UCSD Libraries' 5th Annual Summer Reading Contest Draws to a Close, Breaking Records for Most Books Read, Number of Books Reviewed

UC San Diego community of readers devour more than 1250 books since May 2008

Carol Hobson

September 2, 2008 – They came, they checked out books, and they read. And read, and read, and read. Everything from great classics like "Bleak House" (Charles Dickens), "1984" (George Orwell), and "Catch-22" (Joseph Heller) to more obscure works like "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" (Marian Lewycka). This year's 239 participants also turned over the leaves of offbeat works such as "The Left-handed Book: An Investigation into the Sinister History of Left-handedness " (Michael Barsley) as well as somewhat creepy books for those drawn to the dark side like "Zombie Culture: Autopsies of the Living Dead" (Shawn McIntosh) and "Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers" (Mary Roach).

Black Amber

And, while books clearly took center stage in the UCSD Libraries' Summer Reading Contest this year, a distinct minority of the 239 participants chose to read not books, but government documents like the Caltrans classic "Historic Highway Bridges of California" or the San Diego Association of Governments' (SANDAG) scintillating "25 Years of Crime in the San Diego Region." Aside from government documents, virtually all genres were represented in thi s year's contest, from poetry, plays, and graphic novels to science fiction, history, and biographies, to young adult and "chick" lit.

Born Free and Equal

"In case anybody had any doubt, this years' Summer Reading Contest makes it clear that the UCSD campus is an engaged community of voracious, curious readers," said Mariah Burzynski, outreach coordinator for the UCSD Social Sciences & Humanities Library, which sponsors the annual reading contest. "A total of 1257 book reviews were submitted by readers this year, mostly UCSD staff members but also faculty, students, alumni, and UCSD friends and supporters. This compares to 734 book reviews submitted in last year's contest so our participation rates are really trending upward."

Breakfast of Champions

Readers dispatched reviews in a variety of categories such as fiction; non-fiction; science and nature; body, mind, and spirit; mysteries; and thrillers. Awards were doled out in numerous unique categories such as: Roger Recruit Extraordinaire (best use of the Libraries' online Roger catalog), Marybeth Ward; Stage to Page, Justine Hence; and Proustian Moments, Alyssa Aguilar. The Food for Thought Award was given to Claudia Erlich for her "enticing" review of "Twinkie, Deconstructed" by Steve Ettinger, which revealed "the whole agri-industrial complex involved in the making of a Hostess Twinkie."


The top award for most books read, also known as the Time Is No Obstacle Award, was given to Carol Hobson, who shattered the 2006 individual book reading record of 66 books by digesting a total of 99 books. Hobson, who works as an assistant director of development in External Relations, was a member of the award-winning team, A Novel Approach, which submitted a total of 150 book reviews.

Paula Deen

A life-long reader and UCSD alumna, Hobson ('84) spent many hours in Geisel Library as a student in the early 1980s. During the contest, she found many of her books via the Libraries' Roger online catalog and at other times, she would wander through the stacks and randomly pick out books in certain sections. By employing the "random walk" method, she says , she found many intriguing works–by writers ranging from Yoko Tawada to Steve Martin–as well as books by Indian writers, including one of her favorites, Salman Rushdie.

Spring Awakening

"I appreciate a well-written book in any genre," said Hobson. "This competition certainly challenged me to try authors whom I had never read nor heard of before. I wanted to use the competition to open up my reading options and stimulate me in new ways. While I've always read science fiction, classics, comedies, and biographies, during this contest I gravitated to the graphic novels section of Geisel Library on the 7th floor for some quick and easy reads. Surprisingly, I found some of them to be just as poignant and interesting as some of the traditional novels I read."

Participants in the Libraries' 5th Annual Summer Reading Contest were feted at a recent luncheon to celebrate the readers and their accomplishments. Award winners went home with a variety of gifts and services, including free IMAX movie passes, gift certificates from various San Diego book stores, tickets to the La Jolla Playhouse, complimentary hotel stays, and museum memberships. Sponsors of this year's contest include: Levenger; Legoland; La Jolla Playhouse; San Diego Historical Society; the Padres; Scripps Birch Aquarium; and Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa.

Ranked among the nation's top academic research libraries, the UC San Diego Libraries play an integral role in advancing and supporting the university's research, teaching, patient care, and public service missions. As the intellectual heart of the UC San Diego campus, the nine university libraries provide access to more than 7 million digital and print volumes, journals, and multimedia materials to meet the knowledge and information needs of scholars, students, and the public.

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