Folger Book Club: Booth
Our February virtual book club features Karen Joy Fowler’s epic and intimate novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth.
Booking and details
Dates Thursday, February 2, 2023
Tickets Free, Registration required
Duration 6:30pm - 8:30pm (ET)
Registration for the session opens Tuesday, January 3, at 4pm. Folger Members receive early access.
About the Book Club
Join the Folger as we search the stacks for our favorite novels inspired by Shakespeare, the early modern era, and the holdings of the Folger Collection.
This informal Book Club is free and open to all. Our picks range from historical fiction to adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, encompassing a wide variety of genres—all sourced from a different local, independent bookstore partner each month.
For February, we will be joined by Folger Head of Exhibitions David McKenzie, who share items from the Folger collection pertaining to the Booth family’s legacy of Shakespearean performance.
After the presentation, participants will be broken into smaller groups for breakout discussions, moderated by a team of staff and volunteers.
Participation is free but registration is required. Sessions will be conducted through Zoom, so keep an eye on your inbox the day before for an access link, along with recommendations for quick bites and beverages to enjoy while we chat.
Our February Pick
Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
From the Man Booker finalist and bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic and intimate novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth.
In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next sixteen years. Junius Booth—breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor, and master of the house in more ways than one—is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.
As the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.
Booth is a startling portrait of a country in the throes of change and a vivid exploration of the ties that make, and break, a family.
Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize.
Why did we choose this?
The Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection explores not only Shakespeare’s life and works, but also the plays’ historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.
John Wilkes Booth changed the course of American history, but few people realize he belonged to an acting dynasty who were the theatrical celebrities of their day. Booth tells the forgotten story of how Shakespearean performance was central to the identity of an infamous assassin—and deeply present in American society during one of its most turbulant periods.
For this session, we are excited to partner again with Capitol Hill Books in Eastern Market. A used bookstore located on historic Capitol Hill in Washington DC, this local treasure features three floors of quality used books along with a selection of new titles, first editions, and rare books.
Orders can be placed through bookshop.org.
You can also download the audiobook version of this title from Libro.fm.
We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program