Book Discussion Group

The Book Discussion Group led by Bill Hayes has a dedicated group of about 8 on the first Monday afternoon of each month at 2 pm. Newcomers are welcome at any session. It is not necessary to have read the book and it’s okay to come for one book and not another. Books are recommended by members and agreed upon by the group. Now that we are all shuttered in with lots of time on our hands, this is the  time to join the Book Club.  Please join us – lots of fun and camaraderie.

Our meetings on Zoom are very successful, so we will be continuing that way.  Zoom invitations will be emailed the day before.  If you would like to join our meeting, no obligations involved, please let me know so I can be sure an invitation is mailed to you.

2020  First Mondays at 2 pm on Zoom

Under consideration for the future: a political book  “A Very Stable Genius” by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonning or “Trumpocracy” by David Frum.  It is subtitled “The Corruption of American Democracy.” The authors are journalists for the Washington Post.  Also Skinner Books has recommended “Justice on Earth,” a compilation of short articles on environmental issues and “After Life” by Julia Alvarez, a story of elders maintaining hope after having lost so much. A list of possibilities will be sent to all.

Dec. 7  Sweet Taste of Liberty by W. Caleb McDaniel. This is the true story of a female slave who seeks and receives restitution from the government after the Civil War and is the only person to have received reparations from the US government over slavery and this happened in the 19th century.  Today, reparations and reconciliation are on the front burner again.  As a sideline, I would suggest you read the article in the 9/21-28 issue of Time magazine about reparations paid in Florida over the murders and home burnings in the Black community of Rosewood in the 1920’s and later in Ocoee near Orlando.  All that is left of Rosewood is a historic marker.

Nov. 2   Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult. This is the story of a man who receives a heart transplant and the mother whose daughter gave him the heart. And this is the story of a young girl who needs a heart transplant and a young man on death row who wants to donate his heart.  The gimmick is that the young girl is the sister and daughter of the girl and man he murdered.  Lots of complications involved including the fact that the priest counseling the young man was the twelfth and final juror to vote for his execution. Lots of moral decisions to be made and lots for us to discuss.

Oct 5 – On Fire – The (Burning) Case For The Green New Deal by Naomi Klein. She was the Ware lecturer at this year’s General Assembly.  This book is so current.  With the “climate” fires consuming the West coast and multiple hurricanes slashing into the Gulf coast, there is no doubt to this proposition.
We may also devote some time to discussing the video conversation between Robin D’Angelo, author of White Fragility, and a representative from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  We discussed this book last month, but this video was not available at that time.  Plus, it is always timely to discuss race relations.
Sept. 7   White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.
An educator on racism, DiAngelo defines “ white fragility” as the moves white people make when challenged racially.  They could be anger, fear, guilt, argumentation and silence.  This a timely book considering the George Floyd protests and should be a good read.

In August we will read “Being Heumann” by
Judith Heumann.  She contracts polio at a very early
age and is confined to a wheelchair.  However, this
does not prevent her from being an active little girl
in her Brooklyn neighborhood.  But when it comes
time to go to school, she is told she does not “fit in”
and cannot go to school with her friends.  You can
feel her hurt.  She is forced to be home schooled by
a mother who has absolutely no training whatsoever
in teaching.  This early discrimination goads her
into eventually being the lead activist for both
section 504 of the Civil Rights law and
the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
There is so much room for improvement in our
The book does not go into great detail about her personal life, but it does fully describe the struggles she had to avoid being treated as invisible.  This is a continuous struggle and never goes away.  Even after a law is passed, there is the fight to prevent it from being underfunded or dismantled.  This is true for all civil rights.  Think voting rights.  We should have an interesting discussion.

In July we will choose books for Sept and Oct.  We previously shied away from books dealing with racial discrimination, but we may want to rethink this position.  Another book we may want to consider is “Together” by Vivek Murthy, 19thSurgeon General of the US.  He discusses the healing power of human connection in a sometimes-lonely world.  How does our social distancing comeinto play?  Another suggestion is “Redhead by theSide of the Road” by Anne Tyler.  This is a novel about how a man’s well-ordered life is suddenly upended.  Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

In July we have River of Fire by Sister  Helen Prejean.  She is the author of Dead Man Walking and these are her memoirs prior to writing that book. Ted suggested this book.  These are her memoirs of her religious life prior to her involvement in the capital punishment issue.  It’s written in a very
conversational manner and tells her story of being so desirous of having a special relationship with God that she is willing to forego a “normal” life in
this world.  At least that is the impression I have so far into the book.  Who knows what is in store for me?

