Founded in 2016 in response to an organic uprising in public interest in Orwell’s dystopia 1984, One Book, Many Conversations was developed by a community of organizations and individuals who believe that at the core of democracy lies conversation. The ability to talk with one another about the issues before us and to come together and share our many perspectives is a vital aspect of a thriving democratic society. Discussions grounded in a shared text offer valuable opportunities for genuine, open exchanges – giving everyone in the conversation a common point of reference for examining and articulating their ideas.

We also believe that, at a time when the humanities, and the liberal arts more broadly, face many challenges, it is critically important to demonstrate the essential value of them in public life. A gathering like this offers the opportunity to connect those who already work in this arena, and to invite a greater portion of the public into the arena.

Joanna Bache Tobin, Founder and Executive Director

Joanna is an independent scholar and leadership training consultant. Since 2006, she has served as a moderator for The Aspen Institute.  The seminars she has moderated include the Aspen Seminar, the Wye Faculty Seminar, the Wye Deans Seminar, a four-part series on Creativity, and seminars on Leadership and Global Values at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since 2011, she has also chaired accreditation visit teams for the American Academy of Liberal Education's K-12 program. At present, she is completing a manuscript entitled This Too is America: The Emersonian Idealism. Her other areas of interest include writing on the connections between Emerson’s essays and Plato’s dialogues, and, more generally, politics and American Literature.

From 2002 to 2006, Joanna was a member of the faculty of St. John’s College in Annapolis, where she taught throughout the Great Books curriculum in small, discussion-based classes in subjects ranging from Ancient Greek to Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Astronomy.

Joanna was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and spent her childhood in Guyana, Hong Kong, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon as the daughter of a U.S. diplomat.  She earned a B.A. cum laude in Medieval-Renaissance Studies from Wellesley College, an M.A. in Liberal Studies from St. John’s College, and a Ph.D. in Political Theory from Georgetown University. Her dissertation, entitled Poetic Democrat: Ralph Waldo Emerson on Democracy, Self-Reliance, and the Imagination, explored the conception of democracy articulated in the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Joanna worked as an actress and also as a development officer for several arts organizations. 

In 2016, Joanna founded One Book, Many Conversations, a project devoted to promoting text-based discussions around books that allow individuals to come together and engage the central issues of their time.

Joanna lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and daughter.


Magdalen Wolfe, Co-Founder and Director of Communications and Program Development

Magdalen Wolfe is a professional writer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has extensive experience building and managing large publication teams and has written, edited, and developed content strategies for a broad array of individuals and organizations, including senior executives, politicians, lawyers, medical professionals, nonprofit organizations, and multinational corporations.

Magdalen formerly served as the executive editor and director of fulfillment at She joined the online reputation management (ORM) startup in 2010 and played an integral role in the rapid scaling and development of its industry-leading consumer ORM product. She was responsible for product development, strategy, and operations for the company’s consumer arm. She managed a department of 20+ full-time employees spanning both the company headquarters in Silicon Valley and its satellite office in Tempe, Arizona, as well as a large, international group of remote contractors and vendors. She left the company in 2016 to focus on consulting and her own writing.

Prior to joining, Magdalen freelanced as a writer and editor and served as a fiction submissions editor for online literary journal 42opus. She has experience with copyediting, developmental editing, SEO content strategy, marketing copy, executive ghostwriting, and academic articles.

In 2016, Magdalen helped to launch One Book, Many Conversations, spearheading the organization’s website development and social media strategy, as well as contributing to the development of its mission statement and long-term goals.

Magdalen holds B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College and an M.A. in English from the University of Virginia, where she studied and taught Modern and contemporary literature. Her Master’s thesis, titled ‘“Tell all the truth but tell it slant”: Slant Narratives of War in Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day and Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room”,’ explored the ways in which approaching narratives of World War I indirectly opened up new avenues for understanding civilian experiences of violence and politics from the home front, particularly those of women and children. She remains interested in the ways in which innovations in genre and narrative can be used to give voice to traditionally marginalized individuals and groups.