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Faculty Adviser

Recommendations by Ray Barfield and Kate Bowler

Professors Barfield Recommends...

Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy Ray Barfield is a pediatric oncologist whose research and scholarship are at the intersection of medicine, philosophy, and theology.

As director of pediatric palliative care for Duke Hospital, Dr. Barfield works closely with the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life to advance interdisciplinary research, teaching, and service. In the Divinity School, he collaborates with fellow faculty and students on bridging the disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology.

His book The Ancient Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, and he writes both fiction and poetry. He and his wife, Karen Clay Barfield, an Episcopal priest, have two children.


A Book of Luminous Things
by Czeslaw Milosz

One of my favorite anthologies, this book reflects the astonishing variety of human experience that is illuminated by poetry.

Book of My Nights
by Li-Young Lee

A beautiful collection of meditative poems that frame and respond to questions of hope, fear, and gratitude.

Landing Light
by Don Paterson

Introduced to me by poet Malcolm Guite, Don Paterson has become a new favorite. His exquisitely crafted poems always offer a challenging perspective on life, love, and death.

The Spirit Level
by Seamus Heaney

Heaney’s poems are intensely local, yet evoke thoughts and feelings about universal themes. They are my favorite to read out loud, though sometimes the language is so rich it feels like talking with peanut butter in my mouth.

Odes to Common Things
by Pablo Neruda

This bilingual collection of poems by one of the greatest poets of the 20th century opens our eyes to the beauty of simple things encountered every day.

The Art of Writing

by Lu Chi (translated by Sam Hamill)

In the top 10 “books I wish I had written.”


by John Gardner

Gardner was a master of the art of the unbroken fictional dream, and one of the best writing teachers we have ever had. This wonderful little novel tells the story of Beowulf from the perspective of the monster.

Love in the Ruins
by Walker Percy

The fact that Percy was a physician and a novelist keeps many of us closet scribblers in the hospital going. This brilliant novel set in a time of decay is worth reading for many reasons, one of which is the invention of a stethoscope for the human spirit.

The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

One of the greatest short story writers ever, Elizabeth Bowen gets at surprise and mystery in the human soul in a shorter space than almost anyone I know. I place her alongside Flannery O’Connor and Anton Chekhov.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

by Jonathan Safran Foer

In this novel about a boy whose father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, there are no words on the last 15 pages. Those 15 pages are some of the most powerful I have encountered in a novel.


Leisure: The Basis of Culture
by Josef Pieper

I believe Pieper’s argument in this short book is a powerful rejoinder to many of the most dangerous tendencies in the modern world. I sneak this book into class reading lists anytime I can.

The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine
by Eric Cassell

Anyone who wants to understand what should be at the heart of our debate about health care reform—some of which has not even been mentioned in the debate—needs to read this book. If you don’t have the time for the book, read Cassell’s three-page article in the New England Journal of Medicine .
Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism
by Temple Grandin

I have cared for kids with autism and for their families, and I can hardly wait to read this book. What a gift to have an account from inside that world. This is part of why we need to keep listening to each other’s stories, and keep telling our own. It matters.

Professors Bowler Recommends...

Kate Bowler, who joined the Divinity School faculty July 1 as assistant professor of American Christianity, loves popular culture. Whether Bowler is weighing in on the Twilight Saga ’s Team Edward or the role of the documentarian as anthropologist, she can often be found in a local movie theater.

 “I love to be surprised,” she says. “From the off-beat comedy of Wes Anderson to the unexpected feminist undertones of The Descent , I gravitate toward filmmakers who draw new connections. My favorites are a touch sweet and