and Adele! 


Darling Magazine

Another take on giving women’s magazine’s a different form: in this case by consciously challenging our cultural ideals of beauty, stressing heathy bodies in every shape or size; fashion that is within the realm of attainability, and values such as etiquette, self-worth, character and integrity. This one is wonderfully working against the grain of all those fashion mags we grew up with and internalized!


Messy Heads

Much has been made of Teen Vogue as championing the younger woman’s point of view, but check out Messy Heads. Note the messy in the title – this one is about how to deal with real issues in our actual lives, sometimes badly, whether that’s style or social media or sexuality. A much-needed antidote to the shiny – and failed - promises of other mags.




Launched in Summer 2016, and produced locally in the East Bay, Illustoria is aimed at creative 6-12 year olds, and their grown-ups. Make cards and picture books, papier-mache succulent gardens, doodles or murals, this is going to inspire the little people in our lives, and inside of us, to move, grow and make. 


Elephant Magazine

Not your staid art periodical, Elephant will keep you up to date on the international art scene (whether Frieze or Miami), but it will also get you thinking about those social media images you digest or how women are shaping images of themselves today. Studio visits and artist interviews sit with more in-depth pieces on the culture that we’re consuming, sometimes inadvertently.



This one is going to make you drool. Also, maybe feel a little jealous. It might make you get moving on your own creative endeavor. Whether it’s profiles of studio life or small businesses, or trips to snow covered historic lodges or chanterelle hunting, these are the stories that capture the details of lives and things that often go unnoticed. 


American Chordata

We don’t believe in must-reads (who has the time) only loved-reads, and we’d add the literary magazine American Chordata into that pile. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art and photography approached with a beautiful design sensibility and brave emotional tenor.



Our favorite home magazine that offers attainable style – read Ikea Hacks, doable Before & After’s, cute furniture suggestions (that welcoming mat that reads: The Neighbors Have Better Stuff) and articles on things you are actually thinking about doing in your own homes. There’s some dreaming, but otherwise lots of doing. 


These are our favorite Independent Magazines from 2017 – anything we missed. If so, let us know… 


Here’s to getting beyond unreadable coffee table mags to ones that are thumbed over and highlighted and shared, that have a living imprint in our worlds. 


The Indie Alley