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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.

One night in 2014, two readers named Logan Smalley and Stephanie Kent discussed their favorite literary opening lines. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” one suggested. “All of this happened, more or less,” the other pointed out. And then, one phrase came immediately to mind: “Call Me Ishmael.”

As they talked more, the pair wondered what would happen if they invited readers to call a phone number and ask them to leave a voicemail about their most beloved books. But who would they be calling? Ishmael, of course. Soon, they had set up a working phone number (a 774 area code, a nod to Ishmael’s journey from New Bedford, Massachusetts) and an answering machine greeting. The initial calls they received from family, friends, and coworkers were touching, compelling, and surprising, and the voicemail count grew as word spread. As it did, Logan and Steph decided to take things further: they built actual rotary phones, which could be placed in libraries, schools, and bookstores, allowing readers to customize and listen to pre-loaded voicemails. In the time since, they have received thousands of phone calls from readers, librarians, and students across the United States that share stories about the books that have changed their lives, from The Catcher in the Rye and Beloved to The Sneetches and The House on Mango Street.

Now, in The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book, these messages are collected for book lovers everywhere. Designed in the style of the classic Yellow Pages, there is something exciting to discover on each page, from unique phone extensions that have been assigned to each voicemail, as well as transcripts of those calls, literary advertisements, bookstore checklists, bookish Easter eggs, all organized by category. It is a must-have for any bookshelf or nightstand.

Logan Smalley is the founding director of TED’s youth and education initiative, TED-Ed—an award-winning website, content format, and program offering that serves millions of teachers and students every day. Prior to working for TED, Logan was selected as a TED Fellow for his roles as director, editor, and composer of the nonprofit, feature-length film, Darius Goes West (28 film festival awards, 2007). Logan is also a cofounder of CallMeIshmael.com— a creative, participatory literary initiative that was an honoree for the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize in 2015. Logan began his career as a special education teacher in his hometown of Athens, GA, and he currently lives and works in New York City. He holds a BEd in Special Education from the University of Georgia, and an EdM in Technology Innovation and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Stephanie Kent is a writer, multimedia producer, and former host of the literary radio show on Anchor. She is currently Special Projects Director on the Webby Award–winning Masters of Scale podcast, and led The Wall Street Journal team in product management for their mobile-first news app. During her time on staff at TED she built community programs and brand engagement strategies. As a freelance producer, she works with startups and companies making the world a better place, including Singularity University, National Geographic, The Emerson Collective, and XPRIZE, among others. She was awarded a 2017 Creative Community Fellowship with National Arts Strategies Foundation and holds a BA in Playwriting and Literature from Emerson College. Steph writes a weekly newsletter on creativity, and is a competitive boxer.

  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster (December 2, 2020)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982140588