Reader’s Digest and Dentists’ Offices

The publisher of Reader’s Digest is taking the company into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of a restructuring effort.  The readership of Reader’s Digest has fallen significantly, so the company is cutting back.

Fortunately for dentist’s offices and other medical offices throughout the country, Reader’s Digest will continue to be published, just less often.  This is extremely important news, because Reader’s Digest is a crucial component of the reading material available at any anonymous waiting room, along with Highlights for Children, National Geographic, and months-old editions of People and Sports Illustrated.  Indeed, you could argue that Reader’s Digest is the single greatest waiting room literature source ever conceived.  Its articles are always brief, well suited to being read during the average wait before your appointment.  The articles also are literally timeless, which is why it won’t make any difference to your local health care provider whether Reader’s Digest is published 10 or 12 times a year.   You might read a heroic story about a hiker who was lost in the wilderness, or an article about a dedicated detective solving a crime, or the latest study on childhood development, and none of them have any kind of hot-off-the-presses urgency.  You could pick up a Reader’s Digest from 1979 and the contents would be pretty much the same as they are now, except that the ’70s edition might include a few chestnuts in Laughter, the Best Medicine about disco dancing or leisure suits.  Even better, the articles are sufficiently bland that they won’t raise anyone’s blood pressure just before their annual physical.

When I go to my dentist, I usually look first for Highlights for Children, because I’ve always had a weakness for the subtle moral lessons taught by Goofus and Gallant.  (“Goofus uses a magnifying glass to cause ants to die a horrible fiery death.” “Gallant helps his ant friends to build a better anthill.”)  If all of the Highlights for Children are taken, however, Reader’s Digest is my clear second choice.  It is a classic slice of Americana packed into one slim volume.  If Reader’s Digest goes belly up, dentist’s offices throughout the land would be the poorer for it.