Magazine checks in with past winners of the annual T. Kimball
Brooker Prize for undergraduate book collecting
("BOB!!") Williams, AB'94, U.S. Highways
childhood long-distance car trips with his family, Robert ("BOB!!")
Williams, AB'94, took an interest in stretches of winding roads.
After discovering H. G. Alsberg's The American Guide, Michael
Wallis's Route 66: The Mother Road, and the Federal Writers' Project
guides, Williams became a lifelong collector.
favorite book is a first edition of the Federal Writers' Project
South Dakota Guide, which I acquired during my third year at the
U of C. There were only 2,500 copies printed, and many of those
are in libraries, which makes them extremely difficult to come
of the people at O'Gara and Wilson [a Hyde Park bookstore] was
aware of my collection and made it a point to mention to me when
the new Writers' Project books came in. One afternoon, I stopped
by on my way back to Stony Island, and he informed me that they
had gotten a copy of the South Dakota Guide. My eyes lit up when
he said it was a first edition. I asked him to hold it for me,
despite having just spent the last of my most recent GI Bill check.
called my mother and begged her to buy it for me as an early birthday
present-very early, given that it was January and my birthday
is in August. After talking it over with my father, she agreed
and sent me a check. Luckily O'Gara's was willing to hold the
book for a bit longer than usual."
Frohnhoefer, AB'93, Catholic Literature with a Special Emphasis
on English Converts
collecting exceeds aesthetics and the satisfaction of owning first
editions for William Frohnhoefer, AB'93, whose Catholic literature
library indulges his intellectual interests while strengthening
his spiritual beliefs.
was raised a Roman Catholic and attended Catholic schools exclusively
until I arrived at the University. Some of my most deeply held
beliefs were challenged by Chicago's academic and social environment,
and I found that I didn't always have the resources to confront
became a voracious reader of Catholic theology, philosophy, and
ethics, which helped me learn a great deal about my faith and
culture. The impact my collection had on me as a student was enormous:
St. Thomas Aquinas and Hanna H. Gray were my two favorite professors
at Chicago. I owe them both a debt of gratitude for showing me
how to hone my critical faculty by seeking out and applying a
rigorous logic founded on first principles.
bibliophilia is probably incurable. The latest addition to my
library is a French/Latin edition of Descartes's Meditations Metaphysiques-I'm
still trapped in my Hum[anities] sequence. My favorite book is
a five-volume set of St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae in
the definitive Latin Language Pontifical Academy edition.
learning I gleaned from my collection has also stood me in good
stead as a person, enhancing my Catholic faith and moving it from
an emotional and inchoate level to one of firm intellectual conviction-a
conviction which I hope has made me into a better person."
Stettler, AB'92, PhD'98, The History of Paleoanthropology and
her undergraduate years at the U of C, Heather Stettler, AB'92,
AM'95, PhD'98, took a broad range of courses in anthropology and
became interested in the historical and theoretical development
of prehistoric anthropology and archaeology.
development of my book collection followed directly from my selection
of a major. Reading the work of those who helped to create a field
of study helps one to understand later developments in method
and theory. When writing a dissertation, it is a great pleasure-and
time-saver-to have major sources right at hand.
favorite book is Treasures of Prehistoric Art by Andre Leroi-Hourhan.
It evokes an archaic-and now defunct-approach to the interpretation
of Paleolithic art. The latest addition to my collection is Neanderthals
and Modern Humans in Western Asia, edited by Takeru Akazawa, Kenichi
Aoiki, and Ofer Bar-Yosef.
of the pleasure in owning the books dissipates every time I pack
them up to move to a different place. I still have my primary
collection, which has survived several serious attempts to cull
it. I may begin collecting again when I have settled in one place."
AB'97, Abstract Expressionism
a general studies in the humanities concentrator, Benjamin Lord,
AB'97, painted images that explored the "fault line"
between abstraction and figurative art. He inevitably learned
about the New York School of abstract expressionists and collected
books along the way.
don't know what to do with abstract art. After almost 100 years
of self-consciously abstract art, the political meaning of abstraction
is still highly ambiguous. But I believe the possibilities are
still very rich.
like the first monograph on Willem de Kooning by Thomas Hess,
published in 1959. The reproductions are awful, but it includes
many fabulous, quirky, early drawings not shown anywhere else.
The text is a jewel of '50s-style art writing-informed but not
arcane-from a time when authenticity of expression was still a
subject for argument.
looking at different artists right now-not the abstract expressionists-but
still buying books. For Christmas from mom I got a gorgeous new
Caspar David Friedrich monograph in German, and I recently bought
a book of photographs by Joe Deal that focus on the evolving southern
Stanco, AB'98, The New Latin-American Narrative
her most recent move, Elda Stanco, AB'98, spent two days in bed,
sore from lugging all her books, including her Latin-American
literature collection. The books are worth the trouble, she says,
because they reward her with nostalgia and a deeper understanding
of her identity.
was born and raised in Venezuela, thus my love of the Spanish
language and my interest in stories of the country I was from.
