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.

This personal and professional memoir recounts the author's formative years and the family influences that propelled him forward. The experience of anti-Semitism in grammar school and college played a major role. The centrality of music and family were especially influential. His partnership with Carol Meyers allowed him to have a successful career in academic archaeology and in teaching at Duke University. Other endeavors, however, kept him grounded and focused on everyday matters: singing, golf, social activism, teaching, and writing. But it was teaching most of all that imbued his life with special meaning as both student and teacher confronted the riches of the past in a search for a better future.

Biography

Eric M. Meyers is the Bernice and Morton Lerner Emeritus Professor of Religious and Jewish Studies at Duke University. He founded the Center for Jewish Studies at Duke in 1972. His specialties include biblical studies and archaeology. He has directed or co-directed digs in Israel and Italy for over forty years and has authored or co-authored hundreds of articles, reviews, reports and 20 books. Together with his wife, Carol Meyers, he co-authored commentaries on Haggai and Zechariah in the Anchor Bible Series. He served as editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East (1997). His most recent excavations at Sepphoris were fully published in 2018 by Penn State University Press under the Eisenbrauns imprint. He also served for three terms as President of ASOR (The American Schools/Society of Overseas Research).


Bone by Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing

On May 12, 2015, Amtrak 188 derailed outside of Philadelphia going 106 miles per hour. Eight passengers were killed and many more severely injured. Geralyn Ritter was thrown from the train with such force that she sustained catastrophic injuries to her chest, her abdomen, and her pelvis. Found unconscious, unable to breathe, and suffering massive blood loss, she was not expected to survive. After enduring weeks in the ICU, dozens of surgeries over the following years, unremitting pain, PTSD, depression, and opioid dependence, Geralyn was faced with a daunting question: beyond mere survival after trauma, where is the path back to joy? Bone by Bone shares her powerful story of resilience. With humor, grace, and no-holds-barred honesty, she describes the journey back to life and offers support and encouragement for others. Bone by Bone addresses the long-lasting impact of sudden trauma and extends hope--from the perspective of someone who has been there. And back.

Biography

"After barely surviving a deadly train derailment in 2015 and enduring a long and agonizing recovery, Geralyn wrote her book entitled Bone by Bone: a memoir of trauma and healing, published in 2022. She is a frequent public speaker and author of multiple articles on trauma recovery, personal and professional resilience, corporate sustainability, women’s health, international trade policy, and other topics. She has pledged to donate the proceeds from her book to non-profit organizations that support trauma survivors and trauma medicine.

Geralyn serves of the Board of Directors of Business for Social Responsibility, a non-profit consulting firm, and Power to Decide, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive well-being. She is also a member of the Board of Visitors of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, where she chairs the Membership Committee. Geralyn also chairs the Patient-Family Advisory Committee of the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.

Geralyn and her husband Jonathan have been married for 25 years. They have three sons, one of whom is a recent Duke graduate. She is known for her distinctive laugh that fills a room and determined resilience in the face of personal and professional challenges.

A recognized expert in healthcare policy, Geralyn Ritter is currently executive vice-president at Organon & Co., a global company dedicated to women's health. At Organon, Geralyn leads the global public policy and government affairs, global communications, ESG and corporate responsibility functions. Prior to the launch of Organon in 2021, she was a longtime senior vice president of Merck & Co., Inc., one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in the world. At Merck, her passion was leading the Company's engagement on public policy issues and supporting forward-thinking governance at the highest levels of the company. During her time at the company, she created and led a half billion-dollar initiative, Merck for Mothers, aimed at reducing maternal deaths during childbirth. Prior to joining Merck, Geralyn served as senior vice president for international affairs at PhRMA, as Trade Counsel at the law firm Covington & Burling, and in the U.S. government as associate general counsel for intellectual property in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Geralyn received her undergraduate degree from Duke University, her law degree from Stanford University, and her master’s degree in international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "


Biography

Margaret Sartor's eight books include: Where We Find Ourselves: The Photographs of Hugh Mangum 1897–1922 (2019), William Gedney: Only the Lonely, 1955-1984 (2017), What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney (1999), and the New York Times best-selling memoir Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets, and Growing up in the 1970s (2006). Sartor’s photographs have been exhibited widely and appeared in numerous publications, including: In Their Mother’s Eyes: Women Photographers and Their Children (2001), A New Life: Stories and Photographs from the Suburban South (1996), Aperture, DoubleTake, Esquire, and The New Yorker. Her work is in permanent collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Ogden Museum of Art, and the North Carolina Museum of Art. She lives with her husband, Duke Professor Emeritus Alex Harris, in Durham, NC.


