Two bibliophiles walk into a bar …


800px-Alt_TelefonTwo bibliophiles walk into a bar and talk books, sharing favorite opening sentences? “Call me Ishmael” one says, referring to the celebrated opening line of Moby Dick. The two begin to speculate, “What if Ishmael had a phone number?” … and now Ishmael does.


CALL ME ISHMAEL is a website founded by Stephanie Kent and Logan Smalley in 2014, subsequent to their conversation. It presents messages people leave in voicemail for Ishmael. The messages left are about favorite books: the beauty and pleasure enjoyed, the inspiration gained, the way lives are changed or how reading the book led to some special and unexpected experience.

There are more than a thousand stories and every type of book represented – poetry, nonfiction, books for children, youth and adults, and both literary and genre fiction.

Every day “Ishmael” transcribes a message. The founder faves are featured each week and shared on the website and through social media platforms. Under “Galley Calls” visitors can listen to recordings of calls and vote on whether Ishmael should edit, transcribe and feature the voicemail message.

This is the end product.

If you are viewing this post from an email, it’s likely you will have to link through to the site to view the videos, each under two minutes.

This is one young woman’s experience with a favorite of mine, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the book that started so many of us on our path as writers.

This one on the Harry Potter series is from Nathan, the boy who lived.  Grab a tissue.

The YouTube Channel is HERE.

Photograph – 1940s rotary telephone – is courtesy of Kornelia und Hartmut Häfel under CC BY-SA 3.0 license