Rienzi & Bayou Bend: History Book Club

Look to the MFAH for good books and great conversations!

This unique book club is inspired by history. Throughout the year, the two MFAH house museums—Bayou Bend and Rienzi—present free discussions about books on life in America and Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. For details, scroll through the sections below.

Questions? Call 713.639.7800 or 713.639.7759 or email rienzi@mfah.org

2023–2024 Calendar

These discussions take place bimonthly on a Wednesday. You may choose to attend either at 1:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. The November, March, and July afternoon meetings and all evening meetings are via Zoom. For afternoons in September, January, and May, you may attend either in person at Bayou Bend or via Zoom. Check the calendar for more details.

Download the 2023–2024 schedule

September 13, 2023 | Hosted by Bayou Bend
97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman | Reading Guide

November 8, 2023 | Hosted by Rienzi
The Last Emperor of Mexico: The Dramatic Story of the Habsburg Archduke Who Created a Kingdom in the New World by Edward Shawcross

January 10, 2024 | Hosted by Bayou Bend
South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War by Alice L. Baumgartner

March 13, 2024 | Hosted by Rienzi
The Great Fire of London: In That Apocalyptic Year, 1666 by Neil Hanson

May 8, 2024 | Hosted by Bayou Bend
American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World 
by David Baron

July 10, 2024 | Hosted by Rienzi
Before Mrs Beeton: Elizabeth Raffald, England’s Most Influential Housekeeper  by Neil Buttery
Register online to attend via Zoom | 1:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. 

2022–2023 Calendar

September 14, 2022 
Wondrous Beauty: Betsy Bonaparte, the Belle of Baltimore Who Married Napoleon’s Brother by Carol Berkin

November 9, 2022 
The Radical Potter: The Life and Times of Josiah Wedgwood by Tristram Hunt

January 11, 2023 
An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery by Rachel May | Reading Guide

March 8, 2023
In the Shadow of the Empress: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters by Nancy Goldstone

May 10, 2023
The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York by Matthew Goodman

July 12, 2023 
The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World by Jenny Uglow

2021–2022 Calendar

September 8, 2021 | Virtual | Rienzi
Mexican American Odyssey: Felix Tijerina, Entrepreneur and Civic Leader, 1905–1965 by Thomas H. Kreneck | Learn More

November 10, 2021 | Virtual | Bayou Bend
Craft: An American History by Glenn Adamson | Learn More

January 12, 2022 | Bayou Bend
Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America by Catherine Kerrison | Learn More

March 9, 2022 | Rienzi
Handel in London: The Making of a Genius by Jane Glover | Learn More

May 11, 2022 | Bayou Bend
American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic by Victoria Johnson | Learn More

July 13, 2022 | Rienzi
The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization by Roland Ennos | Learn More

2020–2021 Calendar

September 9, 2020 | Bayou Bend
A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley by Jane Kamensky

November 11, 2020 | Rienzi 
The Church in the Barrio: Mexican American Ethno-Catholicism in Houston by Roberto R. Treviño

January 13, 2021 | Bayou Bend
New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren

March 10, 2021 | Rienzi
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel

May 19, 2021 | Bayou Bend
The Poison Plot: A Tale of Adultery and Murder in Colonial Newport by Elaine Forman Crane | Reading Guide

July 14, 2021 | Rienzi
Caesar of Paris: Napoleon Bonaparte, Rome, and the Artistic Obsession That Shaped an Empire by Susan Jaques | Reading Guide

2019–2020 Calendar

September 11, 2019 | Bayou Bend
A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker

November 13, 2019 | Rienzi
Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots by Nancy Goldstone

January 8, 2020 | Bayou Bend
Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation by David A. Price

March 11, 2020 | Rienzi
The Apothecaries’ Garden: A History of the Chelsea Physic Garden by Sue Minter

May 20, 2020 | Bayou Bend
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

July 8, 2020 | Rienzi
Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures by Cynthia Saltzman

2018–2019 Calendar

September 12, 2018 | Bayou Bend
Ima Hogg: The Extraordinary Cultural Patron behind the Unusual Name by David B. Warren

November 14, 2018 | Rienzi
The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 by Molly Peacock | Reading Guide

January 9, 2019 | Bayou Bend
What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro

March 13, 2019 | Rienzi
The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice by Michael Krondl | Reading Guide

May 15, 2019 | Bayou Bend
One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

