Book Discussion Group

The Book Discussion Group led by Bill Hayes and Mary Lou Thompson 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.

2019   First Mondays at 2 pm in Social Hall

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.

Nov 4  Uganda Be Kidding Me = by Chelsea Handler, a one woman show comedian.  This should be a fun read

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.