What was the beginning of law school like for you?

Neil Siegel writes:
Let’s discuss your impressions of the book so far, and I hope you will add any questions or comments below. To start, Scott Turow opens the book by describing his initial days in law school.  I recall feeling excitement and anxiety, but no particular memories come to mind, perhaps because I was already at Berkeley in graduate school.  What was the beginning of law school like for you?

First Thoughts from Neil Siegel on One L, by Scott Turow, our November-December selection:

I am teaching a small section of first-year Constitutional Law this semester. I enjoy teaching beginning law students, and I especially appreciate the more relaxed atmosphere of teaching them in a relatively small group (37 students this time). Among other virtues, the experience invariably encourages me to view the law from my the perspective of my students—and of myself when I began law school.

Scott Turow’s One L is considered a classic, but I had never read it before this semester. I was told not to read it before I began law school on the grounds that it would frighten me. So I listened and never revisited the matter.

I chose One L now in the hope that it would deepen my capacity to view the law and law school from the perspective of the beginner.  In some ways, my reading the book has served that purpose.  It has helped me to reconnect with the anxiety and excitement that I felt when I was beginning law school.  It has been especially helpful for me to remember my level of anxiety when I took my first set of exams.

To a much greater extent, however, the book is causing me to reflect on how much the general experience of the first year appears to have changed since the 1970s.  I graduated from Duke’s Trinity College in 1994 and from Berkeley Law School in 2001.  Just as I loved Duke, so I loved law school, and I loved it from the start.  My professors were overwhelmingly (although not invariably) nice people who were trying in good faith to help their students learn the law and think broadly and deeply about the law’s potential contributions to the solution of societal problems.

I hope my students would agree that it’s better to be at Duke Law School now than at Harvard Law School then.  For example, instances in which professors humiliate students in class are, I think and hope, unheard of here.  Law school remains a lot of work, as it any worthwhile academic or professional pursuit.  But judging from Scott Turow’s account (and other casual empiricism), the experience seems to me kinder and more caring now.

This apparent change in the nature of legal education may not be all for the good when I consider some of the challenges (and challenging judges, partners, and clients) that my students will sometimes face in the world of litigation once they graduate.  But given how I felt about being serially mistreated by one old-school professor, and given that one never knows what kind of day another person is having and why, I have never felt myself entitled to make my students feel bad about themselves, especially in the company of their colleagues.  My hope is to model for them what it means to treat others with respect, especially when one is in a position of power over them.  In this way, I am typical of Duke Law School’s faculty, not exceptional.  It is part of the Duke Law way.

Bob Bliwise interviews Margalit Fox

Bob Bliwise interviews Margalit Fox, an award-winning journalist trained as a linguist, a senior writer for The New York Times, and author of The Riddle of the Labyrinth, about her process in researching and writing the book—and about the large personalities who populate the book.

The book proceeds with a lot of narrative force.  What techniques of storytelling did you try to deploy?
I was very lucky to have been writing about a real-life narrative that was (to me, at least) inherently dramatic in two crucial respects: First, there was the “Indiana Jones”-style early-twentieth-century archaeology involved in the unearthing of the Palace of Minos at Knossos. I tried to open the book, which shows Arthur Evans unearthing the palace and bringing up the first clay tablets, with a kind of you-are-there approach, as in those old Mike Wallace history TV shows from the 1960s. Second, of course, was the larger, overarching story of the half-century-long quest to decipher the tablets themselves, with all its attendant guesswork, false starts, near-misses, and genuine advances.

That pretty much gave me a built-in narrative “through line” that I could keep running throughout the book, as we watch our three starring players move from an agnostic state to real, hard-won knowledge. And the lives of those three players, especially Kober and Ventris, whose personal stories were so very tragic, helped me to realize quite early on that I had to organize the book as a biographical triptych, with roughly a third of the narrative devoted to each of them in turn.

In and around that biographical stuff, I could weave the technical material—the account of the different types of writing systems used around the world, and how each of them is used to represent language in graphic form; a look back at Champollion’s decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics; and the step-by-step forensics involved in cracking any unknown writing system from the ancient past. Happily, once I got done with all that, and with all the sanding, buffing, and polishing that followed, the whole structure seemed to hang together as a coherent narrative.

Are there carryovers from your day-to-day work in summarizing interesting lives and your effort, with the book, to describe the characters consumed by the mystery of Linear B?
I’m often asked whether there is a connection between the kind of storytelling in The Riddle of the Labyrinth and my work in “Obits” as a senior writer for The New York Times. There is indeed a connection, and it is actually nontrivial and very striking. Although we obit writers produce many pieces about the departed famous—the kings, presidents, and captains of industry who make history from the top down—the greatest joy in our work comes from writing about history’s unsung backstage players. These are the men and women who—though we may not know their names—by dint of having an idea or doing something in a new way or dreaming up an invention, managed, quietly but forcefully, to change the world.

