Bookshop Santa Cruz offers a great way for Book Groups to save 15% on the titles they read, get special invitations to Book Group mixers, and receive email recommendations on excellent Book Group titles.
Register your Book Group at our information desk or online and get 15% off your Book Group picks (when ordering 5 or more copies) and have us hold the titles in one place for easy pick up for all your group members! Browse our new Book Group shelves in the Fiction room for staff recommendations, local book group choices, and information on running Book Groups.
Below are some staff recommendations of great books for Book Groups.
The power and charm of this debut novel is hard to describe. The compact length makes it possible to devour it in one sitting. Oddly, the heroine of the novel is never named, and we know her simply as “the wife.” A new mother, a colicky baby, faltering feelings toward her husband that she knows is a good man, a case of New York bedbugs—what could be innocuous calamities turn true and deep in the honest consuming musing of this young mother. In a language that simmers with longing and wit, this is a love story at full speed—with bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations about despair, love, and the capacious experience of motherhood. Truly, the power of Dept. of Speculation is stunning, it’s the kind of book you pass along the second you finish it, just so you have someone to talk about it with.
Ozeki’s mesmerizing novel centers around a random connection between a 16-year-old girl (Nao) in Japan and a writer (Ruth) living on the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Ruth discovers a battered Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on a beach that contains Nao’s journal, and she is immediately absorbed by the girl’s life and writing. A Tale for the Time Being is a wonderful meditation on time and writing.
A wonderful debut novel full of wit, engrossing characters, and emotional truth. Following our protagonist Harry from a childhood defined by being struck by lightning while being bullied, through the rise of his emerging punk band, this is the story about the ebbs and flows of friendship, finding our true passion, and winding our way through the physical and emotional scars that try to hold us back. This is a must read and simply a great book.
Ann Patchett found an old musty copy of this out-of-print novel in a used bookstore and after reading it, worked her prowess to bring it back to print. Oh, what a gift she has given us. Jeannette Haien wrote this Irish novel in the 1980s as her debut. The story seems deceptively simple, but has a lasting power and resonance of myth. Opening with a scene of a Catholic Priest fishing in horrible weather conditions, we learn quickly that Father Declan’s sporty endeavor was spurred by a confession by one of his parishioners the day before. After the death of her husband, Edna confesses to Father Declan the “all of it” and reveals a secret that goes back 50 years. Edna’s story puts Father Declan in a crisis of empathy versus absolution, and the resolution of his conflict is what gives this book it’s lasting power.
I have been in awe of Jennifer Vanderbes since the publication years ago of one of my favorite novels ever: Easter Island. So when I saw that she had another novel coming out, I greeted it with bated breath and The Secret of Raven Point did not disappoint. Telling the story of Juliet, a young woman growing up during World War II, Vanderbes hands us a novel that is part coming-of-age tale, part mystery, and part wartime narrative. When Juliet’s older brother goes missing in action as an American soldier battling the German army overseas, Juliet lies about her age, then trains and enlists as a nurse to get as close as she can to the point her brother was last seen. Stationed in a field hospital in Italy, Juliet is thrown into the chaos of wartime life. She quickly finds herself surrounded by a makeshift family of fellow nurses, patients, soldiers, and doctors whose lives and small actions create intimacy and meaning under such perilous conditions. Juliet is caught between allowing her new life to shape and form her, and her own loyalty toward that of her missing brother, whose whereabouts remain veiled. This is a novel about holding faith beyond reason, about transgression and transformation, and about how when seeking truth about another, it is impossible to not also find truth about yourself. A poignant, lasting story, for anyone who is a fan of Call the Midwife; Vanderbes’ new novel shows off her skills in their highest form.
The Bronte sisters may have found their literary sibling match in the writing of the Wolff brothers. I have long been a fan of Tobias Wolff (This Boys Life), but knew little about his older brother Geoffrey, but after reading this autobiographical essay collection, I am stunned by command that both these brothers have over language and story. In A Day at the Beach, Wolff shares lessons from a life observed. Whether he is detailing a disastrous story from a boyhood Christmas or his struggle as an adult to teach literature as a visiting teacher in Istanbul, Wolff shares the wisdom that comes through hardship and hazard. The brilliance of Geoffrey Wolf’s writing goes without saying, but there is something else there—an implicit holding of frailty and wonder to have lived a full life and come out on the other side.
