How it works:

The Joy of History Book Club convenes once a month via Zoom. Each meeting is limited to around 20 people to allow for an intimate, highly interactive, participatory experience. The inaugural series is currently scheduled:

  • second Saturdays of the month, from 1–3 PM, or
  • second Wednesdays from 6–8 PM.

Scroll below to take a look at what we’ll be reading. Purchase the books you want to read from the vendors of your choosing!

At The Joy of History, there is never any requirement to read the book. Come to the meeting anyway and be enriched by the discussion!

Series I: 19th-Century Foundations

immigration, sexuality, western expansion,
race, and slavery

We’ll be using historical fiction as our starting point to unpack and expand upon some of the foundational pieces of the nineteenth-century American experience that continue to influence our society today: immigration, sexuality, western expansion, race, and slavery.

These award-winning selections also include academic history, popular history, and biography.


Sat: Aug 8, 1-3 pm
Wed: Aug 12, 6-8 pm

Days Without End: A Novel
by Sebastian Barry (2016)

Narrated by Irish immigrant, Thomas McNulty, who flees the Great Famine as a teen and enlists in the U.S. Army in the 1850s, fighting in the Indian Wars and the Civil War. A haunting, nuanced, surprising, beautifully crafted, and historically grounded depiction of this fateful period of American history. Winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award and longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

Sat: Sept 12, 1-3 pm
Wed: Sept 9, 6-8 pm

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race
by Matthew Frye Jacobson (1998)

Discover the historical roots of race in the United States. Jacobson masterfully traces the story of race through literature, popular culture, politics, society, ethnology, anthropology, cartoons, and legal history. Winner of the American Political Science Association’s Ralph J. Bunch Award.

Sat: Oct 10, 1-3 pm
Wed: Oct 14, 6-8 pm

Re-Dressing America’s Frontier Past
by Peter Boag (2011)

Explore a forgotten, erased, and astonishing chapter of the history of the American West where cross-dressing for both men and women was ubiquitous and visible, a powerful way to redefine gender and sexual identities before our modern conceptions of heterosexuality and homosexuality took shape. Lambda Literary Award Finalist.

Sat: Nov 14, 1-3 pm
Wed: Nov 11, 6-8 pm

The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West
by Peter Cozzens (2017)

Learn about the military conquest of the American West, the Indian Wars that lasted for more than three decades after the Civil War. Examine the complex motivations that structured these conflicts and how they violently transformed individual lives and communities. Winner of the Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History.

Sat: Dec 12, 1-3 pm
Wed: Dec 9, 6-8 pm

Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol
by Nell Irvin Painter (1996)

Complicate and expand what you know about the legendary Sojourner Truth – in slavery and freedom, as an abolitionist, and as a feminist, in the context of her times and beyond, through this powerful biography.

Register for the option that suits you:

The series runs on the second Saturdays and second Wednesdays of the month. If you have to miss a meeting for the day you signed up for, recordings of each meeting will be made available (privately) for one week.

Attend individual monthly meetings in a series —
This is a great way to try out The Joy of History Book Club.
Attend this full 5-month series —
It will take you deep inside these topics and themes through multiple perspectives and historical approaches.
Attend the deluxe version of the series —[This $125 value is now included in the inaugural TJOH Book Club series for all registered participants at no extra charge!]
Like your own multi-faceted, exclusive course. In addition to the The Joy of History Book club meetings, you can log into a private discussion community where I post interim supplements (extra readings, related art, film, photos, historiography and/or reviews). We can dive deeply and grapple with some of the hard questions between meetings.

You’ll need a public library card that will provide you with free access to Kanopy (for films) and JSTOR (journal articles).


If your schedule doesn’t permit you to join an event right now, sign up to get notified when new TJOH Book Clubs and other opportunities are launched.

The Joy of History (logo)
Using the Past to Empower Your Present
Barbara Berglund Sokolov, PhD started The Joy of History in 2020 to foster a community of learning in these historic times we find ourselves living in. She is a native San Franciscan and a scholar of California and the American West. Read more about her here.