Summer reading for lawyers - Magazines
Family & Work

Summertime and the living is easy, as the song goes. After long working days and a stressful COVID19 crisis, lawyers are looking forward to unwinding and enjoying some well-deserved rest before school starts again. How best to relax than to grab a chair and a book? Or it could also be a magazine and short stories.

After our popular series on podcasts for lawyers, songs for lawyers and blogs for lawyers, here comes our round-up of short stories and indie magazines for lawyers.

Short Stories

Packing a punch in less than 10,000 words and short enough to be read in one sitting, short stories make for a great summer reading experience. It’s fine if you don’t have hours to focus on the plot between breakfast and lunch and you can quickly get away in spirit to faraway lands and places. How do you find short stories?

A good place to start is your local bookstore. Short stories are often by the till, squeezed between snacks and fluffy notepads, the literary equivalent of sour candy by the cashier in supermarkets.

Classics

Solid values in short-stories include classic best-sellers.

Having written nearly 400 short stories, Stephen King is certainly a king of the genre, with that thriller / horror twist that make you jump and look around before turning the page. His most famous short stories include Children of the Corn, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Body (which became the movie Stand By Me) and The Mist.

Equally known for his novels and short stories, Haruki Murakami is a master of surrealistic and melancholic fiction. His recent collection of short stories Men Without Women features seven stories following the lives of whisky and jazz loving men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Expect bleak worlds, moods and atmospheres challenging readers to think deeper about topics that concern us all.

Crime queen Agatha Christie was also a prolific short story writer whose stories first appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. Readers are spoiled for choice with short stories collections around Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, or other classics such as The Harlequin Tea Set.

Another short story queen inspired Alfred Hitchcock with her craft. Daphne Du Maurier knew how to craft real people evolving in suspenseful, often supernatural plots. Her most famous short story is certainly The Birds but other pieces like The Doll, Kiss Me Again, Stranger or Monte Verita will satisfy any craving for imaginative, if unsettling, short fiction.

Other notorious short story writers include Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, Louise Erdrich and Virginia Woolf.

Modern Short Stories

Every year, the BBC and Cambridge University sponsor the BBC national short story award (NSSA) whose five shortlisted stories are recorded, produced and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 as well as published as the BBC NSSA anthology. The winning story is usually published in its entirety in The Guardian and makes for excellent prose to read on the go. Recent winning stories include The Invisible by Joe Lloyd (2019),  The Sweet Sop by Ingrid Persaud (2018) and The Edge of the Shoal by Cynan Jones (2017).

Reflecting on reflects the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition, the AKO Caine Prize is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer, whether in Africa or elsewhere, but published in the English language. In 2020, Nigerian-British author Irenosen Okojie won for her short story about a Grace Jones impersonator with a dark secret.

Magazines

At a time when the UK creative arts sector is hit so hard, readers can support publishers by buying independent magazines that reflect the wide variety of opinions and views that make our society so rich. Who knows, you might even discover your new favourite magazine.

The titles listed below can usually be bought from their websites. Shops that stock independent magazines include:

  • Magma Books, London (their Manchester branch is temporarily closed)
  • Stack offers subscriptions with a different magazine each month
  • Waterstones bookshops
  • Newsagents

Here is our short selection of great magazines for curious minds, looking out to the world even if locked down somewhere.

This London-based magazine has covered British contemporary art since 1976 and is Britain’s longest-running contemporary art magazine. From interviews to exhibition reviews, Art Monthly helps art lovers keep their finger on the pulse. They can also listen to Art Monthly Talk Show, the magazine’s monthly podcast on Resonance FM.

Prospect Magazine

A general-interest British magazine, Prospect brings to its readers ideas and trends behind the headlines and a contrarian view of topics. While other magazines deliver on general interest topics, Prospect is one of the few publications to feature mostly long essays, interspersed with quick reads, recurring columns and other type of reporting. Think of it as The New Yorker, London version. Adding to our list of short stories above, Prospect has also published the winning short story of the Royal Society of Literature’s V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize since 2009.

The Dawntreader

Small indie publishers are facing difficulties and you can help them out by buying a book or ordering a magazine. How more intriguing does it get than a small Devon-based literary magazine publishing poetry, prose and articles on myth, nature, spirituality and the environment? The Dawntreader gives readers the “opportunity to let the imagination run free”. Surely, an invitation to travel in spirit is very welcome after recent stressful months.

Cocoa Girl Magazine

Only a few months old, Cocoa Girl Magazine was born during lockdown when a mother searched for magazines that represented her six-year-old daughter Faith. Lack of diversity led them to embark on designing and printing the first ever UK magazine for young black girls aged seven to 14. True to its young demographic, Cocoa Girl only uses Instagram to communicate on social media with readers.

The Scots Magazine

If you’ve been dreaming of a Scottish Highlands fix but still can’t get there, The Scots Magazine can probably help with that. Allegedly the oldest magazine in the world (first published in 1739), The Scots magazine is the world’s best-selling Scottish-interest publication, containing articles on culture, history, nature and more., and is targeted at Scots at home and abroad. If you’re on Netflix, you’ll understand why the magazine needs to have an Outlander dedicated page with all things Diana Gabaldon, Jamie and Clare.

Country Walking

From the same publisher as Trail, Country Walking covers a ‘softer’ range of walking than its mountain-heavy sister mag, with the emphasis more on cream teas than crampons. Coastal strolls and lowland rambles sit alongside hilly and mountainous walking at the more forgiving end of the spectrum. Regular themed walks are especially fun, as well as the December issue that makes you feel like it’s winter wonderland all across the UK (gorgeous snowy pictures too). Last but not least: every month, Country Walking publishes 27 walks all across the country, printed on handy cut-out-and-keep cards.

Enjoy your reading!

Family & Work

Would you let AI read your child a bedtime story? With time as a precious commodity, technology is helping us organise and automate many day-to-day tasks. But are we replacing and outsourcing too many of our ‘human’ activities?

These are questions that were recently sparked by BookTrust, the UK reading charity, who conducted a survey in the run up to this week’s Pyjamarama bedtime story fundraising event. It found around 26% of parents use AI home assistants to read bedtime stories to their children. There were understandably shocked reactions to this statistic, with many fearing we are risking our emotional health and ability to connect with one another in favour of the convenience of technological devices. It appears we may be missing the point – using tech to do the very things we should be using tech to give us more time to do ourselves. The simple pleasure of reading a story to our children; a time for conversation and creativity, should be treated as sacred.

Unfounded fears?

Then again, there have been moral panics at all stages of technological development; the fear of displacement is very much a human trait. Some argue that Alexa & co are no different to letting the likes of CBBC Bedtime Stories do the job; storytime was also on the radio before TV came into the picture.

The fact remains that our children will grow up with technology in a way we never did. We run the risk of creating a disconnect between generations if we do not adopt and keep up to some level. So, we might view this time as early stages of the learning process. It’s possible that the high percentage of those using Alexa and friends as bedtime story readers is less of a pattern and more down to initial novelty – parents and children trying it out for fun and to satisfy curiosity and get to know the limits of the technology. And as with our use of social media, we have to make mistakes in order to realise what constitutes good and bad usage for ourselves, and with time we are likely to grow with AI and apply it in more sensible ways.

We have also always had to make decisions about assistance and outsourcing in our lives – from childcare to household maintenance – mostly to other humans. That’s arguably the key difference in what we are working with now: the involvement of human beings is being reduced and we have less control and understanding of the motives and ‘thought’ process and action of algorithm driven AI.

With other humans we choose who fits well within our own outlook and aims in life. When it comes to supporting our children’s development in particular, having a good trust relationship is key – even if that relationship is with a particular TV channel or show. With AI, we do not yet, and probably may not ever be able to fully trust AI decisions due to the very nature of their design, particularly as they are made by large corporations who ultimately need to sell and promote things to fund their output. As one journalist and parent writing for the New York Times put it: ‘Alexa, after all, is not “Alexa.” She’s a corporate algorithm in a black box‘. Even avid users do not fully trust home assistants, and a still significant proportion of others refuse to have devices listening to their lives at all.

AI and division of labour

Just like in law and business, we need to remember that AI is our tool; not something we are beholden to, and we should divide labour between it and ourselves accordingly. By using AI to outsource the repetitive mundane time consuming tasks that distract and take time away from bigger picture, we are left with more headspace for emotional and creative thought processes that are vital for progression and satisfaction in our roles.

We can see that when applied well, AI can provide positive enhancements to all important emotional connections. For example, in senior care AI and robots are helping to reduce time staff and family spend on monitoring health and prompting to take medication etc and allow them to engage on a more individual emotional level, help them to be more independent with voice activated actions etc. There is also evidence that an increase in the use of voice activated AI leads to a decrease in smartphone use, so at least we are lifting our eyes from the screen a little more. Source: Two thirds of people who use digital voice assistants like the Amazon Echo or Google Home use their smartphones less often, according to an Accenture survey.

We also need to continue to educate ourselves on its flaws and limitations. For example, as the technology currently stands, there are question around inclusivity and gender roles – many voice assistants are female-voiced, and have been found to be unable to recognise certain accents, facial features and speech impediments.

Regulation will increasingly play a role to address these issues in both the domestic and business context: The UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) recently announced it would investigate, amongst other things, algorithmic bias in decision-making. Transparency and legal compliance will help build trust. But it is up to us as users to ensure that we regulate our usage to best fit our lives and use the time we are given wisely – for storytime and more.