The Geek’s Guide to Literary Magazines

Literary magazines are the gems of the bookish world, and there are tons of them. Like, TONS.

We’ve rounded up some swoon-worthy lit mags—some of which you can subscribe to, and some of which you can read online, right now, for free! Let the literary over-stimulation commence!

1. Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern
If you know literary magazines, (and even if you don’t!), you’ve probably heard of this one. McSweeney’s has published work by Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oats, and more. Still, that doesn’t diminish the amount of work it attracts from unpublished writers. This lit mag is constantly reinventing itself in every sense of the word—from the design of each quarterly issue (think die-cut covers wrapped in cloth and issues that look like human heads) to “publishing exciting fiction regardless of pedigree.”


2. The Paris Review
One of the most highly regarded literary mags, The Paris Review is known for seeking out new writers. It has produced pieces from many authors who have gone on to rule the literary world. Among the ranks are Philip Roth, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Jack Kerouac. The Paris Review also offers countless author interviews in their Writers at Work series. Detailed ones, that make you feel like you know what’s in your favorite author’s heart of hearts. (Hey Nabokov, we get you.) 

3. Tin House
Wait, there’s a literary crossword puzzle? More importantly, can we do it while reading fantastic short stories, poetry, and food and drink columns? We CAN?! Subscribing immediately, please and thank you. Tin House also offers a free podcast to anyone who’d love to hear about the craft of writing or listen to author readings.


4. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet
If the name doesn’t make you say “Let me drop everything of importance and read this right now,” let us tempt you with the material it publishes. Fantasy and Science Fiction. Their current issue, No. 33, “approaches its theme of humanity’s relationship with the earth with a little humor, a touch of horror, and seventeen different kinds of understanding.” This awesome teaser made us want to read the whole magazine in one sitting. (We did.)


Anyone in favor of free literature and pretty pictures? Who are we kidding, that’s all of us. This lit mag offers a healthy dose of creative writing and actual, schematic diagrams. 


6. Narrative
Narrative is a nonprofit, online lit mag that strives to advance literary art in the digital age—and it’s all free! Just promise you won’t get so sucked in that no one can retrieve you from the depths of the “Fiction” tab. Or don’t. You’d probably be very happy there.


7. The Seattle Review
So you’re thinking, “These are nice, but do any literary magazines publish longer works like novellas and lengthy poems?” First of all, vote for novellas and long poems everywhere, thank you, because they are underrated beauties. Second, yes! Quite a handful of lit mags publish longer works—the current issue of McSweeney’s comes in two parts, the second of which is a full length screenplay—but The Seattle Review is solely dedicated to the publication of novellas, longer works of poetry, and lyric essays.


8. Asimov’s Science Fiction 
Woo sci-fi! Originally Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, this lit mag has been around since 1977—that’s almost four decades of otherworldly spectacular-ness.Their current issue features a novella along with novelettes, short stories, and poetry.


This multi-genre trans* lit journal depicts the importance of trans* literature. Founder Jos Charles says that they started the journal because they wanted to read something like it, but there was no prior outlet for the transgender community. So they created one. You go, Jos. 


10. Brick
If creative nonfiction is your thing, check out Brick, a lit mag brimming with interviews, memoirs, travelogues, literary essays, and more. You prefer fiction, which is fine, but we’ll tell you this – it only takes one great memoir and you’re hooked. The lit mag publishes two issues a year—Winter, on stands from November to May, and Summer, on stands from May to November. 

Know a great literary magazine? Let us know on twitter @QuirkBooks.

Christina Schillaci

Christina Schillaci

Christina is the voice behind Quirk’s social media channels and editor-in-chief of the blog. She graduated from Rowan University with her M.A. in Writing and joined Quirk in 2016. She loves weekend cooking projects, Cape May in the winter, and her dog, Rocket. Say hi on Twitter @quirkbooks or @saychristina!