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.