Book TV Pays Duke a Visit

Book Talk

Engineering professor Henry Petroski, left, talks about his latest book Tuesday with Book TV executive producer Peter Slen. Photo credit: Nikhil Raval

A Duke professor will soon appear on the popular Book TV program. Actually, make that a dozen Duke professors.

On Tuesday, one Duke professor after another sat across from the program's executive producer to talk about their most recent books.

The 20- to 30-minute interviews, which took place in a Washington Duke Inn boardroom, are slated to air on C-Span 2 beginning in April.

Book TV producer Nikhil Raval said the show tries to get the most it can from its road trips by setting up as many as 10-12 interviews in a day. When attending book shows in places like Miami, Chicago or Los Angeles, it also visits a local university.

"We look for affordable ways to do things," Raval said.

The decision to visit the Triangle was easy, Raval said. Duke "is a gold mine. We could have easily done two days here." On Monday, the show interviewed nine professors at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The interviews at Duke started at 10 a.m. Tuesday, with executive producer Peter Slen talking with Henry Petroski about the engineering professor's 2012 book, "To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure."

Every 30 minutes, a different professor sat down in a plush blue chair across from Slen to talk about his or her most recent work.

In addition to Petroski, 11 other Duke professors discussed their books Tuesday. They  were:

-- Dan Ariely, "The Honest Truth about Dishonesty" (Harper, 2013);

-- Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, "Racism without Racists" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013);

-- Kate Bowler, "Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel" (Oxford, 2013);

-- Deborah Hicks, "The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America" (Duke, 2013);

-- Margaret Humphries, "Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War" (Johns Hopkins, 2013);

-- Judith Kelley, "Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works, and Why It Often Fails" (Princeton, 2012);

-- Martin Miller, "The Foundations of Modern Terrorism: State, Society and the Dynamics of Political Violence" (Cambridge, 2013);

-- Claude Piantadosi, "Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration" (Columbia, 2013);

-- James Salzman, "Drinking Water: A History" (Overlook, 2012);

-- Maurice Wallace, "Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American identity" (Duke, 2012);

-- Lawrence Zelenak, "Learning to Love Form 1040: Two Cheers for the Return-Based Mass Income Tax" (Chicago, 2013).

Raval said when looking for authors to interview, he scans university websites such as the history and political science department webpages, Amazon lists and other online sources in search of books published within the past three years.

The interviews will air from 1-2 p.m. on Sundays and 1-2 a.m. on Mondays, possibly beginning as early as April. The interviews will also be archived on the C-Span ( and Book TV ( websites.