Schools and Book Clubs

SchoolsBook Clubs

For years, I have been grateful to book clubs, teachers, and students of all grade levels for their enormous support. Visits to schools and book clubs have accounted for well over 100 of my more than 650 total appearances – and are among my favorites.

I always enjoy my visits to middle schools, high schools, and colleges. Students have always treated me with the utmost respect, and I find their questions to be among the most insightful I receive. An added bonus — perhaps the “double bonus” — is that I have been invited to schools to discuss my books/historical topics AND to talk about writing or to conduct writing workshops.



I’ve also worked with many teachers, either in preparation for appearances in their class, or in workshops on how best to convey historical topics to their students. For teachers who are interested in bringing me to their school for an appearance to discuss my books, or on virtually any historical topic, please contact me at

I’ve also had the opportunity to develop classroom-based curricula such as the summary article and student lesson plan I prepared for the Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute (Charles Sumner and Preston Brooks) based on my book, The Caning: The Assault that Drove America to Civil War. Teachers can also reach out for assistance in this area.


Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, MA

I was honored earlier this month to spend two days at Notre Dame Academy (NDA) in Hingham, MA conducting a primary sources workshop for sophomores, juniors, and seniors at this prestigious girls school. 

More than 250 students in history, language arts, religion, and other subjects participated in the workshop over seven “blocks” (class sessions), where we reviewed and analyzed primary sources as a means to learn about the people we study in history, and to draw lessons on leadership.

I appreciated the warm welcome I received at NDA, and the great participation by the students, whose involvement helped me thoroughly enjoy my visit. 

My thanks to social studies teacher George Rose (shown here in his classroom), who organized and managed the two-day event; to several faculty members who offered overall support and assisted us in assembling packets for students; and to NDA Principal, Dr. Mary Merrigan, and her team, who offered their enthusiastic support! 

Special thanks also to my friend, Maddie Hannan, a junior at NDA (shown with me here), who made the initial connection with George Rose and NDA that paved the way for this outstanding workshop! Maddie is holding one of the 250-plus folders of primary sources that we used for the event. 

Thanks to NDA for a great two days!

NDA Collage


Dark Tide Discussion with Middleborough High

One of my most enjoyable appearances in the fall of 2022 was a visit to Middleborough High School to discuss my book, Dark Tide! (See original article below) So, it was a real treat for me when, while attending a friend’s track meet, several Middleborough track team members who had attended my lecture spotted me, and asked to converse and take a few pix. And TJ Smith is also the Middleborough track coach! It was great to see T.J. and the students in this different, relaxed context. 

The school welcomed me with open arms when I visited, and I also enjoyed my chance meeting with several of these great kids at the track meet. I’m shown in these photos with Tyler Heidke and Kevin Macdonald; Coach (and history teacher) TJ Smith; Olivia Austin and Hailey Travers; and Julia Giovanoni, Jamie Baldwin, and Dante D’Alessandro. Keep reading to learn more about my visit to Middleborough High. 

Middleborough Collage

Among the many things I gave thanks for during Thanksgiving week was a memorable appearance at Middleborough High School to discuss my book, Dark Tide!

History teacher T.J. Smith and English teacher Megan Connor (Megan is at the far left of the group photo and T.J. is third from left) developed an entire interdisciplinary unit on the book for grades 10, 11, and 12, and their students did a fantastic job with the subject matter — from creating special “Boston-based magazines” on the flood story to asking insightful questions during the presentation.

Again, I was also heartened to receive many questions on the writing process, which I always enjoy answering. I’m shown here with seniors Gabrielle Freitas (left) and Sarah Morrison during the book signing that followed.

The school welcomed me with open arms, and it was an honor to take part in this event with these very special teachers and students. Thanks Middleborough High!


Books and Schools 2


And coming up in April: a visit to Everett High School!

I’m very much looking forward to my appearance at Everett High School on April 13, where I will meet with two U.S. History classes (and teachers) to discuss my book, Dark Tide! Students are reading the book prior to my appearance, which always makes for a spirited, engaged discussion. 

