Past Events

American Dude Ranch: A Touch of the Cowboy and the Thrill of the West

Monday, June 13, 2022, 6-7:15 PM
| In-Person event & Livestream to YouTube

Viewers of films and television shows might imagine the dude ranch as something not quite legitimate, a place where city dwellers pretend to be cowboys in amusingly inauthentic fashion. But the tradition of the dude ranch, America’s original western vacation, is much more interesting and deeply connected with the culture and history of the American West. In American Dude Ranch, Lynn Downey opens new perspectives on this buckaroo getaway, with all its implications for deciphering the American imagination.

Dude ranching began in the 1880s when cattle ranches ruled the West. Men, and a few women, left the comforts of their eastern lives to experience the world of the cowboy. But by the end of the century, the cattleman’s West was fading, and many ranchers turned to wrangling dudes instead of livestock. What began as a way for ranching to survive became a new industry, and as the twentieth century progressed, the dude ranch wove its way into American life and culture.

Downey follows dude ranching across the years, tracing its influence on everything from clothing to cooking and showing how ranchers adapted to changing times and vacation trends. Her book also offers a rare look at women’s place in this story, as they found personal and professional satisfaction in running their own dude ranches.

However contested and complicated, western history is one of America’s national origin stories that we turn to in times of cultural upheaval. Dude ranches provide a tangible link from the real to the imagined past, and their persistence and popularity demonstrate how significant this link remains. This book tells their story—in all its familiar, eccentric, and often surprising detail.

A live presentation by Lynn Downey, author, archivist, and historian

2022 Oscar Lewis Awards

Monday, May 23, 2022, 6-7:15 PM
| In-Person event & Livestream to YouTube

The Oscar Lewis Awards were established by the Book Club of California in 1994 in honor of Oscar Lewis (1893-1992), San Francisco author, historian, and club secretary from 1921-1946. Awards for achievement in Western History and the Book Arts are awarded each year.

This year Charles Wollenberg will be recognized for his contributions to Western History and Mary Risala Laird will be recognized for her contributions to the Book Arts.

A ceremony to celebrate the honorees will be held at the Book Club. Space is limited and reservations are required. This event will also be live streamed on YouTube. Details to follow.

This event was originally scheduled for April 11, 2022 but based on honoree availability and other factors we needed to move the event to May 23, 2022. 

Sharing Our Desert’s LGBTQ+ History: How It All Began

Monday, May 16, 2022, 5-6:15 PM | Zoom Webinar

* Presented in association with Rare Books LA – Palm Springs

Begun in 2019, the LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert is dedicated to collecting, preserving and making accessible the LGBTQ+ History of the Greater Palm Springs Area. This presentation provides a brief overview of how and why the Archives began, what their current collection houses, their exhibitions, and future plans.

A live online presentation by David Gray, co-founder and co-chair, LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert

12 Things to Know: Collectors Reflect

Monday, May 9, 2022, 5-6:15 PM | Zoom Webinar

Collections advisor Spencer W. Stuart asked multi-decade dedicated collectors, “With 20/20 hindsight, what do you wish you had done, or known to do, when you started collecting?”

This talk unpacks a compilation of the responses gleaned from these individuals into 12 salient points and elaborates on their meanings through case studies.

For the emerging collector, this presentation provides foundational perspectives from which to develop sound collecting practices for the future

A live online presentation by Spencer W. Stuart, collections advisor, writer, and lecturer

A Rebel’s Outcry: Biography of Issei Civil Rights Leader Sei Fujii (1882-1954)

Monday, April 25, 2022, 6-7:15 PM | In-Person event & Zoom Webinar

A Rebel’s Outcry: Biography of Issei Civil Rights Leader Sei Fujii (1882-1954) is an illustrated biography and detailed look into the life of Japanese American civil rights leader Sei Fujii, known for overturning the California Alien Land Law in 1952 and founding the Japanese American newspaper Kashu Mainichi (California Daily News). His complex history reveals his intriguing journey as an immigrant, a social justice activist, unionizer, and a community leader. Fujii’s story exemplifies the multitude of ways Americans have and may continue to fight for our civil rights.

