Book Breaks

Book Breaks is a weekly interview series with historians held every Sunday at 2 pm ET (11 am PT) on Zoom. Scroll down to see our upcoming programs!

Each week our hosts interview renowned scholars and discuss their acclaimed and frequently award-winning works, followed by a Q&A with the at-home audience. Our guests have included David Blight, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Clint Smith, Peniel Joseph, and Elizabeth Varon. 

How do I attend Book Breaks?

Book Breaks is completely free for all K-12 teachers and students. 

  • Simply log in or register here to create a free account. 
  • Once you log in you will see a button on this page asking you to subscribe, which will grant you access to all future programming and the Book Breaks archive. 

Members of the general public can purchase a one-year subscription for $25. The subscription includes

  • Full access to one year of weekly live programs
  • Unlimited access to our ever-expanding Book Breaks archive, featuring more than ninety sessions with the nation’s leading historians. View the full archive of past sessions here.
  • Log in and make your purchase here 

Can I watch a program before deciding to register? 

Yes! First-time viewers can watch a Book Breaks program for free. Simply log in or register and you will see a link  at the top of this page to access the week's historian lecture and Q&A.

Questions?

Email us at bookbreaks@gilderlehrman.org.

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


Upcoming Book Breaks

July

July 3, 2022 - Elliott West discusses his book The Essential West: Collected Essays.

Scholars and enthusiasts of western American history have praised Elliott West as a distinguished historian and an accomplished writer, and this book proves them right on both counts. Capitalizing on West’s wide array of interests, this collection of his essays touches on topics ranging from viruses and the telegraph to children, bison, and Larry McMurtry. Drawing from the past three centuries, West weaves the western story into that of the nation and the world beyond, from Kansas and Montana to Haiti, Africa, and the court of Louis XV.

Divided into three sections, the volume begins with conquest. West is not the first historian to write about Lewis and Clark, but he is the first to contrast their expedition with Mungo Park’s contemporaneous journey in Africa. “The Lewis and Clark expedition,” West begins, “is one of the most overrated events in American history—and one of the most revealing.” The humor of this insightful essay is a chief characteristic of the whole book, which comprises ten chapters previously published in major journals and magazines—but revised for this edition—and four brand-new ones.

West is well known for his writings about frontier family life, especially the experiences of children at work and play. Fans of his earlier books on these subjects will not be disappointed. In a final section, he looks at the West of myth and imagination, in part to show that our fantasies about the West are worth studying precisely because they have been so at odds with the real West. In essays on buffalo, Jesse James, and the McMurtry novel Lonesome Dove, West directs his formidable powers to subjects that continue to shape our understanding—and often our misunderstanding—of the American West, past and present.

Elliott West, Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, is a specialist in the social and environmental history of the American West. He has twice been chosen as his university’s teacher of the year and, in 2009, he was one of three finalists for the Robert Foster Cherry Prize for the outstanding classroom teacher in the nation. He has written several books, including The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains (1995); The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers and the Rush to Colorado (1998), winner of the Francis Parkman Prize and the OAH Ray Allen Billington Prize; and The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story (2009).


Coming Soon

July 10 - David Hackett Fischer on African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals

July 17 - Dorothy Wickenden on The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights

July 24 - Susan Schulten on A History of America in 100 Maps

TBD - Doris Kearns Goodwin on Leadership: In Turbulent Times


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 both you and your teacher will 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.


Book Breaks Archive

The Book Breaks archive contains over eighteen months of past programs from historians such as David Blight, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Peniel Joseph, Elizabeth Varon, and more. Still deciding whether to subscribe? You can watch David Blight’s talk on Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom below to help you make up your mind.

View the full archive of past sessions