ScienceTHE BEST NATURE MAGAZINES
Reading textbooks can be tiring. Magazines or journals are a great way to broaden your knowledge or further your interest without committing to 400 pages, and they’re one of the best ways of staying up to date.
Here, I review the science subscriptions that I read to stay engaged with natural history, conservation, and climate change.
Nature is an international weekly journal of science and is my favourite subscription. It’s broad, so contains peer-reviewed research, news, comment, and expert opinion across all the sciences, but every issue contains a good chunk of content related to the natural world.
The journal, like all good journals, contains a mix of content types. The long pieces of research are a fascinating deep dive, but much of the publication is shorter pieces that you can read with a cup of tea.
The presentation is basic and to the point: no distracting colours or graphics, just clear, easy-to-read news and science, which is how I like it!
Each feature contains a weblink to the full research piece or further reading, so the journal is incredibly helpful if you’re researching. Science read in magazines is often difficult to reference, but that isn’t the case with journals.
The only downside to Nature is that each weekly edition is around 150 pages long and each page is packed full of fascinating science, so you have to pick the parts most interesting to you otherwise you’d never read anything else.
Full disclosure: this journal isn’t cheap. At the time of writing, a yearly subscription for print and online is £199. If this is too pricey, watch out for sales: I got this year’s for £89.
2. NEW SCIENTIST
For me, New Scientist is the middle ground between a scientific journal and a popular magazine. It’s often available in supermarkets and the reading experience is accessible, but its layout and style aren’t dissimilar to Nature, and the pieces often link to the research in the same way.
It’s shorter than Nature (around 50 pages per issue), so is more manageable as a weekly read. Again, its subject matter is broad, so if you’re focused on one area of science, you’ll find lots of features that you’re not as interested in – but there’s always a good handful of pieces in the natural history/environmental field in every issue, so you’re never short of something to read.
Don’t be put off if the cover of New Scientist doesn’t contain any articles that grab your attention; unlike ‘tat mags’, this publication only puts a couple of the article titles on the cover – there’s much more variety inside.
New Scientist is weekly, so it has the same price point as Nature, but watch out for bundle offers. As a one-off the issues are £6.95.
3. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Nat Geo is a classic for a reason: it’s excellent, and it’s almost unbearably interesting.
It’s monthly, and is jam-packed full of full-page photographs, infographics, maps, and pull-out pages. More a magazine than a journal, it’s visually pleasing and often more engaging for that reason.
At around 150 pages per issue, it’s a similar length to Nature but the print version is compact and therefore nicer to hold and easier to stick in your bag.
I’ve been fascinated by Nat Geo for years: it’s my longest subscription. Whenever I feel stressed and lack a sense of perspective, I read Nat Geo to remind myself of the big wide world, and to rekindle my interest and desire to learn.
It’s a wonderful magazine, and the best option for an all-round monthly scientific update. For me, it falls short only in two aspects. Firstly, it’s something of a lottery whether each month’s issue will include content you’re interested in (unless your interests are very wide) – all the content is brilliant, but I did go through three months during the pandemic where each issue was full of COVID-19 related science and nothing else. To be expected, of course, but the special issues can be frustrating when they don’t happen to be on a topic you want to read about. Having said that, I often read features I wouldn't have chosen from the shelf and it's a good way to broaden your horizons. Secondly, there’s often interesting research that I’d like to reference, but no easy references within the publication (unlike Nature and New Scientist).
The pricing on Nat Geo is great – you can subscribe for print and online for £25 per year and digital only plans are even cheaper. A word to the wise: Nat Geo Traveller is a different kettle of fish: don't bother with that.
4. BBC WILDLIFE
This one almost feels out of place amongst the others, but it isn't. BBC Wildlife is great because it allows you to learn in a way that is less exhausting than reading research papers. Weekly journals full of expert commentary are important, but easy reading has its place and is a surprisingly effective way to learn.
Like Nat Geo, BBC Wildlife is full of beautiful photographs, helpful maps and features that make for an engaging read. Despite being accessible, it would be wrong to view this magazine as basic; it’s packed full of science, news and opinion and its presentation makes absorbing and remembering the information far easier than when reading journals.
As well as news updates and science, there are always some thought-provoking pieces – an example from the issue in front of me is ‘Should we edit nature?’ about the possibilities (and pitfalls) of genetic engineering in environmental conservation.
The thing I love most about BBC Wildlife, other than its value as a learning tool, is the fact that it’s always of interest to me cover to cover. Unlike my other subscriptions, the magazine is only concerned with – you’ve guessed it – wildlife, so it’s 100 pages of directly relevant content every month.
The price is great too. At the time of writing, a year’s print subscription is £35, and again the digital only package is cheaper.
As well as the four mentioned above, I also read Nature’s Home (the RSPB quarterly magazine), Broadleaf (the Woodland Trust’s quarterly magazine) and local updates from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. Nature’s Home in particular is a lovely magazine.
All of the magazines I've mentioned come in recyclable or compostable packaging and the organisations behind all of them have made environmental commitments. All of them are printed on FSC paper (BBC Wildlife was actually the first consumer magazine to carry the FSC certification). All are available in digital format.
WHAT DO YOU READ?
What do you read? Do you have any recommendations for improving my list? I’d love to hear from you. Links to socials below.
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