A Quarterly Education
Print journals for lifelong learning
I love school, but schools tend to feel differently about me. After several rejected applications to grad school, I've been forced to re-direct my curiosities to less formal modes of learning. The first the reading of books. Books are the bedrock of any curriculum that seeks understanding, and I will never stop wishing I had more space for more books (and money to pay for both). But recently I've discovered the unique role of print journals in a personal education.
Quarterly journals are more timely than books but not chained to the newscycle like even the best monthly or weekly news magazines are. Journals allow for extended and varied reflection on current events at a speed humans can actually manage. Mercifully, current events are rarely the main focus of journals – ideas are – and this does wonders for readers hoping to hold on to a sense of coherence in inchoate times. Good journals of ideas do not "move fast and break shit," instead of reductions and simplifications journals linger over complexity, often allowing incongruous perspectives to side by side. This is not a reductive and shallow fairness doctrine, the bloodsport of polarized punditry, but rather a measured embrace of both/and over either/or distinctions. Journals invite strong, even unruly, ideas to the same table and as readers gather around to listen, they are taught to think.
Another vote in favour of a quarterly education is the price. A stack of subscriptions will cost far less than tuition and are easier to share than your terrible lecture notes.
So, resist the everything-now hole of digital media and subscribe to a good journal. Read it with a pencil and mark it up. Write your approval, questions, and denunciations in the margins, then, and only then, maybe Tweet about it. If this sounds like something you want to get in on, I have a few suggestions below. These choices are tailored to my interests in faith, technology, and simply being in 20xx, but the scope of these journals is much wider than my writing.
There's a lot to be discovered and loved within the pages of these publications for the curious and the questioning among us.
Public theology for the common good. Comment is a publication of the Canadian think tank Cardus, and my first experience with print journals. Comment straddles the line between journal and magazine by being just as enjoyable to look at as to read.
I've enjoyed their recent pivot to foregrounding people actively pursuing the common good in their communities, and I love learning more about ordinary people being extraordinary neighbours.
I have a stack of back issues that I'm more than happy to share with local readers in Montreal.
- Persuasion Is for Amateurs - Gracy Olmstead
- A Tidy Mind - Hannah LaGrand
- Reading Culture Charitably - James K.A. Smith
A journal of art, faith, and mystery that invites diverse readers and contributors into their big tent. Now under the editorial eye of James K.A. Smith (former editor of Comment), Image always tests the limits of my engagement with art. It's been instrumental in my discovery of poetry that's unflinching and faith-filled.
- Nostalgia for Stranger Things - Nick Olson
- Homo Liturgicus: On the Persistence of Ritual in Contemporary Fiction - James K.A. Smith
The New Atlantis
How might science and technolgy work for, and not on, human beings? That's the question The New Atlantis seeks to answer in every issue. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this is the journal we need right now – it's certainly the most timely subscription I paid for in 2020. As the world reacted to COVID-19, TNA supplemented its reflective, longform essays with timely reporting on the coronavirus crisis.
Whether you think too much of science or little, The New Atlantis offers a helpful and humanistic corrective. And the writing is top-notch, too.
- Projects for Renewal
- The End of History and The Fast Man - Adam J. White
- The Analog City and the Digital City - L.M. Sacasas
I came across this recent interview with the Editor-in-Chief of The New Atlantis and include it here as a bonus for those who cannot hope to read everything linked to in this post. The conversation is a great primer on TNA and it's mission to bridge divide.
"Fare Forward is a Christian review of ideas founded in 2012 by a group of young Ivy League graduates. Trained by our time in the campus journal movement, we set out to start a publication that would be creedally orthodox, intentionally ecumenical, politically unaffiliated, and welcoming to all readers, regardless of faith or lack thereof."
In other words, Fare Forward is a project by young christian thinkers in open reaction to the caustic legacy of the Religious Right. It's my latest subscription and one I don't expect to be disappointed by.
- The Fare Forward Interview with Alan Jacobs
- The Technological Society Can't Save Itself - L.M. Sacasas
Founded in 1920, Plough Quarterly seeks to "inspire everyday faith and action" in its readers through its print journal, publishing house, and other activities.
The Hedgehog Review
A publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, The Hedgehog Review puts out quarterly issues around a theme that "illuminates the puzzles, vexations, and dilemmas that characterize the modern predicament."
The Hedgehog is on my subscription wishlist, but they are generous with free access to recent articles on their website.
Christ & Pop Culture
A touchstone in my development as a writer and an example of online community that never ceases to complicated my hot-takes about digital community, CxPC is an internet waystation for weary pilgrims.
There aren't many places where the editors will let you write about Stranger Things and Saint Augustine, and British gardening television and the attention economy.
- The Taste of Strawberries - Jeffrey Bilbro
- It's a Festival, Not a Machine; Celebrating the Symbolic World - Alisa Ruddell
- Everything Is Not Okay: How Chernobyl Tells Our Story - K.B. Hoyle
Published by the Grace Centre for the Arts, a ministry of Grace Toronto Church (my church away from home), Imprint is the kind of initiative more churches need. Sitting at the broad intersection between faith and culture, Imprint is also one of the more beautiful publications on this list. I received my first issue this fall and it's generously filled with art and photography from the Grace community.
It almost makes me wish I was in Toronto instead of Montreal – almost.
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