2021 Captivating Duke Summer Reads

Need something new on your nightstand? Looking for an escape from ZOOM? Or need your next book club selection? We've got you covered! It’s all the pleasures of a reading list, without the book report.

We asked some of Duke's most popular faculty members to contribute to the first Lifelong Learning summer reading list. In addition to the book titles, you'll find a list of questions for you to consider while you read, a direct link to purchase each book, information links for each faculty author along with book introduction videos. 


Survival of the Friendliest

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. Do animals have minds and does it tell us anything about ourselves?
  2. What can dogs teach us about love and friendship?
  3. Are humans more like bonobos or chimpanzees?
  4. Can there ever be so much love that it leads to hate?
  5. How can we have a friendlier future?


Dr. Brian Hare is a core member of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience, a Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology, and Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2004, and in 2005, following his work at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig was awarded the Sofia Kovalevskaja Award, Germany's most prestigious award for scientists under 40. In 2007, Smithsonian Magazine named Hare one of the top 35 scientists under 36. Hare has published over 100 scientific papers and his research has received consistent national and international attention. In 2019, Hare and his research were featured in Steven Speilberg's documentary series Why We Hate.

Vanessa Woods is a Research Scientist in Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University and an award winning writer and journalist. Woods received the Australiasian Science award for journalism in 2004. In 2010, her book Bonobo Handshake: A memoir of Love and Adventure in Congo won the Thomas Lowell award for non fiction and her children's book, It's True, Space Turns You Into Spaghetti was named an Acclaimed Book by the Royal Society in 2007. Her books have been translated into 12 languages.

Hare and Woods live together with their dog Congo in North Carolina. Their first book together, The Genius of Dogs was a New York Times Bestseller.

Amazing Decisions

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What are the main drivers that motivate you at your work?
  2. What are the main drivers that motivate you in your social life?
  3. To what extent do you think carbon trading is going to be an effective method for fighting global warming?
  4. What makes a good gift?
  5. What is the best way to split bills in restaurants with friends?


Despite our intentions, why do we so often fail to act in our own best interest? Why do we promise to skip the chocolate cake, only to find ourselves drooling our way into temptation when the dessert tray rolls around? Why do we overvalue things that we've worked to put together? What are the forces that influence our behavior? Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University, is dedicated to answering these questions and others in order to help people live more sensible - if not rational - lives. His interests span a wide range of behaviors, and his sometimes unusual experiments are consistently interesting, amusing and informative, demonstrating profound ideas that fly in the face of common wisdom.

He is a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, co-creator of the film documentary (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies, and a three-time New York Times bestselling author. His books include Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, Irrationally Yours, Payoff, Dollars and Sense and Amazing Decisions.

Dan can be found at www.danariely.com.

The Day the Sun Died

Carlos Rojas, Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, and Cinematic Arts

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. In his 2014 acceptance speech upon being awarded the Franz Kafka Prize, Yan Lianke proposed that "It is a writer's job to find life within . . . darkness." What does darkness represent in this novel, and wherein lies the possibility of life?
  2. What is the significance of somnambulism ("dream-walking") in the novel? And of the "corpse oil" that is produced as a by-product of human cremation?
  3. The novel's narrator is a young boy who is regarded by the community as slow and dimwitted, but who wants to become a novelist when he grows up. One of his neighbors, meanwhile, is a fictional character by the name of Yan Lianke, who continually references his own earlier works (which are all distorted versions of the author's actual works), and who states that he plans to write a novel about the events that he witnesses during the night of somnambulism. How do you understand the significance of this (seemingly) unreliable narrator and his novelist neighbor?
  4. At a pivotal point in the narrative, time literally stops. What do you think is the significance of this?
  5. Finally, the novel's conclusion ends with a gesture of self-sacrifice that invites comparisons to events ranging from the crucifixion of Christ to the rash of public self-immolations of Chinese Fanlun gong supporters in the early 2000s. How do you interpret the significance of the novel's ending?


