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.

The fact is, students inspire me! 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.

Bill of Rights Institute Logo

Impressed by a Dark Tide Inspired History Day Project

I was really impressed with the History Day Project developed by Tony Cicerone, a Hingham (MA) High School junior, who created a narrated video on the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. I think Tony did a wonderful job explaining the disaster, the court case that followed, the issues (immigration, anarchists, etc.) that surrounded the flood story, and the long-term impact of the flood. He also effectively meshed photos, images, and other sources that accompany his narration, and divides the video into easily digestible parts (with titles) that make it a pleasure to follow along. You can watch the video here (you should be able to access it with or without the Dropbox app/program). It’s around nine minutes long, and also includes interview clips with me. I have worked with many high school students on these types of projects and I think Tony’s is among the finest I’ve seen. Congratulations, Tony!

Tony C

“Zooming” with Middle Schoolers

I also enjoyed an interesting Zoom with the sixth-grade journalism class at the Kennedy Middle School in Eugene, Oregon to discuss the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 and my book, Dark Tide. These students really did their homework and asked great questions during our session! Thanks to Language Arts & Social Studies teacher Sarah Case for setting up the event, and to her students for an energetic discussion!

Oregon Zoom

I Thoroughly Enjoyed My Visit to Bow, NH High School to discuss the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution!

I was thrilled to visit Bow, New Hampshire High School to engage in a spirited discussion about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the country’s founding principles – and what these mean to us today.

As occurs each time I visit a high school, the Bow students asked great questions, and students and faculty made me feel welcome at both the morning and afternoon presentations (I spoke to more than 110 students in all!).

I’m shown here with junior Liam Miller (holding my book, American Treasures), and enjoying a conversation with senior Sam Pingree.

Members of the history faculty shown here with me are (from left): Derek DeAngelis, Lily Woo, Brenda Barth, and Anne Barnea. My deep thanks to Lily Woo, who invited me to Bow and organized the event, after reading American Treasures and attending one of my Voyage of Mercy presentations. I am always grateful when teachers and administrators invite me to their school.

Thanks so much to Bow High School!

Upcoming School Events

I’ll be speaking to students this summer in an innovative program launched by Cambridge Historical Tours. The group operates historical walking tours around Boston and Cambridge and is launching an immersive experience on the history and culture of Boston geared to high school students, who will take classes, go on tours, and conduct supervised research projects on various aspects of Boston history.

These topics will range from Puritan settlements to immigrant neighborhoods, from the American Revolution to the Civil Rights movement, from maritime trade to the biotech boom, and from the Back Bay to the Big Dig. Programs will be based at the Commonwealth School and the central branch of the Boston Public Library, with visits on a daily basis to sites all over town.

I’m doubly honored that students will be reading my book, A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850-1900; and I’ll be speaking on the final day of each class session (July 19 and August 16 of 2024). Very much looking forward to this innovative program. For more information, you can contact

Covers and logos


Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, MA

I was honored 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, NDA 2024 (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

A City So Grand Used in a History of Boston Class at Boston College

One of the great honors I’ve had as an author is when my books are woven into high school and college curricula – many schools, in the Boston area especially, now use my books, and I love hearing from students and teachers on what they think. I’m particularly thrilled that, this Fall, Dr. Chris Hannan (shown here) is using my A City So Grand in his Boston College course entitled “Brahmins to Bosses to Busing: City of Boston 1822-2023.”

The course description reads: 

“This course explores the history of Boston from its height as ‘The Hub of the Universe’ in the 1820s, through the tumultuous Civil War and post-war periods. [It] will then examine 20th century Boston and the great events and figures which have shaped its destiny as one of America’s most important cities. It will include the era of forced busing in Boston and assess the lasting impact of this period for Boston.”

A City So Grand covers Boston’s growth and development from 1850-1900, and its emergence as a world-class city – glad BC students will enjoy it as part of this interesting course! My thanks to Chris for including it on his reading list.

Schools and Book Clubs Boston College Collage

Mass Maritime Academy (MMA) developed hands-on program on Molasses Flood for high school students

Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) developed an innovative and exciting hands-on program related to the Great Boston Molasses and used my book, Dark Tide, for high school students participating in the program. (Keep reading below to see an article about my preparation for the program and an exciting discovery.)

MMA cadets aboard the USS Nantucket, which was docked in Boston Harbor in 1919, were first on the rescue scene when the molasses tank collapsed.

I was honored to visit MMA and meet with 46 high school students who participated in the pilot program — and what a great time! Students from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Maryland, California, Florida, Germany, and Puerto Rico filled me in on how they examined the flood through the lens of various MMA programs of study: Emergency Management; Marine Safety, Science, and Environmental Protection; Marine Engineering; Marine Transportation; Facilities Engineering; and International Maritime Business.

The students were highly engaged and asked great questions. Photos here show some of the work they performed, as well as the group picture with me and the “graduation ceremonies” following successful completion of the program. I can’t say enough about MMA’s efforts to make this a success.

You can read an excellent newspaper story on the program here and continue reading below for a link to my related blog.

