Dream Of Working At A Magazine? Read These 9 Books

by Kerri Jarema
Paramount Pictures

If you work in magazine or newspaper publishing, chances are you've compared your work experience to The Devil Wears Prada at least once. We've all had crazy intense editors, frantic deadlines, and stressful industry events to attend. But while we love the extreme hilarity of Miranda Priestly and her denizens at Runway Magazine (seriously, if you've ever had a long day at work just watch that movie and you'll feel a million times better) and no one could ever really claim that the story is untrue, the actual day to day of working in publishing is not quite as terrifying as Andie's.

The Devil Wears Prada, $12, Amazon

Like any other job, working as a writer or editor at magazines and newspapers has ups and downs, of course. But there are certain universal truths that are captured perfectly in the nine books below. Whether delving into how hard it is to break into the industry as a fledgling reporter, the way that women in magazines and newspapers have to fight for their place, or just showing us more about the working lives of some of the most famous magazine editors of all time, these books move past the devilish antics we saw on the big screen (and read in the book) and give more insight into the ins and outs of media mavens.


'Ten Girls To Watch' by Charity Shumway

Like so many other recent graduates, Dawn West is trying to make her way in New York City. She's got an ex-boyfriend she can't quite stop seeing, a roommate who views rent checks and basic hygiene as optional, and a writing career that's gotten as far as penning an online lawn care advice column. So when Dawn lands a job tracking down the past winners of Charm Magazine's "Ten Girls to Watch" contest, she's thrilled. After all, she's being paid to interview hundreds of fascinating women: once outstanding college students, they have gone on to become mayors, opera singers, and air force pilots. As Dawn learns their life stories, she discovers that success, love, and friendship can be found in the most unexpected of places. Most importantly, she learns that while those who came before us can be role models, ultimately, we each have to create our own happy ending. This is a fun, insightful debut novel about passion, and creativity, women's universal experiences, and finding your place.

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'The Intern' by Gabrielle Tozer

Like The Devil Wears Prada for teens, The Intern follows Josie Browning, who dreams of having it all. A stellar academic record, an amazing career in journalism... and for her current crush to realize she actually exists. The only problem? Josie can’t get through 24 hours without embarrassing her sister Kat or her best friend Angel, let alone herself. Josie’s luck changes though when she lands an internship at the glossy fashion magazine Sash. A coveted columnist job is up for grabs, but Josie’s got some tough competition in the form of two other interns. Battle lines are drawn and Josie quickly learns that the magazine industry is far from easy, especially under the reign of powerful editor, Rae Swanson. From the lows of coffee-fetching and working 10-hour days, to the highs of mingling with celebrities, scoring endless free beauty products (plus falling for her cousin’s seriously gorgeous roommate, James) this is one year Josie will never forget. This novel is fresh and funny, revealing more truths behind the glamour and sparkle of the magazine industry.

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'Pretty In Ink' by Lindsey Palmer

Pretty In Ink, like The Devil Wears Prada, was another controversial book release about the industry from a former magazine editor (Palmer worked at Self, Redbook and Glamour before penning this novel.) When the editor of old-reliable women's magazine Hers finds a pink slip in her mail box, the staffers know that her ruthless replacement may not be done cleaning house. Leah Brenner, for one, suspects she won't be on the payroll much longer either. A telecommuting, breast milk-pumping mom of three doesn't mesh with her new boss Mimi's vision of a sleeker, younger-skewing Hers. Not content with nabbing Leah's office, Mimi's protege, Victoria, is itching to take over Leah's duties too — and she's not alone. As the summer rolls out, and staffers are asked to give up even their sexiest secrets to save the brand, everyone at Hers — the sycophantic new assistant; the photo editor who's sleeping with her boss; the Ivy League intern with oversized aspirations — will fight to keep their career — and dignity — intact.

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'How To Build A Girl' by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran's first novel takes inspiration from her own teenage years working at a music magazine. It’s 1990 and Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore. She reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a fast-talking, hard-drinking gal who will save her poverty-stricken family by becoming a writer — like Jo in Little Women — but without the dying young bit. By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less. But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all? The Bell Jar meets Almost Famous with a huge dash of Moran's gritty British humor, this is an evocative story of self-discovery and invention, writing and music and making your own way in the world.

