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We asked the winners of the 2021 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest to introduce themselves, and learned about some fascinating books and collections along the way! 


First place: Jessica Camille Jordan (Stanford University): 


Could you give us a brief description of your collection? 

My collection is comprised of works that bear the illustrative or graphic design work of husband/wife duo Leo and Diane Dillon, whose career together spanned six decades. Most of the objects in my collection are books, but there are also comics, records, posters, and more. The earliest items I have are science fiction pulp magazines from the 1950s, and the most recent is a 2019 picture book called Love and the Rocking Chair, an autobiographical story they were working on at the time of Leo’s death in 2012, and which Diane later completed.  


What first interested you in Leo & Diane Dillon? 

Although I didn’t know it at the time, their artwork graced some of my favorite books as a young reader, including Wise Child by Monica Furlong and Sabriel by Garth Nix. Later on, I learned more about their fascinating lives and career, and I felt it was important to try and create a comprehensive bibliography of their work. But I have always been really drawn to and moved by the beauty of their art, and that’s where the initial interest came from.  


What currently has pride of place in your collection? 

Probably the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books installment that contains their illustrations for a condensed version of Rosalind Laker’s Jewelled Path. I found this among my grandmother’s books fifteen years after she passed away, and the pictures are breathtaking – not, I think, what most people picture when they think of Reader’s Digest! It’s special to me both because of the familial connection, and because I think it’s an extremely little-known example of their work.  

Essay & Bibliography


Second place: Read Brown (NYU):


Could you give us a brief description of your collection?

My collection includes more than 70 books relating to the history of video games and the gaming industry. These books range from manuals on playing games to analyses of the culture of gaming and the history of gaming companies. The collection spans over 40 years of literature on the subject dating back to 1977. 


What first interested you in the history of video games?

When I was in middle school, my local library hosted an author talk for a book about video gaming. Even though I was an avid gamer and reader, it had never occurred to me that there were books on the subject, so I decided to go. I didn’t understand much about what the author said that night—the book was a detailed academic work—but I picked up on enough to realize that gaming was a booming industry and something worth taking seriously. I bought a copy of the book and found other titles on the subject through its bibliography. Through those books I found even more titles, and so on. 


What currently has pride of place in the collection?

Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict’s Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines holds a special place in my collection. It is one of the earliest titles I own—it was published in 1982—and carries the distinction of being one of the earliest works written by Martin Amis, who is now an acclaimed novelist. (I’ve read that he is embarrassed about having written the book.) Also interesting, Steven Spielberg wrote the introduction. 

Essay & Bibliography



Third place: Shannon Bohle (Johns Hopkins):


Could you give us a brief description of your collection?

My collection includes autographed first editions and memorabilia relating to some of the most important scientific breakthroughs in modern times: manned exploration of space, velocity as determined by the special and general theories of relativity, and uncovering the secret of life--that is, DNA’s role in biological inheritance.


What first interested you in acquiring signed books about science?

I was inspired to begin this collection at an early age, when I received many years ago a small collection of published pamphlets and signed materials relating to the early space program that had once belonged to my grandfather. His experience as a NASA contractor inspired me to pursue my second master's degree in science writing at Johns Hopkins University with an emphasis on the history of space exploration and astronomy. Like my grandfather, in my career I've had the opportunity to meet astronauts, but also Nobel Prize winners and historians of science. Items in my collection all have some personal connection and special meaning relating to the events of my life and my grandfather's life. They bring me joy each time I revisit the contents of the collection or acquire a new item to add to it because I cannot help but think of my grandfather.

What currently has pride of place in the collection?

My signed first edition of The Double Helix, which I obtained while working with Dr. James D. Watson at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, holds a special place in my personal collection. This book was his New York Times-bestselling account about the co-discovery of the structure of DNA that won, arguably, the most important Nobel Prize of the twentieth century--because it explained the "fingerprint" of life and the method by which life perpetuates itself by forwarding those instructions via offspring. Watson and Crick's discovery at the University of Cambridge inspired me to apply there to earn a Ph.D., and while a graduate student, I had an opportunity to visit many of the locations mentioned in the book which helped bring the story to life. It also brought me into contact with many notable historians of science professors as well as esteemed, Nobel Prize-winning biologists and physicists.

Essay & Bibliography



Essay Award winner:  Joseph E. Hiller (Duke University)


Could you give us a brief description of your collection?

