The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book: An Interactive Guide to Life-Changing Books

The Call Me Ishmael Project began with an impassioned conversation between book lovers Stephanie Kent and Logan Smalley in a pub. Arguing over the best opening lines in literature, they finally agreed to compromise on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Moments later, they noticed the pun in the phrase. What would happen, they wondered, if readers could call Ishmael and leave a voice message? Several hours later, they had a working phone number with a message that challenged readers to tell "Ishmael" a story about a book they loved.

Thousands of anonymous voicemail messages later, Kent and Smalley have created a directory to those messages: The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book: An Interactive Guide to Life-Changing Books. Inspired by the yellow pages, the book is an alphabetic listing of messages about books, each with a four-digit extension a book lover can use to hear a related story when they call the Call Me Ishmael phone number. The directory is divided so one can search for calls by subject (creatively defined), by title or by author. Scattered throughout the directory are transcripts of messages, references for bookish places and "literary surprises."

Some of the messages are reviews of well-loved books--famous, obscure and everything in between. But many of them are deeply personal accounts of an individual's engagement with a particular volume at a particular moment. Beware: it's easy to get sucked in. The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book is a book lover's rabbit hole: engaging, quirky and wholly seductive. --Pamela Toler, author and blogger at History in the Margins

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