Of note: Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson, has been made into a movie.  It is excellent.  Once the coronavirus scare is over, we may want to view the movie as a group at the Fellowship and follow it with a discussion

The June virtual meeting wlll be June 8. Book Club members have been invited to view Rev. Sewell’s presentation of the book on June 2. Our book club meeting will be the following week. We are reading In Time’s Shadow by Marilyn Sewell.  She is a UU minister from Portland OR.  I heard her relay her experience of living on the street for a weekend without money or ID to get a small feel of what it is like to be a homeless street person.  It was a powerful talk.  She gave it at GA in Nashville.  We may ask for each member to tell which stories they found most memorable and why.  This will be our first time working with short stories.

 May 4. The April Zoom meeting went so well, we are continuing the zoom meetings. Here We Are by Aarti Namdev Shahani. This is the heartfelt memoir of the immigrant experience. The author, an NPR correspondent, wrestles with the question of who belongs in America. She finds the answer in an unlikely place.  Her family are Hindus from Pakistan and were displaced during the Indian partition in 1947 and ended up in Morocco.  From there the USA beckoned.  She struggled with language, color, and culture growing up in Queens, NY.  But after graduation from the University of Chicago, her life took a turn as she worked for and founded an organization for immigrant rights.  It specialized in deportation cases.  This book should lead to an exciting discussion.  I’m just a little into the book and have been hit by two surprises: why the family came and the group which gave them the most problems once they got here.  I’m wondering what other surprises Shahani may have in store.

  April 6.    First Zoom Meeting. We had a good zoom conference Book Club meeting this past Monday.  There were eight signed in including surprise  guest Bill Hammes who signed in from Indiana.  The book was Finding Chika by Mitch Albom and it received mixed reviews.  It all worked so well that we decided to try it again for the May 4 meeting.  Thank you Rev Fred for setting it up.  This is a story of a childless couple in their forties adopting an orphan Haitian girl who needs specialized medical treatment. She taught the author what it feels like to be a father, if only for a short time.

March 2.  Educated by Tara Westover. This is the story of a young girl growing up in an Idaho survivalist family. She does not attend school until she is seventeen because of her father’s paranoia with the outside world.  She goes on to become a psychiatrist and identifies his bipolar traits which worsen with age.

Feb. 3 Crime in Progress by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. This is about Donald Trump’s 2016 election, relevant right now with his impeachment trial in process.

January 6. We chose The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. This is the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. In real life it is The Dozier School in Florida’s Panhandle where dozens of unmarked graves have been found and which just recently has been closed


Dec 2 – A Gentleman from Moscow – by Amor Towles   It is 500 pages long so we set the discussion date ahead to December to give everyone a chance to read it.A New York Times best seller, the book takes place in the 1920’s and relates the story of a Russian count who must suddenly live under Communism.

Nov 4  Uganda Be Kidding Me = by stand-up comic Chelsea Handler, a one woman show comedian.  This should be a fun read. The book relates Chelsea’s safari trip into Africa along with five of her wacky friends. Do not expect to get any legitimate travel information from this book.

Oct 7 (not the second Mon as planned) – Open

Sept 2 (which is Labor Day) – Sissy by Jacob Tobia – this autobiography of a transgender person growing up in the conservative South will tie in with Rev Fred’s workshop of transgender issues planned for this Fall

August 5 – Sick Puppy by prolific Florida author Carl Hiaasen.  This one follows a usual Florida tale; about an environmentalist vs greedy developers.  There’s no doubt which side the author is on. The story takes place in Florida and pits a young environmentalist against a group of wealthy and politically connected developers.   What happens is somewhat unbelievable, but fun.  One caveat: the paperback version of the book is 440 pages, so do not wait until the last minute to start reading.

July 8 (second Monday) – The Secret Life of Bees – by Sue Monk Kidd. This book, set in 1964 South Carolina, remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for 2 1/2 years. 1964 was the height of the civil rights movement and the book deals not only with racism, but also child abuse and sexism. Many of us will be reading the book for the second time.

 June 3  Sally Field autobiography In Pieces.

May 6. We will be reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer. Robin, a Native American, shows how the factual, objective approach of science can be enriched by the ancient knowledge of indigenous people.

April  1   Our book will be Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas. The book is subtitled The Elite Charade of Changing the World. It is basically about the very rich not being satisfied with the many advantages they already have and wanting even more guarantees of power. This book relates how rich and powerful people work to advance quality and justice in life any way then can unless it would in some way threaten their social order and their position atop it. The recent school scandal of the wealthy paying bribes to get their children into prestigious schools is an example of this. Anand has been on various cable news programs explaining his thesis. A lovely discussion should ensue.