Some of the most pleasurable obits I have written have involved people like the inventors of the Frisbee, Etch-a-Sketch, and the crash-test-dummy; the textile conservator who washed Napoleon’s nightshirt; and the woman home economist who invented Stove Top stuffing and who, in a master stroke of timing, died just before Thanksgiving a few years ago. In a very real sense, the story of Alice Kober, the long-unsung heroine of the Linear B decipherment, which is the centerpiece of Labyrinth, is of a piece with these, only gridded up a thousandfold.

You sketch those characters vividly and in considerable detail.  What research methods or sources were particularly helpful in leading you to the book’s insights?
Evans’ story and Ventris’ were already quite well known, so for those sections of the book I was drawing primarily on secondary sources. With Kober, I really struck gold: By a happy accident of timing, I was the first person to have access to the full archive of her private papers, which had become available under the aegis of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory at the University of Texas shortly before I started work on the book. The papers include not only Kober’s decipherment notebooks and her 180,000 hand-cut ersatz “index cards,” still stored in the tobacco-redolent cigarette cartons she used as file boxes, but also her letters—a good thousand pages of correspondence with scholars around the world relating to her progress on the decipherment.

Besides providing the first comprehensive overview of precisely HOW her role in the decipherment of Linear B played out, they also revealed the woman herself. Just as Helene Hanff (whose obit, by coincidence, I wrote some years ago) had sent postwar care packages to the staff of a London bookshop, as chronicled in her delightful epistolary memoir 84, Charing Cross Road, Kober, too, send off packages of coffee, soup, chocolate, and other scarce commodities to European colleagues she had never met.

In journalism school, professors always exhort you to look for the small, telling detail that reflects the character of the person you’re writing about, and I found just such a detail (and it couldn’t have been any smaller) in one of Kober’s letters to Johannes Sundwall, the Finnish scholar whose work she had long admired. Sending him a jar of instant coffee, she referred to it, in the accompany letter, as “some soluble coffee called Nescafe.” And there, on the typewritten page, she had taken the trouble to draw in the acute accent on the final “e” by hand—a minute gesture that, to me, spoke volumes about the rigor and precision with which this woman approached every aspect of her life.

You have an academic background in linguistics.  How big a role did that background play in your choice of this subject?
In both of my published books, Labryinth, which is my second book, and the first one, Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind (2007), I’ve sought to combine my present calling as a journalist with my original training as a linguist (I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field from the State University of New York at Stony Brook) to produce narrative nonfiction works about language.

I actually encountered (or re-encountered, really) the Linear B story nearly ten years, ago, when I was procrastinating while working on Talking Hands. I knew the tale of Linear B was a ripping good yarn, yet one with which relatively few Americans were familiar, and I filed the idea away as a possibility for a future book. Little did I know just how good a yarn it would turn out to be.

Before embarking on the book, how familiar were you with Linear B and its place in the history of civilization?
Because I’d always been interested in language and code-breaking, I’d known the vague outlines of the story since I was a teenager, without really knowing the specifics. About a decade ago, when I was supposed to be working on Talking Hands, I decided to kill some time by flipping through one of my all-time favorite reference books, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writings Systems, edited by Florian Coulmas. It’s a marvelous, thick, heavily illustrated tome documenting all the writings systems known in the world—more different kinds of alphabets, syllabaries, and logographic systems than you can shake a stick at.

Prophetically, the volume fell open to the story of Linear B, and I was reminded of how riveting it was. But at that point, because the full extent of Kober’s contributions was known to very few people, I, like almost everyone else, thought the story belonged exclusively to Ventris.

I phoned the archive at U. Texas, which is the primary repository in this country for papers relating to the Linear B decipherment, including some of Ventris’, to see if I might visit and do research there. I explained what my background was, and what I wanted to do. Tom Palaima, the eminent scholar of Mycenaean Greece who runs the archive, and who has since become a friend of mine, replied with words I will never forget. He said, “You know, it’s a godsend that you’ve called just now, because we’ve recently finished cataloguing the papers of Alice Kober.” To which I replied, “Who??”

I must confess, churlish as it sounds now, that I spent about twenty-four hours gnashing my teeth because my entire conception of the book—the tale of a tragic young English hero named Michael Ventris—had been upended and would have to be completely reworked. But once I had digested exactly who Kober was and exactly what, and how much, she had done, for almost no recognition, I realized that I had on my hands a far, far richer story than I had ever anticipated. And what a privilege is has been to have been able to bring her work to light at long last.

Talk a bit about Arthur Evans—do you consider him admirable in his doggedness, or is he someone whose ideas and methods never matched his celebrity status?
Evans, like most people, was a man of his time. His brand of archaeology, a field that then more than now was a stronghold of moneyed European man, was certainly not lacking in its imperial aspect: One has only to think of him running the Union Jack up the flagpole at Knossos in the spring of 1900 before he broke ground at the site, with his tins of plum pudding, brought carefully over from England, waiting to be eaten. We inarguably owe the discovery of the palace, and the Linear B tablets, to his doggedness, and to his almost unlimited economic resources.

