MFAH Book Club Tours

This is where art and literature meet! Designed for established book clubs—whether formal or informal groups—the MFAH Book Club links works of literature to works of art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The MFAH Book Club presents three selections per year. Each book:

  • Is featured for a four-month period in the fall, spring, and summer
  • Is accompanied by a downloadable discussion guide to facilitate group discussions
  • Culminates with a docent-led tour at the Museum, scheduled in advance (see below)

Fall 2015

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

• Finalist: 2014 National Book Award for Fiction
• Shortlist: 2014 National Book Critics Circle Awards
• Shortlist: 2015 PEN Open Book Award
• Editor’s Pick: World Literature Today

Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s “unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The 37 books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read—by anyone. After overhearing her neighbors, “the three witches,” discussing her too-white hair, Aaliya accidentally dyes her hair too blue.

In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colorful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.

This is a heartrending novel that celebrates the singular life of an obsessive introvert, revealing Beirut’s beauties and horrors along the way.


How to Participate

For book clubs and other groups of six or more confirmed participants:

  1. Read the book. Most MFAH Book Club selections may be purchased at the MFA Shop, where Museum members receive a discount. Reading copies are also available in the Museum’s Kinder Foundation Education Center and at the Museum's Hirsch Library.
  2. Download the discussion guide to facilitate your conversation. This guide features questions about the book and select artworks on view at the MFAH.
  3. Request a docent-led tour by e-mailing—a minimum of 3 weeks in advance—with the following information:

    • The name of your group and number of participants
    • The primary organizer's name, telephone number, and e-mail address
    • Your preferred date and time for your tour (see below for tour availability)

    Tours related to Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman are available between September 1 and December 31, 2015 on the following days and times:

    Tuesdays, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m.
    Wednesdays, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m.
    Thursdays, 10:30 am, 3:30 p.m., or 6:30 p.m.
    Sundays, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m.

    Note: If your group meets on a specfic day and/or time not listed above, please e-mail with a request, which we will try to accommodate.
  4. Look for a confirmation e-mail, within 5 business days, with information about when and where to meet the docent at the Museum.

Questions? E-mail


What to Expect on an MFAH Book Club Tour

• MFAH Book Club tours are free for MFAH members and free with general Museum admission for nonmembers.
• Tours last approximately 1½ hours.
• Camp stools are provided for seating.
• Docents facilitate tours, selecting several artworks on view at the Museum that they feel best connect with aspects of the featured book.
• Excerpts from the book are a vital component of these discussion-based tours, so we encourage you to bring your copy of the book along.
• Expect lively discussion of the book and artworks!


Planning Ahead?

The Spring 2016 selection for the MFAH Book Club is The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. (We suggest the Bantam Books 2013 edition.) Stay tuned for the discussion guide.

Tours: January 2–April 30, 2016


The MFAH Book Club receives generous support from Aggie and Joe Foster.

All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment income from funds provided by the Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; the Favrot Fund; and Gifts in honor of Beth Schneider.