Seniors Win Swarthmore Book Collection Contest

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Jake Brunkard ’08, Mark Kharas ’08, and Trude Raizen ’08 are this year’s winners of the A. Edward Newton student book collection competition. Swarthmore’s Newton competition is the oldest college book collection competition in the nation. Students vying for the top three places submit annotated bibliographies of their book collection, which are judged by committee of librarians and a faculty member.

First-place winner Jake Brunkard’s collection consists of about 65 books published by Black Sparrow press, an independent press that publishes “underground” literature.

“In high school, I started reading “underground” Amerikan literature, most inspired by the countercultures of the Sixties, that represented people and places marginalized in the mainstream canon,” Brunkard said.

Brunkard intends to use his cash prize to purchase more Black Sparrow titles.

“Now that Black Sparrow is effectively closed, Black Sparrow books are increasingly hard to find,” Brunkard said. “With the support of this prize, I’m looking forward to the hunt.”

Mark Kharas’s collection “Quakerism: An Academic and Devotional Analysis of a Religion” won second place.

“My book collection is books about Quakerism or by Quakers, or in someway connected to Quakerism,” said Kharas. “I’m interested in it [Quakerism] because I’m a Quaker; I was born and raised a Quaker, and I’m also interested in Quakerism academically, as a religion major.”

Kharas began collecting when he was in middle school. His collection contains books suggested to him from his father, who is also a Quaker, and a lucky find from a McCabe book sale.

“It [my collection] includes a 3-volume set of books by William Penn published in 1825, which I’m really proud of,” Kharas said. “I bought the set for $6.00 from the Swarthmore library book sale, which they hold each year.”

Third-place winner Trude Raizen could not be reached by the Gazette. Her collection is titled, “”Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend: Assorted Baseball Books”.

Amanda Watson, Reference and Instruction intern at McCabe Library was a member of this year’s judging committee.

“This year we had 9 applications,” said Watson. “They kind of ran the gamut in subject material; there was a romance novel collection, and a really interesting Japanese collection. Some were very eclectic, and some were very focused.”

According to Watson, choosing this year’s winners was a difficult process.

“I’ve only been doing this for 2 years, but in my experience, you see a lot of different subjects that students have taken an interest in,” Watson said. “There are so many things that you learn just reading the applications, it can be quite tricky to narrow down.”

Mark Kharas is a reporter for the Daily Gazette.

0 thoughts on “Seniors Win Swarthmore Book Collection Contest

  • February 5, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Does anyone know if you have to OWN the books to enter? If so, that seems unfair. Not to detract from the accomplishments of the winners (good job ’08!) but I’m wondering how can we make this contest more accessible to students who aren’t able to buy the dozens of books it requires to enter this competition, which if I’ve got it right, is more about assembling an interesting collection of books and submitting an impressive annotated bibliography rather than having enough money to actually own all the books.

  • February 5, 2008 at 12:43 am

    It is possible to assemble impressive book collections on the cheap—library book sales, tag sales, etc. can be a treasure trove of old books…at around $.50-a-piece.

  • February 5, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Speaking as a winner I do believe you have to own all of the books in order to submit the bibliography. The aim of the contest is to encourage collecting books by individual collectors. Since the contest is endowed by an individual donor I don’t believe the terms of the contest can legally be changed to make it so that you don’t have to own all of the books, but I could be wrong on my part.

    However, acquiring a collection of books is not necessarily an expensive undertaking. Most of my books were acquired second hand either online (several books were only 1 cent plus shipping) or at used book stores or library book sales. I paid more than $10 for very few books in the collection, and I can think of only 5 books, in a collection of about 45 books, that were over $20. Over the 8 or so years I’ve been collecting books on Quakerism I’ve spent less than I do on an average semester on textbooks at Swat. My oldest and rarest books were also among the least expensive! I think that collecting books, like collecting many things, has an elitist connotation to it but there is no reason that it should and having contests like this for college students is a way to separate book collecting from the stigma of elitism. A friend of mine (not a Swattie) who is the most avid book collector I know of and gets many rare and old books, is also a person of extremely modest means. I think that the contest should stay like it is (even though it can’t be drastically changed) and should also emphasize the many expensive ways to develop a really stellar collection of books.

  • February 5, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    As the leading (only?) serious collector of material by and about A. Edward Newton — am planning to eventually write a biography — I’m fairly certain that Ned intended for the prize to go to a student who owns the collection.


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