Book Clubs

LLI currently sponsors book clubs at two locations: Punta Gorda and Englewood. The clubs are free to join however a FRIENDS membership is appreciated. The clubs meet once a month from October through April. Each club votes for the following year’s selection in April from a list suggested by its members; clubs are not required to have the same lists. Members take turns leading discussions and all are free to contribute to the discussion. Books may be fiction or non-fiction, however, we try to select at least one non-fiction book per year. The last book of the year is a classical selection chosen by the members.

The meetings include a discussion of the topic presented in the books along with background information gathered from research about the authors.


Book Club Reading List – Edison State College Charlotte Campus

26300 Airport Rd., Punta Gorda FL 33950

Meets in Room D-109, 1:00 p.m. — 3:30 p.m.

October 14, 2013 Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
November 12, 2013 Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
December 9, 2013 Unbroken: A WWII Story by Laura Hillenbrand
January 13, 2014 General Mayhem by Bill Hempel
February 17, 2014 Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart
March 10, 2014 The Round House by Louise Erdrich
April 14, 2014 Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown


Book Club Reading List – The United Methodist Church of Englewood

700 E. Dearborn St., Englewood FL 34223

Meets in Room 103, 1:00 p.m. — 3:30 p.m.

October 1, 2013 Unbroken: A WWWI Story by Laura Hillenbrand
November 5, 2013 Mexican Enough by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
December 3, 2013 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
January 14, 2014 General Mayhem by Bill Hempel
February 4, 2014 The Shipping News by E. Annie Poux
March 4, 2014 In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
April 1, 2014 Monday Mornings by Sanjay Gupta

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Narrated in turn by each of the family members—including Addie herself—as well as others the novel ranges in mood, from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.

Englewood Book Club, December 3, 2013

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
A history of Native Americans in the American West in the late nineteenth century that describes the people’s displacement through forced relocations and years of warfare waged by the United States federal government. First published in 1970, at a time of increasing American Indian activism, the book was on the bestseller list for more than a year and has never gone out of print. Wounded Knee, (a village on a reservation in South Dakota) was the location of the last major confrontation between the U.S. Army and American Indians. The event is known as the Wounded Knee Massacre, as more than 150, largely unarmed, Sioux men, women, and children were killed.

Punta Gorda Book Club, April 14, 2014


Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Tired of living on a failing farm and suffering oppressive poverty, bored housewife Dellarobia Turnbow is detoured by a miraculous event on the Appalachian mountainside. The book’s central premise is that millions of monarch butterflies appear on a mountainside in eastern Tennessee. They have been displaced from their historic wintering site in Mexico by environmental degradation and climate change, catastrophic population loss is certain, and extinction likely.

Punta Gorda Book Club, October 14, 2013


General Mayhem by Bill Hempel
Did you ever wonder how a person becomes a corporate executive, or why some corporations are successful and others fail?

General Mayhem traces the life of a child raised in a dysfunctional home to an executive position in the nation’s number one auto maker. Bill Hempel’s touching memoir illustrates how extended family, teachers, and coaches can impact a child in the formative years and overcome parental shortcomings. As he rose through the corporate ranks, Bill was influenced by the greedy and corrupt marriage between management and unions that created a good old boy culture of self indulgence that eventually led to bankruptcy. While corporate failure is indeed a serious subject, the book is laced with humorous anecdotes from real life in corporate US as well as in Mexico.

General Mayhem is both entertaining and informative. Reading the book is like living in an oxymoron. The anecdotes are both humorous and tragic and while based on fact, seem unbelievable. Never before has an insider spoke out about the faulty process for selecting executives, lack of business focus, and confusion that existed from continual reorganization. After a thirty-seven year career within both the automotive and component parts divisions, both in the United States and internationally; Bill has decided to share his view from the inside with the world.

Punta Gorda Book Club, January 13, 2014

Englewood Book Club, January 14, 2014


In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
A mild-mannered Chicago professor becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany just before the Nazis began to assert an iron grip across Europe.
The book covers the career of the American Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, particularly the years 1933 to 1937.

