Modern School Library Essay Contests

2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Neureuther Student Book Collection Essay Competition! 

That’s right—the annual contest, with its cash prizes of $500 and $1,000, has showcased the book collections and writing expertise of WU students for three decades.

Carl Neureuther would surely be pleased by the contest’s longevity. A 1940 graduate of the WU School of Business, Neureuther set up an endowed book fund for the WU Libraries in 1987. The fund makes it possible for the Libraries to purchase new works of literature each year, and it supports the essay competition, which Neureuther hoped would inspire students to build personal libraries and read for pleasure.

The competition is open to any full-time WU student who loves collecting books. Each participant must submit a brief essay about the titles in his or her personal collection. Four cash awards are offered: $1,000 and $500 at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The contest gives bibliophiles a chance to reflect on subject preferences, the joys of reading, and the personal associations bound up with the volumes on their bookshelves. From the adventures of Dr. Who and the works of Gertrude Stein to topics like opera, fractal geometry, and jazz photography, the collections of past winners are a testament to the idiosyncratic nature of the personal library.

Claire Class, graduate winner of the 2016 Neureuther contest.

Last year, Claire Class won first place in the graduate category for “Baseless: Reassessing My Past Through Feminist Utopias.” Class, a Ph.D. candidate in English, recently started teaching at the Nanjing, China, campus of the New York Institute of Technology. She used her contest prize money—$1,000—to help cover relocation expenses.

“The contest prompted me to really consider the ways my reading habits reflect back on my experiences growing up,” says Class. “Writing the essay was fun and more than a little therapeutic. I liked having a fresh reason to hold and think about each of the books in my collection.”

Along with prize money, Neureuther winners gain the opportunity to enter the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, a competition sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, the Grolier Club, and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

Most importantly, perhaps, the Neureuther contest connects bibliophiles with other like-minded collectors.

Rose Miyatsu, 2015 graduate winner.

“Reading and book collecting are often solitary experiences,” says 2015 winner Rose Miyatsu. “Participating in the Neureuther contest gave me the rare opportunity to share with others the nerdy bliss I feel when holding what is, after all, only an inanimate object.”

A Ph.D. candidate in English, Miyatsu won $500 for “Taking Madness of the Shelf,” an essay inspired by her library of fiction and nonfiction titles focusing on the topic of mental illness.

“Even if I hadn’t participated, I would be happy just to know that the contest existed—to know that there are other people who feel as passionately about books as I do,” Miyatsu says.

The entry deadline for the 2017 Neureuther Student Book Collection Essay Competition is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1. Eligible students should submit the following materials by that date: 1) a completed entry form; 2) a two- to four-page essay about the book collection; and 3) a bibliography listing the books in the collection.

Judges, who are volunteers chosen from the faculty and university community, will take a number of factors into account when assessing the essays, including the scope of each collection, its thematic unity, and its personal value to the collector.

The 2016 winning essays, as well as past winners, are available on WU Libraries’ website and in WU’s Open Scholarship repository. Students should deliver their materials to the Department of Special Collections on the main level of Olin Library weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Entries must be received by 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 1. The winners will be announced in late March. Awards will be presented at a celebratory reception in May.

For more information, contact the contest committee chair, Julie Hale at 314-935-6569 or


2017 (30th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place: Mary Andino, Early Modern Europe: The Female Perspective
2nd Place: Alan Zhang, How to Live in a World with Others

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Jennifer Greenberg, Picked from the Pews: A Religiously Inspired Book Collection
2nd Place: Meg Russell, Our Books Are Important to Us

2016 (29th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place: Claire M. Class, Baseless: Reassessing My Past Through Feminist Utopias
2nd Place: Alex Eastman, Race and Book Collecting in Colombia on the Eve of Digitization

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Michael Henderson, Anachronisms
2nd Place: Jennifer Wu, Life in Paper: How Words Can Build a Person

2015 (28th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place:Gabriel ShechterPaul’s Wife: Messages from the Past
2nd Place: Rose Miyatsu,Taking Madness off the Shelf 

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Catalina Ouyang, Small Girl, Big Nudes: Helmut Newton and the Voyeur
2nd Place: Leona Chen, Across Seas, Across Shelves