Evans was certainly a magnificent archaeologist. The trouble came, as far as his burning desire to decipher the tablets went, with the fact that he wasn’t really trained in the kind of methodical linguistic and statistical analysis that might let a decipherer unravel an unknown script used to write an unknown language. But the point of the story is that no one really was trained in that kind of approach in those years: It took Alice Kober, after Evans’ death, to impose that kind of much-needed methodological order on the data, and on the field of archaeological decipherment as a whole.

What about Michael Ventris—seemingly a complex figure, and was he equally a self-doubter and a visionary, a depressive personality and a brilliant mind?
Ventris, as brilliant as he was, was clearly racked by self-doubt. There he was, a rank amateur—neither a philologist like Kober nor an archaeologist like Evans, but someone who had never even been to university—who in the wake of the decipherment was being called upon to speak before learned bodies all over the world.

In the four years of life that remained to him after he solved the riddle of the script, he was clearly beset increasingly by what contemporary psychologists have named the “imposter syndrome”—the feeling that one just doesn’t belong, is faking it, etc. And Ventris’ bizarre upbringing, in which his parents, patients of Carl Jung, were forbidden to touch him, plus his loss of both of them, his father to tuberculosis and his mother to suicide, by the time he was eighteen, could only have contributed to his melancholy, self-doubting cast of mind even in the best of times.

And, of course, Alice Kober—she seems to have been an incrementalist rather than a bold thinker, and how important was that quality to the mission of decipherment?
Kober, as both her published writings and her private papers make clear, was both an incrementalist AND a bold thinker—the two certainly weren’t mutually exclusive in her case. But because she was such a rigorous scientist, she confined her bolder, more speculative ideas to her private work, allowing herself to publish each new advance in the decipherment only when it met her rigorous standards of proof. As a result, most of her bolder innovations (many arrived at, independently and correctly, by Ventris) remained unknown until recently, when her papers first became accessible.

Was it your hope with the book to make clear Kober’s (long neglected) contribution around Linear B?  If she has been neglected in her decipherment role, is there an overarching explanation—her lack of publishing activity, her modest academic appointment, her standing as a woman when the academy wasn’t welcoming for female scholars?
Yes, absolutely, once I realized the full extent of her contribution. It was a thrill and a privilege to be able to restore a missing piece of American women’s history to light, and an immense surprise to wind up doing so in a book that I thought was going to be strictly about language, decipherment, and archaeology. History overlooked Kober for all the reasons you name, plus the very pragmatic one of her papers being unavailable for so long.

Just a couple of days ago, the Times reported on how fossilized pollen might suggest the factors behind the collapse of the Late Bronze Age. Are there mysteries from early civilization that continue to fascinate you?
I recently signed the contract to do my third book, also with Ecco/HarperCollins, who did such a fine job bringing out Labyrinth. I’ve decided to give language a rest for a bit, though, and the new book is a historical true-crime narrative. But there are certainly plenty of ancient mysteries out there that still beckon, including Linear A, the indigenous Cretan script that preceded Linear B, and which remains undeciphered.

Looking for more codes?

Are you enjoying The Riddle of Labyrinth? If so, pick up one of these related books, compiled by Duke University Libraries. A speical thank you to Library Communications Assistant, Gwen Hawkes ’16, for such an interesting list!

The Code Book
By Simon Singh
Explore the intricate, meticulous world of code-breaking, as Singh leads you through a maze of cryptography from the ancient world of Julius Caesar to the modern battle fields of World War II. Singh highlights the historical importance of codes and crafts detailed portraits of the men and women behind them, all while providing  accessible explanations of the method behind the madness.

The Aleppo Codex : A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible
By Matti Friedman
The Aleppo Codex is the most accurate copy of the Hebrew Bible in existence. Journalist Matti Friedman chronicles the journey of the Codex as it is smuggled from Syria into Israel, encountering on the way a host of sly antique dealers, devout clerics, and ambitious bureaucrats.

The Code Breakers: The Story of Secret Writing
By David Kahn
Kahn provides an exhaustive history of codes throughout human civilization, beginning with the invention of writing and concluding with a survey of the role of code on the internet. This definitive work on cryptography vibrantly illustrates the crucial role of code throughout history.

The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egypt
By J.D. Ray
The Rosetta Stone has a rich history stretching throughout the centuries. Ray elegantly depicts this legacy as he documents the path of the Stone from its discovery by the Emperor Napoleon through the resulting race to decode its meaning.

Ancient Egypt
Produced by Eagle Rock Entertainment (Online Video—Duke NetID required)
This enlightening film sketches a picture of the vibrant ancient Egyptian culture, including the famous Rosetta Stone, which allowed scholars to decode the previously impossible riddle of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts
By Andrew Robinson
Though the riddle of Linear B may have been solved, a host of other undeciphered languages hold the keys to bygone cultures. Robinson investigates these ancient enigmas— Meroitic hieroglyphs from ancient Nubia, the elusive Etruscan alphabet, the Indus Valley Sealstones, and many others—along with the current efforts to decode them.

