September 22, 2009 – The end of summer and the beginning of Fall quarter signals a familiar rite of passage on the UC San Diego campus– the end of the UCSD Libraries' Annual Summer Reading Contest. Participants in this year's contest, which included 213 staff, students, faculty, and alumni, as well as members of the local community, reviewed more books–1265– than in previous years.
Books read by contestants ran the gamut from poetry, memoirs, and biographies, to graphic novels, science fiction, and mysteries. Fashionistas submitted reviews on books about the collections of Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves St. Laurent along with "Catwalk: Inside the World of the Supermodel" (by Sandra Morris), and "Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe" (by Elizabeth Semmelhack). The contest also attracted readers with a more serious literary bent, who turned in book reviews on the novels of Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Vladimir Nabokov, and Thomas Mann.
Those with a taste for the theatrical were also well represented among this year's contestants. Readers turned in multiple reviews of plays by Shakespeare, including "Othello," "Henry VI," "Richard III," "Antony and Cleopatra," and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Death was clearly on the agenda for many of this year's readers, although it ranged from the delicious–"Death By Chocolate Redux" (by David Yurkovich)– to the academic–"Death, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature" (by Kathryn James)–to the definitive–"Definitely Dead" (by Charlaine Harris). Francophile foodies feasted on "Julia Child: My Life in France" and "Confessions of a French Baker" (by Peter Mayle), while Japanophiles soaked up all things Zen with books on Ikebana, the gardens of Kyoto, and Isamu Noguchi.
As in years past, the majority of the items read and reviewed were in fact traditional books. However, there were some exceptions, including e-books, government documents, and research papers. Less conventional reading selections included: "Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific," (J. Maarten Troost); an official FBI report on the Hell's Angels; "Flush: Modern Toilet Design," (Ingrid Wenz-Gahler); and "California Honey and How To Use It," (State of California Beekeeper's Association).
"The results of this years' Summer Reading Contest indicate that we have a very diverse and literate community of readers at UC San Diego," said Mariah Burzynski, outreach coordinator for the UCSD Social Science & Humanities Library. "While concerns have been expressed that reading is becoming a lost art, our contest participation rates show that on our campus, reading for pleasure is more popular than ever. We received more book reviews than ever before, and the works of William Shakespeare proved to be just as popular as books by contemporary writers like David Sedaris and J.K. Rowling. We also are seeing increased participation by our student body, both undergraduates and graduates."
Awards were bestowed to outstanding readers in a variety of unique categories such as: University Librarian Award (the University Librarian's favorite review), which went to Valerie Polichar, for her artful review of "The Loop" (by Joe Coomer) ; the Healthy Choice award, given to Caroline Sul, for her review of "In Defense of Food" ( by Michael Pollan), and her enlightened musings on her own diet; and Best Pan award, which went to Michelle Ransom, for her meticulous attention to every typo and grammatical glitch in her reviews.
Johnny Nguyen was this year's recipient of the Intrepid Reader award, for his willingness to follow his eclectic passions in his reading selections, from books on the sea slugs of the Red Sea, edible plants, and aerial dance, to the fashion designs of Versace and Zen gardens of Japan. Michael Stevens, the winner of the Friends of the UCSD Libraries' Intrepid Explorer award, was recognized for his persistence in delving deep into the stacks in Geisel Library to uncover hidden treasures, many of them decidedly quirky. His finds included a novel version of the Tao Te Ching by sixties guru Timothy Leary.
The top award for most books read, also known as the Time Is No Obstacle Award, was bestowed to Cesar Figueroa, who broke last year's individual book reading record of 99 books by devouring a total of 184 volumes. Figueroa is both a UCSD graduate student who is a doctoral candidate in the Education Studies Program, and an assistant resident dean at Warren College. During the contest, he visited Geisel Library every week. While he loves to read for his own pleasure, he also wanted to set a good example for his nieces and nephews.
"The Summer Reading Contest was my way of showing my nieces and nephews that reading could be fun, and that the library was more than a place to study," said Figueroa. "They are at a point in their development when reading can be seen as cool or not cool at all, so I really wanted to show them how much fun they could have participating in a summer reading contest at their local library."
Figueroa, who collects comic books, especially likes to read graphic novels. He works and goes to school full-time so participating in the Summer Reading Contest allowed him to take advantage of books he always wanted to read but never had the time to get to during the academic year.
"I love that I can reserve books at the UCSD Libraries online and have them waiting for me on the hold shelf," said Figueroa. "It saves so much time, especially since most of my free time is spent writing my dissertation nowadays. Being able to read a good book is also a great way to relieve stress."
Figueroa especially likes the works of Neil Gaiman, and Jodi Picoult, but found that the contest helped him to explore new writers in the graphic novel genre, such as Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, and Grant Morrison. He is also a fan of Dr. Seuss and enjoys visiting the annual exhibits of his work from the UCSD Libraries' Dr. Seuss Collection at Geisel Library.
Participants of the Libraries' 6h Annual Summer Reading Contest were honored at a recent luncheon to celebrate the readers and their accomplishments. Award winners went home with a variety of gifts and services, including gift certificates from various San Diego establishments, free tickets from the La Jolla Playhouse, complimentary hotel stays, and museum memberships and passes. Sponsors of this year's contest include: Levenger; Friends of the UCSD Libraries; La Jolla Playhouse; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; San Diego Historical Society; Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa; Adams Avenue Bookstore; Best Western Inn By the Sea at La Jolla; Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Children's Museum of San Diego; San Diego Chargers; Great News; Hornblower Cruises & Events; La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club; Sycuan Resort & Casino; UCSD Faculty Club; Westgate Hotel; Moondoggies; Pala Casino; Resort & Spa; Target; Ruby's Diner; Viejas Casino; San Diego Symphony; Ciao Bella Hair Salon; and Chinaberry.
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