Carlos Rojas has been teaching at Duke since 2009, before which he taught at the University of Florida. While teaching at Florida and Duke, he has also held visiting appointments at MIT, Yan, and National Taiwan University. He is the former president of the Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature, and is the founding co-director of the Humanities Research Center at Duke Kunshan University. His research focuses on modern Chinese culture, with an emphasis on issues of gender and sexuality, nationalism and ethnicity, migration and diaspora, visuality and mediality. Since 2007, he has authored, edited, and translated twenty-five books, including four monographs, eight co-edited volumes, and thirteen works of literary translation. He is Yan Lianke's primary English-language translator, having translated all but-two of the author's twelve titles currently available in English. His translations have been awarded or shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the prestigious Man Booker International Prize.

Black Man in a White Coat

3 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What are three interrelated reasons why Black people in the U.S. have worse health outcomes across most measures?
  2. What challenges are more common to Black medical students and physicians compared to their non-Black colleagues?
  3. What obligation does Duke (and similar institutions) have in promoting the health of its surrounding communities?


Damon Tweedy, MD is an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine and a staff psychiatrist within the Durham Veteran Affairs Health Care System. He completed both medical school and his specialty training at Duke.

Dr. Tweedy has written extensively about the intersection of race and medicine, both in academic journals and popular print publications. His 2015 book, Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine, made the New York Times bestseller list and was selected by TIME Magazine as a top non-fiction book that year.

The Bond

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. The Bond introduces an ecological sustainable, utopian matriarchal society that excludes men based on their penchant for violence and domination. In what ways does this create the very bias, violence and domination that the Weave seeks to extinguish?
  2. What aspects of life within The Bounty mirrors real life human rights issues?
  3. In what ways has propaganda been interwoven into both societies?
  4. How does Dinitra's views of motherhood, love and loyalty - in a world of engineered humans - evolve over the course of the book?
  5. How does the book's title, "The Bond" manifest within the story?


Kirk is the author of numerous books, short stories, essays, and poems. The Bond is her fantasy trilogy: The Bond, The Hive Queen, and The Mother's Wheel. Kirk's short story, "Love is a Wild Creature," is included in Wicked South. Her travel essay on Belfast was featured in the Best American Travel Writing 2012 edited by William T. Vollman. Her chapbook poetry collection, Peculiar Motion, is available from Finishing Line Press. Her poem, "Imperator Furiosa posts a status update," is included in the 2017 Nasty Women Poets Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press). Kirk has also published two non-fiction books. She teaches human rights at Duke University.

Streams of Revenue: The Restoration Economy and the Ecosystems it Creates

Author Martin Doyle, Professor of River Science & Policy, Nicholas School of Environment. Director, Water Policy, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. Why do we in America think markets are necessary, or better, than traditional regulations-based approach for providing environmental protection and conservation?
  2. If a scientist or engineer told you that they had "restored a stream", what do you think the stream would look like?
  3. A Duke scientist, a private sector engineer, and a government agency employee walk into a bar: who do you believe to design the "best" stream?
  4. Given what we found for the stream ecosystem market, what kind of ecosystems could we expect to be created by the carbon market?
  5. Can businesses, or investors, save the earth?


Martin Doyle is a Professor at Duke University focused on rivers. Doyle splits his time at Duke between the Nicholas School of the Environment-a traditional academic unit focused on basic research and education-and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy-a think tank that focuses on pragmatic policy approaches to environmental issues. He has also held positions at the Department of Interior and the US Army Corps of Engineers, and continues to lead the annual water program with the Aspen Institute.

Doyle's research and teaching ranges from fluid mechanics and sediment transport to infrastructure finance and federal water policy. In addition to journal articles and law reviews, he has published two books. The Source (WW Norton) - a history of America's rivers - received numerous academic awards, and was selected by Amazon as one of the top 10 books in history for 2018. His second book, Streams of Revenue (with Rebecca Lave, MIT Press), is one of the first of its type to study the social causes of, and the actual ecosystems created by environmental markets. He is currently working on a book focused on the history of water and finance in American cities.

Doyle has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation, and has been selected by the National Academy of Sciences as a Kavli Fellow for the frontiers of science; he recently retired from a mediocre career coaching little league baseball.