The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris
By Andrew Robinson
This book tells the story of Michael Ventris, the young British man whose work led to the decoding of the Linear B tablets. Robinson based his story on interviews, unpublished letters, and a slew of primary sources all masterfully woven together to create this remarkable true story.

The King Must Die
By Mary Renault
In this vivid retelling of the Theseus myth, Renault transports the reader to the thriving island of Crete during the highpoint of the Minoan culture. The story is rich with detail gleaned from Renault’s extensive historical and archeological knowledge, which flesh out an astonishing piece of historical fiction.

Breaking the Maya Code
By Michael D. Coe
Coe, a specialist in ancient civilizations with a passion for the Maya culture, creates a fascinating history of the Maya language and the various efforts that have been made to unravel it. He also recounts many of the exciting, recent advances in decoding the mysterious world of Maya hieroglyphic language.

Minoan Civilization
Produced by Sydney Streeter (video)
This enthralling documentary provides a glimpse into the unknown culture which produced the Linear B tablets. It highlights the art and architecture of the Minoans, the discovery of Knossos by Sir Author Evans, and the devastating end of Minoan Crete.

A Q&A with Professor Carla Antonaccio, plus submit your question for author Margalit Fox!

Here’s a Q&A—inspired by The Riddle of the Labyrinth—with Bob Bliwise and Duke’s Carla Antonaccio, professor of archaeology and department chair for classical studies. Professor Antonaccio is a field archaeologist whose research is focused on the late Bronze Iron Age and later phases in the Aegean and Mediterranean. Having worked on excavations in Greece and Cypress, she has devoted almost every summer over the past twenty years to excavations at a site in Sicily. She is particularly interested in uncovering social and cultural history through the study of material remains.

In the book, Margalit Fox offers this quote (from Maurice Pope): “Decipherments are by far the most glamorous achievements of scholarship. There is a touch of magic about unknown writing, especially when it comes from the remote past, and a corresponding glory is bound to attach itself to the person who first solves its mystery.” Would you assess the rewards of decipherment in similar terms?

I think this privileges the written word too much, because there are some spectacular discoveries and achievements outside of these feats. But I do think that lost languages are poignant and intriguing, since language is so much a part of human identity and culture, so intimate. In this time, literacy is so much taken for granted in the industrialized West that I think we just want to be able to read ancient texts and hear the words of the past.

How would you characterize the challenges that made Linear B especially hard to decode, given the fact that the decoding process dragged on for fifty years?

There was no key. In many cases (like Egyptian hieroglyphics), there is a bilingual text, and one language is known, helping to guide the decipherment of the other. The sample wasn’t that big either: We have many, many more texts in some ancient languages that had to be deciphered, like Akkadian or (again) Egyptian. We still can’t read Etruscan or Linear A.

Fox presents Alice Kober, a classicist at Brooklyn College, as a largely forgotten force in unraveling Linear B. How do scholars regard her contributions today, and how do they explain the fact that her contributions for so long have been unrecognized?

This book is the major corrective to how forgotten she had become. She died before success, and history loves victors; but also she was working at Hunter, alone, not in a major research university or part of a team excavating sites like Knossos and Pylos that produced this kind of material. With this book and the availability of her archives at Austin (a hub of Linear B and Bronze Age archaeology), this will change.

The average reader would have a pretty good sense of the legacy of Classical Greece, but not of Bronze Age Greece. Are there particular aspects of that earlier period–the crafts and decorative-arts tradition, the robust commercial relationships, the organization of civil society, etc.–that you find particularly compelling?

The Bronze Age on the mainland is best known through sites such as Mycenae, with its monumental fortifications and the wealthy tombs filled with gold and weapons. Most intriguing to people is the connection with Homer and his epic poetry, which talks of Mycenae and other places like it: What is the connection between these myths or legends, and history? On Crete, the Bronze Age culture is called Minoan, and the best-known site is Knossos; the question there is its connection to the myth of the Minotaur and labyrinth. Both cultures had vivid wall paintings, many styles of ceramics, and monumental architecture.

What mysteries remain around Bronze Age civilization (maybe including how it collapsed)?

Yes–why it ended, but also how it began, how it took off in about 1600 B.C.E. and had a zenith that then ended around 1200. What happened on Crete in the late Bronze Age? It seems to be under Mycenaean control at the end. How to interpret their religious practices, which seem so different in many respects to those of the later classical period? Yet we can read the names of many of the Greek gods on the tablets, so there is some cultural continuity. Whether there was a “king” or ruler at every citadel, who built the walls and why? Many questions.

As someone who has led archaeological excavations, how would you characterize changes in the field of archaeology since, say, the Victorian era and figures such as Arthur Evans? (Fox notes the famous Schliemann legacy, including excavation methods that involved “the wholesale hacking away of huge, potentially fruitful layers of soil.”)

Well, we don’t dig on that scale for the most part; we work hard to recover as much information as possible about ancient diet, environment, climate, and more. We save every scrap of evidence and are not so interested in moving mountains of earth in search only of spectacular finds. Archaeology is very much an interdisciplinary field, partnered not only with art history, philology, or history, but also now with science (for dating, faunal and floral analysis, environmental analysis, etc.).

