2013.03.27 A magazine for only $12,168

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

There's a magazine for everything in the world. Every interest, every profession, every course of study.

My wife brought a catalogue of periodicals home from the library because she’s planning to add a few new magazines to the collection. Colleen walked by while I was flipping through the catalogue and she looked at a page of magazines highlighted in an ad. 

"I'd like that one," she said, pointing at "Saveur," a magazine with the slogan "Savoring the World of Authentic Cuisine." Nine issues a year for 30 bucks.

She pointed at "Working Mothers" and joked, "They don't have time to read." Next she touched "Parenting, School Years," and said the library already takes that one but it's very seldom checked out.

It seems that she has a tough job ahead. Should she get "Batwoman"? "Amateur Wrestling News"? "Armchair General"?

Sometimes the first challenge is figuring out what the magazine is about. "Ad Astra." Any guesses? Of course you know that's Latin for "to the stars." What about "Animal Man"? I figured that was...well, I don't know. Some manly periodical about men and their love of animals. I was very wrong. Twelve issues for $25 tell the story of Buddy Baker who gained animal powers after an encounter with a space station that blew up and irradiated him. It's a superhero comic book.

"Weatherwise" is a little pricey—only six issues for $188. I think I was a subscriber to that magazine once, or at least I ended up with a few issues somehow. It was back in my early high school days when I wanted to be a weatherman.

At the back of the catalogue, all the titles are divided into a Topical Index of Periodicals, from Aeronautics & Aviation to Youth. In the middle is the category called General Interest. There are several dozen here, from "15 a 20" to "Yes: Journal of Positive Futures." The first is for chicas between the ages of 15 and 20; the second attempts to reframe the world's problems into solutions—for those of you who are tired of bad news.

In between those two magazines are many that seem misplaced in the General Interest category. "Containerisation International" publishes personalized news of the container industry—containers as in container ships. It must be good. Twelve issues costs $1,640. It's something everyone needs on their coffee table.

The American Naturalist Supplement comes out only once a year, at a cost of $580. At first I thought naturist—as in people who frequent nude beaches—but I was way off. Here's a sample story: "High-stress Subterranean Habitats and Evolutionary Change in Cave-Inhabiting Arthropods." And worth every penny.

"Phronesis" (four issues, $452) is "the most authoritarian scholarly journal of the study of Ancient Greek and Roman thought."

"Mammalia" is a little cheaper at four issues for $338. With this magazine, you can read about high elevation records of ocelots in Jalisco, Mexico, and the effect of seed availability on hoarding behaviors of the Siberian chipmunk. You can just sit and marvel at the things scientists spend time studying. But General Interest?

One of the cheaper periodicals listed is called "Men's Fraternity—Quest for Authentic Manhood." It's listed as just one issue for $10. Is it for you? It is if you have a "distorted idea of biblical masculinity." I could be wrong, but I don't expect to see this one on Colleen's order list.

Maybe she'll go with "Garden and Gun," described as the "best of the South" lifestyle. Could be a guide to keeping rabbits away from your kale and broccoli.

The big prices of some periodicals put me on the hunt to find the most expensive. "Plant Cell and Environment" comes your way for $5,571 a year. Hold on: "Science of the Total Environment" runs $7,924 annually, but there are 24 issues.

We're not done yet. "Molecular Ecology Package" costs $9,796 but it's a generous 30 issues. There's one more to go: "Journal of Materials Science" will stretch the budget of any library at $12,168 a year, even though there are 48 exciting issues.

When you check that one out of the library, please don't keep it on the coffee table.

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