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On Libraries: Interview with Jim Luce

What does your library mean to you?

My library is my life. It represents everywhere that I have been, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and everywhere I hope to go. It represents every continent, every faith, every era – from Ancient Greece to the United Nations, from the Social Gospel to the Koran, from Buddha to Gandhi, Churchill, King, and Romero. It also teaches me how to organize and categorize – is it “Literature, France,” or “France. Literature”?

How many books are in your library?

I used to have 2,000 volumes collected over a lifetime, including my college thesis, books by and about my family, and Time-Life and National Geographic volume sets. Years ago, I gave half to the thrift shop – one of the hardest curating projects of my life. I actually have an excel spreadsheet of each book by title and author with the Library of Congress number. Don’t call me obsessive…

What is your favorite genre?

History, biography, and that Mary Renault-like combination of historical fiction. I majored in East Asian Studies with a focus on contemporary Japanese fiction, but have studied in several languages and have Gabriel García Márquez in Spanish, Pramoedya Ananta Toer in German, Hermann Hesse in German, Kōbō Abe in Japanese, and Miguel de Cervantes in Spanish. Chaim Potok, Shyam Selvadurai, Anita Desai, Khaled Hosseine, Chinua Achebe, Mario Vargas Llosa. Eli Wiesel and Kahlil Gibran.

When did you receive your first book? or What was your childhood favorite book?

My family is from Boston and I grew up with Make Way for Ducklings. I also loved Dr. Seuss, and read to my son Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I went to Kindergarten in Paris and loved This is Paris and anything aboutThierry la Fronde. I also loved Asia as a child and delighted in The Story About Ping. Also, The Story of Ferdinand (Leaf)and Everybody Poops (Gomi)are tremendous.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?

I love Japanese literature. Mishima, Oe, Natsume, Tanazaki, Kawabata. My father translated Jules Verne and his The Might Orinoco is one of my favorite books. Madame Chang Kai-Sheck (Li), Catfish and Mandala (Pham), The Last Empress (Pakula), and Rage for Fame and Price of Fame (Morris) are also brilliant. The best book I have read in 2018 is Bekindr: The Transformative Power of Kindness by the incredible humanitarian psychiatrist Dr. Eva Ritvo.

What’s special about your library?

I head two family charities, Orphans International Worldwide, “Raising Global Leaders,” and the James Jay Dudley Lice Foundation, “Supporting Young Global Leadership.” My library contains the 1,000 volumes I believe best support the creation of Global Citizens, embodying the virtues we look for in our embodies the characteristics of our Clare Boothe Luce Award for International Service: honor, intelligence, benevolence and integrity.


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