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Xavier Gonzalez ’18 Wins Award from Library of Congress

Xavier Gonzalez, Class of 2018, was the first prize winner in last year’s Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize competition.

Xavier presenting at the Library of Congress

On October 20, Xavier González18 won third place in the Library of Congress’s National Collegiate Book-Collecting Contest for his collection of “Books That Count” in a ceremony in Washington, DC.

A math major at Harvard, Xavier learned to love the subject through storytelling. His favorite book growing up was The Number Devil, the story of a third-grader who struggles in a boring math class until the mysterious “Number Devil” introduces him to number theory. “I am reminded that the Spanish language uses the same verb—contar—for counting numbers and telling a story,” Gonzalez said. “For me, mathematics is a story, with a beginning and a middle, but with no end.  So, too, my collection of math books.”

Xavier started collecting at a young age by finding childhood fables and fairytales around his home that became the foundation of his collection. Eventually, he widened his search by exploring school and local libraries for ideas and then acquiring the books. His collection evolved over time; from math fables to competitive math books, and eventually to masterpieces of advanced math. He was the first prizewinner in last year’s Undergraduate Book Collecting competition.

His collection, “Books That Count,” now includes physically beautiful volumes such Gauss’s Disquisitiones Arithmeticae along with well-worn paperbacks from Amazon. “It’s not the binding, but rather the ideas bound up in them, that have counted in my calculus of book selection,” he said. The books he treasures the most are gifts from family, teachers, and friends.

The title of the collection asserts that math touches on every aspect of life. “Everyone can come to love math though our fundamental need to tell and hear and share stories,” Xavier said. “As my abuelita Nelly once told me, counting numbers is like telling a story. Books can count. Books do count. And I will continue to count on them to illuminate the wider worlds of mathematics and human experience. My collection of math books has become my story.”

By Kaitlin Buckley, Harvard Library Communications.

Published on November 29, 2017.