Citizens By Degree: Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Citizenship

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What is the significance of higher education policy for democracy?
  2. How have the challenges facing U.S. higher education policy changed since the mid-twentieth century? How have they remained the same?
  3. What ethical dilemmas did policy entrepreneurs grapple with as they worked to get landmark higher education programs passed?
  4. How has the politics of crisis been used to promote equal opportunity in the U.S.?
  5. Can lessons from history help us solve contemporary problems? How or why not


Deondra Rose is an Associate Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and History at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. She is also the Director of Polis: Center for Politics at Duke University and co-director of the North Carolina Scholars Strategy Network (SSN). Her research focuses on U.S. higher education policy, political behavior, American political development, and the politics of inequality. She is the author of Citizens By Degree: Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Politics (Oxford University Press 2018), which examines the role that landmark federal higher education policies have played in the progress that women have made since the mid-twentieth century.

A summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Georgia, Rose received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University, with a specialization in American Politics and Public Policy. Prior to entering academia, Deondra worked in Georgia and Minnesota politics, and she is an alumna of Barack Obama's 2006 "Yes We Can" Campaign and Political Training Program.

I Have No Earthly Idea

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. Do long-distance relationships and workplace romances survive the test of time?
  2. How do cross-cultural pragmatisms and semantics affect daily life in society?
  3. Does food help you understand different cultures?
  4. Do I understand immigrants' trials and tribulations or do I take them for granted?
  5. Besides doctors and nurses, who are the unsung heroes of healthcare?


S.K. Radhakrishnan trained and practiced as a physical therapist in India before coming to the United States in 1994. After 13 years of practice, he attained physician assistant training at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. He came to Duke in 2004 after being accepted into the Duke PA Surgical Residency Program. After successful completion, he began his career as a surgical PA for Dr. Allan Friedman in the Department of Neurosurgery. In 2006, he received the "Duke Strength, Hope, and Caring Award" for the extraordinary provision of compassionate care. In April 2018, he received the "Meritorious Service Award" for distinguished service to Duke. In August 2019, he received the "Henry 'Buddy' Lee Treadwell Award" for Excellence in Teaching at the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Currently, he is the administrative chief and clinical neurosurgical PA in the Department of Neurosurgery and the Program Director of the PA Surgical Residency Program in the Department of Surgery.

Nomadologies: Poems

Erdag Goknar, Associate Professor, Asian & Middle East Studies

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. How do the poems reveal movements in memory, history, and culture that destabilize the idea of 'home'?
  2. How do the Turkish characters described in the poems both persevere and fail?
  3. How is the idea of 'translation' developed as a hyphenated exchange of cultures? Can what is lost in cultural translation be recovered in poetry?
  4. Does the subtext of an immigrant story reveal both opportunity and loss, both the sacred and the profane?
  5. Do the poems support the idea of America as a "melting pot" and a land of opportunity, or rather, a place where newcomers are relegated to the marginal status of an 'other'?


Erdag Göknar is Associate Professor of Turkish in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University and former director of the Duke Middle East Studies Center. He is a scholar of literary and cultural studies and an award-winning translator whose research focuses on intersections of literature and politics in Turkey and the Middle East; specifically, on late Ottoman legacies in contemporary Turkish fiction, historiography, and popular culture. His books include a monograph entitled Orhan Pamuk, Secularism and Blasphemy: The Politics of the Turkish Novel (Routledge, 2013); a co-edited volume, Mediterranean Passages: Readings from Dido to Derrida (UNC Press, 2008); and English-language translations of Ahmet Hamdi Tanp?nar's A Mind at Peace (Archipelago Books, 2011); Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red (Knopf, 2010; 2001) and Atiq Rahimi's Earth and Ashes (Harcourt, 2002). Nomadologies is his first book of poems.

Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating (2nd Edition)

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What is your most memorable eating experience, and what made it memorable?
  2. Why do you think people have a love/hate relationship with food?
  3. What change would you like to make in your eating habits, and why?
  4. What change would you like to make in our food system, and why?
  5. What is the most important thing to teach children about food?


Though trained as a philosopher and theologian, my first love was farming. Now as the Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology at Duke, I teach courses that help students understand the importance of ecological and agricultural realities in the living of a good human life. Healthy soils, clean water, biodiverse plant and animal life, equitable and just food systems -- these are several of the foci I bring to the classroom and to what I write. I am the author of several award-winning books, most notably Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating; The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age; Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight; Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity; and most recently (forthcoming this October) This Sacred Life: Humanity's Place in a Wounded World. For the past four years I have directed the multi-year, multi-disciplinary Henry Luce Foundation-funded project entitled "Facing the Anthropocene". This project has attracted an international team of scholars and engaged Duke students from across the campus on what it means to be human in a world now shaped by human-made realities like climate change, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence. I lecture frequently to lay and academic audiences across North America and Europe. The main concern inspiring and animating my work is to explore how human beings can live together in this world in ways that promote peace and beauty.

