Literally the Best Thing Ever: National Geographic

It will make you LOVE the WORLD.

If you are someone who mostly hates everything but still gets really mushy and in love with the world when the 2% of it that doesn’t suck completely is TOTALLY AMAZING (me), National Geographic is literally the best thing ever. It is always sure to renew your faith in life, because it takes science and makes it seem like MAGIC, or studies of people around the world and makes them seem like WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. If that made you think of High School Musical and you got all depressed again (even though I love HSM, shhhh), just read a NatGeo and you’ll like the world once more! These pages are charged with combined confusion and fascination and ambition, and that is sort of inspiring.

Three of the old ones that my art teacher let me keep.

In the eighth grade I especially hated everything, but I had a stellar art teacher who let me dodge assignments and do “research” instead and sit in the supplies room all period to watch Hole videos while looking at the collection of very old NatGeos they kept back there. And in the old ones, from the ’60s and ’70s especially, the MAGIC level is really AMPED UP. The covers have vegetation sprawled across the top and the photos are so grainy with the richest BLUES and GREENS and people’s expressions look INGRAINED in their faces. (Caps COMPLETELY necessary!)

From a copy I have from the ’70s: “Confused by our turbulent times, a young Connecticut Yankee sets out to span the continent in search of his country and himself.”

New NatGeos are obviously rad as well, for ACCURACY and stuff, but it’s the photos from the old issues that look like they could be stills from Harold and Maude that I cover my walls with.

One thing that was constant through all the issues I looked through that year, which went from the ’60s all the way to 2010, besides that comforting yellow spine, was this ENERGY in the features about groups of people that proved that humanity is capable of just as much complicated beauty as other creatures and parts of nature. Which was deeply reassuring to someone whose misanthropy had manifested itself in hiding in a supply room to watch Hole videos! There was always this feeling that a CHANGE was happening, that the currents of the human race were shifting and life was always going on and there’s always something new to learn about and everyone is so weird and interesting and pretty and oh my GOD I’m getting excited just thinking about it, let me just end this by leaving you with this song that perfectly sums it up:


  • missblack March 28th, 2012 11:09 PM

    I ♡ NatGeo!!!!!! It is my DREAM to get a photojournalism assignment for the magazine. Our subscription just expired and I am literally DYING without it in my mailbox every month.


  • oreator March 28th, 2012 11:17 PM

    yes, National Geographic is vunderful!
    especially because they feature Tibetans (holla to my people) on their covers.
    thanks for using that cover as the thumbnail for the article, now hopefully more people will become aware about the situation in Tibet.

    y’all can start here:

    thank you Tavi, for being a super girl.

  • Blou March 28th, 2012 11:23 PM

    I love vintage National Geographic! There’s a used book store nearish to where I live that has issues dating back to the mid forties. I have a couple from ’49 (back when they still advertised the number of color pages and the cover didn’t even have a photograph) and they are gorgeous! Whats cool too is that becuase the book store is so cheap I actually pay the same amount of money per issue as they cost back when they were published. The ones with articles about travel are the best.

  • Juniper March 28th, 2012 11:30 PM

    I found all these books one time that had been thrown out and were all water damaged ( who does that!) I started looking through them to use one for the book\bag DIY thing and I found this old National Geographic book about people across America! It was a gold mine with amazing pictures!

  • Mirae March 28th, 2012 11:47 PM

    I’m a fan of NatGeo as well! I adore those moments when my art teacher tells us to find images for assignments using the school’s superbig Santa’s-gift-bag collection of NatGeo from the 60′s and the 80′s. I just spend the whole class mesmerized by beautiful scapes, galaxies and curiosity-radiating people. (Did that even make sense?)

    Always a fun adventure!

  • Ludo March 28th, 2012 11:52 PM

    National Geographic is awesome. The images are always so striking.

  • blacklicoricecurls March 28th, 2012 11:57 PM

    I LOVE National Geographic! My late father had this collection of literally every issue..they were great for school projects but also just extremely fun to read for pleasure! I go on the website like ALL the time! I’m so glad others appreciate National Geographic as much as me!