The official biography on Sei Fujii is the source material written by author Kenichi Sato and was commissioned by manager Junko Maruya of the Kashu Mainichi. Following the work by Sato, Little Tokyo Historical Society conducted over ten years of extensive research, including interviews with countless community members, Fujii’s family, and visiting his ancestral samurai home in the Takamori Village of Iwakuni, Japan.

A live presentation that will be streamed by Jeffrey Gee Chin, author, filmmaker, and board member, Little Tokyo Historical Society

Collecting Antiquarian Books & the Joy of the Hunt

Monday, April 18, 2022, 5-6:15 PM | Zoom Webinar

Boston-based Brattle Book Shop proprietor and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Kenneth Gloss will talk about some of his “favorite finds” and describe some of the many joys of “the hunt.” He will touch on what makes a book or manuscript rare and what goes in to determining the value of an item. He will share anecdotes about his time with Antiques Road Show and private and institutional collecting, as well as offer guidelines for starting and growing a collection.

A live online presentation by Kenneth Gloss, proprietor, Brattle Book Shop and appraiser, Antiques Road Show

Monster, She Wrote

Monday, March 28, 2022, 5-6:15 PM | Zoom Webinar

Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it.

From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction.

Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)?

Monster, She Wrote is part biography and part reader’s guide with engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists that will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories.

A live online presentation by Melanie R. Anderson, author, assistant professor of English at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, and podcast host, and Lisa Kroger, author and podcast host.

Phoebe Apperson Hearst: A Life of Power and Politics

Monday, March 21, 2022, 6-7:15 PM | In-Person event & Zoom Webinar

A financial manager, businesswoman, and reformer, Phoebe Apperson Hearst was one of the wealthiest and most influential women of the era and a philanthropist, almost without rival, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hearst was born into a humble middle-class family in rural Missouri in 1842, yet she died a powerful member of society’s urban elite in 1919. Most people know her as the mother of William Randolph Hearst, the famed newspaper mogul, and as the wife of George Hearst, a mining tycoon and U.S. senator. By age forty-eight, however, Hearst had come to control her husband’s extravagant wealth after his death. She shepherded the fortune of the family estate until her own death, demonstrating her intelligence and skill as a financial manager.

Hearst supported a number of significant urban reforms in the Bay Area, across the country, and around the world, giving much of her wealth to organizations supporting children, health reform, women’s rights and well-being, higher education, municipal policy formation, progressive voluntary associations, and urban architecture and design, among other endeavors. She worked to exert her ideas and implement plans regarding the burgeoning Progressive movement and was the first female regent of the University of California, which later became one of the world’s leading research institutions. Hearst held other prominent positions as the first president of the Century Club of San Francisco, first treasurer of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs, first vice president of the National Congress of Mothers, president of the Columbian Kindergarten Association, and head of the Woman’s Board of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Phoebe Apperson Hearst: A Life in Power and Politics offers the first biography of one of the Gilded Age’s most prominent and powerful women.

An in-person presentation that will be streamed by Alexandra Nickliss, author and professor of history at City College of San Francisco.

Medieval Manuscript Culture & Production

Monday, March 14, 2022, 5-6:15 PM | Zoom Webinar

Explore the physical materials, production process, ownership, and readership of medieval manuscripts from 800-1500 in Western Europe in this online presentation. Participants will learn about parchment-making, medieval ink and pigment ingredients, methods for illumination and decoration, and the culture of scriptoria with a special focus on women scribes. The lecture will also give participants the experience of examining the script and decoration of digitized European manuscripts in a virtual setting.

A live online presentation by Kathryn Brunet, lecturer, palaeographer, and special collections librarian.

Vespasiano da Bisticci: The Bookseller of Florence

Sunday, March 13, 2022
2:00 PM | Zoom Webinar

* Co-presented and co-hosted by the Book Club of Washington

The Renaissance in Florence conjures images of beautiful frescoes and elegant buildings—the dazzling handiwork of the city’s artists and architects. But equally important were geniuses of another kind: Florence’s manuscript hunters, scribes, scholars and booksellers, who blew the dust off a thousand years of history and, through the discovery and diffusion of ancient knowledge, imagined a new and enlightened world.

