The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book resting on a chair

An Ingenious, Interactive Gift Book for Lovers of Literature

Allie Lawrence
December 11 2020

The inventive minds behind the Call Me Ishmael Phone Book, Stephanie Kent and Logan Smalley, started their Call Me Ishmael Project as a bibliophilic debate. The two literature lovers were discussing the best opening lines from classic books before coming to a consensus on the iconic opener from Herman Melville’s MOBY-DICK. And, they thought, how cool would it be if readers could actually call Ishmael and leave a voicemail about the impact a book had on them? That was back in 2014. Now, in 2020, thousands of the messages from the project can be found in phone book form!

The CALL ME ISHMAEL PHONE BOOK is not only an interactive, user-friendly directory for the voicemails that its authors collected and cataloged over the years, but it’s also a guide to indie bookstores and other bookish destinations. Readers can check off the bookstores and libraries they’ve visited across the U.S.A. and map out all the places that are still on their book-world bucket lists.

Stephanie and Logan begin the book with an introduction and instructions on how to discover the literary surprises woven throughout their beautiful creation. The book is then organized into three sections: “Calls by Subject,” “Calls by Book Title,” and “Calls by Author,” so there are several ways to explore the books and America’s literary places. There are also lovely illustrations and symbols throughout this wonderfully quirky, nostalgic book, which is like nothing I’ve come across before.

During the pandemic, I have found great comfort flipping through the phone book’s yellow pages and listening to people’s connections to books that I have also loved or still have yet to discover. Hearing people’s voices and stories (yes, you read that right) also makes this lonely time feel a little less lonely! Readers can hear any of the messages included in the book by dialing 774-325-0503 and entering the corresponding four-digit extension from the pages of the book.

One caller reveals a difficult time in her life for which Sylvia Plath’s THE BELL JAR resonated with her. Plath’s description of feeling like “a horse losing its pace,” rang true. THE BELL JAR helped the caller feel less alone and to discover her passion for psychiatry.

Another caller, named Ellie, expresses the joy she found in reading THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros. She described how she could relate to the protagonist’s experiences growing up in a Latinx household, and how she felt the beauty in seeing herself represented in a story.

An additional caller, a parent of a toddler, reveals the ubiquity of Sandra Boynton’s board book PAJAMA TIME! in his family’s life. Through reading the book and singing the accompanying song, it was pajama time all the time until even the caller’s young daughter had had enough and demanded they take a break.

The Call Me Ishmael project is a love letter to literature and the ways in which it can change our lives and loves. The resulting phone book makes the perfect gift for avid readers and is also a fun, interactive way to introduce kids to the world of books! The CALL ME ISHMAEL PHONE BOOK is a touching reminder of the stories and experiences that connect us and make us human.

Check out a few of our favorite messages:

The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book
by Logan Smalley and Stephanie Kent

For fans of My Ideal Bookshelf and BibliophileThe Call Me Ishmael Phone Book is the perfect gift for book lovers everywhere: a quirky and entertaining interactive guide to reading, featuring voicemails, literary Easter eggs, checklists, and more, from the creators of the popular multimedia project.

 

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The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book
Logan Smalley and Stephanie Kent

For fans of My Ideal Bookshelf and Bibliophile, The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book is the perfect gift for book lovers everywhere: a quirky and entertaining interactive guide to reading, featuring voicemails, literary Easter eggs, checklists, and more, from the creators of the popular multimedia project.

The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book is an interactive illustrated homage to the beautiful ways in which books bring meaning to our lives and how our lives bring meaning to books. Carefully crafted in the style of a retro telephone directory, this guide offers you a variety of unique ways to connect with readers, writers, bookshops, and life-changing stories. In it, you’ll discover...

-Heartfelt, anonymous voicemail messages and transcripts from real-life readers sharing unforgettable stories about their most beloved books. You’ll hear how a mother and daughter formed a bond over their love for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, or how a reader finally felt represented after reading Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, or how two friends performed Mary Oliver’s Thirst to a grove of trees, or how Anne Frank inspired a young writer to continue journaling.

-Hidden references inside fictional literary adverts like Ahab’s Whale Tours and Miss Ophelia’s Psychic Readings, and real-life literary landmarks like Maya Angelou City Park and the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum.

-Lists of bookstores across the USA, state by state, plus interviews with the book lovers who run them.

-Various invitations to become a part of this book by calling and leaving a bookish voicemail of your own.

-And more!

Quirky, nostalgic, and full of heart, The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book is a love letter to the stories that change us, connect us, and make us human.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2020: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 15, 2020

An Ingenious, Interactive Gift Book for Lovers of Literature

By Allie Lawrence | December 11, 2020

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Photo credit: Off the Shelf

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