From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. Why is it significant that America did not keep its promise of 40-acres land grants to the newly emancipated? What are other examples of America not keeping its promises?
  2. Can you trace your history back to the Homestead Act? What do you know of this personal history?
  3. What was the impact of the G.I. Bill being enforced locally rather than by the federal government?
  4. What was the impact of white violence on racial wealth inequality?
  5. Why is it important that the true scope of these violent attacks become known? What are the lasting impacts of an incomplete historical record of these events?


William A. ("Sandy") Darity Jr. is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics and the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. He has served as chair of the Department of African and African American Studies and was the founding director of the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke. Darity's research focuses on inequality by race, class and ethnicity, stratification economics, schooling and the racial achievement gap, North-South theories of trade and development, skin shade and labor market outcomes, the economics of reparations, the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution, the history of economics, and the social psychological effects of exposure to unemployment. His most recent book, coauthored with A. Kirsten Mullen, is From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century (2020). From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century is the recipient of the inaugural 2021 book prize from the Association of African American Life and History and the 2020 Ragan Old North State award for nonfiction from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

At the Billionaire's Wedding

Author Katharine Brophy Dubois, A.B. '89, Lecturing Fellow in History, Trinity College of A&S, Duke University

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. Genre romances can be upbeat, fun and sexy, but they grapple with serious issues too, like family conflict, financial instability, and harassment at work. How do these novellas strike a balance between fantasy and real life?
  2. In Katharine's novella "The Day It Rained Books," how does Cali teach Piers about honesty?
  3. What five of your favorite books would you recommend to a friend who isn't yet much of a reader?
  4. What is it about Jane Austen that's so alluring?
  5. The four authors of the novellas in this anthology usually write historical romances, so the English country estate setting of this book is right up their alley. If you were going to research one historical time and place, what would it be?


Katharine Brophy Dubois received a Bachelor of Arts degree with Distinction in History from Duke University in 1989 and a PhD in History from the University of Michigan in 2001. A former Mellon Scholar, Fulbright Fellow, and American Academy in Rome Fellow, she currently teaches courses history, religion and popular culture part-time in the History, Religious Studies, and Gender Sexuality & Feminist Studies departments at Duke University.

Dubois's alter ego, Katharine Ashe, is the award winning and USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of thirteen historical romance novels and four novellas from HarperCollins Publishers, as well as seven independently published romances. Her books have received highest praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal and many others, and have been translated into languages throughout the world and recorded as audiobooks.

A native of Pennsylvania, Katharine is now a permanent transplant to North Carolina.

Everything Happens for a Reason

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. The title of the book, Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I've Loved), plays on a common phrase of comfort offered to those in need. Name some popular phrases you have heard or used to respond to a friend going through a hard time.
  2. Think about a time when you experienced a difficult situation (an illness, divorce, death in the family, job loss). What do you wish your friends and family had said to you? What do you wish they would have done for you?
  3. Discuss the nature of grief, both in the book and in your own experience. What are your go-to ways to process (or avoid) grief in your experience?
  4. What unique truths emerged in Everything Happens for a Reason to you? In what ways does this book enhance the themes of suffering, love, grace, and redemption featured in Kate's research on the prosperity gospel?
  5. "How can anything good live in the space that death would make?" Everything Happens for a Reason is a story to comprehend a paradoxical life and faith; God is good, yet God permits suffering. Mothers beg for the life of their child to be spared, yet children die. How does Kate make sense of a seemingly paradoxical reality? How does your faith inform how you conceive of a life of both suffering and joy?