Englewood Book Club, March 4, 2014


Mexican Enough by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
Growing up in a half-white, half-brown town and family in South Texas, Stephanie Elizondo Griest struggled with her cultural identity. Upon turning thirty, she ventured to her mother’s native Mexico to do some root-searching and stumbled upon a social movement that shook the nation to its core.

Mexican Enough chronicles her adventures rumbling with luchadores (professional wrestlers), marching with rebel teachers in Oaxaca, investigating the murder of a prominent gay activist, and sneaking into a prison to meet with indigenous resistance fighters. She also visits families of the undocumented workers she befriended back home. Travel mates include a Polish thief, a Border Patrol agent, and a sultry dominatrix. Part memoir, part journalistic reportage, Mexican Enough illuminates how we cast off our identity in our youth, only to strive to find it again as adults — and the lessons to be learned along the way.

Englewood Book Club, November 5, 2013


Monday Mornings by Sanjay Gupta
Every time surgeons operate, they’re betting their skills are better than the brain tumor, the faulty heart valve, the fractured femur. Sometimes, they’re wrong. At Chelsea General, surgeons answer for bad outcomes at the Morbidity and Mortality conference, known as M & M. This extraordinary peek behind the curtain into what is considered the most secretive meeting in all of medicine is the back drop for the entire book.

This novel by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, follows the lives of five surgeons at Chelsea General as they push the limits of their abilities and confront their personal and professional failings, often in front of their peers at M & M. It is on Monday mornings that reflection and introspection occurs, usually in private. It is Monday Mornings that provides a unique look at the real method in which surgeons learn – through their mistakes. It is Monday Mornings when, if you’re lucky, you have a chance at redemption.

Englewood Book Club, April 4, 2014


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward – 2011 National Book Award
A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. As the twelve days that make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day. A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty.

Punta Gorda Book Club, November 12, 2013


Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart
In her new book, Sugar in the Blood, Andrea Stuart weaves her family story around the history of slavery and sugar in Barbados. Stuart’s ancestor had been a blacksmith in England, but became a sugar planter in Barbados in the 1630s. Stuart was well into her research and writing of the book before she fully accepted the reality of her family’s story: “One side of my family had owned another side … that is the quintessence of the hideousness of slavery. . . a family member could own their child … or own a series of children and live with that, and keep them in continued slavery. It made me understand slavery or see it in a very, very personal, intense way.”

Punta Gorda Book Club, February 17, 2014


The Round House by Louise Erdrich
The narrator of this story is an Ojibwe Indian lawyer named Joe Coutts, son of tribal judge Bazil Coutts and tribal clerk Geraldine Coutts. As Joe later puts it, his mother’s clerk job is “to know everybody’s secrets,” working as she does with tribal records going back many generations. It happens that while father and son work at their gardening, she drives off to fetch an apparently controversial file from her office and suffers a brutal, nearly fatal sexual assault. This event turns upside down the life of the family and the entire reservation’s sense of justice.

Punta Gorda Book Club, March 10, 2014


The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
When Quoyle’s two-timing wife meets her just desserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters and family members all play a part in Quoyle’s struggle to reclaim his life. As Quoyle confronts his private demons — and the unpredictable forces of nature and society — he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.
A vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family, The Shipping News shows why Annie Proulx is recognized as one of the most gifted and original writers in America today.

Englewood Book Club, February 4, 2014


Unbroken: A WWII Story by Laura Hillenbrand
From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan’s most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand’s heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it’s just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he’s a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life–whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the “theater of cruelty” that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright–his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie’s cell, Louie saw on his face a “soft languor…. It was an expression of sexual rapture.” And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe’s victim of choice. By war’s end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie’s only thought was “I’m free! I’m free! I’m free!” But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird’s clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, “there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path….” The book’s final section is the story of how, with Cynthia’s help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand’s narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to “gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body”) against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe’s life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand’s triumph is that in telling Louie’s story (he’s now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption.

Englewood Book Club, October 1, 2013

Punta Gorda Book Club, December 9, 2013