Literary magazines that would make good gifts

While novels certainly have their charms, as gifts they can leave something to be desired. Even if the recipient hasn’t read the book of the season, she’s out of luck if the writing doesn’t tickle her fancy. Literary magazines cleverly elide this problem by featuring multiple voices, many of which aren’t yet available in novel form. Most contain poetry and nonfiction, too. Below is a sampling of attractive and worthy journals, several of them locally produced, sure to thrill even the most critical of readers.


$20 for two issues

Award-winning critic and essayist Sven Birkerts edits this Boston University mainstay known for its ability to recognize talent early on. Boston literary luminaries Jhumpa Lahiri and Ha Jin both made their debuts here. The newest edition contains poetry from Patricia Lockwood and Sharon Olds and fiction from Wendy Rawlings and David Huddle.

Black Clock

$27 for two issues

This enigmatic, beautifully designed magazine has earned a reputation for publishing smarty-pants writers who have gone on to reach a (relatively) wide audience. The latest installment contains absurdist takes on the movies, like Geoff Nicholson’s “Buster Keaton: The Warhol Years” and Anthony Miller’s “A History of the Cinema: 1920-2014,” in which Chris Farley wins an Oscar for his portrayal of Fatty Arbuckle.


$48 for four issues


This British magazine has become the standard-bearer for short fiction and personal history. In recent years, it has published several international issues providing, in translation, a carefully curated sampling of authors in non-English speaking countries. The autumn issue, its latest, features 20 of the best novelists of Brazil, none of whom are yet 40, including Miguel Del Castillo and Vanessa Barbara.


$19.95 for two issues

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Despite an erratic production schedule, “Hobart’’ has managed to become a reliable source for zany, risk-taking fiction — some of its stories have even landed in “Best American Nonrequired Reading,’’ the annual gauntlet of literary quirk. Earlier this year, it received a tremendous response to its first-ever story contest, the Buffalo Prize, judged by up-and-coming writers Mary Miller and Elizabeth Ellen, among others; winning entries appear in the new issue.


Single issues $15

[PANK] is a bracketed, glossy literary magazine edited by Pushcart-nominated writer Roxane Gay and Michigan Tech professor M. Bartley Seigel. The publication — tied to a literary arts collective that includes a book publishing arm and vibrant website of the same name — is dedicated to emerging writers and experimentation. Past issues have published stories written in the form of Mad Libs and standardized tests.


$30 for three issues

When “Ploughshares” celebrated its 40th anniversary last year at the Paramount Theatre, appearances from Alice Hoffman, Ming Tsai, and Denis Leary made certain that even those Bostonians who had never read a short story in their lives became aware of the Emerson College journal. The current issue — all essays this time — features new work from Charles Baxter and Dani Shapiro.

Post Road

$18 for two issues

Besides criticism, personal essays, original fiction, and poetry, each issue of “Post Road” contains an incredibly useful section called “Recommendations,” in which a writer endorses somebody else’s work. The magazine was founded in 1999 by Jaime Clarke, owner of Newtonville Books, and David Ryan, a former drummer of erstwhile alt-rock dreamboats the Lemonheads. Last year Clarke and his wife, Newtonville co-owner Mary Cotton, published an anthology “No Near Exit: Writers Select Their Favorite Work from Post Road Magazine.”


$15 for two issues


“I could have sworn /that Shirley Temple visited Lincoln /to ask him to end the war and free the slaves,” begins a poem by Denise Duhamel in the spring issue of the Emerson College-produced “Redivider.” The younger sibling of “Ploughshares” has published original work from established talents like Robert Olen Butler and Paul Muldoon


$13 for two issues

The current issue of this Suffolk University literary journal is all fiction. Those who haven’t heard of contributors Austin Duffy, Sarah Hulse, or Albert Somma shouldn’t fret — the journal’s mission is to publish “highly accomplished poetry, fiction, and memoirs by writers who deserve a wider audience for their work.”

Tin House

$24.95 for four issues

Those who judge their literary magazines on scale should consider this Portland, Ore., journal. With a circulation around 12,000 copies, its readership far eclipses most of its peers. Its book imprint has put out dozens of titles. Even its poetry editor is a big deal: Matthew Dickman helped write the controversial Chrysler Super Bowl ad starring Clint Eastwood and has been profiled in “The New Yorker.”

Eugenia Williamson is a writer and editor living in Somerville. She can be reached at

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this gift guide misidentified the author of a poem that appears in “Redivider.” The author is Denise Duhamel.