Reader's Digest Condensed Books. You can't give them away. No one will take them. I've seen them in boxes marked FREE outside of thrift shops, the sort of shop where they sell ancient hotel soaps and used wigs and last year's calendars. Even at those shops they know there's a limit and Reader's Digest Condensed Books are it.
And yet I have a soft spot for Reader's Digest. When I was about nine, my grandmother gave me a subscription to Reader's Digest Best Loved Books for Young Readers. Each hardbound volume had four or five abbreviated versions of classic books, mostly novels. There was Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Madame Curie, The Jungle Books, The Sea Around Us, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I would read every one of those condensed stories. When I liked a book, such as Jane Eyre, I'd get the unabridged version from the library and read it, too. I don't recall enjoying the unabridged versions any less for already knowing how the books ended.
It was like training wheels on the classics. A gateway drug to the classics. I'd smoke a few doobies, then start shooting up the hard stuff.
We never subscribed to Reader's Digest Magazine when I was growing up, but Steve's family did, and he says the magazine helped him learn to read before he was old enough to go to school. That made me wonder if they would be useful in adult literacy classes, and when I checked online, I found out that Reader's Digest contributes a lot of money to adult literacy programs. No doubt they also contribute a lot of Reader's Digest magazines and books.
When we took French classes and Spanish classes at night school a few years ago, the French and Spanish versions of Reader's Digest were very helpful in building our vocabulary and confidence. The passages in the textbooks are always a bit phony, but Selection du Digest and Selecciones are real magazines read by real French- and Spanish-speakers. Reading a short Digest article or even a joke in a new language and understanding it feels like more of an accomplishment than completing textbook exercises.
So my inner book snob says good riddance as those boxes of discarded and moldy Reader's Digest magazines and condensed books make their way to be pulped and recycled. But part of me also says "good job, RD."