July 10, 2019 | Rienzi
Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740–1832 by Stella Tillyard | Reading Guide

2017–2018 Calendar

September 13, 2017 | Bayou Bend
Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman | Reading Guide

November 8, 2017 | Rienzi
Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler | Reading Guide

January 10, 2018 | Bayou Bend
Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848–1868 by Cokie Roberts | Reading Guide

March 7, 2018 | Rienzi
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes

May 16, 2018 | Bayou Bend
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad by Eric Foner | Reading Guide

July 11, 2018 | Rienzi
The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Modern Library Classics) by Samuel Pepys | Reading Guide

2016–2017 Calendar

September 2016
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
by David McCullough | Reading guide

November 2016
Passionate Minds: Emilie du Châtelet, Voltaire, and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment
by David Bodanis

January 2017
The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America
by Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz | Reading Guide

March 2017
A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III
by Janice Hadlow | Reading Guide

May 2017
Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber
by Stephen Yafa | Reading Guide

July 2017
Jewels: A Secret History
by Victoria Finlay | Reading Guide

2015–2016 Calendar

September 2015
The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (Part 2)
by Richard Lyman Bushman | Reading Guide

November 2015
Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life
of Josephine Bonaparte
by Kate Williams

January 2016
Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Womanand the First Great Scandal
of 18th-Century America
by Alan Pell Crawford | Reading Guide

March 2016
The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth
of Modern Geology
by Simon Winchester | Reading Guide

May 2016
When America First Met ChinaAn Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail
by Eric Jay Dolan | Reading Guide

July 2016
Our Tempestous Day: A History of Regency England
by Carrolly Erickson | Reading Guide

2014–2015 Calendar

September 2014
Writing on the Wall: Social Media—The First 2,000 Years
by Tom Standage | Reading Guide

November 2014
Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens
by Andrea Wulf | Reading Guide

January 2015
Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation
by Cokie Roberts | Reading Guide

March 2015
Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era
by Caroline Moorehead | Reading Guide

May 2015
The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (Part I)
by Richard Lyman Bushman | Reading Guide

July 2015
White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India
by William Dalrymple | Reading Guide

2013–2014 Calendar

September 2013
The Brother Gardeners
by Andrea Wulf | Reading Guide

November 2013
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things
by Paula Byrne | Reading Guide

January 2014
Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America
by Jennifer K. Anderson | Reading Guide

March 2014
The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies
by Matthew Parker | Reading Guide

May 2014
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
by Jill Lepore | Reading Guide

July 2014
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
by Robert K. Massie | Reading Guide

2012–2013 Calendar

September 2012
In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life
by James Deetz | Reading Guide

November 2012
Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles
by Robert Sackville-West | Reading Guide

January 2013
The Wordy Shipmates
by Sarah Vowell | Reading Guide

March 2013
Women and Their Gardens: A History from the Elizabethan Era to Today
by Catherine Horwood | Reading Guide

May 2013
The Sot-Weed Factor
by John Barth | Reading Guide | Postmodernism | Original 17th-Century Poem

July 2013
The Age of Comfort: When Paris Discovered Casualand the Modern Home Began
by Joan DeJean | Reading Guide

2011–2012 Calendar

September 2011
At Home: A Short History of Private Life
by Bill Bryson | Reading Guide

October 2011
A History of the World in Six Glasses
by Tom Standage | Reading Guide

November 2011
Taste: The Story of Britain through Its Cooking
by Kate Colquhoun | Reading Guide

December 2011
Christmas: A Candid History
by Bruce David Forbes | Reading Guide | Vintage Trailer

January 2012
Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
by Caroline Weber | Reading Guide

February 2012
The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich | Reading Guide

March 2012
The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story
by Janet Gleeson | Reading Guide

April 2012
Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation
by Andrea Wulf | Reading Guide

May 2012
Young Romantics
by Daisy Hay | Reading Guide

June 2012
Pets in America: A History
by Katherine C. Grier | Reading Guide

July 2012
Madame du Barry: The Wages of Beauty
by Joan Haslip | Reading Guide

August 2012
Eight Cousins
by Louisa May Alcott | Reading Guide


Selected History Book Club texts, as well as an array of decorative arts and historical resources, are available at the Kitty King Powell Library and Study Center at Bayou Bend’s Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center.

Some History Book Club selections are carried by the Cottage Shop at Bayou Bend. Discount for MFAH members.