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The Phone Book 05/27/11

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When I'm in school I primarily read for school (of course) and books from my wishlist and my personal to be read collection. But I'm not perfect and since most of my reading material comes from the library, I'm constantly tempted by the new books on display right near the circulation desk.

I'm a sucker for unusual nonfiction. I like to read the books on topics you wouldn't think had been written about. A prime example is The Phone Book by Ammon Shea.

The phone book is one of those tools that has been part of the telephone culture since shortly after the telephone was first being introduced. At first they were marketing tools to show off the early adopters. They were also aids to help the telephone switchboard operators keep track of a ballooning subscriber list. Later as the telephone became a ubiquitous tool, everyone needed a copy. Now a days with smart phones being minicomputers, the telephone directories are online and there are movements to do away with the printed versions.

Shea's book covers most of the history of the different uses of both types of telephone books: the residential (white) pages and the business (yellow) pages. He even explains how the yellow pages came to be yellow. He explains the pre-l33tspeak language of the phone book and how it was developed to save space. Just imagine those same phone books without the abbreviations; they'd be a long as Shea's other reading project, the OED.

Beyond the history and mechanics of the phone book, Shea includes chapters about collectors of the book, people who change their name to be placed either at the beginning or the end of the book, and the strong men who rip the things in half. There are so many sundry details, tangents and other goodies that I couldn't put the book down once I started it.

Five stars.

a href="/blog/2011/comments_05/the_phone_book.html">Comments (6)

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Comment #1: Saturday, May, 28, 2011 at 04:18:18


This is going to sound really weird, but the other day I was thinking about Bill Bryson's book AT HOME and how I would read anything he wrote even if it was about the phone book. I guess someone beat him to it. I'll have to check this one out.

Comment #2: Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 18:34:41


It was a surprisingly interesting, enterainting and educational book.

Comment #3: Saturday, May, 28, 2011 at 07:06:37


What a very unusual subject to write a book about. To make a subject like this engaging must take a bit of skill. I love the selection of books you take up. I'm following you now.

Comment #4: Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 18:35:10


It was a fascinating book. Thank you for the follow. I'm trying something new this week and featuring only nonfiction book reviews. Next week I'll feature something different.

Comment #5: Sunday, May, 29, 2011 at 19:28:25


Sounds interesting!!

Comment #6: Sunday, May 30, 2011 at 11:59:32


It is. It's also entertaining.

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