AirOps Photo Collage

MMA examined the disaster through the lens of six of the seven Academy majors, including: the Marine Safety, Science, and Environmental Protection Department; the Emergency Management Department; the Marine Engineering Department and Facilities Engineering Department; the Marine Transportation Department; and the International Maritime Business Department.

High-achieving high school students participating in MMA’s Sea, Science, and Leadership Program (SSLP) July 31-August 3 were the first to experience this amazing program.

I’m shown here with MMA President Rear Admiral Francis X. McDonald (United States Maritime Service); at the MMA sign with Nancy Franks, program coordinator extraordinaire; “piloting” a molasses steamer through choppy waters in the MMA Ship’s Bridge Simulator; and working with white gloves to examine the scrapbook that contains original reports from 1919 compiled by the commanding officer of the Nantucket. There’s also a view of the school’s Emergency Operations Training Center, where students will learn to develop tactical and strategic decision-making skills utilizing simulated emergency scenarios.

Incidentally, the scrapbook is a rich primary source that I didn’t know existed until my visit! It goes to show that even when you’ve done exhaustive research on a topic, there is always more to be found. I think you’ll enjoy my blog entry that talks a little more about the scrapbook “find,” the constant revelations that history unveils, and the rescue efforts by the cadets on the day of the disaster.

Thanks again to Mass. Maritime Academy – a great institution of higher learning with a long tradition of service and excellence since its founding in 1891! MMA’s decision to focus on the molasses flood and to use Dark Tide as a resource allows me to continue my focus on bringing history and good writing to students across the board.

MMA 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, 2022 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.

It was an honor to take part in this event with these very special teachers and students. Thanks, Middleborough High!


Books and Schools 2


A visit to Everett High School!

I enjoyed my appearance at Everett High School, where I met with two U.S. History classes (and teachers) to discuss my book, Dark Tide! Some 70 Everett High U.S. history students participated in a lively discussion, asked great questions, and took part in an enjoyable book signing afterward.

My Everett High event was part of a “two-appearance day” in Everett — on the same evening, I was at the Parlin Library to discuss Dark Tide, an event that was 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.

Middle School Engineering Curriculum Developed Using “Dark Tide”


My book, “Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919” is “20 years old” (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 The Great Abolitionist discussion questions
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

Naples, FL Book Club

I’m offering a big thank you to this enthusiastic Naples, Florida club that was kind enough to read my book, Voyage of Mercy. Member Peg Mongiello said the group focused its discussions on the roles of the book’s lead characters — USS Jamestown Captain Robert Bennet Forbes and Irish priest Father Theobald Mathew — as well as Sir Charles Trevelyan, who managed the (poor) British response to the Irish famine. “Loved the writing and the history lesson,” Peg reported. Many thanks to the Naples, FL Book Club — and all clubs — for their support!

My Thanks to “Book Buddies” and All Book Clubs!

The photo here shows members of a club from Boston’s North Shore called “Book Buddies” at their holiday party after discussing my Voyage of Mercy. The club is made up of a wonderful group of current and former social workers who worked together at a local social services agency. The club has been together for 15 years, and meets every six weeks — and they read all genres of books.

“We value our time together,” said member Ellen Galligan, “and our meetings are filled with book discussions, other conversation, and beautiful supportive friendships.” Her description could be applied to virtually every other book club I’ve been associated with. I salute “Book Buddies” and all the clubs that have honored me by selecting my books as their reading choice. Thanks to each and every one of them!

Book buddies

A North End Walking Tour

The day was warm and muggy, but that didn’t stop the Andover MA Book Club (or me) from enjoying a tour of Boston’s historic North End. We covered a great deal of ground; from colonial history to the American Revolution, from Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigration to – of course – the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. My thanks to club members for reading my book, “Dark Tide,” and to my sister-in-law, Pat Doyle, for the great photos!

Book Club Collage


Happy to say that several library book clubs have recommended my books, including: 

  • The Nonfiction Book Club at the Ames Free Library in Easton, MA read Dark Tide. This club also read A City So Grand! Thanks to Easton! 
  • The Springvale Public Library in Springvale, Maine, is reading Dark Tide. I love Maine and thanks to Springvale! 
  • The East Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library read A City So Grand. My thanks to Eastie, which has always been so kind to me! 
  • The Hingham MA Public Library Book Club did me the honor of reading Voyage of Mercy. My thanks to Hingham! 
  • Alden Book Group of Holliston, MA asked me to take them on a 90-minute tour of the North End on a chilly Saturday morning. The tour included a visit to the Great Boston Molasses Flood site, an event I chronicle in my book, Dark Tide.

Book Club CollageAnd for the wonderful book clubs who have been so loyal and generous to me, remember that you can get discussion questions for all of my books just above this article. 

I’m also appreciative when reporters and bloggers mention my books. This month, I’m thanking Sarah Wright of The Berkshire Edge, for citing Dark Tide in her Book Ideas for the Berkshires. Sarah discusses “community reads” and recalls when Dark Tide was selected as Boston’s community read in 2010. 


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)