What was your most exciting moment in excavating a site?

Excavating a late-sixth century cemetery in Greece and finding the actual physical remains of the people who lived in the ancient city, together with everything that they had been buried with.

Next up: A Q&A with Margalit Fox. What are your questions—about the themes she explores, the characters in her book, or her process of researching and writing—for the author of The Riddle of the Labyrinth? Submit them here!

First thoughts from Bob Bliwise, your DukeReads host for September and October

This month’s DukeReads selection is The Riddle of the Labyrinth, by Margalit Fox. Bob Bliwise A.M. ’88, editor of Duke Magazine, selected the book and has many great things in store for you this month, including conversations with Duke professor of archaeology and chair of classical studies, Carla Anotnaccio, as well as with the author herself!

For now, though, here are some first thoughts from Bob:

I’ll start with a confession: I never had the benefit of a Duke undergraduate education. But over the years and in various ways, I have tried to recover from that omission. One of my more ambitious educational endeavors was shadowing a summer study tour of Greece led by John Younger, who taught in Duke’s classical studies department from 1976 to 2001. Younger’s specialties include the art and archaeology of pre-classical Greece. I remember him as having the wryest sensibility of any classicist I’ve ever encountered (and I have encountered more than a few); and it would be good to see—through your thoughts on this blog—how his former students would validate that.

Even as a mere observer of the Greece-abroad course, I followed through on my student obligations—for example, giving a report outdoors, under the stars, on ancient Greek astronomy. It was some evocative setting with strewn-about ruins. It was also a perfect setting for students to sleep through a lecture.

Among the most meaningful trip outcomes, for me, was my discovery of the richness—in its decorative arts, commercial ties, social organization, and more—of Bronze Age Greece. My past exposure to Western Civ had not reached back that far. In fact, my deepest exposure to Greece at any level was through a Greek restaurant in a onetime tobacco warehouse in Durham; that restaurant has sadly vanished without a single archaeological trace. The Duke trip took in the still-standing, and still-imposing walled citadels of Mycenaean civilization: Mycenae, with its famed Lion Gate; and Tiryns.

The journey into the enduring wonders and mysteries of pre-Classical Greece continues for me with The Riddle of the Labyrinth, by Margalit Fox of The New York Times. Her story begins with archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthing inscribed clay tablets, written by scribes around 1450 B.C.E., amid the ruins of a Bronze Age palace. The script featured pictograms—tiny renderings of swords, chariots, and horses heads. It resembled no alphabet ever seen.

“The Linear B tablets have a stark beauty, Fox writes. “Some have smooth, charcoal-gray surfaces resembling slate, others are reddish brown, still others are bright orange. (The color depends on the level of oxygen to which they were exposed when the palace burned down.) The incised characters are generally crisp and made with care. They are, as Evans put it, ‘the work of practiced scribes.’ On the backs of tablets, those scribes left traces of themselves in the form of fingerprints and even doodles. To look at the tablets even now is to be in the presence of other people—living, thinking, literate people.”

This was a profound connection to a past civilization. It was a connection that would remain broken for decades. Fox quotes Evans’ assistant observing, in 1901, that “The problems attaching to the decipherment of these clay records are of enthralling interest.”

And so begins an enthralling tale.

And the winner is…

The Dukelet the great world spin Class of 2017 Summer Reading is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Read more about the selection and how the summer reading is chosen each year.

DukeReads will be joining the rest of the Duke community to read this year’s selection and we hope you will, too!

First thoughts on A Book of Common Prayer

We hope you all have been enjoying reading A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion, our current DukeReads selection from Professor Victor Strandberg. If you haven’t already, read more about Professor Strandberg and why he chose this book.
He offers the following question about the book:

Like The Great Gatsby, A Book of Common Prayer portrays a narrator whose attitude toward the main character changes radically during the narrative.  At the outset, Nick Carraway expresses “unaffected scorn” for Jay Gatsby, which turns to admiration in the end.  Question: Why does Grace Strasser-Mendana undergo a similar change of perspective toward Charlotte Douglas?

We invite your comments and questions for Professor Strandberg – simply use the Leave a Reply feature below!

A very long list of the latest Duke faculty books

Here are the latest titles written by the prolific Duke faculty, compiled by Duke’s Office of News and Communication. Many of them are available at Duke Libraries and The Gothic Bookshop, which is still taking orders as their renovations continue.

There are several novels on the list along with the variety of research conducted by Duke faulty members. Whether it’s a revised edition on HIV/AIDS in the South, an exploration of Buddhism in Korea and Japan, or an explanation of increasingly popular research on the genius of your pooch, there are plenty of options to pique your interest!

Julie Tetel Andresen: “French Lessons” (Kindle e-book)
Tetel Andresen, whose scholarship typically has her writing in the field of linguistic historiography, is also the author of works of historical fiction.  In her latest novella, the gently-bred Danielle Wemberly is forever changed when she discovers a book hidden in her town’s lending library.

