Bright Young Collectors: Evan DeTurk

Credit: Shelley Szwast

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Evan DeTurk, an undergraduate student at Princeton University where he was the winner of this year's Elmer Adler Book Collecting Prize.

Where are you from / where do you live?

I grew up in Seattle, Washington, and currently live in Princeton, NJ.

What do you study at University? What do hope to do after you graduate?

I’m currently an undergraduate student studying molecular biology with a minor in jazz studies. I hope to pursue a career in either research, biotechnology, or biorisk, and continue to play and write music on the side.

Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in?

I primarily collect science fiction books and comics and have a collection that is currently split between Seattle and Princeton. At this point, all my purchases are books that I plan to read and I hope to create a collection that showcases the wonderful history and diversity of sci-fi. I especially like to read and collect books that represent important parts of science fiction history, interesting and/or novel subgenres, and stories with different cultural influences.

How many books are in your collection?

According to my trusty spreadsheet, I currently have 45 books, 25 graphic novels/comic collected editions, and 125 single issue comics. People who know me know that I love to make lists and organize things, and my book collection is no exception.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I honestly have no idea when I decided that I was curating a collection and not simply buying books that I liked, but I believe the first book I bought in the current collection was a paperback copy of Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. This book isn’t science fiction in the traditional sense but undoubtedly incorporates elements of the genre and really opened my eyes to the variety within sci-fi.

How about the most recent book?

The most recent book that I bought was a paperback copy of Neuromancer by William Gibson on eBay. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the listing and actually ended up receiving a different cover than I anticipated! Regardless, I’m super excited to read this book as I’m a big fan of the “cyberpunk” (think Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell) sub-genre and Neuromancer is one of its defining literary works.

And your favorite book in your collection?

In terms of both the story and the book itself, this has to be Dune by Frank Herbert. I love the world Herbert created and the themes he explored in the first three books of the series. My copy is a mass market paperback from 1977 that might not seem unique in itself but is special to me as I got it from my aunt when she passed away.

Best bargain you’ve found?

I’ve found plenty of cheap books at thrift shops and used bookstores, but the best bargains have actually been free books that I’ve found left in dorm hallways during move-out at my university. For example, I found a pristine copy of Octavia Butler’s Dawn sitting outside my building’s laundry room this year!

How about The One that Got Away?

The original hardcover version of Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others, his first short story collection. The text itself is another one of my favorites – every story in the book is a winner and the collection showcases how short fiction continues to play a vital role in pushing the ideas of sci-fi forward. The original cover looks amazing but not amazing enough to for me to justify spending the amount of money I’d need to in order to get it. I do have the new paperback version but it’s definitely not the same.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

Someday, I’d like to get a really gorgeous edition of Brave New World. This is not only a wonderful piece of dystopian sci-fi but also a literary classic, and as a result has been published in high-quality formats that most other books I collect will never see. Normally I don’t mind this – I actually love to collect old mass market paperbacks since they help romanticize the old days of sci-fi publication and also fit best in my hands when reading – but there’s something undeniably exciting about owning some sort of fancy leather-bound volume as well. I first read Brave New World before I started collecting so when I decide to re-read it, I might just have to find an outlandishly nice copy.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

I don’t know if I have a favorite off the top of my head, but out of everywhere I’ve been recently, I especially enjoyed my visits to the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA, and Strand Books in New York City.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

While I do also collect pens and baseball caps, I’d love to have a solid vinyl record collection as well. I love to play, write, and listen to music, but only own around ten records at the moment for financial and storage reasons. One space-intensive collection is probably enough for a college student that has to move every year.