I love Utne Reader. A friend gave me an issue several years ago and I've subscribed ever since.
When people ask me about it, I say "it's sort of like Reader's Digest" with lots of articles that have already been published in other publications. The difference is, the Utne staffers search through little known and not so common magazines for their stories. It should also be mentioned that Utne picks a topic for each issue. Here are some past topics:
Imagine the America You Want March/April 2003 (Issue 116)
The Future of Healing May/June 2001 (Issue 105)
Great American Sellout November/December 1999 (Issue 96)
Gender blur September/October 1998 (Issue 89)
The future of love November/December 1996 (Issue 78)
You can buy past issues as well.
Utne is a forward-thinking magazine with liberal viewpoints. This may put people off. I find it refreshing.
I found Utne Reader while browsing the periodical racks of my favorite local bookstore (put yourself in the picture... wood floors, magazines as far as the eye can see, generally categorized, and the wafting aroma of fresh ground coffee). I was looking for something different -- maybe a collection of undiscovered short story writers -- maybe a different view of world events -- perhaps a fresh look at Mad magazine?
What I found was Utne Reader -- I'm also a fan of Brill's Content (or was a fan... are they out of business now? I'll have to check after I write this review), and I found Utne Reader placed next to BC. It immediately grabbed my attention -- the magazine usually centers on a differently monthly theme, and pulls the best writing from a variety of sources (magazines, newspapers, websites) on a monthly basis -- what I'm always left with is a bunch of questions and an interest in learning even more -- I fold back pages, write notes in the margins, an!d eventually spend a good deal of time on the internet satisfying my curiosity.
If you want to get a monthly crash course in what's important and who's effecting change, you can't go wrong with Utne Reader.
Take my word for it.
UTNE is a publication we got hooked on back in late '89.
We jokingly refer to it as the thinking readers Readers Digest, since the articles aren't "feel good" but are articles that are meant to make the reader think. Articles that come from a variety of other publications and cover a plethora of issues and topics.
It is a magazine that I find myself re-reading and re-reading past issues for months or years ago. And yes the publication is liberal or at least alternative lifestyle mode.
I've been a subscriber of UR for about 12 years - most of the time since the mag. has been in print. As someone said, it's sort of a 'Reader's Digest for liberals', or possibly another good tag is UR's own subtitle 'the best of the alternative press'. But that still doesn't completely describe UR. Yes, it has a lot of articles culled from all kinds of other magazines, big and small, but it also has good original feature articles. Every issue (every two months) has a 'centerpiece' of a particular topic with several articles on that topic. There are also always interesting articles on all kinds of things, which was led me to read about things that I probably wouldn't have otherwise (Atlantic Monthly has done the same thing for me many times, but I only have so much time to read!).
I'd highly recommend Utne Reader to intelligent, literate people who want to read news and articles on all kinds of things - political, environmental, social, economic, entertainment (the list goes on). Unlike a lot of media, UR doesn't have an American-only viewpoint, either. It's also fun. While many articles are on some serious topic, many are more fun, too, such as jump-starting your creativity, places to travel, etc.
Believe me, there is so much in every thick issue that you wouldn't want this magazine to come out every month. Check out an issue!
Powerfully iconoclastic, The Reader is possibly the voice of America's last remaining counterculture. Their rebellion against the norm sometimes comes across as an attempt to stir up debate rather than a truly heartfelt position, but it is still a valuable cultural contribution. Recent articles on rejection of private property, socially motivated cartooning, and President Bush's short-sighted political maneuvering offer a welcome reprieve from anonymous, monolithic opinion-makers in the mainstream media. Agree or not, this title offers us a chance to test our attitudes and beliefs, and a chance to change them when we find them to be flawed.
Rather than being a single voice, which would undermine the whole concept of counterculture, The Reader distills from several maverick and small-press magazines to create its finished product. In this it's almost a counter-cultural Reader's Digest, putting the best unheard voices where we can find them. They even provide addresses at which we can subscribe to seldom-seen presses and magazines, if we want to continue having our outlooks expanded along a certain axis.
Many of us have sought a free-thinking alternative to America's painful homogeneity for years. When we find it, we are almost religiously released. Titles like the Utne Reader become secular gospel to us in these cases, and like Paul after the scales come off, we take our mission to anyone who will hear. Come, follow me into the light that is the Reader! You shall be released!
Utne Reader provides several articles on a specific topic each month. One month it's Healthy food, addressing urban gardens, pesticides, alternative diets, etc. The next month the topic may be the Lost Art of Conversation. Each month I love that I can read such a variety of articles on one subject. Utne compiles contributions from a wide spectrum of authors and other magazines. Kind of like a "Reader's Digest" for liberals! Very thought provoking. Utne also opens windows to other publications that I might want to read now!
It always seems like a holiday when my UTNE arrives. It has never failed to delight me in my long tenure as a subscriber and fan.
Nowadays, with so much of our "news" actually being political spin and hype, with that forced-fed feeling, it is so refreshing to be able to read interesting, tasty, thoroughly satisfying stuff that is not the run-of-the mill, banal, overly celebrity-focused junk. [Hey, I like celebrities just as much as the next guy, but I like to take a break once-in-a-while.] UTNE respects your intelligence. It seems to arrive just on time, every time.
The focus here is on improving one's life and, perhaps, one's corner of the world (or just a corner of a room). Sure, there is a progressive bent to the content (it used to be dubbed "the best of the alternative media"): there's ample pro-environment, pro-organic, pro-diversity, pro-spirituality content here. [Have they made "progressive" a dirty word, too???] I find it consistently conducive to recharging my batteries.
GO FOR IT. YOU WILL BE AMPLY REWARDED. Like entering a fresh, new world every two months. You will likely read it from cover-to-cover.
When I read and enjoyed my first copy of the Utne Reader I thought it was, as it claims, "the best of the alternative press". Having read a few more copies I now realise it is the "best of the alternative LIBERAL press", which is a slightly different thing. If this was the only magazine you read, you would get a rather onesided view of politics and of life. But why would you want to read only the one magazine anyway? This is a valuable magazine in that it gives some extra prominence to good articles from a whole range of smallish periodicals. America has a wonderful 'magazine culture' and the Utne Reader celebrates one important aspect of that culture.
Utne takes on all the right issues, but doesn't deliver the kind of indepth reporting to make it matter. Most articles are short and too tidy. An interview with Alan Ball (creator of Six Feet Under) is a perfect example. Several times in the article you think "hey, they're going to get into something interesting," but each time the interviewer changes the subject before that can happen. Another article with great potential: ten green urban projects. Unfortunately, each project gets a palty 4 lines . . . and there are no links to other sources for follow up. There is great potential at Utne, but it needs to be developed.