Audra Ang: “To the People, Food is Heaven: Stories of Food and Life in a Changing China” (Lyons Press)
The Singapore-born Ang, who worked as a foreign correspondent for the AP in Beijing for seven years before coming to Duke as a senior writer for University Development, writes about her experiences eating and reporting in China. She discussed the book on a recent edition of WUNC Radios “The State of Things” and the Raleigh News & Observer, saying “I think Southerners are kind of like Chinese in their love of food.”

Jeremy Begbie, co-editor: “Art, Imagination and Christian Hope: Patterns of Promise” (Ashgate)
Through a range of authors, the volume attends to the contributions that architecture, drama, literature, music and painting can make in an exploration of Christian hope. Begbie is the inaugural holder of the Thomas A. Langford Research Professorship in Theology at Duke Divinity School, and founding director of the Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts.

Curt Bradley: “International Law in the U.S. Legal System” (Oxford University Press)
Bradley, a professor of law and public policy studies and senior associate dean for academic affairs at Duke Law School, explores topics at the intersection of U.S. law and international law, such as foreign sovereign immunity, international human rights litigation, extradition, war powers and extraterritoriality.

Jake Breeden: “Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits That Masquerade as Virtues” (Jossey-Bass)
Breeden, on the faculty of Duke’s executive education program, draws on his experience coaching thousands of leaders in 27 countries and new research in economics, neuroscience, and psychology as he reveals how to overcome the dangerous behaviors that masquerade as virtues at work. The author has a 21-question quiz for anyone curious about roadblocks to their own career at breedenideas.com/assessment.

Paul Carrington: “American Lawyers:  Public Servants and the Development of a Nation” (ABA Publishing, April 16, 2013)
Law professor Paul Carrington’s new book illustrates the role lawyers have played in the development and preservation of democracy and social order in America. He also notes their missteps, from the perpetuation, by some, of slavery to the American Bar Association’s demand for “loyalty oaths” during the McCarthy era, to Watergate.

Norman L. Christensen: “The Environment and You” ( Benjamin Cummings)
Christensen, a research professor and founding dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment, has authored an introductory environmental science book that offers students a reliable science foundation and inspires them to connect the course to the choices they can make as citizens.

Dr. Richard H. Cox: “Rewiring Your Preaching : How the Brain Processes Sermons” (InterVarsity Press)
Cox, adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, shows that a better understanding of the brain can help ministers be more effective in their preaching. The book opens with a forward by psychiatry department vice chair Dr. Dan G. Blazer.

Peter Horry: “The Journal of Peter Horry, South Carolinian: Recording the New Republic, 1812-1814,” edited by Roy Talbert Jr. and Meggan A. Farish (University of South Carolina Press)
Farish, a graduate student of history and African & African American Studies, and her co-editor have restored to print all of the Georgetown rice planter’s extant journal entries, offering the modern reader detailed insights into the daily life, agricultural practices, and the culture of South Carolina during its early statehood years.

Laura Florand: “The Chocolate Kiss” (Kensington)
Florand, a romance novelist who teaches French at Duke, is back with another of her chocolate-inspired novels, detailing the chocolate-making scene in Paris and the romance and intrigue that are naturally a part of it.

Erdag Goknar: “Orhan Pamuk, Secularism and Blasphemy: The Politics of the Turkish Novel” (Routledge)
In this first critical study of all of Pamuk’s novels, Goknar, an assistant professor of Turkish studies and an award-winning literary translator, asks larger questions about recent transformations in Turkish history, identity, modernity and collective memory.

Kristin Goss: “The Paradox of Gender Equality: How American Women’s Groups Gained and Lost Their Public Voice” (University of Michigan Press)
Goss, an associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, traces changes in women’s “civil place.”

Mitu Gulati and Robert E. Scott: “The Three and a Half Minute Transaction: Boilerplate and the Limits of Contract Design” (University of Chicago Press)
Using the case of the an equal treatment or pari passu clause in international contracts as a launching pad to explore the broader issue of the “stickiness” of contract boilerplate, law professor Gulati and his co-author have sifted through more than 1,000 sovereign debt contracts and interviewed hundreds of practitioners to show that the problem actually lies in the nature of the modern corporate law firm.

Markos Hadjioannou: “From Light to Byte: Toward an Ethics of Digital Cinema” (University of Minnesota Press)
Hadjioannou, an assistant professor of literature, contrasts digital and celluloid cinema.

Bruce Hall: “A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960″ (Cambridge University Press)
Hall, a co-winner of the American Historical Association award for best book in African history in 2012, provides a deep historical background to the ongoing conflicts and civil wars in present-day Mali. In a live “Office Hours” webcast interview earlier this year, Hall explained the cultural history of the fabled desert city of Timbuktu.

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods: “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think” (Dutton Adult)
Brian Hare, dog researcher, evolutionary anthropologist and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, and research scientist Vanessa Woods offer revolutionary new insights into dog intelligence and the interior lives of our smartest pets. In this essay in The Wall Street Journal, the authors present part of the case for why dogs are far savvier than we ever thought.