  • Supercircinus March 29th, 2012 12:00 AM

    I collect all the one’s pre-2000 in a bookshelf and keep the newer ones for collages and such
    Nat Geo is most definitely, HANDS DOWN, IRREVOCABLY, one of the best things EVER. C:

  • Adrienne March 29th, 2012 12:17 AM

    Yes! National Geographic is the best. The yearly Nat Geo best photos contest is so fun to look at. :)

  • Emilie March 29th, 2012 12:30 AM

    Mr. Berton? hmmm? hmmm? not to be a creeper Tavi, after all we were in the same class :)

    ps-I full agree about national geographic, it’s the best

    • Tavi March 29th, 2012 4:12 PM

      were we in the same 2nd and 3rd trimesters? i know in 1st we made those blueprints together haha. i have memories of the winter and spring in that supply room though haha

  • Tyknos93 March 29th, 2012 12:31 AM

    I had a journalism teacher in 11th grade 2 years ago who was one of my favorite guys ever. He went to Woodstock and collected old print (NatGeos, Times, New Yorkers) and looked like a mad scientist. Everyone else took advantage of him cause he was so nice :( but he would let me borrow his precious mags all the time and that class was awesome. Thanks Mr. Soules!!!

  • Sue Denim March 29th, 2012 2:05 AM

    I could never cut up a National Geographic, if would feel like sacrilege.That doesn’t mean I don’t want to though.

    • Emma Dajska March 29th, 2012 11:45 AM

      I think of cutting my National Geographics & making collages out of them as a kind of weird tribute to the magazine… They can carry the thoughts and ideals from the articles further!

  • izzybee March 29th, 2012 2:54 AM

    I remember when I was little my grandad took me to a charity shop and bought me a really old one for about 50p. Still got it, still loving it. x

  • Killjoy March 29th, 2012 3:06 AM

    Natgeo is literally the best magazine in the world! The intriguing articles and powerful pictures are so comforting and refreshing. Natgeo is so expensive in China, so I only chance I get to read them is when I visit the doctor’s because they’ve got tons of Natgeos in English.

  • kitterfly March 29th, 2012 3:47 AM

    My long and amazing and absolutely marvelous friendship with my BFF4Lyfe started with national geographic.
    We met when I was two and she was three at a playgroup, and there was a stack of National Geographics lying around. Obviously, we had both been subscribed since birth (I don’t know why our parents thought it was necessary to sign us up for so many magazines so early on, but they did. So I have issues dating back to 1997. That sentence has multiple meanings and is probably technically a pun. It is almost one and my brain is tired), so decided to “read” one together.
    I was a really-scared-of-everything-seriously kinda kid, and she was a raised-by-hardcore-goths-and-owned-tons-of-dead-animals kinda kid, so when we came across a picture of a shark (those terrifying ones that close in on the bloody maw of the thing) we talked about WHY I found it so scary.
    And neither of us nor our parents remember what our conclusion on the subject was, but we’re still best friends today. So it must have been a pretty epic (and I mean, like, really long and dramatic and drawn-out, not like “Bruh, that was EPIC!”) realization.
    Then we went trick or treating (Because we met the weekend of Halloween) and she won the contest as a witch and I was jealous because I was a neon leopard and HOW COULD THEY MISS THE GENIUS IN THAT??!!
    And now I’m gonna actually read this article xD

    National Geographic is, literally, the best thing ever.

  • Sasssquatch March 29th, 2012 4:41 AM

    You are a girl after my own heart! I totally have a collection of my own vintage national geographics! The picture quality and ads are my favorite parts!!!

  • chez March 29th, 2012 5:13 AM

    Nat geos are the best mag everr. I have some from the 60′s which still had constellation and moon surface map pull outs. Also note a stack of them also makes the most perfect bedside table.