My Beloved World begins with a bang—not a figurative, smoldering metaphor, but a tense fight from which the reader and young Sonia are not sheltered. Unlike the writing of most lawyers, who err on the side of dry with a chance of humdrum, Sotomayor’s biography is expertly crafted. She tells of a life in the public houses, of a bright Nuyorican woman with ambition and talent to match. This is a truly exceptional piece of work, a narrative not to be missed.
This is not an easy read in terms of subject matter, but readers who appreciated Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking will instantly recognize the strength and determination of Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir. On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. The opening chapters of this book are searing in their descriptive power, and there is little distance between the reader and the tsunami’s swallowing force. As Deraniyagala shifts from the horrifying chaos of the tsunami to her own clenched admittance that she has survived a tragedy she wishes she hadn’t, there is a frank and ferocious edge to her voice. The reader is never unaware of the teetering edge of Deraniyagala’s narrative: that tentative balance she holds in remembering her family, and the almost unbearable loss that such remembering puts her in. This is a book that speaks to the genre of memoir—the paradox of keeping stories and people alive within us, and the depth and tugging force that such a telling can create.
This coming-of-age novel follows Francie, a poor teenager growing up in the periphery of New York's slums, as she discovers what life has to offer—the small achievements amidst endless suffering. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn shows the world through a purer lens, and shows what it means to be connected to one another—as children, as women, and as human beings.
What happens when the Devil and Jesus Christ visit the Soviet Union? Everything gets a little weird. This satirical novel frolics along on the feet of Mikhail Bulgokov’s jovial prose. You will be laughing at the characters, not with them, and the fact that the novel was banned in the USSR during the time of its setting makes it that much more bitterly and satisfyingly funny
I adored this wonderfully quirky love story. Professor Don Tillman’s brain works just a little bit differently (think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) and his systematic, rational procedure for finding a wife is totally thrown off-kilter by the entrance of Rosie and his own unpredictable and illogical emotional responses. Simsion combines a good dose of humor with a tender and authentic romance. It’s a genuine feel-good book.
There’s no school like the old school—except when the old school is reinvented so that you’d never know it wasn’t new. Kate Bernheimer generals an army of literary talent to deconstruct and retell classical Greek myths, selections from One Thousand and One Nights, coyote stories, Hindu legend, and much more. Orpheus was the greatest artist of the mythological age—but kiss him goodbye; we have plenty of other fantastic voices to choose from.
Sherman Alexie’s latest collection of new and republished stories will appeal to long-time fans as well as those new to the scene (but seriously, where have you been all this time? Does Alexie even have “new fans”? Aren’t we all long-time followers of his spare yet descriptive writing? Isn’t Sherman Alexie kind of the alpha and omega of storytelling?). Get some Diet Pepsi and read Blasphemy!
Donna Tartt (The Secret History and The Little Friend) is a writer who takes at least 10 years to write each of her books. The Goldfinch centers around 13-year-old Theo, a tragic event, and a historical painting that pulls Theo into the underworld of art. The research that went into this novel must have been extraordinary, and yet it is unnoticeable; the story is so infused with detail and feeling that you lose yourself in the characters and their experience. This is a novel about the orchestration of where we end up versus where we belong—the story of fate versus destiny. It is a work of art, one that must be personally viewed to be experienced. Read it. Don’t miss our event with Donna Tartt Thursday, October 24, at 7:00pm. See this page for details.
Park is the skinny, half-Korean kid with good taste in music and a propensity to keep to himself. Eleanor is a train wreck with bright red hair, a big body that (some people think) is asking to be teased, and bad juju at home. She’s the new girl at Park’s high school, and it’s not likely that they will ever talk, let alone exchange a Watchmen comic (Park’s) or listen to the same song on one set of headphones (the Smiths). But sometimes what ought to happen does happen, and Park and Eleanor become Eleanor & Park, a love story that flies off the page, with characters so bright with possibility, they become more real than real life. Our favorite book of the year. Grades 8 & up. Don’t miss Rowell’s other excellent and utterly different young adult book, Fangirl, also published this year.