Editor’s Note: Welcome to the Genius Issue

In the first-ever completely themed issue of Reader's Digest, editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello explains how the editors explore the topic of genius in all its nuances.

editor's letter
Steve Vaccariello for Reader’s Digest

Who are the smartest people you know? Here’s my list: If smart means clear-eyed wisdom, then my daughters win. If smart means well-read, then my bookworm mom wins. If smart means worldly, then my German-born, trilingual grandmother wins. (Women, all of them. Hmm.) But doesn’t genius mean all those things and more?

The elegant lady who graces our cover reminds me that genius blossoms differently—and beautifully—in each of us. The genius who first comes to mind is the person with exceptional talent or intelligence, and you will find those famous names—from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs—celebrated here. But in our first-ever completely themed issue, we explore the topic in all its nuances.

If genius isn’t publicly recognized, does that mean it doesn’t exist? In “Judging Jack,” David McCullough Jr. ponders how everyday brilliance so often goes unnoticed, while our special Faces of America series by photojournalist Glenn Glasser profiles four smart folks working in the arts and sciences. We also examine how an exceptional mind takes shape: from “The Revolution Will Not Be Supervised,” about a controversial approach to children’s playtime, to Malcolm Gladwell’s treatise on late-blooming creativity.

In our cover story, “The Beautiful Life of Your Brain,” we examine the ancient circuitry of our minds, learning how our essential modern traits (including self-control and the ability to form a lifelong bond with a spouse) evolved.

We devote the entire Art of Living section to—you guessed it—genius advice. We scoured the print and digital universe for the freshest strategies to help you improve your health, cook fast, clean easily, enrich your family time, and get a deal on anything your heart desires. (I dare you not to learn something!)

We delve into the dark side of genius too: The thin line between hope and hype reveals itself in James Surowiecki’s “Why America Loves a Con Man.” In the dramatic “Frozen Back to Life,” doctors transform the horror of hypothermia into a lifesaving procedure. Later, you’ll meet some adventurous scientists who put their own lives in danger to search for medical cures.

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of fun: jokes that make you sound like a genius (one of the most popular articles on rd.com), Garrison Keillor’s homespun life lessons, a Mensa quiz that lets you test your own smarts, and perhaps the most optimistic essay we’ve ever read, by the legendary E. B. White. Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates also deliver good news about the state of the world. Share a laugh with more than a half dozen accomplished leaders who confess the dumbest thing they’ve ever done. Heck, even our everyday hero makes a brilliant discovery that saves his mom’s life.

You’ll find everything spelled out in our special table of contents. We’ve listed stories under four themes: great minds, ideas of interest, genius advice, and serious fun. It’s the work of another genius in my life, Executive Editor Courtenay Smith, who shepherded all this brilliance onto the page.

Using our minds to better our lives and the lives around us: It doesn’t get any smarter than that.

I invite you to e-mail me at [email protected] and follow me at facebook.com/lizvaccariello and @LizVacc on Twitter. You can learn more about how to read our September issue on your tablet or e-reader here.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest