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Treasured Books

The Five Books You Would Take To A Desert Island And Why

October 22, 2000

Luisa Del Giudice, 44, director, Italian Oral History Institute; visiting professor of Italian folk culture at UCLA.

1. Encyclopaedia Britannica

I was fascinated as a child by the idea that, if I could just read the encyclopedia day after day, I'd know all there was to know. How innocent, and how disrespectful toward lived experience. Still, it really would keep me occupied.

2. "Italian Folktales," selected and retold by Italo Calvino

Oh, to be lost for hours among kings, queens, knights and clever folk heroes--where gratitude, wit and ingenuity are rewarded against arrogance, class privilege and evil. There is little trace of the gore and grimness of the Grimms' tales!

3. "Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town," by Stephen Leacock

These gently satirical views of small-town life at the turn of the 19th century in rural Ontario are by Canada's best-known humorist (in the vein of Mark Twain).

4. "Anne of Green Gables," by Lucy Maud Montgomery

And, on my island, to dream of a happier island, another Canadian setting for a novel in which a spunky, socially disadvantaged orphan--who is intelligent and full of energy, wit, a poetic soul and longing--survives and thrives by dint of determination and willpower. Prince Edward Island, thanks to this book, has always appeared

to be one of those romantic places, an island (although not deserted) where one might lead a gentle, thoughtful life of letters, with chitchat around afternoon tea.

5. The Harry Potter books (four volumes and counting), by J.K. Rowling

I would have to take my husband along, though, for his dramatic readings, complete with varied class and regional accents. Practical magic and good sense and, of course, tales in which humanistic values, personal integrity and an imperfect but good person prevail against the concerted forces of hate and deceit. Full of true folk heroes in the end.

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