Five Young Women With Prize-Winning Book Collections

From The Paris Review:

In 2017, Honey & Wax Booksellers established an annual prize for American women book collectors, aged 30 years and younger. The idea took shape when Heather O’Donnell and Rebecca Romney, the bookstore’s owners, observed that “the women who regularly buy books from us are less likely to call themselves “collectors” than the men, even when those women have spent years passionately collecting books.” By providing a financial incentive, and a forum in which to celebrate and share their collections, O’Donnell and Romney hope to encourage a new generation of women. As they say, “The act of collecting books is often a private and obsessive pursuit, and that’s part of its appeal, but collecting is also a way to connect with others: to inform those who share your interests, and to inspire those who don’t share them yet. And by rescuing and recontextualizing pieces of the historical record, collectors contribute to a larger conversation across generations.” This year, one contestant wrote to them, ““I already feel more like a real collector just by applying for this prize.”

We are pleased to unveil the winner of the 2018 Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, who will receive a thousand dollars, as well as four honorable mentions, who will each receive two hundred and fifty dollars.

. . . .


Jessica Jordan: The work of American illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon

Jessica Jordan, 27, is a former bookseller and current graduate student in English at Stanford. She has collected books designed by prolific American illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon. The Dillons’ experience as interracial partners (in life and work) informed their approach to graphic design over five decades. “We decided early in our career that we wanted to represent all races and show people that were rarely seen,” they wrote. Famously versatile and productive, the Dillons collaborated on an untold number of commercial book projects, from pulp science fiction (winning the Hugo Award for Best Artist) to children’s stories (winning the Caldecott Medal, twice) to iconic paperback editions of James Baldwin, Madeleine L’Engle, Chinua Achebe, and Isabel Allende. Jordan notes that “the Dillons’ work is unsigned on many of their early book covers – meaning that the burden of identification is left solely to my own abilities . . . as I have grown my collection, I have also been training my eye to see what others don’t, and nothing else puts a spring in a book collector’s step quite like that feeling.”

. . . .

Honey & Wax says, “We admired the depth of Jordan’s collection, and the sense of discovery that animates it, especially as it relates to previously uncredited Dillon titles, and to the afterlife of the Dillons’ imagery in the Black Power movement.”

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Is PG alone in feeling this is a bit strange as a topic for The Paris Review? Other articles on the current website include, “Dorothy Parker, The Art of Fiction No. 13” and “Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters on Grief.”

PG has nothing against Ms. Jordan (and wishes her well in her studies and her collecting), book collectors, book collections, women (regardless of what they collect or don’t) or Honey & Wax, whose slogan is: “Use books as bees use flowers.”

But a prize for “American women book collectors, aged 30 years and younger” to be featured in The Paris Review? Are there prizes for British women book collectors, aged 30 years and younger? Spanish women book collectors, aged 31-35? Old book collectors? Czech book collectors or (heaven forfend!) any subset of male book collectors?

To demonstrate he finds nothing intrinsically wrong with book collections or photos of book collections, here is a random photo of a portion of one of the physical bookshelves lurking in the bowels of Casa PG which The Paris Review is free to republish. (PG expects no prizes and realizes there are no discernable principles of organization governing his bookshelves.)


12 thoughts on “Five Young Women With Prize-Winning Book Collections”

  1. 1) Is it possible for “young” people to have important book collections? Aren’t both money & time required?

    2)Random shelfery of every book ever purchased is… inadequate as a distinguishing characteristic. My husband and I have 1400 boxes of books today, in addition to the 28 filled book cases in our (small) log cabin. What do you think we were like at 30, eh? When we thought we would live forever and never move?

    3) I had, at 20, a couple of thousand SFF mass market paperbacks. I’d stack them, double-deep, on the usual collegiate plank-and-cinder-block 8′ bookcase, and then my roommates and I (with a bit of drink/other taken) would discuss where we could go to cast them into an acrylic block and whether or not that would make a good table, or half-wall, or whatever.

    Sheesh! Collectors at 30…

  2. “But a prize for “American women book collectors, aged 30 years and younger” to be featured in The Paris Review?”

    Almost makes one think they had nothing to say – but had to say something to fill the required space/time.

