Libraries’ Essay Competition Offers Cash Prizes to Students

Reading as a pleasurable act is what Carl Neureuther, a 1940 graduate of the Washington University School of Business, hoped to promote among students when he set up an endowed book fund for the WU Libraries in 1987. Today the fund provides the resources for the annual Neureuther Student Book Collection Essay Competition.

Now in its 32nd year, the contest is open to full-time Washington University graduates and undergraduates who love 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 share genre preferences and literary inspirations and to reflect upon the pleasures of reading. Past winners have showcased book collections of all kinds, from ancient Greek texts and acting handbooks to the novels of the Brontë sisters.

Last year, Paul Tran, a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow in Washington University’s writing program, took first place in the graduate category for “I Want to Say It Plain.” Ena Selimovic, a doctoral candidate in comparative literature, won second place in the graduate category for “JaBenIJe : A Book Collection in Translation.” Comparative literature and Spanish major Misael de la Rosa won first place in the undergraduate category for “Coleccionista de Recuerdos: Memories of a Collector.” The award for second place went to undergrad Natalie Snyder for her essay “The Messy Truth: A Portrait of a Girl through her Books.”

The entry deadline for the 2019 Neureuther Student Book Collection Essay Competition is Monday, March 4. 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.

Entry forms, examples of winning essays, and information on how to enter are online here. Students should deliver their materials to the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections on the main level of Olin Library weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. Entries must be received by 5 p.m. Monday, March 4. Winners will be announced in late March.

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


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