At the heart of this activity was a remarkable bookseller: Vespasiano da Bisticci, known as ‘the king of the world’s booksellers’. Besides repositories of wisdom by the likes of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, his books were works of art in their own right, copied by talented scribes and illuminated by the finest miniaturists. His clients included popes, kings and princes from all across Europe who wished to burnish their reputations by founding magnificent libraries.

Vespasiano reached the summit of his powers as Europe’s most prolific merchant of knowledge when a new invention appeared—the printing press—that forever changed how books were produced and knowledge transmitted. By 1480, after almost fifty years in business, Vespasiano closed his shop in Florence’s Street of Booksellers and retired to the country to write his gossipy memoirs of everyone he had known.

A thrilling chronicle of intellectual ferment set against the dramatic political and religious turmoil of the era, The Bookseller of Florence is also an ode to books and bookmaking that charts the world-changing shift from script to print through the life of an extraordinary man—one of the true titans of the Renaissance.

A live online presentation by Ross King, author

Print-Your-Own-Broadside Affair

Monday, February 28, 2022
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM | In-person event

Letterpress print your own broadside on the Book Club’s Columbian hand press with Li Jiang, Lemoncheese Press

*A limited number of broadsides will be printed.
Participation on a first come, first serve basis.


The Life and Times of Jo Mora: Iconic Artist of the American West

Saturday, February 19, 2022, 1-2:00 PM
* A live, in-person event at the American Bookbinders Museum

The Life and Times of Jo Mora provides an in-depth portrait of this gifted illustrator, painter, writer, cartographer, and sculptor (1876-1947). Mora was one of the first American artists to elevate the cultural importance of the Western frontier, presaging broad shifts in twentieth-century thought and expression. Through his celebration of the great glories of nature and of the human heart, Mora reminds us that the subject matter of all art is life.The book interweaves fascinating biographical material with Mora’s personal letters, journal entries, and other writings — many never before seen by the public — to provide an intimate portrait of an important yet often overlooked artist.

A live presentation by Peter Hiller, author, historian, and curator for the Jo Mora Trust Collection.

American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

San Francisco Through Time

Monday, January 31, 2022
5:00 PM | Zoom Webinar

With over 400 officially designated local, state, and national landmarks, San Francisco is steeped in history. The city’s neighborhoods feature unique buildings and special places, some that are well known to residents and tourists but also structures and locations that have been obscured by time. Beginning at Captain Richardson’s tent near Grant Avenue and winding our way through neighborhoods throughout San Francisco, author Catherine Accardi shares the rich history of San Francisco in contrasting images, uncovering and revealing San Francisco in new ways. With over 100 photographs, her book, San Francisco Through Time, takes readers on a quest to discover the places. and the stories behind them, that make San Francisco special. Join us on a journey through time courtesy of historical photographs juxtaposed alongside present day images.

A live presentation by Catherine Accardi, author

San Francisco Beer: A History of Brewing by the Bay

Monday, January 10, 2022
5:30 PM | Member and guest social
6:00 PM | Live presentation & Livestream via Zoom Webinar

The story of beer in San Francisco is as old as the city itself. San Francisco had its first commercial brewery by 1847, two years before the gold rush, and went on to reign as the major brewing center in the American West through the nineteenth century. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, iconic San Francisco-based breweries Lucky and Acme owned the statewide California market. In the 1960s, Fritz Maytag transformed San Francisco’s tiny and primitive Anchor Brewing into America’s first craft brewery.

Now, well into its fourth generation of craft breweries, San Francisco has seen more new breweries open in the second decade of the twenty-first century than were opened in the entire previous century, proving that tech is not San Francisco’s only booming industry.

Join local author and beer enthusiast Bill Yenne as he explores San Francisco’s rich tapestry of beers and breweries that have made it a brewing capital in the West.

A live presentation by Bill Yenne, author


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