I studied in American schools in Venezuela since age 3, so I was
exposed solely to children's literature from the U.S. for many
years. When I rediscovered Latin American short stories in grade
school, they were like finding a treasure. Finally, stories that
related to those my grandparents and parents told me!
favorite book is a copy of Pablo Neruda's 20 Poemas de Amor y
una Cancion Desesperada [20 Poems of Love and a Song of Despair].
My mother used it in high school, and it has her handwriting-especially
her name-all over. Looking at these pages brings back memories
of my mother and her stories from her youth. She had kept it for
herself for many years but gave it to me when I told her I was
going to study literature.
have learned so much through my books and from the people I've
shared them with. I can never forget the classes of my favorite
U of C professor [Patrick O'Connor]-every time I see a book I
read with him, it brings a great smile to my face. Certain books
go with certain stages of my life. If I were to map out my life,
I'd probably have a book to go with every important stage."
Olson, AB'99, Cymru am byth: The Language, Literature, and
History of Wales
her essay for the 1999 Brooker Prize, Katharine Olson, AB'99,
recalled how a Welsh legend of a young boy traveling in the misty
mountains of North Wales preoccupied her 11-year-old mind. The
book, The Grey King by Susan Coopers, inspired her love-and her
collection-of Celtic fairy tales and stories. Olson continues
to quench her thirst for Welsh literature, history, and language
today on a full scholarship to Harvard University's Department
of Celtic Languages and Literature.
fondest memory is from the summer I visited Wales during a two-month
intensive Welsh program at the University of Wales, Lampeter.
By the second day, I had already made the rounds of all the town
bookstores. I walked into a used bookstore auspiciously named
Cambrensia Books. I asked the sales clerk if she had any books
on or in Middle Welsh. An elderly woman sitting on a stool beside
the clerk quashed whatever the clerk's reply might have been and
asked me where I was from, if I was interested in Welsh history,
if I spoke the language, all in one breath. In the hour and a
half that followed, I stood spellbound as she told me local history,
stories of shipwrecks, princes, the Drowned Land, the Tylwuth
Teg (Welsh fairies), and countless other tales.
recommend John Davies's History of Wales most often-it is the
best general introduction to Welsh history-and The Mabinogion,
the main collection of medieval Welsh legends and prose tales.
Nora Chadwick's The Celts is still the best basic book on the
Celts out there. My favorite is either my battered yet reliable
first copy of the Gwyn Jones translation of The Mabinogion; W.
J. Thomas's Cambrensia, which the woman at the bookstore gave
me, or the hard-to-find edition of the medieval Welsh historical
chronicle Brut y Tywysogion [The Chronicle of the Princes].
books influence not only my choice of academic major at the U
of C-history-but also my career path. I decided to pursue more
advanced studies in Celtic and medieval history, to 'follow my
bliss,' as Joseph Campbell once said, rather than always wondering,
Cole, AB'95, Fairytales and Folklore
Isabel Cole, AB'95, is translating reports for German companies
or penning original works of fantasy and science fiction, her
fairy-tale and folklore collection continues to influence her
worldview. Most "handed-down stories," says Cole, who
makes her home in Berlin, are really "anonymous" translations.
tales are ideal for collecting. They all resemble each other in
some way, but they're different, and they lend themselves to opulent
illustration. I developed an interest in fairy tales because of
the collections edited by Andrew Lang, a 19th-century Scottish
ethnologist and folklorist whose work was reprinted by Dover Books.
They have wonderful Art Nouveau illustrations and a fascinating
range of stories from different cultures-probably somewhat bowdlerized
but never dull. I was given The Violet, Olive, and Brown Fairy
Books as a child and read them dozens of times.
in Germany fairy tales and folklore are taken very seriously.
You can find books of local folklore wherever you travel, and
a lot of exhaustive East German collections of folklore are floating
around for bargain prices. The former Eastern Block countries
were big on folklore as the literature of the common man-a means
of understanding between the peoples. There's a place in Berlin
where you can buy books by the kilogram for six DM or about $3-my
boyfriend gets 'fresh books' there every Wednesday.
most recent addition to my collection was a book of ghost stories
from Bacharach. On the scholarly side, I would recommend Jakob
Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie, a matchless treasure trove of folklore,
etymology, spells, superstitions, and natural healing methods.
I'm tired of being intellectual, I read cookbooks. Which, yes,
I also collect." -B.C.
and Anne Szustek