A History of the Phone Book

Earlier this month, Ammon Shea published a new book in the books about books genre, The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads (Perigee paperback, $14.95). Shea is also the author of 2008's Reading the OED, and he was recently featured in FB&C's "How I Got Started" column. Shea is an avid collector of lexicons.
In this new book, Shea relates the history of the phone and the phone directory with wit and enthusiasm. Particularly interesting (and disheartening) is this data he offers: In the 1979 NYC yellow pages, booksellers took up 7 1/2 pages. Today booksellers fill about 2 pages. What other trends can examination of old phone books reveal? Well, that's part of the point. These books are full of cultural information; discarded and discontinued, we lose something important.

Shea features collectors of phone books (some months back, we interviewed one of them on this blog), as well as artists (also see here) and politicians who have utilized phone books for their own odd purposes. Not to mention all those two year olds at the dinner table...

Unlike its subject, this Phone Book is slim and sometimes stretched, but full of interesting trivia and quite enjoyable to read.