Peg Helminski: “Daughter of a Thousand Pieces of Gold” (self-published, Amazon)
A freelance writer and executive assistant in the Department of Radiology, Helminski has published her second book and first novel for middle-school students. Set against the rapidly changing Chinese social landscape brought on by the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping and China’s one-child family planning policy, the book tells the story of 11-year-old Zhong Mei Lin’s journey from her life as a the cherished daughter of a Chinese farm couple, to orphan, to adopted teen-aged daughter of a middle-class, American couple.

Deborah Hicks: “The Road Out: A Teacher’s Odyssey in Poor America” (University of California Press)
Hicks set out to give one group of girls in Cincinnati something she never had: a first-rate education and a chance to live their dreams. A contemporary tragedy is brought to life as she leads us deep into the worlds of Adriana, Blair, Mariah, Elizabeth, Shannon, Jessica, and Alicia — seven girls coming of age in poverty.

Currently a research scholar at the Social Science Research Institute, Hicks was recently a guest on “The State of Things,” talking about her book and her work as the founder and director of Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education.

Donald Horowitz: “Constitutional Change and Democracy in Indonesia” (Cambridge University Press)
In his latest book and the first of a trilogy related to constitutional design for severely divided societies, law professor Horowitz offers a case study of Indonesia’s transition to democracy after almost 50 years of authoritarian rule. By and large, he says, the process was successful; Indonesians have held three free elections and experienced two turnovers of presidential power since the fall of Suharto in 1998, while largely avoiding ethnic polarization and violence.

James C. Howell: “What Does the Lord Require?: Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly” (Westminster John Knox Press)
Howell, a Duke alumnus, part-time lecturer at Duke Divinity School and the senior pastor at Myers Park United Methodist Church, illuminates one of the most powerful verses in the Old Testament, Micah 6:8, which speaks to what God requires of humans in living a just and humble life. The veteran pastor illuminates the original context in which this verse was written, while demonstrating how it can still guide us in our lives today.

Hwansoo I. Kim: “Empire of the Dharma: Korean and Japanese Buddhism, 1877–1912″ (Harvard University Press)
Kim, an assistant professor of religion, explores the relationship between Korean and Japanese Buddhists in the years leading up to the Japanese annexation of Korea.

Kenneth Land, editor: “The Well-Being of America’s Children: Developing and Improving the Child and Youth Well-Being Index” (Springer)
Land, the Duke sociologist who developed a new national composite index on the health and well-being of American children, examines the evolution of the index over the last 14 years and what it promises for understanding the progress — or lack of progress — in enhancing the life prospects of all American children.

Frank Lentricchia: “The Accidental Pallbearer” (Melville International Crime)
The literature professor sets his new novel, a celebration of Italian-American culture, in Utica, N.Y., his hometown. A reviewer for The Philadelphia Inquirer said the downtrodden upstate city “is as much the main character of literary critic Frank Lentricchia’s gripping, complex detective story as the depressive shamus Eliot Conte, whose series debut this is.”

James M. Childs Jr. and Richard Lischer, editors: “The Eloquence of Grace: Joseph Sittler and the Preaching Life” (Cascade Books)
Lischer, the James T. and Alice Mead Cleland Professor of Preaching at Duke Divinity School, and co-editor Childs examine the work of renowned preacher Joseph Sittler who often explored faith through fiction and hymns.  The review of 25 of the renowned preacher’s speeches and sermons includes many never before published.

Randy L. Maddox, editor: “The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley, Volume 12, Doctrinal and Controversial Treatises” (Abingdon Press)
Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School, devotes this volume, the first of three, to four of John Wesley’s foundational treatises on soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Gordon Mantler: “Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974″ (The University of North Carolina Press)
Mantler, a lecturing fellow and associate director in the Thompson Writing Program, writes about the Poor Peoples Campaign, an attempt to get poor folks from across the nation and racial lines to join together for common cause.

Sandi Metz: “Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby: An Agile Primer” (Addison-Wesley)
Metz, a senior IT analyst with 30 years of experience working on projects that survived to grow and change, has distilled a lifetime of conversations and presentations about object-oriented design into a set of Ruby-focused practices for crafting manageable, extensible, and pleasing code.

Carol Meyers: “Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context” (Oxford University Press)
Drawing on archaeological discoveries and ethnographic information as well as biblical texts, religion professor Carol Meyers depicts Israelite women not as submissive chattel in an oppressive patriarchy, but rather as strong and significant actors within their families and in their communities. The book features a fully revised version of Meyers’ groundbreaking 1988 “Discovering Eve.”

Carol Meyers, Eric Meyers, editors: “Archaeology, Bible, Politics, and the Media”(Eisenbrauns)
Archaeological controversies normally confined to the pages of obscure journals are considered newsworthy when they touch on biblical themes, but scholars are not always equipped to handle this sort of attention. A 2009 conference at Duke opened a dialogue between scholars and the media and the resulting essays offer lay communities who learn about archaeology and the Bible through the popular media information that will make them more sensitive to the way discoveries and issues are presented. In an online “Office Hours” in 2011, professors Carol and Eric Meyers responded to viewer questions about the charged combination of biblical archaeology, politics and media.

