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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.

Written as imagined life narratives, this is the most interesting history book I've read all year. Hartman revisits old sources about urban, black Philadelphia to interpret them through the overlooked eyes of young black women navigating social change at the turn of the 20th century. Her methodology dials in on women’s lived experiences and reads like short stories. Love! - Clara

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Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9780393285673
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 19th, 2019


Tessa Fontaine’s The Electric Woman is enthralling. Moving between the sustained emergency of a collapse in her mother’s health, the complicated, flawed relationship she has with her mother, and her 5 months as a crew member in the traveling sideshow the World of Wonders, Fontaine writes of the layer after layer of heartache and grind. With lovely, clear prose, she invites the reader in to her attempts to explore and escape reality through the hard and fascinating traveling sideshow life. A tenderly written, captivating memoir. - Chorel

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The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780374158378
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - May 2018


This book is laugh-out-loud amazing! Ramsey tells her story of being boosted suddenly into the limelight via YouTube and of all of the good (and bad) things she was able to use her platform to discuss. For those who are struggling to learn about the racial morass this country finds itself in, or wanting to find a way to speak compassionately to those who are a little dumb about it, this is the book for you. - Jax

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Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781538761038
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grand Central Publishing - May 22nd, 2018


This is one of the strangest—and best-written—memoirs I’ve ever read. It tells the story of Michael’s aunt Harriet who, along with her husband Irving, is a very successful screenwriter. (She and Irving wrote Norma Rae, among other big movies.) Because Harriet has no children of her own, and because she senses “great potential” in Michael, she zeroes in on him when he’s still a very young child and essentially steals him (emotionally speaking) from his own family. Great awkwardness and emotional confusion follows. - Rico

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The Mighty Franks: A Memoir Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780374537807
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - May 29th, 2018


Whoever you are, whatever your political leanings, I urge you to read this story of two boys who fled their country, El Salvador, for a better life in the United States. Told with honesty and a lot of heart, The Far Away Brothers chronicles their journey, from their harrowing passage through the desert to their battles with the legal system in order to remain in a country where their lives are unthreatened. - Jax

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The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781101906200
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Broadway Books - May 22nd, 2018


Karen Piper’s fascinating memoir is a surreal and starkly honest look at growing up on the secretive China Lake military base in the Mojave Desert, where Piper’s parents designed missiles for the U.S. Navy. With wit and humor, she explores the dichotomies of being raised in a strict but loving Baptist household by parents whose day jobs were to create some of America's most fearsome weapons of war. This memoir is perfect for fans of Tara Westover’s Educated. - Stuart

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A Girl's Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America's Secret Desert Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780399564543
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - August 14th, 2018


In 2016, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first hijab-wearing Muslim American woman to compete -and medal- in the Olympics. Her inspiring memoir details how she challenged stereotypes surrounding black and Muslim woman in America, and how she overcame self-doubt, racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia to proudly represent the United States on the world stage. - Stuart

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Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780316518963
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hachette Books - July 24th, 2018


This memoir is an ode to clever, curious girls who strain against the path. Dillard approached childhood with a furious joy, consuming everything her quiet upbringing offered with an infectious vitality. "I read some few books with such reverence," Dillard writes, "I didn't close them at the finish, but only moved the pile of pages back to the start." I felt the same. - Katherine

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An American Childhood Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780060915186
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - October 15th, 2013


A retablo is a devotional painting, often laid on tin and depicting, as Solis describes in his introduction, “some terrible rift in a person’s life that they survive thanks to the intercession of the Divine.” This memoir-in-vignettes from the celebrated playwright and poet Solis is a series of treasures: absorbing, vivid, sensitive, and sorrowful. Solis, who grew up in El Paso, deftly and humbly depicts individual formative moments (an encounter with a young border-crosser in a field near his home, excruciating first loves, a venture south of the border). The divine in these retablos is not always visible, but the retablos themselves are full of grace. - Chorel

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Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780872867864
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: City Lights Books - October 23rd, 2018


Nicole Chung’s clear and introspective memoir brings new light to the search for identity and navigating both the past and the future when surrounded by the complexity of those who love you. As a transracial adoptee, the incongruity of growing up happy yet uncomfortably different leads her to search out the truth about her birth parents when she is on the brink of becoming a parent herself. This unique, difficult, and often surprising journey considers what one needs most in the world to belong. - Melinda

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All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781936787975
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - October 2nd, 2018


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