March 4   The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  This is the story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

February  The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes, a history of the Obama years in the White House.  Cable news junkies will recognize Rhodes as a frequent panelist on MSNBC where he explains the differences between President Obama and President Trump. Ben was deputy national security advisor to President Obama from 2009 to 2017. This is a behind the scenes report of how idealism can confront reality.  Ben tells us what it was like to serve Obama from the early days of the campaign to the final days of his Presidency. The book is insightful into what it is like to be so close to the world’s most powerful leader.

January    Those Who Knew by Idra Novey.   The book relates the emotional toll of staying quiet after an assault.  The novel takes place on an unnamed island 10 years after the collapse of a US supported autocratic regime. Lena, the story teller, suspects the powerful senator she was involved with in her student activist days, is taking advantage of a young woman who introduces him at rallies. When the young woman is found dead, Lena revisits her own history with the senator. What follows is a riveting exploration into the cost of staying silent.


Monday, January 8 at 2:00pm. Discussion of Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance.  The book tells a true story of what social, regional and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.  It relates directly to what is called President Trump’s base. Mary Lou will lead the discussion.

In February will revert to our first Monday meetings and will meet February 5 at 2:oopm.  The book will be Waking Up White by Debby Irving.  Irving tells her own story of her “aha” moment which launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan.

Our March date is Monday, March 5 at 2:00pm to discuss Just In Time by Joan Jackson.  This is a hopeful, firsthand account of the day to day roller coaster of life with a schizophrenic. Carol Burch will lead the discussion.

In April we will meet on April 2 at 2:00pm and will discuss the book I Am Not A Tractor by Susan Marquis. This is the story of how Florida farmworkers took on the fast food giants and won. It is timely to read and discuss in April because representatives from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will be with us on Sunday, April 15 when we will have a Special Collection for them. Bernita Franzel will lead the discussion. See the Book Review under Social Justice. Look at the history of CIW at MUUF through the years.

May 7   Waking Up White by Debby Irving. We had this book scheduled a month or so ago, but did not have time to fully discuss the book and its main concept of white privilege. We will use the questions at the end of each chapter to frame the discussion. We will decide on books for June and July at this meeting. Please have some ideas ready. The Book Club is open to all.

June 4 “Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy” by Kate Clifford Larson will be discussed. published 2015. This book is about the most prominent American family of the twentieth century. Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. And yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled – a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family. Major new sources, Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, school and doctors’ letters, and exclusive family interviews, bring Rosemary to life as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then, as the family’s standing reached an apex, the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly intractable in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret. Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for nearly twenty years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions. ( from publisher’s notes)

July 2 The Common Good by Robert Reich. Reich, a Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, proposes that a society does best for all of its citizens when the common good is the goal as opposed to the selfish individualism and trickle down economics proposed by philosopher Ayn Rand and other right wing conservatives. We have had 5 decades of individualism and the results are clear: the rich are richer and the poor poorer. But there’s an election in November and that can make all the difference in the world.

 August 6 we will review Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. It is the story of the Osage Indians of northeastern Oklahoma and their being stripped of their homeland bit by bit until they are reduced to living on scrub land in Oklahoma. Unbeknownst to everyone, the scrub land sits atop the wealthiest oil fields in the nation. Once discovered, the Osage become the wealthiest group of persons in the US and drive around in chauffeured limousines. That is, until they begin to be murdered one by one. This led to the formation of the FBI and you’ll have to read the book to find out how it ends.

September 3 Labor Day: We will review the book “Happiness is a Choice You Make” by John Leland. It is subtitled “Lessons from a year among the oldest old.” By this he means, those 85 years or older. To our surprise, or pretended surprise, some of us are not too far away from that milestone. The book has been described as “heart medicine for uncertain times, and assurance that the only resolution that matters is the will to keep going.”

October 8 . Please note this is the SECOND Monday.  The book is The Neuroscientist Who Lost her Mind, subtitled My Tale of Madness and Recovery, by Barbara Lipska.  The book should give us insight into dementia and alzheimers.  Unlike most patients, Lipska has a clear memory of what happened.  It is the strange story of Barbara who is the director of the Human Brain Collection Core at the National Institute of Mental Health. In January 2015 she was diagnosed with melanoma which had spread to her brain. Within months, her frontal lobe, the seat of cognition, began shutting down. She descended into madness exhibiting dementia and schizophrenia-like symptoms which terrified her. The book describes her rare recovery in which she remembers her brush with madness with exquisite clarity. This should be an excellent read.

