Duke Reads

Discover your next read, connect with fellow Blue Devil book enthusiasts, stay in the know about Duke faculty and alumni publications, or enjoy our playlist of author interviews. Duke Reads is your one-stop shop for alumni book lovers, events, and resources.

Lifelong Learning Summer Reading List

Need something new on your nightstand? We've got you covered. We asked some of Duke's most admired faculty members to contribute to our popular Lifelong Learning summer reading list.

Book Events

icon of book with blue pages open Join alumni, and the Duke community, for engaging books and discussions.

Author Interviews

youtube channel Hear from Blue Devil authors as they share writing influences, introduce their work, and provide insights into your next new read. 

Student Summer Reads

blue globeParticipate in thought-provoking reads designed to introduce incoming freshmen to Duke’s academic climate and encourage intellectual dialogue. This year’s selection is “The Measure” by Nikki Erlick.

Broadway Bodies: A Critical History of Conformity

Broadway has body issues.

What is a Broadway Body? Broadway has long preserved the ideology of the "Broadway Body": the hyper-fit, exceptionally able, triple-threat performer who represents how Broadway musicals favor certain kinds of bodies. Casting is always a political act, situated within a power structure that gives preference to the Broadway Body.

In Broadway Bodies , author Ryan Donovan explores how ability, sexuality, and size intersect with gender, race, and ethnicity in casting and performance. To understand these intersectional relationships, he poses a series of Why did A Chorus Line , a show that sought to individuate dancers, inevitably make dancers indistinguishable? How does the use of fat suits in musicals like Dreamgirls and Hairspray stigmatize fatness? What were the political implications of casting two straight actors as the gay couple in La Cage aux Folles in 1983? How did deaf actors change the sound of musicals in Deaf West's Broadway revivals? Whose bodies does Broadway cast and whose does it cast aside?

In answering these questions, Broadway Bodies tells a history of Broadway's inclusion of various forms of embodied difference while revealing its simultaneous ambivalence toward non-conforming bodies.

Biography

Ryan Donovan is Assistant Professor of Theater Studies at Duke University and the author of Broadway Bodies: A Critical History of Conformity (Oxford) and Queer Approaches in Musical Theatre (forthcoming from Bloomsbury/Methuen Drama). He is co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Musical Theatre and a special issue of Studies in Musical Theatre. He danced in musicals across the country before earning his PhD at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. At Duke, he teaches seminars on musical theater history and performance, among others. He has also taught the Duke in New York semester-long program on the arts and culture of New York City.


Made-Up Asians traces the history of yellowface, the theatrical convention of non-Asian actors putting on makeup and costume to look East Asian. Using specific case studies from European and U.S. theater, race science, and early film, Esther Kim Lee traces the development of yellowface in the U.S. context during the Exclusion Era (1862–1940), when Asians faced legal and cultural exclusion from immigration and citizenship. These caricatured, distorted, and misrepresented versions of Asians took the place of excluded Asians on theatrical stages and cinema screens. The book examines a wide-ranging set of primary sources, including makeup guidebooks, play catalogs, advertisements, biographies, and backstage anecdotes, providing new ways of understanding and categorizing yellowface as theatrical practice and historical subject. Made-Up Asians also shows how lingering effects of Asian exclusionary laws can still be seen in yellowface performances, casting practices, and anti-Asian violence into the 21st century.

Biography

Dr. Esther Kim Lee is a Professor in the Department of Theater Studies, the International Comparative Studies, and History at Duke University. She is also the Director of Asian American & Diaspora Studies Program. Dr. Lee teaches and writes about theatre history, Asian American theatre, Korean diaspora theatre, and globalization and theatre. She has authored three monographs: A History of Asian American Theatre (2006), which received the Outstanding Book Award given by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education; The Theatre of David Henry Hwang (2015); and Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era (2022). She edited Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas (2012) and the four-volume collection, Modern and Contemporary World Drama: Critical and Primary Sources (2022), which challenges the prevailing Eurocentric reading of modern drama.


Biography

Alex has been a member of the Duke philosophy department for over 20 years. The author of hundreds of academic papers and a dozen books about the philosophy of science, he began writing more accessible works for general audiences ten years ago, including "The Atheist's Guide to Reality" and "How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of our Addiction to Stories." More unusually he is the author of 4 historical novels, including the best seller, "The Girl From Krakow" and its sequel, "In the Shadow of Enigma." Like "The Intrigues of Jennie Lee," all of his novels connect the real dots of history into narratives about strong, resourceful, smart women.


Spanning more than half a century and cities from New Delhi to Atlanta, Anjali Enjeti’s debut is a heartfelt and human portrait of the long shadow of the Partition of India on the lives of three generations of women.

The story begins in August 1947. Unrest plagues the streets of New Delhi leading up to the birth of the Muslim majority nation of Pakistan, and the Hindu majority nation of India. Sixteen-year-old Deepa navigates the changing politics of her home, finding solace in messages of intricate origami from her secret boyfriend Amir. Soon Amir flees with his family to Pakistan and a tragedy forces Deepa to leave the subcontinent forever.

The story also begins sixty years later and half a world away, in Atlanta. While grieving both a pregnancy loss and the implosion of her marriage, Deepa’s granddaughter Shan begins the search for her estranged grandmother, a prickly woman who had little interest in knowing her. As she pieces together her family history shattered by the Partition, Shan discovers how little she actually knows about the women in her family and what they endured.

For readers of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, The Parted Earth follows Shan on her search for identity after loss uproots her life. Above all, it is a novel about families weathering the lasting violence of separation, and how it can often take a lifetime to find unity and peace.

Biography

Anjali Enjeti is a journalist, organizer, and former attorney. She is the author of Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Activism and The Parted Earth. Her other writing has appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Boston Globe, Oxford American, and elsewhere. She teaches in the MFA programs at Antioch and Reinhardt Universities and lives with her family near Atlanta. 


Book 4 in the Devil’s Duke Series

Libby Shaw refuses to accept society’s dictates. She’s determined to become a member of Edinburgh’s all-male Royal College of Surgeons. Disguising herself as a man, she attends the surgical theater and fools everyone—except the one man who has never forgotten the shape of her exquisitely sensual lips.

Forced to leave his home as a boy, famed portraitist Ziyaeddin is secretly the exiled prince of a distant realm. When he first met Libby, he memorized every detail of her face and drew her. But her perfect lips gave him trouble—the same lips he now longs to kiss. When Libby asks his help to hide her feminine identity from the world, Ziyaeddin agrees on one condition: she must sit for him to paint—as a woman. But what begins as a daring scheme could send them both hurtling toward danger, and an unparalleled love.

Biography

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 Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, she currently teaches courses about history, religion and popular culture part-time at Duke University. Dubois's alter ego, Katharine Ashe, is the bestselling author of more than twenty historical romances that reviewers call “intensely lush” and “sensationally intelligent.”  Her books have received highest praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal, Amazon, iBooks, 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.