One for the Books

As a standout student in the University of Illinois’ top-ranked Library and Information Science program, Jesus Espinoza is about as big of a bookworm as they come.

By Michelle Criqui, James Madison University


When it comes to preserving useful data for generations to come, graduate student and future librarian Jesus Espinoza is excited for what lies ahead.

After earning his BA in English at San Jose State University in 2012, Espinoza went on to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue a Masters in Library and Information Science in one of the most uniquely flexible graduate programs in the country.

Since the program individualizes study based on student interest, Espinoza has chosen a Digital Preservation concentration, which focuses on developing techniques to preserve valuable information for the future. His goal is to one day lend a hand in implementing digital reformatting labs in academic libraries across the country.

I spoke with Espinoza over the phone to get a bookworm’s opinion on the state of literature.

Michelle Criqui: All-time favorite book?

Jesus Ivan Espinoza: “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

MC: If you could get coffee with any author, dead or alive, who would it be?

JIE: Maya Angelou.

MC: What’s on the top of your to-read list?

JIE: “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan and “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara, which I’ve heard is life-changing.

MC: Thoughts on eReaders?

JIE: They’re great [because] they’ve gotten a lot of people to read who previously wouldn’t have picked up a physical book. And they’re great for accessibility, as before eReaders libraries would have to order large-print books for people that don’t see as well. But personally, for my own reading, I still just use printed books.

MC: If you could visit any library in the world, where would you visit?

JIE: St. Trinity College in Ireland. I’ve seen pictures and it just looks so beautiful. Also, I think the main reading room was the inspiration for the library in “Star Wars.” Then there’s the Jose Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City, which has these really cool hanging shelves that would be cool to see.

MC: If you could be any book character for a day, who would you be?

JIE: The first thing that came to mind was Matilda. She’s so passionate about reading, and she has superpowers.

MC: How is your personal book collection organized?

JIE: I have it by author, but then I started moving things and now it’s really unorganized. I do keep fiction and nonfiction separate, though.

MC: Writing in the margins of your books: Yay or Nay?

JIE: I sometimes underline a passage that I really like. As long as it’s your personal copy, and not a library copy, it’s fine.

4 Bookworm Recommendations

1. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

“I know a lot of people read it in high school, but I think it should be recommended reading for the entire human race. It’s a powerful story, and it’s really, really beautiful. It’s set shortly after the end of slavery, and the protagonist is a former slave. A lot of it is dealing with that—reclaiming one’s own freedom. It’s one thing to have laws that say that you’re free, and it’s another thing for you to believe that, truly.”

2. “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward

“It’s a really beautiful coming-of-age story. It reminds me a little bit of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” where they have a sort of innocent protagonist. There’s this danger that’s coming, but they’re not really sure how big the storm is going to be, and it’s this beautiful symbol.”

3. “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“It’s [about] an African-American dad writing letters to his son, reacting to, questioning and even explaining a lot of the events that have been happening in the country recently, in terms of police brutality and murders of black people. It is very heartbreaking, in the way that [he tries] to make sense out of these things that happen, and it’s really interesting that it’s from the perspective of a father to his son.”

4. “1Q84” by Haruki Marakami

“It has a lot of magical realism [and] alternate universes. There’s this plot with a cult, [and] it has a character that’s going to be an assassin, so it has a little bit of everything. And it’s all set in Japan.”

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