    If it helps, think of it like those people that were ‘voting’ for who should be the next (if any ever will be) CEO for B&N. A complete waste of time – but they feel good that they are ‘doing something’ they for some reason think was positive.

    • Buying paper books and keeping them is a good thing and to be encouraged. Buying paper books and reselling them is a bad thing and is to be frowned upon. Buying ebooks is unspeakably gauche and shall not be spoken of.

  3. I see fiction and non-fiction mixed together in no discernible order. How do you find anything PG?

    (I love seeing other people’s bookshelves. Someone did Neil Gaiman’s and they’re now part of my monitor’s wallpaper collection.)

    • Bill – I’m not certain how the books in the photo ended up in the same general area.

      While Mrs. PG and I have donated lots of boxes of physical books to the local library (think of using a hand truck for moving boxes on several trips back and forth from an SUV), we still have about ten bookcases (each about six feet tall) that are pretty well jammed. My only future interaction with 95% of the remaining books is likely to involve a hand truck again.

      Although we have a lot of physical books, neither of us really consults or reads them anymore. I have a general recollection of the contents of the books I’ve read that are included in the photo (the nonfiction titles), but I don’t think I’ll ever have a reason to open them again.

      If I want to know about something contained in the books, I’m almost certain to look it up from reliable sources online where I can locate the information much more quickly than by thumbing through the physical book.

      It’s been several years since I have purchased a physical book because I prefer the reading experience of ebooks on an ereader to dealing with the same content in physical form.

      I read in bed or lying on a sofa virtually every evening and prefer the physical experience of reading books like “The Threatening Storm” on a light-weight Kindle Paperwhite rather than having a 500-page hardcover sitting on my chest.

      These are purely personal attitudes and at an earlier pre-internet stage of my life, I would almost certainly have rearranged the books in the photo if Mrs. PG hadn’t beaten me to the task. One of the ways I worked my way through college was by working at the main university library reshelving books.

      • It’s always interesting to learn about other people’s habits.

        I love having books around, ever since I stumbled on a university library’s book sale. Between my wife and I, we’ve built up a collection of about 8,000 books, and built a lot of 2-foot-wide bookshelves to line the walls with them.

        So I have a fiction section, alphabatized, and huge sections of nonfiction: a main section of histories arranged by year / era, and specific subjects, such as Mark Twain, biographies, essays, Hollywood, graphic novels, sewing, gardening, money and financial, writing books, royalty and presidential.

        Many of them are meant to be culled for future books.

        Over the years, we’ve been culling our fiction section, keeping the ones I want to read or read again.

        Like you, I read a lot of ebooks, but I don’t buy that many. When I was writing my TwainLock stories, I had a ton of public domain works by Twain and Conan Doyle on my Kindle Touch. I do a lot of bedtime reading, so I have a lot of Neil Gaiman and P.G. Wodehouse on it, too, plus cheap ebooks by indie writers, or discounted works by Terry Pratchett and Rex Stout.

        Otherwise, I’m online too much to enjoy reading on my kindle. I have a lot of coffee table books that simply can’t translate to the small screen. And we’re always going to library book sales to add more!

  4. I would very much like a prize for Elderly Women Collectors of the Works of Robert Burns and Related Volumes. I have two shelves full at least with a few more scattered about the house, most of them bought for very little on eBay. Oh and a small, beautiful Old Testament with a tooled leather herringbone binding that was once owned by the cousin of the errant husband of Nancy McLehose, aka Burns’s Clarinda, for whom he wrote Ae Fond Kiss. She was called Elizabeth McLehose, but when she wrote it in the back of the book, she spelled it Elizebath. I reckon I should get a prize for spotting that one in our local saleroom and guessing at the connection! I had a heap of books when I was under thirty but I never really thought of it as a collection.

    • Some of us don’t have book collections but rather accumulations. We buy whatever book catches our fancy, we read it, it accumulates.

      No expectations of being celebrated by a lit’rary ragazine, especially those burdened by a y-chromosome. 🙂

      • Accumulation is exactly right. I recently did some book clearing in our son’s old room (he’s working in the Czech Republic at the moment) and took several boxes as well as some of my own to the local charity shop. Couldn’t understand how when I replaced all the precious stuff that he still wants and needs in spite of living a long way away, there didn’t seem to be any more space on the shelves than there had been in the first place.

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