I like to appear witty and well-read at parties. I could read a bunch of books, but I don't know that I care that much about any one topic. Instead, I subscribe to Smithsonian Magazine. It allows me to indulge in two of my favorite things: reading about wacky things and appearing smarter than I actually am. Smithsonia covers everything from history (a 19th century steamboat perfectly preserved in mud!) to nature (cheetas! mountain gorillas! bonobos!) to scientific discoveries (I kinda skim these articles). Plus you get to feel smug for supporting the Smithsonian.
Now I will share a few examples of times when reading Smithsonian Magazine comes in handy.
- I was at a party talking to a woman who is getting her PhD in something I can barely follow (something about biology and nutrition). I casually steered the conversation to bonobos. Aren't they awesome?
- I was waiting to interview for my current job, thumbing through the current issue of Smithsonian as I tried to appear not at all terrified. My interviewer came over, asked me what I was reading, and then looked at me suspiciously. "Really. Smithsonian? Do you subscribe?" Aha. The moment of truth. He thought I was a phony, reading Smithsonian only to impress him and his fancy company. I pointed to the address label as if to say, "Boo yah," and was hired on the spot. [full disclosure: That was a lie. I was hired about 2 months later after 3 more interviews. That's just less dramatic.]
- I was reading US Weekly on the subway, engrossed in the tawdry affairs of celebrities. (Patrick Dempsey drinks from a straw! He's just like US!) The train stopped, I looked up, and Jessica Biel got on the subway. I calmly switched from US Weekly to Smithsonian. Now, instead of thinking I'm one of those people who reads about her life (I am), Jessica Biel knows that I am a smart and awesome person--the kind of person she'd want to invite to her parties so we can talk about bonobos. [full disclosure: I combined two stories here. But I actually did see Jessica Biel on the subway once.]