(Call Me Ishmael is the friend every reader needs. We all know what it’s like to read a book that punches you in the gut, but have no one to talk to about it after. It’s terrible. But now we have Ishmael. Ishmael listens. Ishmael encourages us to think about the books we read, to talk about them, and to listen to other book-lovers talk about their favorite books. In fact, Call Me Ishmael is not just a sympathetic listener, it’s a never-ending supply of book recommendations as well. Read, listen, call, repeat. —Jenni)
Call me Ishmael. I’ve long collected stories, but this summer, I started inviting readers from around the world to call me about books they love and stories they’ve lived. How does it work? Anonymous book lovers call my cell phone and leave a voice mail, detailing a personal story about how a book has impacted their lives. I listen to each call, then select my favorites to transcribe (using my trusty Quiet Royal Deluxe Typewriter) and post the to CallMeIshmael.com, where other literature lovers can discover and share the books and anonymous stories.
The tales on my site make up an unexpected library; I’ve heard from teachers helping their students explore classic literature and young nature enthusiasts reciting poetry to parched trees. In my travels, I’ve come to learn quite a bit about the state of reading—or perhaps, more aptly, the state of mankind’s relationship with books. I’d like to share three intriguing patterns I’ve noticed in my travels (and yours, fellow reader, through my voice mail box).
Books illuminate our career paths
Not surprisingly, many a caller chimes in to share the tale of how he or she came to be. What strikes me as unexpected is how many major decisions about careers and fields of specialty are attributed to books. Hundreds of my anonymous messages credit a novel or admired character for the successful pursuit of their life’s work. You probably know the story of a passionate reader whose love of a Great American Novel inspired a career in teaching literature, but a good read has the power to spawn animators (as in the following video) and veterinarians, too.
They’re called classics for a reason
My anonymous callers are proof mankind is still moved by Scrooge’s change of heart, captivated by Jane Austen’s timelessness (as you’ll see in the sweet video below), and tortured by the same love triangles that plagued Catherine Linton. There’s no shortage of calls about books from the cannon of great novels, but modern readers aren’t calling to praise the style and methods of literary masters. Rather, most calls about the long-lauded classics herald their long-lasting relevance.
Never underestimate a children’s book
Among my more passionate bibliophiles are those who have a story to share about a children’s book. To quote a father who knows what it’s like to go a bit, ahem, overboard on bedtime stories: “There is no more important book to be good than a kid’s book.” Lucky for me, there is no shortage of world-changing books for young people, and my voice mail box, in turn, has no shortage of praise for them. In fact, some of my more thoughtful, philosophical calls have been inspired by books written for children; this one below is sure to shed a new light on a much-beloved Seussian story.
A huge THANK YOU to the Call Me Ishmael team, without whom we might not have this daily inspiration to read, share books, and look upon every person we come into contact with as a possible fellow (albeit anonymous) bibliophile. You can find many more anonymous calls about books of ALL kinds at CallMeIshmael.com. Go listen, then call and tell YOUR story.