2014 (27th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place: Corey Twitchell, Combining Fact and Fiction: My Collection of German-Jewish Writing
2nd Place: Kelly Oman,Ordering Chaos in the Novels of P.G. Wodehouse

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Joyce Hankins, A Self Portrait
2nd Place: Talya Zax, The Old-Fashioned Girls

2013 (26th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place:  Sarah Sobonya, Keeping Abreast of the Literature …
2nd Place: John Gauthier, Arturo Belano and the Storybook War

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Brian Feldman, A Muse for Recollection: On Collecting Ancient Greek Textbooks
2nd Place: Lauren Henley, Asthmatic and Alone: How Books Became My World

2012 (25th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place: Anne Jensen-Urstad, Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be: the collected works of Haruki Murakami
2nd Place: Ervin Malakaj, The Book-Filled Crate

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Karina Louise Stridh, Life as a Joke: In Defense of the Comedic Narrative
2nd Place: Alexandra Barger, Notes from the Post-Apocalypse

2011 (24th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place: Tanya Roth, No Mere Reader: A Collection of Memories
2nd Place: Priya Banerjee, A Story of Life, Love, and Death

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Emma Hine, Secret Clubs and Schoolgirl Shamuses: Growing up with Trixie Belden
2nd Place: Benjamin Murphy, Who’s That Girl? The Many Faces of Mexican Women

2010 (23rd Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st Place: Anna Teekell Hays, The Accidental Enthusiast: On Collecting World War II Books in the Internet Age
2nd Place: Amit Patel, Summers with My Bapuji: Opening Up a World of What-Ifs

Undergraduate Winners
1st Place: Michal Hyrc, Fantazja o Polskiej Fantastyce: A Fantasy about Polish Fantasy
2nd Place: Maggie Gorman, A Deliciously Interesting Collection of Words

2009 (22nd Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Doc M. Billingsley, Oj Kojtz´iban, Oj Kojk´asi´k: We Write, We Survive: The Rebirth of Maya Literacy
2nd place: You Xu, From Elements to a Set

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Hana Damore, How I Won Over a Hundred Dollars Worth of Books, Inspired an Independent Study, and Became the Hero of My Homeroom
2nd place: Christina Pulles, A Collection Enriched by Cultural Difference… and a Little Magic

2008 (21st Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: DJ Kaiser, The Gift of Drama
2nd place: Matthew Fluharty, The Farm Books: On Keeping, and Giving Up, a Book Collection

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Shannon Petry, Policy in Prose, and More: A Love Affair with Foreign Affairs
2nd place: Michael Dango, Impossible, Infinite Illustrations

2007 (20th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Tafline Crawford, Science and Politics in the History of Paleoanthropology
2nd place: Carter Smith, Thinking the Line: A Collection of Books on Poetry and Visual Art

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Robin Meyer, My Collection: Defined
2nd place: Lauren Hosek, The Not-So-Silent Past: An Archaeology Collection

2006 (19th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Ryan Shirey,The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Collector of Scottish Books
2nd place: Benjamin Cawthra, The Improvising Image: a Jazz Photography Collection

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Jennifer Feder, Women’s Wisdom: Sharing Her Voice
2nd place: Wendy Xin, The Kindred Spirits of my Dusty Upper Shelf

2005 (18th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Rachel Slaughter, Well-Tempered Elegance: A Collection Of 1950s Literary Criticism
2nd place: James W. Hofman, II, Japan, The Ambiguous, and My Shelf

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Devin Naar, From Salonika to America and Back
2nd place: Temu Brown, On My Friends

2004 (17th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Aimée Dowl, Dissecting Meaning from the Parts: the Anatomy of a Personal Collection
2nd place: Heidi Spear, Forbidden Passion into Personal Collection

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Samuel Hirst, Russian Chronicle: A Development in Books
2nd place: Amanda Thatch, My Own Museum

2003 (16th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Michael Murphy, Zap! Pow! Out!: Twentieth Century Queer Comics
2nd place: Steven A. Pijut, Marginally Speaking: A Collection of Modernist and Post-Modernist Texts

