Readers_Digest-May-1973Whether it’s a profile of Joe’s pancreas, Peoria’s best Girl Scout, tales of triumph over severe ordeals by ordinary people or dozens of bland jokes, we’ve all read our share of them, and so today we celebrate


Launched by married publishers DeWitt and Lila Wallace on February 5th, 1922, Reader’s Digest monthly magazine, by sampling the best articles from every other magazine and adding some jokes, anecdotes and abridged popular novels, became the most successful magazine ever published, and is still going strong even in the Digital Age that has killed one print periodical after another.

Favoring the bland over the controversial, the amusing over the hilarious and projecting an optimistic and patriotic message, the monthly was dreamed up by DeWitt Wallace as he lay during a long convalescence from shrapnel wounds suffered in World War 1, reading a great many popular books and magazines of the day.

While he enjoyed what he read, Wallace thought it would be great if the books and articles were shorter so he could read more of them, hence the “Digest” part of the title.

Originally there were 30 articles, one for each day of the month,  plus a “Reader’s Digest Condensed Book,” a heavily abridged version of a popular book (a feature that would became a separate industry itself, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books), plus the Humor in Uniform and Life in These United States features, a unique collection of completely innocuous jokes guaranteed to offend nobody.

The Rose Colored Glasses approach caught on in a big way, and today Reader’s Digest prints 17 million copies a month in 21 languages for an estimated 70 million regular readers, and the uncounted millions who pick up a copy at someone’s home or in a doctor’s office and find a familiar old friend.

Hokey as we may find it, there is something in every Reader’s Digest to interest almost everyone, and it’s easy to get lost for an hour reading the equivalent of a Norman Rockwell painting, conjuring a better America, the America we could be and should be.

• Suggested Activities: Taking some of The Best Medicine, Increasing Your Word Power.

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