Book Breaks

Book Breaks is a weekly interview series with historians held every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. 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, Ken Burns, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Peniel Joseph, Jon Meacham, Clint Smith, and Elizabeth Varon. 

How do I attend Book Breaks?

Book Breaks is completely free for Affiliate School K–12 teachers and students, college students, and college professors. 

  • K-12 students, simply log in or create an account
  • College students, professors, and K–12 educators, log in, return to this page, and click the button to subscribe for 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. 
  • Log in and make your purchase

Can I watch a program before deciding to subscribe? 

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


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

Upcoming Book Breaks


May 26 - Dylan Penningroth on Before the Movement: The Hidden History of Black Civil Rights

Legal scholar Dylan Penningroth traces the roots of civil rights back to the nineteenth century when Black people bought and sold land, signed and enforced contracts, and engaged in other everyday activities that were difficult to segregate. Penningroth delved deeply into the mundane records of civic life to discover how African Americans integrated themselves in the legal landscape of the United States long before the dramatic upheavals of the civil rights movement. Dylan C. Penningroth is a professor of law and history at the University of California–Berkeley and a 2012 MacArthur Fellow.

June 2 - Richard Brookhiser on Glorious Lessons: John Trumbull, Painter of the American Revolution

June 9 - Rachel L. Swarns on The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church

History Scholar of the Week

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, you will be named History Scholar of the Week, and it will be announced live on the program! In addition, 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 submit only one question 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 more than three years of past programs featuring historians such as David Blight, H. W. Brands, Ken Burns, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Peniel Joseph, Jon Meacham, Elizabeth Varon, and more. Still deciding whether to subscribe? You can watch Harold Holzer’s talk on Brought Forth on This Continent: Abraham Lincoln and American Immigration (winner of the Lincoln Prize) below to help you make up your mind.

View the full archive of past sessions

The Institute thanks Citizen Travelers, the nonpartisan civic engagement initiative of The Travelers Companies, Inc., for its support of Book Breaks.

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