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

History Book Club | 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

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 Jane Ziegelman

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


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

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 | OverviewReading 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 2018
Ima Hogg: The Extraordinary Cultural Patron behind the Unusual Name
by David B. Warren | Reading Guide

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

January 2019
What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories
by Laura Shapiro | Reading Guide

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

May 2019
One Summer: America 1927
by Bill Bryson | Reading Guide

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

September 2019
A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience
by Emerson W. Baker | Reading Guide

November 2019
Daughters of the Winter Queen
by Nancy Goldstone | Reading Guide

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

May 2020
At Home: A Short History of Private Life 
by Bill Bryson | Reading Guide

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

September 2020
 A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley
by Jane Kamensky | Reading Guide

January 2021
New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America
by Wendy Warren | Reading Guide

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

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

November 2021
Craft: An American History
by Glenn Adamson | Reading Guide

January 2022
Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America
by Catherine Kerrison | Reading Guide

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

May 18, 2022
American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic by Victoria Johnson | Reading Guide

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

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

September 13, 2023
97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman | 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.