My Everett High event will be part of a “two-appearance day” in Everett — on the same evening, I’ll be at the Parlin Library, 410 Broadway, at 7:00 p.m. to discuss Dark Tide, an event that is open to the community! 

Everett High Collage

Founders Day at Roxbury Latin

I was honored to deliver the Commemoration Address for The Roxbury Latin School’s 378th Founders Day celebration. It was a privilege to speak on this important occasion for this prestigious all-boys school in Boston’s West Roxbury section. More than 300 students, plus faculty members and friends, attended this inspirational event that took place at the school’s magnificent Rousmaniere Hall. 

The theme of my address was immigration to Boston, with a focus on the North End neighborhood, which the students were visiting later that day. I’m shown here with Headmaster Kerry Brennan and Director of External Relations Erin Berg; following the ceremony, students assembled outside (on an absolutely beautiful morning), for the traditional all-school photo. 

Later, on their North End visit, the students enjoyed the historical sites and, of course, cannolis!

My sincere thanks to the students, faculty, and administration of Roxbury Latin for a memorable day!


Books and Schools 1


AP History at Walpole High

Anytime I meet with high school AP History classes, I need to be on my toes — and my visit to Walpole High School was no exception! 

I met back-to-back with two junior AP classes taught by Tim Gibllin to discuss Dark Tide, which he assigned for summer reading. Our discussion also branched out and covered the importance of learning history, how history should be taught (and studied), the critical need to use primary sources, research in general, and — always a favorite topic of mine — the writing process. 

It was a free-wheeling, open, and interesting discussion and Q&A session; my favorite kind of event. I’m shown in the group photo with the second class I met with.

Thanks to Mr. Giblin and the Walpole High students for treating me with such hospitality and making me feel so welcomed! 


Walpole 1    Walpole 2


American Treasures selected for Concordia University Irvine’s Center for Civics Education reading list!


Now, on to college!

Last year, I mentioned that this was going to happen, and now it has: I am honored that Concordia University Irvine (CA) has featured my book, American Treasures, on its Center for Civics Education (CCE) reading list! My book (along with several others) is included for emphasizing the country’s founding documents and the “foundational principles of American history and government.” 

The CCE focuses on developing “wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens… for active participation in the public arena based on principles of civility, individual liberty and responsibility, the common good, and representative government.” 

I’m proud to be in some very impressive company on this

 reading list, along with Catherine Drinker Bowen’s classic Miracle at Philadelphia, Pauline Maier’s excellent Ratification, and David Blight’s compelling Frederick Douglass. 

The Center described American Treasures as reading like “a historical detective story,” a description I love!  

CCE Director Jo Ellen Chatham offered these further remarks: 

“I enjoyed reading American Treasures twice and have recommended it to many friendsI believe stories are the most effective way of teaching American history and… capturing people’s attention. Hopefully, they drive readers to want to learn more. Your book is filled with nuggets of history that do stimulate further interest…so thank you for how you bring history to life!” 

My thanks to Concordia University for this honor.

Congratulations to Sahil Raut

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 (which will be “19 years old” this fall!) is widely used by students, teachers, and school systems.

Of my almost 650 author appearances (on all my books), I’d estimate that 80 or so have been in schools. I love talking history with students, and I get excited to see THEM enthusiastic about history topics and projects.

So, I was very pleased to spend time chatting with Bedford (MA) High School junior, Sahil Raut, who chose the molasses flood as his topic for a History Day competition. He used Dark Tide as a source and emailed me asking for an interview. Sahil was well-prepared, asked great questions, and was kind enough to share this photo with me. Initially, Sahil had planned to compete in the History Day competition, but his plans changed at the last minute, and instead his project was displayed in the school library, where students and parents enjoyed it.