    • Emilie March 29th, 2012 11:22 AM

      I have some of those! My granda has kept practically every one since he got a subscription in like 1958

  • benjamin March 29th, 2012 8:52 AM

    LIFE magazine has probably my favourite photography, I could spend hours looking through their archives. But National Geographic definitely has some great images in its archives.

    And love that Galaxie 500 song.

  • Lez March 29th, 2012 9:23 AM

    NatGeo…loving it a good 75% of the time. Once had an article in the late 1960′s/early 70′s entitled “Those Japanese.”
    ……… girl?

  • caro nation March 29th, 2012 9:38 AM

    I spy MIKE KELLEY.


  • Frenchie March 29th, 2012 10:10 AM

    My art class has a bin of magazines to cut up and I was sad to find a whole bunch of destroyed national geographics in the box :( (they were from the 60s and 70s) so I took all of the grainy old ads out of the magazine so at least those wouldn’t get destroyed and laminated them. I found tons of Polaroid ads!

    • Emilie March 29th, 2012 11:21 AM

      That’s so cool! I looove polaroids and I recently found one at a thrift store for about 3 bucks, the problem is the film is so expensive! :(

      • KinuKinu March 29th, 2012 3:54 PM

        Yeah.They have Polaroids for SUPER cheap,but the film… not.I wish I could own one :(

  • Natalya March 29th, 2012 10:55 AM

    hey friends i run a blog with a friend that you might like:

  • tangela March 29th, 2012 1:52 PM

    A lot of the photography in old issues National Geographic is really enchanting/amazing, but since this feature is called “Literally the Best Thing Ever” I think that it would also be important to just mention how those same issues also work to orientalize/other non-US, specifically non-Western groups of people.

  • poppunkgurrrlx March 29th, 2012 2:20 PM

    I love the NatGeo channel on tv, but when my parents got this stupid package, the channel didn’t come with </3 Now I longingly surf the TV Guide listings of upcoming progams on NatGeo and curse my parents for not buying a different cable combo…

  • havefun March 29th, 2012 3:07 PM

    I LOVE Harold And Maude!

  • KinuKinu March 29th, 2012 3:50 PM

    At my thrift store they sell them for 30 cents each.I buy them for collages and book bag that I’m going to make.I love the space issues.The pictures are so amazing.In my newest NatGeo I bought, there is a picture of a rose dipped in nitrogen getting shot by a rubber pellet.It was so beautiful. I found a picture of it.SO PRETTY :)
    NatGeos are literally the best thing ever.♦

  • MissKnowItAll March 29th, 2012 5:37 PM

    I’ve collected so many national geographics and other magazines over the years. I keep wanting to make a collage but I feel bad about cutting up the nice glossy pages.

  • aliceee March 29th, 2012 6:41 PM

    Agghhhh I love NG. My gramma let me have my pick of her old ones last year, & just today my geography teacher told me I could go through her stack of ancient Brazilian ones!! sooo excited

  • mariaantoniavs March 29th, 2012 6:42 PM

    I love NatGeo! I’ve collected them since like 09 and I cut my favorite pictures to put them up in my wall as well. I have never seen an older copy, though. They must be so awesome! Sometimes I feel like i’ve lost all faith in humanity. When I read NatGeo not only do i learn about like the coolest stuff ever, but seeing all those landscapes and the pictures in general make me think, wow, there actually is some beauty in this world. But then I start thinking about how people are destroying all this beautiful nature and UGH!!!! Feeling the hate again…

  • Antionette March 29th, 2012 11:59 PM

    My dad Has every issue back from the mid 80′s to now and I love to flip through them. They are so dang interesting! I wish I had some from the 70′s though because they have such beautiful rockin’ images. It pains me, the beauty of it all.

  • Mollie March 30th, 2012 12:35 AM

    I like that you can see it as something that makes you feel more a part of the world, because the ethnography aspect of it can get really…I guess disappointing? Because I used to love NatGeo–I had a four-year subscription and made collages, and in a way it’s what saved me from Seventeen and Cosmogirl. But at the same time NatGeo can perpetuate Eurocentrism etc by having these sort of implied first-world ethnographic standpoints, which create binary oppositions, which separate us and further marginalize a lot of people.

