Fact: nearly every one of the 214 back issues in our archive, going all the back to 1953, is available for purchase—and they make great last-minute gifts. We’re recommending few of our favorites: the undisputed classics, the oddities, the sleeper hits.
A Writers at Work interview with Rebecca West (Q: “Are there any advantages at all in being a woman and a writer?” A: “None whatsoever.”); fiction by Faulker and Gass; an epistolary squabble between Laura (Riding) Jackson, Martha Gellhorn, Stephen Spender, and the ghost of Yeats; work by thirty-eight poets, including Brainard, Sexton, Creeley, Schuyler, Baraka, and Swenson, and much more—there’s nothing not to love in the double-size twenty-fifth-anniversary issue from Spring 1981. And, perhaps best of all (which is saying a lot), issue 79 contains “The Paris Review Sketchbook,” a hundred-plus-page, mischievous oral history of the Review’s first quarter century: “Literary magazine people never work. They spend hours on end playing pinball machines in cafés.” —Nicole Rudick
The Paris Review no. 20 would probably top my list based on its contents alone: the original publication of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus; a portfolio of drawings by Marc Chagall; poetry by James Wright and Louis Simpson. But then there’s the cover (by Tom Keogh, an early and frequent art contributor) and the table of contents illustration (by Lars Bo)—both of which seem to me timeless and ineffably elegant. —Stephen Andrew Hiltner
The office is fiercely divided over the electrifying purple-and-yellow cover to Issue 178, from Spring 2006. Some of us find it endearingly outré; others shudder at the sight of it. (Our assistant editor just saw it sitting on my desk and called it “horrifying.”) Personally, I think it’s the best cover in the history of the magazine. In addition to that color scheme, which I can only describe as “rad,” it features Laura Albert, otherwise known as JT LeRoy, in an adolescent yearbook photo, wearing a shirt that says “I want to be me!” I can relate. Nathaniel Rich’s interview with LeRoy is fascinating (and unavailable online). “I stayed at home and called hotlines,” she says, talking about how she spent her free time as a teen. “I always called as a boy, telling stories. It’s not like I had the desire to be transgendered, but I wouldn’t pray at night for a normal, happy family, or even to be thin—I would pray, God, let me wake up as a boy. That was salvation for me. That was where the power lay, and that’s what I became.” —Dan Piepenbring
My favorite issue, hands down, is 117, from Winter 1990, which features cover art by Mike Kelley. It also has a debut by one Jeffrey Eugenides: “The Virgin Suicides.” All those restless details about the Lisbon sister’s stuff, “of bedrooms filled with crumpled panties, of stuffed animals torn to shreds by the passions of the girls,” are echoed perfectly in Kelley’s cover: a rejected-looking pillow. —Jessica Calderon
In his Art of Fiction interview, Dennis Cooper thoroughly explains why he thinks “rimming is the most charismatic sex act”: and, boy, does he explain in detail. Online, his interview still sees a steady trickle of visitors referred by salacious porn blogs, but it’s a different animal in print—which makes Issue 198 one of my favorites, past or present. —Jeffery Gleaves
After putting the latest issue to bed, I’ve been cozying up with our Summer 1983 issue. The two complement each other nicely: for our new interview with editor Gordon Lish, there’s an interview with Raymond Carver, whose writing Lish “fuck[ed] around with”; for the new story from Lydia Davis, there’s an older one, her first in the Review in fact, called “Break It Down” (a favorite of mine). —Caitlin Youngquist