Middle School Engineering Curriculum Developed Using “Dark Tide”


My book, “Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919” is “18 years old” in September 2021 (hard to believe!), and those of you who are kind enough to follow me here and elsewhere know that I really enjoy when my books are used by students and school systems. I’m really proud to announce that TEEMS (Transforming Engineering Education for Middle Schoolers), a non-profit National Science Foundation-funded collaboration between Smith College and Springfield Tech Community College, has developed a curriculum on the molasses flood, and used Dark Tide as one of its key sources. TEEMS is an engineering curriculum for 6th-grade science classrooms that uses the power of story to engage students. This link will take you to a blog summary of the unit, and from there you can explore the entire curriculum with ease. My thanks to Isabel Huff, Curriculum Designer & Training Specialist, and to the entire team at TEEMS!


Book Clubs

Book club members have honored me by selecting virtually every one of my books at one time or another, and I can’t say enough about how much this means to me. I’ve found that book clubs are among the most engaged, diligent, and curious readers, and it’s always a pleasure to meet with them. When I visit book clubs, it’s customary to see members with many notes about the book, and with post-it notes throughout the pages of their copies. It’s always rewarding to answer questions and enjoy conversations with book club members. Word-of-mouth is critically important in the book business, so thanks to those of you — including my many book club members! — who have recommended my books to friends and associates. I really appreciate it. Please make good use of the discussion questions you’ll see below for each of my books.

Get discussion questions for Steve’s books

Are Steve’s books on your club’s reading list? Get discussion questions here:

Download a PDF of Voyage of Mercy discussion questions
Download a PDF of American Treasures discussion questions
Download a PDF of The Caning discussion questions
Download a PDF of A City So Grand discussion questions
Download a PDF of The Boston Italians discussion questions
Download a PDF of Due To Enemy Action discussion questions
Download a PDF of Dark Tide discussion questions


My thanks to the Nonfiction Book Club at the Ames Free Library in Easton, MA for selecting Dark Tide as its read for March! 





I was thrilled to receive the “group selfie” from the Door2Door Book Club of Paducah, Kentucky, which selected Dark Tide as their nonfiction choice. “We were all so impressed at how you were able to take this little-known (at least to us) moment in history and beautifully interconnect it with so many other events,” the club wrote to me. This group of readers not only reads together, but they sometimes travel together. For example, after reading Faulkner, members traveled to Oxford, Mississippi for a weekend adventure. Can a road trip to Boston be far behind?


Gathered on and around the couch are members of the Erudite Book Club of Provo, Utah, who selected Dark Tide as their choice.  President Virginia Bryson offered these comments: “We all enjoyed Dark Tide and felt you did a wonderful job describing the real-life characters.  We garnered a lot of information about the state of the United States during that time. The actual molasses flood was almost secondary to the insights we gained regarding terrorism, effects of war, and socioeconomic conditions. It was a very exciting and educational discussion.” Club members enjoyed a Boston-themed meal, including Boston baked beans, cooked with molasses, and a tea party with molasses cookies dunked in beautiful china teacups. Check out the molasses cookie recipe below:

A book club dinner and molasses cookie recipe

Steve met with the book club from Donovan, Sullivan & Ryan, a financial services firm based in Westwood, Massachusetts, to discuss Dark Tide. The group toured the molasses flood site in Boston’s North End, and then enjoyed a delicious dinner at L’Osteria restaurant. Members of the club presented Steve with a bottle of wine and a molasses cookie recipe, which he is happy to share here.

Molasses Cookies
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
4 Tbsp. molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine sugar, butter, molasses, and egg. Mix well. Combine dry ingredients and add to mixture. Mix well and drop by tablespoon on ungreased cookie sheets. Press down on cookies with glass bottom dipped in flour. Bake at 350 degrees, 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!

Also shown here (with laptops and phones, as well as copies of their books) are members of the Boston Baked Beans book club, which meets at the Fenway Community Center in Boston and discusses Boston-based authors and historical events. I was honored that the club chose Dark Tide in 2019 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the molasses flood.

So, to all book clubs, I offer my profound thanks! Please continue to reach out to me at to set up a visit for a discussion of any of my books.

sharon-book-club-group     EruditeBookClubMolassesBarrel (1)