In an increasingly fast-paced world, India Ennenga and Sebastian Clark are encouraging people to slow down, curl up with a book, and take a moment for themselves—and away from their phones.
As the New York-based founders of Isolarii, a subscription-based publishing venture, they see to it that a new candy-colored, pocket-size book is delivered to members across the world every two months by mail. Subscriptions cost $15, and the books, printed in Italy, are beautifully designed, with elegant, glossy covers and sturdy pages.
The company launched in 2020, during lockdown, with a book by Turner Prize–nominated artist duo Cooking Sections. Since then, Isolarii has collaborated with the Swiss art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Chinese novelist Can Xue, and others. “We wanted readers to feel that it’s … an island in the palm of your hand,” Clark, 28, says.
Clark was grew up in Tasmania, hundreds of thousands of miles from Manhattan, where Ennenga, 27, an actress who most recently starred in Inventing Anna, and The Irishman, was born and raised. The pair met during their first year at Brown, and have been dating ever since.
The idea for the iPhone-size books came in 2014, when Clark traveled to China to research labor-rights issues and ended up working at an iPhone factory in Dongguan. One day, Ennenga, who was working at The Paris Review at the time, sent Clark a small book—René Daumal’s allegorical adventure novel Mount Analogue. “It was really the anti-iPhone,” Clark says. “It was the first germ of what [we] wanted to create.
“We saw the books could be an escape from all of these different stimuli coming at you,” Clark continues. Over the next few years, as Clark traveled through China, India, and the Middle East, the pair sent each other books with growing frequency, and a business venture was born.
Though the company’s ethos is print, Clark and Ennenga recently made an exception. Isolarii’s latest edition enlists Yevgenia Belorusets, a Ukrainian writer and photographer writing daily entries of a wartime diary. Her harrowing passages are published to the Isolarii Web site daily, and will go on show at the Venice Biennale later this month.
As for the future of Isolarii, there are plans for a larger media company. For now, though, Clark and Ennenga are sticking to what they know: getting people excited about books, one cigarette-pack-size gem at a time.
Elena Clavarino is an Associate Editor for AIR MAIL