FPC Book Group











This group of Presbyterians and friends in the community has been active since January 2000. 

New members and "drop-ins" are always welcome! Feel free to check with any member of the group about participating. Contact the group at fpcbookgroup@googlegroups.com.


Except where noted the group meets on the last Sunday of the month at 7:00 p.m.

We meet in a downstairs meeting room in the main building at the

Bell Trace Retirement Community off of East 10th Street.

Books for 2019-2020

  • January 20, 2019 – Jodi Picoult, Small Great Things, Leader: Karen Bush Watts. When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the black nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his white supremacist father. What the nurse, her white female lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives. Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us. “With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion — and doesn't offer easy answers” (Goodreads review).

  • February 24, 2019 – Candice Millard, Hero of the Empire, Leader: Ginny Coombs. Winston Churchill's extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War (NYTimes review). At age 24, Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament. Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner.  Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape — but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him. Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters — including Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchener, and Mohandas Gandhi — with whom he would later share the world stage.

  • March 31, 2019 – Nancy Pearl, George and Lizzie. Leader: Kathy Brown. From “America’s librarian” and NPR books commentator Nancy Pearl comes an emotionally riveting debut novel about an unlikely marriage at a crossroads. George and Lizzie have radically different understandings of what love and marriage should be. George grew up in a warm and loving family—his father an orthodontist, his mother a stay-at-home mom—while Lizzie grew up as the only child of two famous psychologists, who viewed her more as an in-house experiment than a child to love. Over the course of their marriage, nothing has changed—George is happy; Lizzie remains … unfulfilled. When a shameful secret from Lizzie’s past resurfaces, she’ll need to face her fears in order to accept the true nature of the relationship she and George have built over a decade together. With pitch-perfect prose and compassion and humor to spare, George and Lizzie is an intimate story of new and past loves, the scars of childhood, and an imperfect marriage at its defining moments.

  • April 28, 2019 – Michael Ondaatje, Warlight. Leader: Karen Watts. The author of The English Patient tells the story of 14-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings' mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn't know and understand in that time.

  • May 26, 2019 – Amor Towles, Rules of Civility. Leader: Lou Moir. Set in New York City in 1938, this is the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising 25-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future. Elegant and captivating, the novel turns a Jamesian eye on how spur-of-the-moment decisions define life for decades to come. It is also a love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression.

  • June 30, 2019 – Madeleine Albright, Fascism: A Warning. Leader: Becky Rusie. A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the 20th century and how its legacy shapes today’s world,written by the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state.

  • July 28, 2019 – Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership in Turbulent Times. Leader: Paul Rothrock. Four exceptional presidents -- Lincoln, T.R., FDR, and Lyndon Johnson – give Goodwin the opportunity to offer moral instruction for future leaders.

  • August 25, 2019 – Edward Watts, Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny. THIS MONTH MEET AT 7:00 P.M. IN ROOM 7 IN THE LOWER LEVEL OF FPC, NOT AT BELL TRACE. Leader: Karen Bush Watts. Historian Edward Watts' new book Mortal Republic begins in the third century BC, when Rome developed democratic institutions that allowed it to expand its territory, grow economically, and remain politically stable. But by the late second century economic inequality coupled with politicians' “constitutional trickery” led to violence and ultimately, to civil war. The book addresses the collapse of Roman democracy and what it illuminates about today’s political realities.  Note that the author will be connecting with our discussion via Skype.  A link to a podcast from NPR: https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2019/01/11/rome-america-edward-watts-mortal-republic

  • September 29, 2019 – Barbara Kingsolver, Unsheltered. Leader: Judy Schroeder. How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? Willa Knox and her husband followed all the rules as responsible parents and professionals, and have nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it? A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood finds himself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. Unsheltered is the story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum in Vineland, N.J., navigating what seems to be the end of the world as they know it.

  • October 27, 2019 – Liza Mundy, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II. Leader: Ginny Coombs. Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than 10,000 women served as code-breakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

  • November 24, 2019 – Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir. Leader: Martha Wailes. The daughter of Mormon survivalists is kept out of school but educates herself enough to leave home for Brigham Young University. There, she studies psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transforms her, taking her to Harvard and Cambridge. Only then does she wonder if she’s traveled too far, if there is still a way home.

  • January 26, 2020 – Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge. Leader: Allan Edmonds. New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together 13 rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character. Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama–desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.  At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

  • February 23, 2020 – Catherine Kerrison, Jefferson’s Daughters. Leader: Paul Rothrock. This is the remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters -- two white and free, one black and enslaved -- and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America. Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave, Sally Hemmings. They shared a father, but the similarities end there. This book recounts the journey of these three women and how their struggle to define themselves reflects both the possibilities and the limitations that resulted from the American Revolution. The NY Times Book Review says it’s “beautifully written…To a nuanced study of Jefferson’s two white daughters, the author innovatively adds a discussion of his only enslaved daughter. The result is a stunning if unavoidably unbalanced book, combining detailed treatments of Martha’s and Maria’s experiences with imaginative attempts to reconstruct Harriet’s life.” 

  • March 29, 2020 – Hyeon-seo Lee (with John David), The Girl with Seven Names. Leader: Kathy Brown. This New York Times bestseller provides an extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships -- and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom. When she was a child growing up in North Korea, Lee’s home was on the border of China and gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom. At age 17, she decided to escape; she could not have imagined that it would be 12 years before she was reunited with her family. From the Toronto Star: “Lee supplies details in straightforward prose made powerful by the horror of simple observation and with the natural suspense of a high-stakes escape…Lee’s book is the kind of page turner that would make for compelling fiction and therefore it is all the more heartbreaking because it is real.”

  • April 26, 2020 – Tom Hanks, Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Leader: Karen Bush Watts. Short stories “with evocative moments of reflection on the state of the American dream.”

  • May 24, 2020 – Susan Quinn, Eleanor and Hick. Leader: Ginny Coombs. In 1932, Eleanor Roosevelt entered the claustrophobic, duty-bound existence of the First Lady with dread. By that time, she had put her deep disappointment in her marriage behind her and developed an independent life—now threatened by the public role she would be forced to play. A lifeline came to her in the form of a feisty campaign reporter for the Associated Press: Lorena Hickok. These fiercely compassionate women inspired each other to right the wrongs of the turbulent era in which they lived. Over the next 30 years, until Eleanor’s death, the two women carried on an extraordinary relationship: Deeply researched and told with great warmth, Eleanor and Hick is a vivid portrait of love and a revealing look at how an unlikely romance influenced some of the most consequential years in American history.

  • June 28, 2020 – Lauren Wilkinson, American Spy. Leader: Becky Rusie. It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Sankara is doing for his country. In the year that follows, Marie will observe Sankara, seduce him, and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, and a good American. 

Church Address: 

221 East Sixth Street

Bloomington, IN 47408

Phone: (812) 332-1514

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