Kate Bowler is a New York Times best-selling author, podcast host, and associate professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke University. After being unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35, she wrote the New York Times best-selling memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I've Loved), which tells the story of her struggle to understand the personal and intellectual dimensions of the American belief that all tragedies are tests of character. Her TED talk on the subject has received over 6 million views to date, and on her popular podcast, Everything Happens, she talks with people about what they have learned in dark times and why it is so difficult to speak frankly about suffering. Her second memoir, No Cure For Being Human, will be released by Random House in September 2021.

Mother Tongues

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. How does the language you speak shape your sense of identity?
  2. Who is your favorite musician, and how do you imagine they sound when they talk to family or friends?
  3. Do you recall an elder or wise friend telling you something that changed the way you thought about a dilemma? What did they say?
  4. Is there a news story you read recently that made you want to know more about the lives of the people involved?
  5. Is there a spiritual practice or story you grew up with that continues to resonate with you today?


Tsitsi Jaji is an associate professor of English and African & African American Studies at Duke. She is the author of Africa in Stereo: Music, Modernism, and Pan-African Solidarity, and two poetry collections, Beating the Graves and Mother Tongues (winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize).

She holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Cornell University, and has received fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schomburg Center, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Her articles can be found in Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Research in African Literatures, New Literary History, Publications of the Modern Languages Association, and Modern Fiction Studies, among others. Her current research interests include the reception of westerns by Black viewers across the world, Zimbabwean literature, African popular print culture, and Black classical music and literature. She was recently awarded a New Directions Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation to study musicology, building on her early training as a concert pianist.

Unapologetically Dope: Lessons for Black Women and Girls on Surviving and Thriving in the Tech Field

A. Nicki Washington, Professor of the Practice

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What is the first word you use to describe Black women or girls?
  2. How does that word impact your perspective of/engagement with Black women or girls?
  3. How many of the experiences described in the book were similar to your academic, professional, and personal ones?
  4. Do your identities impact the similarities or differences?
  5. What are the ways in which you've had to advocate for yourself? How difficult has that been?


Dr. Nicki Washington is a professor of the practice of computer science at Duke University and the author of Unapologetically Dope: Lessons for Black Women and Girls on Surviving and Thriving in the Tech Field. Her career in higher education began at Howard University as the first Black female faculty member in the Department of Computer Science. Her professional experience also includes Winthrop University, The Aerospace Corporation, and IBM. She is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University (B.S., '00) and North Carolina State University (M.S., '02; Ph.D., '05), becoming the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science at the university and 2019 Computer Science Hall of Fame Inductee. She is a native of Durham, NC.

The World According to Pimm

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What impact do you have on the world's land?
  2. What fish do you eat? And why?
  3. Does it matter if your grandchildren do not see "lions, and tigers, and bears" in the wild? (Or at least have the chance to do so.)
  4. How has your world changed?
  5. What actions do you think are possible for you to take to ensure we use Nature's resources wisely?


Dr. Stuart Pimm, Professor of Conservation at Duke University, is an internationally recognized global leader in the study of biodiversity, especially present-day extinctions and what the world can do to prevent them. His message that we can all make a difference in our planet's survival, inspires a wide audience.

Pimm's commitment to the science-policy interface has led to his regular testimony to both House and Senate Committees of the U.S. Congress. He frequently visits Washington D.C. to engage policy makers on environmental issues. He is also asked to advise international governments on biodiversity issues and the management of national parks.

In addition to his conservation efforts in Africa, Pimm had worked in the forests of Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil. In the last decade, he has been active in training Chinese conservation professionals and spends a month each year in China.

Pimm directs Saving Nature www.savingnature.earth a non-profit that uses donations for carbon emissions offsets to fund conservation groups in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity to restore their degraded lands.

Going There: Black Visual Satire

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. In your time at Duke did you have the chance to expand your cultural literacy and, if so, how did you seize that opportunity?
  2. In order to understand a humorous story (or to "get the joke"), do you need to know something about the humorist, the topic, and the joke's circumstances?
  3. Do you agree or disagree with the late black feminist Audre Lorde's oft-quoted axiom "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house?" Please explain why, or why not?
  4. Is it possible to satirize or make a mockery of racism and, if so, how, with recent examples, does one do this successfully?
  5. If, as the artist Robert Colescott has suggested, "knowledge of the past is the key to the future," then why is there so much resistance today to studying and accurately portraying America's past?