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Stephanie Hanson, Constructing Meaning from the World: A Fusion of International Fiction, Poetry and Essays
2nd place: Steve Scharre, Jesus, Muhammad and the Relentless War for Peace

2002 (15th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Kamaal Haque, Half a World Away: History, Ethnography, and Literature of Afghanistan and Pakistan
2nd place: Donna Armistead, Twentieth Century Theatrical Dance Library

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Jennifer Losi, Shelf Life: An Obsession with Collection
2nd place: Brittany Hayden, Archaeology and the Ancient World

2001 (14th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Fran Hooker, Narratives of Exploration
2nd place: Kendall Miller, The Art and Use of the Japanese Sword

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Amanda Verbeck, The Many Faces of Spirituality
2nd place: Nicolas Montemayor, How to be a Working Actor

2000 (13th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Derek Gary Dahlke, Illustrated Books from the Betty Hennessy Project
2nd place: Robin Hermann, Exploring the Fantastic: Science Fiction and Fantasy

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Travis Gosselin, The Great Conversation
2nd place: Garth Hallberg, Studies in Humanity

1999 (12th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Hester Baer, German Cinema: History and Theory
2nd place: Melanie J. Evans, Children’s Books

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Oriana Fox, Stürm und Drawing: A Collection of Fine Art Books
2nd place: Brian Williamson, Paths toward Graphic Satire

1998 (11th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: David Earhart, The Pacific War through Japanese Eyes: Primary Sources, 1931-1948
2nd place: Mary Jean Speare, Nineteenth Century French Opera Collection

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Cosette Reeves, Imagination
2nd place: Eric Strongin, untitled collection of military history, fantasy, science fiction works.

1997 (10th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: No information available
2nd place: No information available

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Khara A. A. Coleman
2nd place: No information available

1996 (9th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Michaela Gieseenkirchen, Works of Gertrude Stein
2nd place: Padraic Kennedy, Irish History

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Shawn Johnson, Philosophy and Theology
2nd place: Joshua Karch, The Bronte Sisters

1995 (8th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Derek Blakeley, Writing Their Own Histories: Memoirs, Autobiographies, and Other Studies By and About British Politicians
2nd place: James McCarter, The Origin, Development, and Pastimes of Multi-cellular Life

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Sarah Frey, Star Trek: Vision for Tomorrow
2nd place: Valerie Montalvo, Why Walk When You Can Fly: The Modern Collection

1994 (7th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Marianne Erickson, The Writing of Uwe Johnson
2nd place: Robert Tripp, English Legal History: Eight Hundred Years of Justice

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Jeremy Wilkins, The J. Patout Burns Divinity Collection
2nd place: Ted Stevco, The Art Form of Cartooning

1993 (6th Annual Competition)

Information not available

1992 (5th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Jeffery W. Zents, The Collection of Philosophers
2nd place: Steven Lewis, Chinese Studies: Politics and Culture

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: John Overholt, The Thirty Years War, 1914-1945
2nd place: Monika K. Norwood, Little Afrika in Big America

1991 (4th Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Daniel Curley, A Burgeoning Library of Greco-Roman Mythology
2nd place: Jennifer K. Mundale, A Philosopher’s Library

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: John Overholt, Dr. Who: 30 Years of the Unknown
2nd place: Douglas A Deden, Fractal Geometry and Chaos Theory

1990 (3rd Annual Competition)

Graduate and Undergraduate Winners
1st place: Elizabeth A. Ambrose
1st place: Adrian Seeser

2nd place: Rebecca Haidt
2nd place: Cinda Ogden

1989 (2nd Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: Rod Shene, The Ache of Modernism: 100 Years of Modern Letters
2nd place: Michael S. Smith, Land Under the Pole Star: Man and the Artic

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: David W. Beisecker, Men of Ideas: Creators of Modern and Contemporary Philosophy
2nd place: Edward C. Rafferty, A Civil War Narrative

1988 (1st Annual Competition)

Graduate Winners
1st place: James Robertson, An Historian’s Working Library
2nd place: Leland J. Scott, Scottish History and Culture: Medieval Emphasis

Undergraduate Winners
1st place: James Kellogg, 19th Century Travel and Adventure in America
2nd place: Alan Weiner, Reading Art

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