Nov. 5. We will discuss “Martha Matilda Harper” by Jane Plitt. Jane lives in Bradenton and will meet with our group. Martha Harper grew up in the 1800’s as an indentured servant because her parents could not afford to raise her. In adult life she became the inventor of the franchise system. Think fast food, except that she dealt with hair products. Her floor length hair became an advertising gimmick for her products. This was in the 1800’s, long before our current fast food franchises. Considering the ubiquity of franchise organizations today, her name should be common place. Unfortunately, it is not.  Her model encouraged women to own businesses, to enrich themselves spiritually and financially, and even to marry – all on their own terms.  Because of the special treat of having an actual  author with us, we are encouraging everyone to attend.  You do not have had to attend previous meetings  or to have read the book to feel welcome. Light refreshments will be served.  Thanks to MaryLou for having arranged this.

Dec. 3. Our book  will be Good and Mad by Barbara Traister.  Barbara tracks the history of women’s anger from the suffragettes till today.  She says women are sick and tired of being sick and tired.  They are now good and mad.   Let’s see where she thinks this new revolutionary anger will take us. 



Jan. 2   Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates discussing what it is like growing up Black in America especially knowing that race is a made up idea to support the concept of slavery and has no basis in science.
Jan. 9   Field trip – a result of reading Last Day’s of Night about the  Edison and Westinghouse decision as to who invented the light bulb.. Two carloads went to Fort Myers for a tour of the Edison properties.
Jan. 16  Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel.
Jan. 30  The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.
April 24    Eleanor Roosevelt vol. 3 by Blanch Weisen Cook. Discussion led by Geri Pasquarella.
May 22   Karen Armstrong’s The History of God. Skip McAfee led the discussion, distributing the synopsis he developed to each participant.
June 12   Night by Elie Wiesel. Mr. Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize for this book about his imprisonment during the holocaust.  Bill Hayes led the discussion.
July 24  The Sin Warriors by Julian E. Farris. The novel is based on the true story of the disappearance of homosexuals from Florida universities due to the  covert investigations by state senator Charlie Johns.
July  25   Field trip, as a result of reading Night, to the Holocaust Museum in St Pete with lunch at Albert Whitted Airfield in downtown St Pete.
September 4  The Grace of the Gingko by Michael Hardesty, the story of an atheist grandfather bringing up his orphaned granddaughter. The book tells the story of an atheist grandfather who suddenly becomes his granddaughter’s guardian at her birth.  Her mother died giving birth and the father had previously died in the Iraq War.  We discussed whether or how his atheism affected his raising of his granddaughter, how he conducted his own life, is murder ever justified and if assisted suicide should be legal. Also  the significance to the story of the ginkgo tree which sheds all of its leaves at one time.
October 9  On My Own.  This is the memoir by Diane Rehm about her life after the death of her husband of 53 years. Diane moderated a talk show on NPR
November 6.  Threading My Prayer Rug by Saheeha Rehman. A memoir of a woman’s journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim and the difficulty in assimilating into a new culture while still holding onto the culture and traditions of her old country. It is a real immigrant story and is so current with America politics today. Discussion led by Sally Isham..
December 4.  Good Without God by Greg Epstein. Epstein is the humanist chaplain at Harvard and in this book highlights humanity’s potential for goodness and the ways in which Humanists lead lives of purpose and compassion. The book is an inspiring and provocative exploration of an alternative to traditional religion.


The first book of the Book Club was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. His presentation at the UUA GA 2017 is available on You Tube at: uua ga 2017.
The second book was Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It deals with the medical care being provided to the elderly in our nation and how it too often fails to prepare us for our inevitable death. Members discussed and shared forms for end of life:  medical directives, power of attorney, wills, MUUF Life Crisis Forms.
Zealot: Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan was next and the group used the recommended UUA Study Guide. This book put forth the argument that the historically accurate Jesus is a Hebrew Zealot and not the divine Christ as invented by Christianity.
Aug. 29, Sept. 12 and 26. Acts of Faith by Eboo Patel began August. Mr. Patel was the 2013 Ware Lecturer at GA. We use the study guide developed by UUA. The book describes Patel’s growing up as a Muslim in interfaith America. To view and listen to his Ware Lecture, go to 2013
Nov. 6  As a result of reading Being Mortal, members of the Discussion Group planned and presented an End of Life program at Sunday Service. Tidewell Hospice program was presented at two Share-a-Dish dinners.
Nov. 7   Black Flags and the Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick. The author depicts how the zeal of one man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the mistakes of two US Presidents led to the banner of ISIS being raised over large swaths of Iraq, Syria and other countries.
Nov. 21  The Miracle of the Kurds
Dec. 5  The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. This is an historical novel about George Westinghouse’s law suit against Thomas Edison about who discovered the electric light bulb. Billions were involved. In conjunction with reading the book, the club traveled to Fort Myers to visit the Edison and Ford winter vacation homes on Jan. 9, 2017.