To me, reading was the first internet- you still need some reading skills to truly enjoy the internet today. Reading allowed anyone to travel, share another character’s experience or go back in time-all from the comfort of your own brain. Good quality reading material was important, something I was reminded of a few weeks ago.
“Reader’s Digest” was founded in 1920, I imagine the experience of reading this physically small magazine was made more intense by the isolation of the times. I began reading it when I was very young as we always had stacks of them around the house. My memories are mostly of reading the ‘Digest was during the summer as I wasn’t reading textbooks for school.
Mom and Dad usually let me do whatever I wanted summer mornings until about nine. I remember laying on a bean bag chair, our dog Benji beside me, going through the latest “Laughter in Uniform” or “Humor, the best medicine,” which were both regular features of Reader’s Digest. In my memories, it was always sunny outside with the wind blowing through the open south window,
Reader’s Digest got a nod in the movie, “Fight Club.” The two main characters of the movie are living in a condemned building when one discovers a huge cache of old editions of the ‘Digest. The character’s favorite feature is a series titled “I am Joe’s Body” which later would replace “body” with any human body part. I remember thinking that this feature was understandable to my young mind and answered a lot of questions which I never would have asked out loud.
I have never owned a subscription to “Reader’s Digest.” My parents ordered them for me and so I quit reading them sometime in the 1980’s when I left home. I recently saw a few copies at my mother in-laws place; I grabbed one immediately and started reading. Jeanette noticed my interest and sent a few home with me. Since then, she has kept Lisa and I in a steady stream of high-quality reading.
Today’s Reader’s Digest appears to be the same size as it has always been. The “reader’s favorites” still has all the features I enjoyed three decades ago. The stories seem to be skewed more to an older generation as they are pretty nostalgic or have a subject matter about aging health. It still has a good, Midwest feel to it as there are stories about small-town America which works for me. I mean, I can hear about events that occur on each coast of America any time of day, I need stories about me on occasion.
So Reader’s Digest is back in my life, meaning what? I guess it means that I have found a way of thinking based on stories and sentiment that suits me. It also means that whatever space these feelings occupy in my mind is now open again for business. It is like visiting a place you haven’t lived in for a long time which is pretty comforting and kind of like going back in time. It means the wind through the south window, the bean-bag chair, Benji and those nice hours on a summer morning that I scanned “Reader’s Digest” before I went out to bale hay.