Redbook is the magazine that reminds you that it's 1955 somewhere. In the pages of Redbook, to be exact. Here women use Valentine's Day cookie cutters to slice "a message of love" into their husbands' morning toast. Here women buy their husbands a gift for every day they're away on a business trip. And here women list "an excuse to wear that hokey Santa sweater" as one of the top five reasons to be glad it's winter. Here, women bake.
Or not. Because in truth, it's a man who reports buying his wife a gift for every day when she travels on business (so '80s!), and the cover story on Shania Twain ('90s!) is downright straightforward about the prejudice women face in the music industry (um, '60s?). The "How She Does It" page even profiles a woman whose husband was shipped off to war with the Air Force National Guard (9/11!!) So to be fair, maybe Redbook exists in a very prescient 1985.
All of which says nothing -- except that Redbook is what it is. It isn't trying to be Glamour. It isn't trying to be Cosmopolitan. It isn't even trying to be Better Homes and Gardens. Redbook has its place and is very happy there, thank you. And from my point of view -- that is, the point of view of a 34-year-old Long Island native living in Brooklyn who thought Shania Twain died years ago -- it does what it sets out to do very well.
(Incidentally, I made the mistake at first of asking my girlfriend for a woman's take on Redbook. Being a Coney Island girl transplanted all the way to Park Slope, with no kids, no husband and no Santa sweater, she informed me, all haughty-like, that "nobody reads Redbook. Get a Glamour." That was my first hint that gender isn't the only thing that separates me from most Redbook enthusiasts.)
So while it's easy to hate on Redbook, it's just as easy to admire its adherence to the kind of values that have been vanquished by angry, torch-wielding editors at more "contemporary" women's titles. If I should ever have kids, I will never want for Sunday craft activities, for I have read the December 2007 issue of Redbook. I will also know how to overcome my shyness at the company holiday party, whip up a batch of quick-and-easy linzer bars or let my husband know how to satisfy me in bed.
The look of the magazine is consistent with the editorial mission. There are lots of big, bold colors and blocky, childlike fonts -- and a lot of lowercase letters where there should be caps, a trick that makes the whole publication feel more friendly and approachable. It practically begs to be curled up with on the couch. Most of the editorial is presented in bite-size nuggets as well; indeed, most of the features are nothing more than quotes from readers or celebrities writ large -- so you can read Redbook without having to read too much. Altogether it makes for a very flippable magazine.
So even if Redbook isn't your cup of tea, you should still give thanks that it's out there. If there are people buying this thing -- and apparently there are, as the Audit Bureau of Circulations puts its circulation at just above 2 million for the last several years -- then clearly not everyone is impressed with the "quest for edgy" that dominates magazine publishing these days. Neither I nor my Brooklynese girlfriend will ever be regular readers; but let's face it, Redbook doesn't need us.
Published by: Hearst Magazines