Book Club: Online and Interactive

October 1, 2008
Duke Reads

Stepping into Rachel Davies' office, one is immediately struck by the number of books lining her walls. It seems only fitting that the architect behind the DukeReads program, an online book club for alumni, would leave her office décor up to Shakespeare and Steinbeck.

Now in its second year, the program invites participants to read seven books in seven months, corresponding with the academic year. This year's selections will begin with the book assigned for first-year students' summer reading, Dave Eggers' What is the What, and include everything from New York Times best sellers to classic literature to a Tony Award-winning play.

Each book is chosen by a Duke professor or administrator who, at the end of the month, engages in an online discussion of the work moderated by Frank Stasio, host of The State of Things on North Carolina Public Radio.

Last year's inaugural program was a resounding success, Davies '72, A.M. '89 says, with more than 900 registered users and around forty tuning in each month for the live, streaming broadcast of the discussion. President Richard H. Brodhead's discussion of The Namesake was the most-viewed segment last year.

Participants are encouraged to submit questions for discussion throughout the month leading up to the broadcast. "We want to keep education alive in the minds of Duke alums around the world," Davies says.

For example, E.M. Forster's Howards End, slated for November, ties in with "Vision and Design: A Year of Bloomsbury," an interdisciplinary, on-campus program that begins in September, and an exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art, "A Room of Their Own: Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections," that begins in December (see page 18).

The online discussions will be available for download through iTunes U, for those who won't be able to watch them live.