The collection includes books from across the Americas and the Caribbean, dating from the mid-twentieth century to the present. I believe the earliest novel in my collection is José Eustasio Rivera’s La vorágine, originally published in 1924, although my edition is not that old: it dates from 1985 (printed by Biblioteca Ayacucho in Caracás, Venezuela). Among the newest is Parásitos perfectos by Luis Carlos Barragán, published this year by Ediciones Vestigio in Bogotá, Colombia.

The collection spans poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, but I mostly collect novels and short stories. My collection also includes a scattering of ephemera: notes from publishers, postcards, zines, and posters. I just purchased a record, on vinyl, of Colombian cumbias inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad—it’s called Macondo Macondo Macondo, and I think I have to make space for it in my collection. I love that someone recorded dance music based on García Márquez’s magical realist literature!

Most of the works in the collection are in Spanish (by which I mean Castillian, castellano), but I collect translations into English, too, and I have a small number of books in other Latin American languages (Haitian Creole, Brazilian Portuguese, and a bilingual volume of poetry in Spanish and Quechua).

Over time, I’ve developed a fondness for certain publishers, especially Angosta Editores and Laguna Libros (both Colombian), and Charco Press and And Other Stories (both based in the UK). They’re all well-represented in my collection. This summer, while conducting pre-dissertation research in Bogotá, I learned about Ediciones Vestigio, an independent Colombian press focused on “science fiction, strange literature, the bizarre, and experimental literature”—I purchased two of their recent books, one a novel, the other a collection of stories. I’m excited to continue to explore innovative, peripheral, and daring presses like this.


What first interested you in small-press, untranslated and other hard-to-find Latin American literature?

As I describe in the essay, Roberto Bolaño’s novel The Savage Detectives, together with my political, intellectual, and aesthetic engagement with Latin America, fueled my interest in these kinds of books. Once I started to seek them out, I realized how difficult it can be to find Spanish-language literature in the United States. While I could find certain major authors (such as Borges, Allende, and García Márquez) in bookstores and the public library, books published by independent Latin American presses eluded me. I knew that queer Latin American narrative, or contemporary Latin American science fiction, or feminist Latin American novels were out there, but where? Distribution of these books in the United States continues to be minimal. Further, though I felt the drive to search, I did not know with any kind of clarity what I was looking for. I had little guidance as to what I should read, or which presses to look to.

When I began a masters program in Latin American Studies at Tulane University, my coursework, my professors, and my peers oriented my search profoundly. My studies propelled both my early purchases and my knowledge of Latin American literature. Subsequently, when I returned to Latin America as a graduate student, I knew where to start.

One of the ongoing joys of collecting in Latin America is that so many Latin American cities have vibrant literary scenes. My collection is indebted to wonderful conversations with booksellers and book lovers, especially in Mexico and Colombia.


What currently has pride of place in your collection?

I’ll mention three books of which I am especially fond. The first is my copy of Alejo Carpentier’s La consagración de la primavera. I found it in a used bookshop in Mexico City. Inside, there is a handwritten dedication, dated “Christmas 1978,” to “my noble and beloved friend Octavio.” I have no evidence for this, but I choose to hope that the Octavio in question is Octavio Paz, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature. The possibility is conceivable!

The other two books are both Colombian. This summer, while conducting research in Bogotá, I participated in a march for Trans Rights, organized by the Red Comunitaria Trans (Trans Community Network). At the march, I purchased a book published by the Red, called Calle Flamingo: Antología Marica. The book is an anthology of queer and trans writing and art; within its pages are woodcuts, poems, essays, a section in braille, stories, line drawings, and more. It is fascinating and I am glad that its purchase helped support important political work.

Finally, Colombian journalist Estefanía Carvajal’s work of creative nonfiction, Niebla en la yarda, has pride of place in my collection. Published by Angosta Editores, her book traces the experiences of three Colombians incarcerated in the United States. I think it is sensitive and brilliant; it provides important insight into the structures of imprisonment that link the United States and Colombia. This spring, I nominated Niebla en la yarda for publication in the Latin America in Translation Series, a series published by UNC Press and Duke University Press, via the UNC-Duke Consortium of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. I was thrilled to learn that the book was selected for the series, for which it will be translated into English and published by Duke University Press. This summer, I had the honor of meeting Carvajal in person. Her book brought us together.

Essay & Bibliography



You can honor this year's prizewinners of the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest by Zoom on October 15th at 3pm ET. In addition to the awards, the Library of Congress' Chief of Rare Books and Special Collections Division, Mark Dimunation, will interview each winner.

To attend, you must register for the Zoom meeting at the following link: