Exhibitions: Winners of the 2020 Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize

January 15, 2021

This past December, HLB announced that Alan Tu ('23) had won first place in the 2020 Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize, which is awarded annually to promote book collecting by Harvard undergraduates. In addition to a $3,000 award, Alan's achievement was recognized through a virtual exhibition created from his essay, “Found in Translation: Contemporary World Fiction Revisited.”

Three other students were also awarded prizes, and exhibitions created from their essays are now on Harvard Library's website. Each exhibit contains their essays, collection bibliographies, images, and more.

Second-place winner is Daniel Sherman (’21) for“Unweeded: Guides to Villainous Vegetation.” A senior and life-long resident of the City of Boston, he concetrates in Biomedical Engineering with a secondary field in Environmental Science and Public Policy. He writes, “Weeds are weeds because they are disruptors, because they represent a failure of absolute control over our built environment, because they do not conform. And yet, they are beautiful.” He vividly recalls a childhood encounter with a huge, “freaky” plant that his gardener father dismissed as a weed. His curiosity about that plant led to his discovery of plant and field guides and an abiding interest in plant species—weedy, poisonous—that most people would like to avoid. He began collecting guides and, after documenting numerous species with his own camera, wrote one himself at the age of 12. 

Tied for third place are Perry Arrasmith (’20) and Pranati Parikh (’21).

Arrasmith graduated in May with a concentration in History, and secondary field in Government. He hails from from Ewa Beach, Hawaiʻi, located on the leeward coast of Oʻahu. His essay, “Paradise Sought and Collected: My Search for Hawai’i and Home,” highlights his collection of books on Hawaiʻian history, local affairs, and the role of race in Hawaiʻi culture. His collection reflects “my journey to better understand the complicated socio-cultural, political, and economic forces which define the islands; it has been a way for me to comprehend my place as a haole, or local white of Hawaiʻi, in the state’s ‘melting-pot’ of various identities.”

Parikh is a senior from Hannibal, Missouri who concentrates jointly in Religion and Comparative Literature and is involved with the Interfaith Forum and Dharma, Harvard’s Hindu students’ association. Her essay, “Learning a Life: Interacting with the Hindu Guru on the Shelf and in Practice,” discusses how she began reading and collecting books about past and current gurus of her Hindu religious community “in order to negotiate my relationship both with the figure of the guru and with religion broadly.” Her pursuit of books in the Midwest, New England, and India—along with the mentorship she received at the temples she has visited—continue to motivate her “to find meaning in religion still to this day.”

All Harvard College students are eligible to apply for the 2021 Collecting Prize; the first-round deadline is January 29, 2021. Click for information on the application guidelines and process, or email Lynn Sayers with questions.