The Telephone

Hook ups, hang ups, history, and one hot conversation.



The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret

By Seth Shulman


We all know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. But while a writer-in-residence at MIT, Shulman uncovered a slew of sources that indicated Bell copied the idea with the help of an alcoholic patent officer. Even more surprising, he wasn't driven by a desire for profit or fame--he did it for love.



America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940

By Claude S. Fischer


Now that phones go with us everywhere, it's hard to remember a time when we couldn't just call someone on a whim. Chronicling the early decades of telephone technology, Fischer, a sociology professor at UC-Berkeley, examines how its spread changed our collective way of life long before we all went mobile.



The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book that Everyone Uses but No One Reads

By Ammon Shea


Before Facebook, there was the phone book. First printed in 1878, this hefty tome has played a critical role in presidential elections, Supreme Court rulings, abstract art, and circus sideshows, as Ammon Shea reminds us in this quirky history.




The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

By Tim Wu


Wu documents how control of every segment of America’s overloaded information industry--radio, telephone, television, and film--has been systematically seized by monopolistic corporate entities. With that in mind, he explores the ramifications of a comparable swallowing up of the Internet. Google, we're looking at you.




By Nicholson Baker


The master of novelistic minutiae records a phone-sex conversation between two strangers. The dialogue is occasionally erotic, often hilarious, and sometimes troubling as two lonely souls find a connection that's both intimate and long-distance.



April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.