    But it is really educational and overall more good than bad, I think. It’s just lost some magic for me as I’ve grown up and realized every issue is a muddled one.

  • mayaautumn March 30th, 2012 2:47 AM

    national geographics are seriously the best of the literally the best things ever!….they are SO GOOD! my dad has about a million he’s collected over the years stashed away in his cupboard (giant cupboard btw) and I just go and take a few every now and then..looking through them all day – its heaven:D
    thinking about it, I’m actually quite lucky to have a dad that’s interested in ‘that sorta thing’ and HE’S ACTUALLY KEPT THEM ALL which is grreat!! I might just go indulge my self in a few now:)

  • Brodieburgers March 30th, 2012 7:07 AM

    I love Nat Geo, I’ve only read old ones from the 70s and 80s though. I bought them in a thrift shop long ago. I once read an article in National Geographic about Miltary schools in the 70s and then when I did a search for them on the internet, I foudnd that most of the schools had shut down, I think one of them burnt down too.

  • tove March 30th, 2012 1:14 PM

    I’ve just realised that the Exploration issue will be over in two days and it makes me oh, so sad.

  • yourenotfunny March 30th, 2012 5:04 PM


    I got it at a thrift store for a quarter and it smells really bad, like basement. But still super cooooool

  • airplanes.books March 31st, 2012 7:07 PM

    at the local library they have a zillion national geographics in their booksale section and if you are a student and can prove it you can have as many as you want for free! so i lugged off like 60 magazines for art projects, etc.

  • sonerboner April 1st, 2012 12:35 AM

    This article is so perfect for me
    My school library has a collection of every national geographic since 1940 and they are so beautiful. I never realized all that stuff about being CONNECTED and THE WORLD and other all caps things but they really inspire me and my dream job is to be a photographer for them

  • Jamia April 1st, 2012 9:12 AM

    National Geographic is amazing–It is and always will be one of the places where I have dreamt of working or writing for during this lifetime. National Geographic is the reason why I’m still obsessed with going to Brazil and India to hang out or live at some point.

  • Ben April 1st, 2012 2:40 PM

    I love national geographics so much! I have a bunch of pictures from it hanging on my walls! The pictures are also grate for collages! I love it! It’s the best!

  • RachelTri April 16th, 2012 1:16 AM

    I love National Geographic!! In my middle school they always had old copies from the ’70s and ’80s just to cut up the pictures for projects… so I would just rip out whole articles that I liked to keep them from being destroyed! It’s all so good! I have one copy from 1921, and their bias definitely showed in all of their articles then. Just goes to show how much thought has changed since they were founded!

  • Dee April 22nd, 2012 5:46 AM

    what about the American imperialist lens?

  • bohemianlady_ May 17th, 2012 1:41 PM

    “If you are someone who mostly hates everything but still gets really mushy and in love with the world when the 2% of it that doesn’t suck completely is TOTALLY AMAZING (…)” … Where did you place hidden cameras in my room? rotfl. My mom has several copies of that magazine – I’m definetly going to read them all. Why didn’t I think about it before? Thanks a lot for posting this. (:

  • Leilani June 13th, 2012 12:25 AM

    I can’t believe I missed this post. The other day my art teacher threw away all the old (60s, 70s) NatGeo’s because they were “too old and cut up already” so I pleaded her to let me go to the teacher’s lounge to rescue them from the recycling bin. I ended up taking so many that I could only bring half of them home that day. They’re beautiful and I love them and I want to have my own collection one day!

  • ToInfinityAndAbroad July 10th, 2012 9:47 PM

    I’m a tad late on this article, but the late bird can always get something too!

    I was floored when I saw this article. Tavi, I thought I was the only teenager who loved National Geographic (although I guess I knew I couldn’t be)! This is what I love about Rookie; you tend to find people who you randomly have thing in common with that you never thought you would, it’s magic!