Bookshop Santa Cruz staff recommendation:

The following books are recommended by our staff as great choices for book groups. Sign up for our Book Ends email newsletter to receive more great book group recommendations.

There is something about this British memoir that would not let me put it down—there is grit, honesty, and laugh-out-loud wit—I think it’s the wit that makes this book stay dear.  Andy Miller had always been a book lover, until life got busy and while he found himself talking about literature with the same enthusiasm, he realized that in his recent years he had actually only read one book all the way through.  And so, at the turn of his 40th birthday, he made a deal with himself that he would read 50 books, actually read them, give them time, and discussion, and thought, and when he did, Andy had an entirely new filter in which he viewed his life. This book is Andy's inspirational and very funny account of his expedition through literature: classic, cult, and everything in between. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, this is a heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader, and the soul-searching that comes when we take in others narratives in order to examine our own.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
$14.99
ISBN: 9780061446184
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - December 9th, 2014


The term psychopath instantly brings to mind thoughts of Hannibal Lector or Ted Bundy, but in reality, psychopaths live among us and look like our neighbors and CEOs. In this fascinating book, Ronson examines the world of psychopaths and those who study them. Ronson is such a charming, witty writer that what could have been a terrifying book is instead funny, engaging, impossible to put down, and filled with fodder for discussion. In fact, if you read this, you’ll be desperate to talk to about it, making it perfect for book groups. I absolutely loved this book.

Reviewed by: Flannery
$16.00
ISBN: 9781594485756
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - May 1st, 2012


At 17, Eustace Conway moved into the forest to live in a teepee, subsist on wild game (including roadkill) and foraged plants, and to inspire lazy, in-the-box modern Americans into a commune with the natural world. Unlike Christopher McCandless (subject of Into The Wild) Conway isn’t in it for the hermit-status seclusion or even the adventure; he became a tireless teacher, public speaker, land-owner, and camp director, driven by his unyielding and fastidious need to become a “Man of Destiny.” Beyond a play-by-play of his adventures, Glibert explores Conway’s motives and inspirations, his complicated relationship with an emotionally abusive father, and his charming but demanding personality. Most of all, it’s a brilliantly deep, engrossing look at the model of American frontier masculinity that deteriorated at the Industrial Revolution.    

Reviewed by: Julia
$16.00
ISBN: 9780142002834
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - May 27th, 2003


Ghettoside is about the thousands of murders that go unsolved in poor communities across the country, murders that cause unceasing grief and are largely ignored by the media. Its scope is both enormous and intimate, taking on a monstrous, seemingly insurmountable problem by focusing on the people who live and work in these stricken neighborhoods. Ghettoside challenged so much for me, including my own ignorance and cynicism. I can't imagine a more important time for this book to be widely read and discussed.

Reviewed by: Kat
$28.00
ISBN: 9780385529983
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spiegel & Grau - January 27th, 2015


The true story of 4 undocumented Mexican American teenagers from an under-funded, under-supported Phoenix high school are challenged by their brave teachers to enter a national, collegiate level robotics competition--and they win. (Don't worry, I'm not giving anything away; it wouldn't now be a Hollywood-produced movie if they'd lost.) Joshua Davis is a master storyteller who is interested in more than just the shiny success story of these amazing students. What does it mean when this kind of potential is squandered, even deported? Spare Parts is entertaining, inspiring, and funny, without a doubt--but it's also a thought-provoking look at the modern "American Dream" and the institutions and prejudices that decide who gets to have a chance at it.

Reviewed by: Julia
$14.00
ISBN: 9780374534981
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - December 2nd, 2014


Two brothers sneak out at night for an innocent adventure, but only one will return home. So begins the premise of debut author’s Nathan Filer’s novel. Narrated by 19-year old Mathew, who is being treated for schizophrenia, Mathew is determined to tell the story of what actually happened ten years before when his brother went missing, and in by doing so, he may just save himself from his own demons. Readers who enjoyed Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime or Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain will gravitate toward this novel, but it is so fully its own—one that must be read and not described: “‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’”

How’s that for an opener? This is a beautiful book with an ending that comes as surprise. This is the story for the reader who upturns rocks to see what’s underneath—the reader that loves a story where shadow reveals beauty, and hope seeps through.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
$15.99
ISBN: 9781250028136
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - January 6th, 2015


This book is a must read for book groups. Set in a high security prison, our main protagonist, a death row inmate, states that prison is a place of enchantment. And he convinces us that it is—there is a mythic beauty to the prison’s stone walls, to the sounds of a hundred keys turning at once to lock the gates—there is an epic pull in the collective dreaming of men who must reach into their memories and imaginations to remember movement and love from an unconstrained time. Told mostly from the perspective of this poet-turned-prisoner, we are also introduced to the jail’s faithless priest and a woman, known only as “the lady” who is there to exonerate the condemned men. When the lady discovers the truth of one prisoner’s past, we are asked to look at the potential for violence that lives in each of us, and more so, to discover the beauty and humanity that exists even in the darkest shadows. This is a beautifully written book that begs for conversation; book groups will find themselves walking the line of trying to separate that which makes flinch, with that that makes us imagine and empathetically open.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
$14.99
ISBN: 9780062285515
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - February 24th, 2015


If you know Miranda July's work--like her films, The Future and Me and You and Everyone We Know--you know she melds major quirkiness and slight surrealism in perfect synchronicity with charm and tenderness. These (really quite) short stories are quick whirlwinds that read speedily and stir up a bubbling of emotion with the purest, most human notions. July's magical way of simple, direct, brilliantly unique structure is on full display in these gem-like tidbits about what it feels like to be human, what we think when we're alone in our minds, and the bizarre daily reality of relating to others.

Reviewed by: Julia
$15.00
ISBN: 9780743299411
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner Book Company - May 2008


My productivity tanked while I was reading this novel; I almost had to stuff beeswax into my ears to resist its call and get anything done. Susan Choi's coming-of-age novel centers around an affair between a student and her professor's enigmatic, sexy wife. I never knew where the story was going, and I never cared. The last page was surprising, satisfying, and devastating—I so wish I could read it again for the first time. This is the lush, brainy novel you've been waiting for. 

Reviewed by: Kat
$16.00
ISBN: 9780143125570
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - May 27th, 2014


Junior cartographer T.S. Spivet maps what he sees: translating the world as he knows into diagrams and detailed drawings. His (fully annotated) journey from Montana to the Smithsonian combines, as Stephen King puts it, “Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Little Miss Sunshine.” Like nothing else I’ve read before.

Reviewed by: Kimberly
$18.00
ISBN: 9780143117353
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - April 27th, 2010


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