Claudia Milian: “Latining America: Black-Brown Passages and the Coloring of Latino/a Studies” (University of Georgia Press, The New Southern Studies series)
Milian, an assistant professor of Romance Language, challenges previous boundaries of “Latinidad.”

Martin Miller: “The Foundations of Modern Terrorism: State, Society and the Dynamics of Political Violence” (Cambridge University Press)
In a study of the history of terrorism, integrating the violence of governments and insurgencies, history professor Martin Miller considers why it is that terrorism has become such a central factor in our lives despite all the efforts to eradicate it.

Negar Mottahedeh, editor: “Abdu’l Baha’s Journey West: The Course of Human Solidarity” (Palgrave, April 2013)
Mottahedeh, an associate professor of literature, has edited this book about the influence of the early 20th century Iranian visionary on the emergent civil rights and suffrage movements in America and on his prescription for a lasting peace only three years before the outbreak of WWI.

Mark Anthony Neal: “Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities” (NYU Press, April 22, 2013)
Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African & African American Studies, examines depictions of black men in popular culture. He talks about the book in this interview with WFPL-Louisville.

Erdman Palmore: “Older Can Be Bolder” (Amazon)
Palmore, professor emeritus at the Duke Center for the Study of Aging, provides 101 answers to common questions about aging, mixed with humorous sayings and quotations.

Dr. Claude A. Piantadosi: “Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science and Future of Human Space Exploration” (Columbia University Press)
Piantadosi, a professor of medicine (Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine), evaluates the potential for colonizing Mars by the end of the century.

William Reddy: “The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia and Japan, 900-1200 CE” (The University of Chicago Press)   
Reddy, a professor of history and cultural anthropology, contrasts the dualism of love and desire in the Western tradition with the blending of both in Bengal and Orissa, India, and in Heian Japan. A panel discussion of Reddy’s book, jointly hosted by the Duke University Libraries and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, is slated for March 20.

Staci D. Bilbo and Jaclyn M. Schwarz: “The Immune System and the Developing Brain” (Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences)
Staci Bilbo, psychology and neuroscience assistant professor, and Jaclyn Schwarz, a postdoctoral fellow in Bilbo’s lab, review the growing evidence indicating that there is a strong link between many neuropsychiatric disorders and immune dysfunction, with a distinct etiology in neurodevelopment.

Guillermo Trejo: “Popular Movements in Autocracies: Religion, Repression and Indigenous Collective Action in Mexico” (Cambridge University Press)
The assistant professor of political science focuses in his book on poor indigenous Mexican villages, showing that the spread of U.S. Protestant missionaries and the competition for indigenous souls motivated the Catholic Church to become a major promoter of indigenous movements for land redistribution and indigenous rights.

Daniel A. Vallero and Trevor Letcher : “Unraveling Environmental Disasters” (Elsevier)
Vallero, an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering, writes with his co-author about the science behind the most threatening current and potential environmental disasters. They treat disasters as complex systems and offer predictions, such as what the buildup of certain radiant gases in the troposphere will do, or what will happen if current transoceanic crude oil transport continues.

Steven Vogel: “The Life of a Leaf” (University of Chicago Press)
Vogel uses the leaf as a model for examining an organism’s adaptation to its environment. A companion website with demonstrations and teaching tools can be found here.

Gennifer Weisenfeld: “Imaging Disaster: Tokyo and the Visual Culture of Japan’s Great Earthquake of 1923″ (University of California Press)
Weisenfeld, an associate professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, focuses on the Great Kanto Earthquake that devastated Tokyo and surrounding areas in 1923 and the cultural responses it triggered.

Kathryn Whetten and Brian Pence: “You’re the First One I’ve Told: The New Faces of HIV in the South” (Rutgers University Press; Second Edition)
This revised edition provides new details on the HIV/AIDS in the U.S. South while bringing to life the stories and voices of people infected with the disease. Whetten is a professor of public policy and global health and the director of the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research. Pence is an associate professor of community and family medicine and global health at the center.

William Willimon: “Thank God It’s Thursday: Encountering Jesus at the Lord’s Table as if for the Last Time” (Abingdon)
In this prequel to Willimon’s “Thank God It’s Friday,” the professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School reflects on Jesus’ teaching of his disciples prior to his own death but also before their own hour of decision.

Ronald Witt: “The Two Latin Cultures and the Foundation of Renaissance Humanism in Medieval Italy” (Cambridge University Press)
Witt, a professor emeritus of history, traces the early emergence of humanism in northern Italy in the mid-13th century to the development of a lay intelligentsia in the region, whose participation in the culture of Latin writing fostered the beginnings of the intellectual movement which would eventually revolutionize Europe. The book will be the panel discussion at the Duke Medieval & Renaissance Studies Colloquium on March 29.