A friend gave me the book in 1993, and after reading it through in practically one sitting, I knew it was THE book I’d been looking for to use in my class. Wanting to introduce a keystone work of environmental literature to my students, I had tried using Silent Spring, but found they got bogged down in the technical aspects and missed much of the big message. Ishmael, on the other hand, is short and fairly easy to read at one level, and because of the Socratic format of the conversation between Ishmael and the narrator, it would lend itself perfectly to the Socratic Seminar format of discussing literature I wanted to use. I also intuitively felt the kids would like the book because it’s so nontraditional. (What? The whole book is a conversation between a gorilla and a man?) It leads so methodically and smoothly into many important discoveries of our behavior and how we relate to the earth and raises many essential questions about the human role on earth — timely and important ideas among thinking adolescents.
Mainly, I wanted a book that would generate discussions in which everyone could have something to talk about. That’s the magic of Ishmael. Everyone can relate to it. No matter the culture, gender, economic, or religious background.