The Believer (magazine)

The Believer

October 2009 issue, Vol. 7, No. 8. Cover illustration by Charles Burns. The cover depicts, clockwise from the upper left, Vlad Țepeş, Fidel Castro, Agnès Varda, and Jonathan Ames.
Editors Heidi Julavits and Vendela Vida
Categories Literature
Frequency 8 per year
First issue March 2003
Company McSweeney's
Country United States
Based in San Francisco
Language English

The Believer is an American literary magazine that also covers other arts and general culture. Founded and designed in 2003 by the writer and publisher Dave Eggers, it is edited by Vendela Vida and Heidi Julavits. It is published in San Francisco bimonthly by McSweeney's. However, the most recent edition of this publication, as of September 2016, was Fall 2015 according to the web site;[1] their blog contained recent material as of May 2016.


First published in April 2003, the literary magazine was created by Dave Eggers of McSweeney's Publishing in San Francisco,[2] and friends who planned to "focus on writers and books we like," with a nod to "the concept of the inherent Good."[3] Its editors are the novelists Vendela Vida and Heidi Julavits; the masthead also lists Karolina Waclawiak but her web site indicates she is no longer with this publication. Kathryn Borel and Ross Simonini are the magazine's interviews editors. The Believer is said to be published 8 times per year, including annual Art, Music, and Film issues that sometimes feature a CD or DVD insert. In 2005, it was printing about 15,000 copies of its regular issues.[4] It was described by Ploughshares editor Don Lee as "a utopian literary magazine. This is the sort of thing everyone dreams of – having this quality of staff on board."[3]

The Believer is a magazine, as its editor Heidi Julavits writes, that urges readers and writers to "reach beyond their usual notions of what is accessible or possible."[5] The magazine publishes essays that the critic Peter Carlson describes as "highbrow but delightfully bizarre,"[6] book reviews that may assess writers of other eras, and interviews with writers, artists, musicians and directors, often conducted by colleagues in their fields. The critic A.O. Scott described the magazine as part of "a generational struggle against laziness and cynicism, to raise once again the banners of creative enthusiasm and intellectual engagement."[4] It has a "cosmopolitan frame of reference and an eclectic internationalism," mixing pop genres with literary theory.[4]

The magazine is very popular in the East Coast of the United States, it is being sold primarily in independent bookstores. New York bookseller Andrea Hiott says, "People have been calling asking for the Believer, and it's selling well. Everyone loved McSweeney's in New York City."[7] Myleen Hollero of Green Apple Books in San Francisco described the magazine as "...a new, fresh medium people are relating to more than anything lately. It's clever, and they get great people to write for them. People recognize that, especially in this city. You say McSweeney's, and people jump on it."[7]


The magazine draws on a stable of recurring features, including book reviews, interviews, installments from a variety of authors, letters from readers, etc. Notable monthly features include "Sedaratives," an advice column founded by Amy Sedaris that hosts a guest contributor every month. Contributors included Buck Henry, Eugene Mirman, and Thomas Lennon.

Recently revived is the column "Stuff I've Been Reading" by Nick Hornby, a mixture of book discussion and musings. Other columns include "Real Life Rock Top Ten: A Monthly Column of Everyday Culture and Found Objects," written by Greil Marcus, and "Musin's and Thinkin's," written by Jack Pendarvis. All issues include a two-page, multi-color feature called "Schema," which has ranged from "Forensic Sketches of Literary Criminals" to "Habitats of Regional Burger Chains".


Illustrations and cartoons are featured throughout the magazine. The cover illustrations are done by Charles Burns, while most of the other portraits and line drawings are by Tony Millionaire (following Gilbert Hernandez from the fifth issue on). Michael Kupperman's Four-Color Comics has appeared in many issues, and in most issues a series of images from a given artist or other source run throughout the articles à la The New Yorker. The Believer debuted a comics section in the 2009 Art Issue, edited by Alvin Buenaventura, that includes strips by Anders Nilsen, Lilli Carré, Simon Hanselmann and Matt Furie. These comics are exclusive to the print edition of the magazine.

Believer book publishing and book awards

In addition to the magazine, The Believer has published a number of books, such as Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree (2004), Housekeeping vs. The Dirt (2006), Shakespeare Wrote for Money (2008) and More Baths Less Talking (2012), collections of his column "Stuff I've Been Reading".

Additional works:

The Believer has a yearly book award called the Believer Book Award presented to novels and story collections the magazine's editors thought were the "strongest and most under-appreciated" of the year.[10] A shortlist and longlist are announced, along with reader's favorites, then a final winner is selected by the magazine's editors. The inaugural award was in 2005 for books published in 2004.

In 2011, The Believer inaugurated the Believer Poetry Award. As with the Believer Book Award, each year the editors of The Believer select five recent poetry collections they thought were the finest and most deserving of greater recognition. A winner is selected from among this shortlist.[11]


  1. "Current Issue - Fall 2015". The Believer. The Believer. 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  2. "The 20 Best Magazines of the Decade (2000-2009)". Paste Magazine. November 26, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  3. 1 2 Renee Tawa , "New magazine has an abiding faith in the good book review", Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2003. Retrieved January 14, 2011
  4. 1 2 3 A.O. Scott, "Among the Believers", The New York Times, September 11, 2005. Retrieved January 14, 2011
  5. Heidi Julavits, "REJOICE! BELIEVE! BE STRONG AND READ HARD!", The Believer, March 2003. Retrieved January 14, 2011
  6. Peter Carlson, "Without a Doubt, This Believer is Heaven-Sent", The Washington Post, March 14, 2005. Retrieved January 14, 2011
  7. 1 2 Heidi Benson, review: "The War On Snark", San Francisco Gate, July 13, 2003. Retrieved January 14, 2011
  8. Joshua May, "Review: Tamler Sommers, A Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the Curtain ", Metapsychology Online Reviews, Dec 29, 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 53). Retrieved January 14, 2011
  9. Editors of McSweeney's, 52 Weeks, Heads, and Quotes,
  10. "The Believer Book Award", The Millions, March 3, 2011
  11. "The Believer Poetry Award". The Believer. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
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