Book Breaks

Gilder Lehrman Book Breaks features the most exciting history scholars in America discussing their books live with Book Breaks hosts, followed by a Q&A with home audiences.

Every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT)

Student Question Submission Competition

Middle and high school students (age 13 and up), submit your questions for one of the historians being featured on Book Breaks. If your question is chosen, it will be announced live on the program and in recognition you and your teacher will each win a $50 gift certificate to the Gilder Lehrman Gift Shop! Your question can be about the book or the topic in general. Please, only one submission per program.

Submit your question here.

The deadline to submit a question for the upcoming Book Breaks is Thursday.

Upcoming Book Breaks



October 3, 2021 - Carl Smith discusses his book Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City

From acclaimed Chicago historian Carl Smith comes the full and authoritative story of one of the most consequential disasters in American history. Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City is remarkably the first popular history of this legendary urban inferno. Once it began in the barn of Catherine and Patrick O’Leary on October 8, 1871, the fire quickly grew out of control, twice jumping the Chicago River on its relentless path through the city’s three divisions. The conflagration raged for thirty hours, destroyed three square miles of downtown, and left 90,000 residents homeless and bereft. Building the story around memorable characters known to history and unknown, including the likes of General Sheridan and Robert Todd Lincoln, Smith chronicles the city’s rapid growth and place in America’s post-Civil War expansion. The dramatic story of the fire—revealing human nature in all its guises—became one of equally remarkable renewal, as Chicago quickly rose back up from the ashes thanks to local determination and the world’s generosity and faith in Chicago’s future.

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Carl Smith is Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and Professor of History, Emeritus, at Northwestern University. His books include Chicago and the American Literary Imagination, 1880-1920; Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman; The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City; and City Water, City Life: Water and the Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago.

Order Chicago’s Great Fire at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop

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Coming Soon

Caroline Janney and Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army after Appomattox
Louis Menand and The Free World: Art and Thought in the Free World
Mary Sarotte and Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate
H. W. Brands and Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution
Claude Clegg and The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama
Bruce Levine and Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter for Racial Justice
Allen Guelzo and Robert E. Lee: A Life
Joseph J Ellis and The Cause - The American Revolution And Its Discontents 1773-1783

Last Week’s Book Breaks

September 19, 2021 - Johann N. Neem discussed his book Democracy's Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America.

Order Democracy's Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop

View the full archive of past sessions