Founded in 1925 by Harold Ross and his wife Jane Grant, The New Yorker is published 47 times annually, with five of those issues covering two-week spans. While the magazine has its weaknesses (a lack of women writers is one the magazine still needs to deal with), it is difficult to find any American magazine that rivals the constant flow of reportage, fiction, and even humor pieces that The New Yorker produces in every issue.
“By the standards of The New Yorker I was being brought in off the street. I had a book contract; I was writing for Rolling Stone and The Boston Globe, so that’s hilarious. That’s so classic of The New Yorker to feel that if you weren’t at The New Yorker you were essentially homeless and living hand-to-mouth on crap,” Susan Orlean tells Elon Green in “The Letter,” his fascinating piece at The Awl, which recounts the drama that went down when Si Newhouse “imposed” Alfred A. Knopf editor Robert Gottlieb to lead the venerable magazine. The incident resulted in a letter signed by a who’s who of American writers, from J.D. Salinger to Deborah Eisenberg, asking Gottlieb not to take the job. Orlean’s response and the letter’s famous signees are just two ways to explain the magazine’s importance, influence, and the weird culture that is The New Yorker itself, but just in case that isn’t enough, here are ten more examples.
55 Short Stories from the New Yorker
It’s sort of scary to think that the magazine has been putting out great fiction all this time, but this anthology (which has gone in and out of print a few times in the decades since it was first published) that features work from the likes of J.D. Salinger, Vladimir Nabokov, John Cheever, A. J. Liebling, and many others is downright intimidating.
Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker, Renata Adler
Since we’re all in love with Renata Adler again, maybe consider picking up her no-holds-barred account of the history and culture of the magazine that she wrote for, and that she believes declined as editor William Shawn’s influence waned.
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
No matter what you think of Gladwell or his theories, the impact of his work is hard to escape, and his books have amazing staying power at the top of The New York Times bestseller list. Since his time writing at The New Yorker predates his first book, The Tipping Point, by about four years, an argument could be mounted that without his association with the famous magazine, Gladwell’s books wouldn’t be half as popular as they are.
The Receptionist, Janet Groth
The Receptionist tells the dream story of becoming a New Yorker at The New Yorker. Janet Groth moved to the Big Apple from the Midwest in the late 1950s and netted a job as a receptionist at the magazine, as well as a bird’s eye view of the brilliance and insanity of the magazine’s staff on a daily basis.
The New Yorker Stories, Ann Beattie
You might become a great fiction writer without associating yourself with the magazine, but you sort of have to publish at least one story in the pages of The New Yorker at some point in your career. Ann Beattie filled over 500 pages in this anthology of her stories published by the magazine, starting with her mid-1970s output and running through the mid-1980s. Read this and prepare to feel like you’ve accomplished very little.
Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, John Updike
John Updike is another literary legend who made his name thanks to his association with the magazine, writing fiction, poetry, criticism, and just about everything else starting in 1954, up until his death in 2009. But this 1960 account of the last game of baseball legend Ted Williams’s storied career stands out as one of the best pieces ever written on a sport that has inspired some of our greatest writers to pen odes to the American pastime. The Library of America published the piece in book form in 2010.
Here at The New Yorker, Brendan Gill
Pretty much considered the account of working at the magazine, this semi-autobiographical memoir by Gill is written in a “Talk of the Town” style, and features anecdotes about some of the magazine’s most well-known editors, writers, and cartoonists.
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Originally published as a four-part serial in The New Yorker, Truman Capote’s story detailing the murder and murders of the Clutter family ushered in the era of New Journalism, and opened up the doors for the likes of Joan Didion and Tom Wolfe to become the icons they are today.
A.J. Liebling: The Sweet Science and Other Writings: The Earl of Louisiana / The Jollity Building / Between Meals / The Press, A.J. Liebling
The New Yorker does a lot of things exceptionally well, but it excels most in longform journalism even today, in the Internet age of short blog posts and tweets. From 1935 until his death in 1963, Liebling was one of the most famous journalists associated with the magazine, and his influence can be felt to this very day.
Saul Steinberg: A Biography, Deirdre Bair
Art Spiegelman, Maira Kalman, and the now-infamous Bert and Ernie DOMA cover are just a few things that come to mind when you mention the art of The New Yorker. Between the famous and infamous covers to the cartoons that Roger Ebert was so fond of trying to caption, the magazine’s illustrations belong to an institution of their own. Yet none of those artists can claim to have life stories that caught the eye of National Book Award winner Deirdre Bair, as Saul Steinberg did.
Most of the Most of S.J. Perelman, S.J. Perelman
Just like everything else associated with the magazine, The New Yorker’s humor writing has a tone of its own. You can thank Marx Brothers collaborator S.J. Perelman for that. This collection of his best works from 1930 to 1958 shows off why he deserves to be recognized as one of America’s greatest humorists.
Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger
If there was no New Yorker, would we know and revere J.D. Salinger in the way we do today? While we will never know the answer to that question, we do know that seven of these stories appeared inside of the magazine’s pages, and two of them were rejected by it. Think about that for a second: The New Yorker rejected J.D. Salinger.