It’s hard to give up on the feeling that the life you want is just out of reach. A beach body by summer. A trip to Disneyland around the corner. A promotion on the horizon. Everyone wants to believe that they are headed toward good, better, best. But what happens when the life you hoped for is put on hold indefinitely?

Kate Bowler believed that life was a series of unlimited choices, only to find that she was stuck in a cancerous body at age 35. In her instant New York Times bestselling book, No Cure for Being Human, Kate searches for a way forward as she mines the wisdom (and absurdity) of our modern “best life now” advice industry, which offers us exhausting positivity, trying to convince us that we can out-eat, out-learn and out-perform our humanness. With dry wit and unflinching honesty, she grapples with her cancer diagnosis, her ambition, and her faith and searches for some kind of peace with her limitations in a culture that says that anything is possible.

Biography

Kate Bowler, PhD is a three-time New York Times bestselling author, award-winning podcast host, and an Associate Professor of American Religious History at Duke University. She studies the cultural stories we tell ourselves about success, suffering, and whether (or not) we’re capable of change. She is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel and The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities. After being unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35, she penned the New York Times bestselling memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved), No Cure For Being Human (and Other Truths I Need to Hear) and her latest written with her co-producer, Jessica Richie, Good Enough: 40ish devotionals for a Life of Imperfection. Kate hosts the Everything Happens podcast where, in warm, insightful, often funny conversations, she talks with people like Malcolm Gladwell and Anne Lamott about what they’ve learned in difficult times. She lives in Durham, North Carolina with her family and continues to teach do-gooders at Duke Divinity School.


One Breath at a Time: A Skeptic's Guide to Christian Meditation

One Breath at a Time: A Skeptic’s Guide to Christian Meditation offers an accessible 40-day guide to beginning a Christian meditation practice. Trent reframes meditation for those who are skeptical because they doubt their ability to be still or they wonder whether meditation is a valid spiritual practice for Christians. She makes a strong case for Christian meditation from a biblical, historical, theological, and evidence-based perspective.

One Breath at a Time leads you step-by-step through five approaches:
• Breath meditation • Centering meditation
• Lectio divina meditation • Devotional meditation
• Loving-kindness meditation

Ever practical and encouraging, Trent gives you a variety of tools to begin and sustain a Christian meditation practice. Above all, she reminds you to be gentle with yourself, to embrace the beauty of being a beginner, and to keep practicing.

Biography

J. Dana Trent is a graduate of Duke Divinity School and professor of World Religions and Critical Thinking at Wake Tech Community College. An ordained Baptist minister and former hospital chaplain, her work has appeared on Time.com, Religion News Service, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, and The Christian Century. She is also the award-winning author of One Breath At a Time: A Skeptic’s Guide to Christian Meditation, Dessert First: Preparing for Death While Savoring Life, For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community, and Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk. 


Beautiful to behold and extremely sensitive to its environment, the snake is nonetheless stigmatized as a serpent, a creature that almost universally inspires fear. At a time when so many animals are endangered, who will speak up for the snake?

Snake populations are declining precipitously around the globe, but calls for their conservation are muted by fear and prejudice. Saving Snakes offers a new approach to understanding snakes and preserving their populations—an approach built on respect. Nicolette Cagle has traveled the world in search of snakes, from the Midwest and the southeastern United States to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Australia, and spent decades conducting natural science research on the patterns of snakes in regions where urban development encroaches upon the natural world. Her book offers a firsthand account of the strange and secretive lives of snakes, and reveals their devastating losses.

Beautifully and accessibly written, Saving Snakes entwines Cagle’s personal narrative with deep scientific and historical research. Through the author’s exploration of her evolution as a field naturalist, it provides a blueprint for developing a conservation consciousness among young people and paves the way for increased inclusivity in the male-dominated field of herpetology. While fundamentally a book about snakes, this is also the story of one woman's pursuit of her passion as she searches for, studies, and advocates up for these enigmatic creatures.

Biography

Dr. Nicolette Cagle is field naturalist with deep roots in academic ecology and environmental education. As faculty in Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, she teaches courses in natural history and communication. Dr. Cagle also serves as the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Nicholas School and was the founding Director of the NSOE Communications Studio. She was a fellow in Duke’s Thompson Writing Program and has conducted research in both ecology and environmental education, using an innovative combination of multivariate statistics, GIS, traditional field observation, and qualitative methods. As a certified environmental educator and NC Environmental Educator of the Year in 2021, Dr. Cagle also teaches and consults for a number of organizations in the Durham area. Dr. Cagle received her Doctorate in Ecology from Duke University in 2008 and a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from the University of Illinois - Urbana in 2002.


Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food & Love in Thirteen Courses



In her coming-of-age adventure, Caminos Oría travels to her family’s homeland of Argentina in search of belonging—to family, to country, to a love, and ultimately, to oneself. Steeped in the lure of Latin culture, she pieces together her mom and abuela’s pasts, along with the nourishing dishes—delectably and spiritually—that formed their kitchen arsenal. But Caminos Oría’s travels from las pampas to the prairie aren't easy or conventional. She grapples with mystical encounters with the spirit world that lead her to discover a part of herself that, like sobremesa, had been lost in translation.

Just as she's ready to give up on love all together, Caminos Oría’s own heart surprises her by surrendering to a forbidden, with the Argentine man of her dreams. To stay together, she must make a difficult choice: return to the safe life she knows in the States or follow her heart and set a new table, one where she can be her full self, unapologetically, in full-fledged Spanglish.

Deliciously soulful and chock full of romance, this otherworldly, multigenerational story of a daughter's love and familial culinary legacy serves up, in 13 courses, a gastronomic meditation on the tables we set for ourselves throughout our lives—knowingly or not. It’s a story that lures us to slow down, to savor meals mindfully and see where the communion of food takes us, beyond the plate. It’s there we find our one true voice, look within, and face the questions we’ve been running from: Is this the table I envisioned for myself before the world told me who I am supposed to be? If not, reset it. Do I belong? Do the people around me lift me up? If not, change tables. Where am I seated? At the head? In the middle? There is no right or wrong answer, but does my chosen seat position me for the role I’m meant to fulfill in this lifetime? If not, change places.

Sobremesa invites us to savor the healing embrace of time-honored food and the wisdom it espouses. It’s a reminder that that home really is anywhere the heart is. And for all looking to find their place, it’s an invitation to claim your seat at sobremesa’s endless table, where everyone is welcome.

Biography

Josephine Caminos Oría was born in the city of La Plata, Argentina, and raised Stateside from infancy on in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gathering around a table large enough to sit her family of eight, plus two for her abuelos on her mom’s side, food and the sobremesa that accompanied it, was how Josephine learned to make sense of the world. Stories of where she came from, and the people she’d left behind, were served to Josephine during family sobremesas she savored like meals. Those tales nourished Josephine’s imagination and sense of self, setting the table for Josephine’s second act—a family and professional life focused around Argentine food and culture. It was in her early 40s, with five young children in tow, that Josephine took a chance on herself, leaving a C-level career to make dulce de leche. Today, Josephine, along with her Argentine husband, Gastón, is the founder of La Dorita Cooks, an all-natural line of dulce de leche products and Pittsburgh’s first resource-based kitchen incubator for start-up and early stage food makers. In addition, Josephine is the author of the recently published, “Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food & Love in Thirteen Courses (Scribe Publishing, Co., May 2021) and the cookbook, “Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories, and Sweet Traditions” (Burgess Lea Press, February 2017). The Orías, along with their five children, Lucas, Mateo, Nico, Nacho and Poupée, golden retriever, Andino, and beagle, Avi (short for Avocado)—are currently living la vida low-country in Charleston, SC.

For more information about Josephine Caminos Oría, please visit www.LaDorita.net. She can be found on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Biography

Frank Bruni has been a prominent journalist for more than three decades, including more than twenty-five years at The New York Times, the last ten of them as a nationally renowned op-ed columnist who appeared frequently as a television commentator. He was also a White House correspondent for the Times, its Rome bureau chief, and, for five years, its chief restaurant critic. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers. In July 2021, he became a full professor at Duke University, teaching media-oriented classes in the school of public policy. He continues to write his popular weekly newsletter for the Times and to produce occasional essays as one of the newspaper’s official Contributing Opinion Writers


Biography

Stanley Hauerwas has sought to recover the significance of the virtues for understanding the nature of the Christian life. This search has led him to emphasize the importance of the church, as well as narrative for understanding Christian existence. His work cuts across disciplinary lines as he is in conversation with systematic theology, philosophical theology and ethics, political theory, as well as the philosophy of social science and medical ethics. He was named "America’s Best Theologian" by Time magazine in 2001. Dr. Hauerwas, who holds a joint appointment in Duke Law School, delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectureship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland in 2001.