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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.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has already established himself as an important cultural voice on race relations. Now with his first novel, he adds to the conversation in ways best left to provocative fiction, exploring the cascading damage done when enslaved families are sold away from each other. Hiram Walker is an orphan of this crime and this is his remarkable story of deciding to leave his situation and become involved as a singular conductor in a slightly mystical, still historical Underground Railroad. The result is a captivating, resonating read. - Melinda

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The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel Cover Image
$22.40
ISBN: 9780399590597
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - September 24th, 2019


Jacqueline Woodson is a national treasure. Her books make an impact, not only through her characters but because the act of reading her work is transformative. Her latest adult novel, Red at the Bone, is no exception. Woodson charts the history of one Brooklyn family as they grapple with an unplanned teen pregnancy and the decisions made that impact generations to come. Their family story—how much they are there for each other and for themselves—is a universal story about how we give and receive love. It is beautiful and honest, heartbreaking and poetic, and one of my favorite books of the year. - Casey

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Red at the Bone: A Novel Cover Image
$20.80
ISBN: 9780525535270
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - September 17th, 2019


Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah has written an astonishing novel that looks smartly sideways at the history of British colonialism through the death of 19th-century explorer Dr. David Livingstone and the richly rendered funeral group who endeavors to deliver his body across Africa, sending it home. Two within his entourage, his loyal cook Halima and the Christian freed slave Jacob, narrate this journey through their own complicated perspectives, painting a broader, more nuanced understanding of slavery and colonialism, all while telling an engaging, atmospheric story. - Melinda

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Out of Darkness, Shining Light: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781982110338
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - September 10th, 2019


I cannot get over the beauty of this book. It may be one of my favorite depictions of World War II since Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. This is a book that is hard to review. It starts in Berlin in 1941. There is a golem, a heron, heartbreak, and wrenching loss. There are breathtaking scenes of love and loyalty. There is stunning detail of real and vivid scenery set against the sweeping backdrop of unveiled history and visionary magical realism. Since finishing it, I have gone to it again and again. There is always one book each season that strikes to the core, and this is that book. It is a gift like no other. - S.M.C.

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The World That We Knew: A Novel Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9781501137570
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - September 24th, 2019


The Giver of Stars is one of the most satisfying stories I’ve yet read. What more could you ask for: remarkable women during the Great Depression, overcoming personal and social obstacles to deliver library books on pack horses for miles throughout the Kentucky mountains! I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in my effort to save these beloved characters from their many perils and challenges. To know that this is based on a true story and to think how the impact of their efforts are still felt today is inspirational. - Jenny

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The Giver of Stars: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780399562488
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pamela Dorman Books - October 8th, 2019


Ghosh is old-school, a throwback to the 19th century, when novelists wrote sweeping sagas that captured the essence of entire nations and cultures. Here he tells the story Deen Datta, a rare-book dealer who, after hearing a tale of a lost shrine that pays homage to both a Hindi snake goddess named Manasa Devi and a Muslim saint named Ilyas, sets out on a journey that will change his life. The book is about a world on the brink, about loss and displacement, and also about hope. It’s a deeply satisfying read. -  Rico

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Gun Island: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780374167394
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 10th, 2019


Jeanette Winterson draws you into a world split between a life mostly true and one that could be: 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley writing Frankenstein, and young trans Dr. Ry Shelley, in love with Victor Stein, who dreams of breaking death’s hold on humanity. Also, sex dolls, poetry, workers’ rights, AI ethics, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and God—all part of a modern fable on humanity’s fears, Desire, and Love; a wild dream to marvel at. - Jocelyn

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Frankissstein Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780802129499
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - October 1st, 2019


This is a powerful character novel about two brutal Irish gangsters well past their prime. Maurice and Charlie have long corrupted and harmed themselves and those around them. They are now in search of Maurice’s daughter Dilly at the Spanish ferry terminal in Algeciras. In lyrical prose, Kevin Barry tells the story of how the life, loves, and fraught friendship of these two men brought them to this place. This is writing to savor and linger over with every turn of the page. - Trey

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Night Boat to Tangier: A Novel Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780385540315
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday - September 17th, 2019


I couldn’t put this book down. Who doesn’t like spies? Especially if they are women trained as secretaries. Sally and Irina are drawn into the world of espionage at the height of the Cold War through the recently formed CIA. Their mission? Smuggling literature into Russia as a way to ignite democracy and a sense of freedom. I was fascinated by how these women moved between two worlds, working as secretaries during the day and involved in clandestine operations after hours. - Laurel Maxwell, Bookshop Santa Cruz Bookshop Ambassador

Learn more about our Book Group Ambassador program.

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The Secrets We Kept: A novel Cover Image
$21.56
ISBN: 9780525656159
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - September 3rd, 2019


How do you see? How do you see strength? Evil? Resilience? Tragedy? Hope? Hopelessness? Love? Lefteri asks these questions in The Beekeeper of Aleppo. This story is about a young man, Uri, his wife Afra, and their escape from war-torn Aleppo. They experience the unimaginable loss of war and it’s up to Uri to get all he has left—his wife—to the safety of the UK. Uri and Afra are gentle people and so is the book. It doesn’t hide the horrors the two suffer, but the revelations of these atrocities are veiled and tragic, not bloody or graphic. The text reflects Uri’s spirit and perspective. Lefteri spent time volunteering in refugee camps and has worked with refugees in the UK. Her deep knowledge of their plight, both acute and long term, has produced an empathetic account of survival and love. This is a must-read. - Judi Heher, Bookshop Santa Cruz Book Group Amabassador

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The Beekeeper of Aleppo: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781984821218
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books - August 27th, 2019


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