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'The Last Magazine' by Michael Hastings

The Last Magazine is the debut novel from Michael Hastings, published after his untimely death in June 2013. Informed by his own journalistic experiences, it is a funny, fast-paced look at print journalism’s "last glory days." The year is 2002. Weekly news magazines dominate the political agenda in New York and Washington. A young journalist named Michael M. Hastings is a twenty-two- year-old intern at The Magazine. He's wet behind the ears, and the only one in the office who’s actually read his coworker’s books. He will stop at nothing to turn his internship into a full-time position, and he’s figured out just whom to impress: Nishant Patel, the international editor, and Sanders Berman, managing editor, both vying for the job of editor in chief. While Berman and Nishant try to one-up each other pontificating on cable news, A. E. Peoria — the one reporter seemingly doing any work — is having a career crisis. He’s just returned from Chad, where, instead of the genocide, he was told by his editors to focus on mobile phone outsourcing, which they think is more relevant. And then, suddenly, the United States invades Iraq — and all hell breaks loose. As Hastings loses his naïveté about the journalism game, he must choose where his loyalties lie — with the men at The Magazine who can advance his career or with his friend in the field who is reporting the truth.

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'The Imperfectionists' by Tom Rachmann

The Imperfectionists is a gorgeous, emotional, atmospheric novel that follows reporters at an international English language newspaper in Rome as they struggle to keep it, and themselves, afloat. Fifty years and many changes have ensued since the paper was founded by an enigmatic millionaire, and now, amid the stained carpeting and dingy office furniture, the staff’s personal dramas seem far more important than the daily headlines. Kathleen, the imperious editor in chief, is smarting from a betrayal in her open marriage; Arthur, the lazy obituary writer, is transformed by a personal tragedy; Abby, the embattled financial officer, discovers that her job cuts and her love life are intertwined in a most unexpected way. Out in the field, a veteran Paris freelancer goes to desperate lengths for his next byline, while the new Cairo stringer is mercilessly manipulated by an outrageous war correspondent with an outsize ego. And in the shadows is the isolated young publisher who pays more attention to his prized basset hound, Schopenhauer, than to the fate of his family’s quirky newspaper. As the era of print news gives way to the Internet age and this imperfect crew stumbles toward an uncertain future, the paper’s rich history is revealed, including the surprising truth about its founder’s intentions.

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'Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years' by Diana Vreeland

No reading list about the world of magazines and newspapers would be complete without some non-fiction. And if you want to know more about publishing, you must know more about Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. This book takes a look behind the scenes at Diana Vreeland’s Vogue, describing the legendary editor in chief in her own words. When Diana Vreeland became editor in chief of Vogue in 1963, she initiated a transformation, shaping the magazine into the dominant U.S. fashion publication. Vreeland rarely held meetings and communicated with her staff and photographers through memos dictated from her office or Park Avenue apartment. This compilation of more than 250 pieces of Vreeland’s personal correspondence includes letters to Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Norman Parkinson, Veruschka, and Cristobal Balenciaga, and memos that show the direction of some of Vogue’s most legendary stories. They display Vreeland’s irreverence, her characteristically over-the-top pronouncements and reveal her bold ideas about the Vogue woman and what the magazine should be. Each chapter is introduced by commentary from Vogue editors who worked with her, giving readers a truly inside look at how Diana Vreeland directed the course of the magazine and fashion world.

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'Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown' by Gerri Hirshey

Another magazine pioneer you need to know more about? Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan. When Gurley Brown published her book Sex and the Single Girl in 1962, it sold more than two million copies in just three weeks, helping to usher in the unapologetic self-affirmation of second wave feminism. Brown was a huge proponent in declaring that it was okay, even imperative, for a woman to enjoy sex outside of marriage; that equal rights for women should extend to the bedroom; that meaningful work outside the home was essential for a woman's security and self-esteem. The book catapulted Brown into national renown, cementing her status as a complex and divisive feminist personality. Gerri Hirshey traces Brown's path from the Arkansas Ozarks to becoming the highest-paid female ad copywriter on the West Coast, and transforming Hearst's failing literary magazine, Cosmopolitan, into the female-oriented global juggernaut it is today. Not Pretty Enough shines new light on the life of one of the most incomparable and indelible women of the twentieth century, and is a must read for anyone who wants to see what it's really like to be a magazine editor, and who knows that women writers can make history.

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'Scribble Scribble: Notes On The Media' by Nora Ephron

You may know Nora Ephron more for her work in films like When Harry Met Sally and You've Got Mail, but she started her career writing in newspapers and magazines. Her collection of essays about media, Scribble Scribble, tackles everything from feminism to media, the Watergate Scandal (she was married to Carl Bernstein at the time) to Gourmet Magazine. Ephron wrote everywhere from the New York Post to Cosmopolitan and she shares still relevant insights on the revealing sources, the competition between journalists and the less than stellar state of our modern newspaper offices. A mix of in-depth and lighthearted pieces alike, this is a must-read for anyone seeking a behind the scenes look at what life is like for a career writer.

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