I love sleep.

I mean, I really love sleep.

I also need more sleep than the average person. 9 hours a night is what I would like to get on a regular basis. It doesn’t always happen, but I make an effort to maintain good “sleep hygiene”. This results in a regular bedtime routine which concludes with reading in bed before turning out the light.

I usually read fiction, especially mysteries and thrillers. If I don’t have a book to read, the next stop is magazines. I subscribe to several magazines on a regular basis. One of my favorites is the Smithsonian Magazine. This article is to tell you a little about the magazine and why it is one of my favorites.


Is this from the Smithsonian Institution?

smithsonian castle

Yes. This magazine is published by the same institution that provides the nation with 19 museums, the national zoo, 9 research centers and over 180 affiliates. It is huge. Just go visit Washington, D.C. to be amazed. Seriously, Washington, D.C. will make you proud to be an American if you aren’t already.


It also has a very interesting backstory. The establishment of the Smithsonian Institution came from the estate of James Smithson. He was a British scientist who had never even visited America. Following his death in 1829, his will specified that his estate worth $500,000 at the time should go to the heirs of his nephew. If his nephew had no heirs, the estate would go to the United States to found “the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

I guess the United States is pretty fortunate that his nephew didn’t have any kids. What a coup!

That is quite a noble mission and one that is taken seriously, based solely on the wonderful museums they provide. However, they provide so much more, one of them being the magazine.


What is so great about it?

What is so great, you ask? I will tell you. Here is a look at my favorite reasons that make the magazine a definite recommendation.

  1. Content. You know what they say, content is king. Well, slap a crown and cape on this magazine. The interesting subject matter covers science, history, art, travel, and innovation. Something for everyone and everything for someone. *swoon* The images are really great too. Many of them from actual artifacts.
  2. Writers. The writing is great. It is not so academic that is makes you have to look up concepts just to understand what they are talking about. However, they go in depth enough to not be a puff piece. Just the perfect range to not be a waste of your time and still answer some questions. It seems they are sticking to their mission by providing knowledge in a non-judgemental purely scientific kind of way. Not overly political. Perfect bedtime reading.
  3. Length. The length of the articles is perfect. Just long enough to provide some actual content, but not too long that you need to bookmark where you left off because you have other pressing things to tend to like sleep or getting off the bus.
  4. Experts on hand. They have a regular column dedicated to questions from readers answered by their very qualified in-house Smithsonian experts.
  5. Media format friendly. Hard copy or electronic. I only read hard copy at bedtime. It is one of those eliminate-screens-before-bedtime rules of my routine. Whenever or however you do your reading, you can get it old-school or screen bright.
  6. Membership. Essentially, a subscription to the magazine is a membership to the Smithsonian Institution. As a member, you also get some discounts at Smithsonian establishments. All profits of the magazine go the the Institution. What a better cause to support than the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men? Also, the price is super reasonable.


What can I expect to see in the Smithsonian magazine?

The magazine comes out every month. Actually, I believe they have 11 issues/year. It is a soft-sided magazine just about 100 pages. To give you a better idea of what you may find inside the magazine, the departments or columns that are regularly featured in the magazine are:

  1. Discussion. Comments sent in by readers about recent articles. Editor’s comments and clarifications.
  2. Phenomena. Several columns that feature short fun pieces. Stories, artifacts, Small Talk interview with someone of interest, and the Ask Smithsonian.
  3. Several feature articles. Subjects vary.
  4. Fast forward: The future in the making. The name is confusing to me as it isn’t really about the future, but a short blurb about something going on right now.

Some recent articles I have enjoyed are:

  • Annals of Doodlology: A scholar discovers whimsy and art in the margins of medieval texts by Arik Gabbai. A fun snippet with images of doodles from the middle ages.
  • Bound by Tradition: For a millennium, millions of Chinese women sought beauty through a painful and brutal ritual by Amanda Foreman. A look at the history of the foot-binding custom in China.
  • The 9,000-year-old Man Speaks by Douglas Preston. This story follows the discovery and identification process of remains found in Kennewick, Washington.
  • What Lies Beneath by Ed Caesar. A look at the current survey and scientific work going on at Stonehenge to reveal the past.
  • Fever Pitch: The frightening legacy of Typhoid Mary by Veronique Greenwood. The story of Typhoid Mary.
  • The Blood Relics by James L. Swanson. Using objects related to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to tell the story.

What do you think?

Are you a bedtime reader? Do you have a preference for what and how you read?  Let me know in the poll and comments!