Lists of the year’s best books are prolific this time of year and go from very general to very specific. Best books of 2013. The year’s most notable books. Best novels for the year. Best history books. Young adult, cookbooks, science, humor, art, and more all have a list. NPR alone has 26 different subject areas into which it’s compiled “great reads” for 2013. Readers can derive satisfaction simply by reading the lists, remembering their favorites of the year and adding to their own “must read” lists. And Seattle has no shortage of readers. In the rankings of America’s Most Literate Cities, Seattle has placed in one of the top three spots since 2005, including landing at number one several times.
So, if you were a college student with a love of reading and some unexpected cash in your pocket, what would you buy?
Roman Camarda, ’13, had $75 to put toward whatever books he wanted. As he considered what he wanted to read, he realized that never before had he been able to spend money on multiple books that weren’t textbooks for a class. This $75 enabled him to simply buy books through which he could intellectually wander. The Honors Program grad bought “two books by [Jean Baudrillard] a French philosopher I’m currently digging who has interesting things to say about nothingness, disappearance, and photography, a book by Roland Barthes that’s a classical critical consideration of photography, and a book by Jean-Luc Nancy about drawing as a concept.”
Camarda graduated with degrees in the seemingly disparate fields of biochemistry and photomedia. The interdisciplinary nature of the Honors Program facilitated Camarda’s ability to connect the dots of his majors and inspired an unusual donation to support other Honors students and encourage broad reading.
After his book-buying experience, Camarda devised a novel scholarship—novel as in new, not fiction. Camarda started a scholarship program for students pursuing the College Honors track to buy books that further inspire their interdisciplinary interests. He has committed to giving $250 to one student each year to buy books that are not textbooks. To apply for the funding, students create a thoughtful wish list of interdisciplinary reading and a short statement describing how their book choices reflect their interdisciplinary interests.
Now a graduate student in biomedical science at UC San Francisco, Camarda hopes to grow the gift amount over the years. He started at $250 because “that’s an amount I can happily provide as a grad student, and then in a couple years when I hopefully become a post-doc and get a raise we can re-evaluate the amount.”
That sounds like a “happily ever after” ending for a lot of Honors students in the coming years!