Friday Feb. 5, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Readers Digest

On this Day:

In 1922,  Reader’s Digest magazine was 1st published.

Reader’s Digest is an American general-interest family magazine, published 10 times a year. Formerly based in Chappaqua, New York, it is now headquartered in midtown Manhattan. The magazine was founded in 1922 by DeWitt Wallace and Lila Bell Wallace. For many years, Reader’s Digest was the best-selling consumer magazine in the United States; it lost the distinction in 2009 to Better Homes and Gardens. According to Mediamark Research (2006), Reader’s Digest reaches more readers with household incomes of $100,000+ than Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Inc. combined.

Global editions of Reader’s Digest reach an additional 40 million people in more than 70 countries, via 49 editions in 21 languages. The periodical has a global circulation of 10.5 million, making it the largest paid-circulation magazine in the world.

It is also published in Braille, digital, audio, and a large type called “Reader’s Digest Large Print”. The magazine is compact, with its pages roughly half the size of most American magazines. Hence, in the summer of 2005, the U.S. edition adopted the slogan “America in your pocket”. In January 2008, it was changed to “Life well shared”.

In 1922, DeWitt Wallace started the magazine while he was recovering from shrapnel wounds received in World War I. Wallace had the idea to gather a sampling of favorite articles on many subjects from various monthly magazines, sometimes condensing and rewriting them, and to combine them into one magazine.

Since its inception Reader’s Digest has maintained a conservative and anti-Communist perspective on political and social issues. The Wallaces initially hoped the journal could provide $5,000 of net income. Wallace’s assessment of what the potential mass-market audience wanted to read led to rapid growth. By 1929, the magazine had 290,000 subscribers and had a gross income of $900,000 a year. The first international edition was published in the United Kingdom in 1938. By the 40th anniversary of Reader’s Digest, it had 40 international editions, in 13 languages and Braille, and at one point, it was the largest-circulating journal in China, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, Peru, and other countries, with a total international circulation of 23 million.

The magazine’s format for several decades consisted of 30 articles per issue (one per day), along with an “Increase your Word Power” vocabulary quiz, a page of “Amusing Anecdotes” and “Personal Glimpses”, two features of funny stories entitled “Humor in Uniform” and “Life in these United States”, and a lengthier article at the end, usually condensed from a published book. Other regular features were “My Most Unforgettable Character” (since discontinued), the “Drama in Real Life” survival stories. and more recently “That’s Outrageous”. These were all listed in the table of contents on the front cover. Each article was prefaced by a small, simple line drawing. In more recent times, the format evolved into flashy, colorful, eye-catching graphics throughout, and many short bits of data interspersed with full articles. The table of contents is now contained inside. From 2003 to 2007, the back cover featured “Our America”, paintings of Rockwell-style whimsical situations by artist C. F. Payne.[citation needed] Another monthly consumer advice feature is “What (people in various professions) won’t tell you” (with a different profession featured each time).

The first “Word Power” column of the magazine was published in the January 1945 edition, written by Wilfred J. Funk. In December 1952, the magazine published “Cancer by the Carton”, a series of articles that linked smoking with lung cancer and this topic was later repeated in other articles.

From 2002 through 2006, Reader’s Digest conducted a vocabulary competition in schools throughout the US called Reader’s Digest National Word Power Challenge. In 2007, the magazine said it will not have the competition for the 2007–08 school year: “…but rather to use the time to evaluate the program in every respect, including scope, mission, and model for implementation.”

In 2006, the magazine published three more local-language editions in Slovenia, Croatia, and Romania. In October 2007, the Digest expanded into Serbia. The magazine’s licensee in Italy stopped publishing in December 2007. The magazine launched in the People’s Republic of China in 2008 (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

This was voted one of the best jokes of all time in a 2010 Reader’s Digest jokes contest:

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So they each go into the woods, find a bear, and attempt to convert it. Later they get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his First Communion.”

“I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.”

They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.”

Second, a Song:

Readers’ Digest didn’t just publish magazines.  They issued music albums.

Reader’s Digest Music issued thoughtfully-produced, beautifully mastered, music collections featuring the most popular bands and singers of their day.

These specially commissioned box-sets were not sold in stores – and were only available to magazine subscribers via mail order (per

Here is a video of the Promotional Reader’s Digest free flexi disc for their recording:  “The Great Band Era” 10 lp box set.  I hope you enjoy this!


And you can hear the full disc 1 here:  

Thought for the Day:

“I used to be addicted to ‘Reader’s Digest’ growing up. I would read the stories about love, and I guess that’s where I became a hopeless romantic. I draw from that a lot.” – Sia

In response to the Rubber Boot Smile:

Gerry Wahl of North Vancouver, BC, Canada writes regarding the picture of the boat and harbour shown in “With Me Rubber Boots On” performed by Hayward Strickland:

“Just outside St John’s – Good one! I’ve been to this exact spot — there is a fish and chip place just down the road”

Dr. Frank Fowlie of Richmond, BC, Canada writes:

My photo of a WW2 Wellington boot on the SS Thistlegorm  It is considered to be one of the best wreck dives on the planet:


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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