Richard J. Powell (BA, Morehouse College; MFA, Howard University; M.A., M.Phil, Ph.D., Yale University) is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University. He is the author of Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (1991), Black Art: A Cultural History (1997, 2002 & 2021), Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture (2008), and Going There: Black Visual Satire (2020). Powell, a recognized authority on African American art and culture in print and electronic media, has also organized numerous art exhibitions, most notably Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance (1997), To Conserve A Legacy: American Art at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (1999), and Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist (2014). From 2007 until 2010, Powell was Editor-in-Chief of The Art Bulletin.

Burn: New Research Blows the Lid Off How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy

Author Herman Pontzer, Associate Professor, Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University. Associate Research Professor, Duke Global Health Institute

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What is "metabolism"?
  2. What can we in the modern, industrialized world learn from hunter-gatherers and other traditional cultures?
  3. Why has obesity become a global epidemic?
  4. Why do humans need to exercise? Do other primates?
  5. How does industrialization change our food?


Herman Pontzer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Research Associate Professor of Global Health at Duke University, investigates how our deep, evolutionary past shapes our lives today. His team conducted the first measurements of daily energy expenditure in traditional hunter-gatherers and in non-human apes, with discoveries that have changed the way we think about diet, exercise, metabolism, and health.

State of Empowerment: Low Income Families and the New Welfare State

Author Caroline Barnes, Assistant Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy

4 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. What new lessons did you learn about the welfare state?
  2. How do the perspectives of the parents in this book challenge the your perceptions of low-income families?
  3. What influences your willingness to get involved in your community? Or to participate politically?
  4. How might you support policies that boost civic and political engagement?


Carolyn Barnes is an assistant professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Her research agenda broadly explores the social and political implications of social policy on low-income populations in the areas of childcare policy, family services and supports for young children. Her book, State of Empowerment: Low Income Families and the New Welfare State (University of Michigan Press), is an in-depth organizational ethnography that examines how publicly funded after-school programs shape the political behavior of low-income parents. She has published in peer-reviewed journals including Policy Studies Journal, the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Children Youth Service Review, and Race and Social Problems. Barnes has initiated a new line of interdisciplinary research that examines how social policy implementation reproduces racial inequality in rural southern communities.

Barnes's research has been supported by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Blue Cross Foundation of North Carolina, The Wallace Foundation, and several family foundations. She completed a PhD in Political Science and Public Policy from the University of Michigan, where she worked as an affiliate of the National Poverty Center conducting research on the effects of nonprofit community-based service provision on parenting practices and the psycho-social well-being of families and children.

On The Freedom Side: How Five Decades of Youth Activists Have Remixed American History

5 Questions to Consider While Reading

  1. This book is a conversation with people who want to make the US ever-better for the next generation. Which era of youth (1960s, 1990s, 2010s) raised the most exciting ideas for you ? Why are they so exciting?
  2. Which activists made you the most irate, and why?
  3. Which forms of activism do you consider legitimate? Have the group members exhausted the legitimate pathways, with no resolution? Which are outside of the spectrum of what you consider legitimate? What would *you* do if you cared as much about the issue as they do?
  4. Many people take great pride in the US remaining a functioning government that sets a high bar for democratic norms. Reflecting back on the book, are there democratic norms that you saw broken? Are they still broken today?
  5. If you could sit down for a long discussion with one of the people profiled in the book, who would it be? What would be the thing you'd most want them to talk about?


Wesley Hogan is Research Professor at the Franklin Humanities Institute and History at Duke University. Between 2003-2013, she taught at Virginia State University, where she worked with the Algebra Project and the Young People's Project. From 2013-2021, she served as Director of the Center for Documentary Studies. She writes and teaches the history of youth social movements, human rights, documentary, and oral history. Her most recent book, On the Freedom Side, draws a portrait of young people organizing in the spirit of Ella Baker since 1960. In July 2021, a book she and Paul Ortiz have co-edited will be released, People Power: History, Organizing, and Larry Goodwyn's Democratic Vision in the Twenty-First Century. She co-facilitates a partnership between the SNCC Legacy Project and Duke, The SNCC Digital Gateway/Movement History Initiative, whose purpose is to bring the grassroots stories of the civil rights movement to a much wider public through a web portal, K12 initiative, and set of critical oral histories.