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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.

Looking for more book group recommendations? Find curated book lists for the following categories:

Surviving 2020: Books That Will Make You Believe in Humanity
Strong Women Through the Ages
Book Group Sleepers: Great Books Your Group May Have Missed

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!

Reviewed by: Louise
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Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780802121752
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - October 8th, 2013


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.

Reviewed by: Jocelyn
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xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths Cover Image
By Kate Bernheimer (Editor)
$20.00
ISBN: 9780143122425
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - September 24th, 2013


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.

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Eleanor & Park: Exclusive Special Edition Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250012579
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - February 26th, 2013


I started reading this book because of a fascination I’ve recently developed with the Irish Troubles. Broderick grew up Catholic in Northern Ireland, and it seemed that everyone around him was somehow involved in the fighting. His boyhood was shaped by car bombs, paramilitaries, and riots, and his description of his narrow escape from that world is breathtaking and nuanced. A fascinating and highly educational read.
Reviewed by: Kat
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That's That: A Memoir Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307716330
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Broadway Books - May 7th, 2013


If I were in a book group, I would insist that we read this book. I would also insist that everyone pick a recipe and bring enough to share. Luisa Weiss grew up on two continents--her father lived in Boston, and her Italian mother in Berlin--and so by the time she reached adulthood she was more than used to wandering. Food and cooking became her comfort and her home. Think Eat Pray Love with a foodie twist.
Reviewed by: Kat
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My Berlin Kitchen: Adventures in Love and Life Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780147509741
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Penguin Books - August 27th, 2013


After publishing two acclaimed novels about the Mexican immigrant experience, Reyna Grande chose to reveal her own troubled and triumphant story as an illegal immigrant in this beautifully written and heartfelt memoir. Born in Mexico and raised by her grandparents after her parents left to find work in the U.S., at nine years old, Reyna enters the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant to live with her father. Filled with hope, she quickly realizes that life in America is far from perfect. While her father has big dreams for his children, his alcoholism and rage undermine all his hard work and good intentions. Finding solace from the violence, Reyna turned toward books and reading, and ultimately became the first person in her family to obtain a higher education. At a time when immigration politics are at a boiling point in America, Reyna Grande offers an intimate glimpse into the Mexican-American experience, and we are left gifted not only by her honesty, but by her startling and stoic prose that opens up to the wider questions about the lines between loyalty, love, and accepting one’s true self.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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The Distance Between Us: A Memoir Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781451661781
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Washington Square Press - March 12th, 2013


New is paperback; this is the perfect Book Group read—I quickly fell under the spell of this memoir. Working in publishing for years, Schwalbe was always a devoted reader, but when his mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, reading takes on a whole new meaning. While waiting together through numerous doctor visits and hospital stays, Will and his mother discussed books they had each been reading and began to exchange titles—thus creating the "End of Your Life Book Club”. There is a candid honesty in this memoir that makes one feel like an interloper on two wonderful conversationalists. And while this memoir certainly serves as a eulogy to Will’s mother, as she is so deftly captured, it is also a book about love—the love between family, the love of faith and dialog, of authors and story, and ultimately the love of reading and the way it transcends so much. This is one of those reads that sticks with you because of its layered gifts—any Book Group will take this book and feel grateful, as Schwalbe speaks at both personal and prose level.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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The End of Your Life Book Club Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307739780
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - June 4th, 2013


Lea Carpenter’s beautiful and somber debut tells the story of a mother awaiting the fate of her son, a Navy SEAL deployed to Afghanistan. This literary war novel doesn’t linger on the front lines, but instead focuses on quiet emotional depths, and shows us a warrior who is more classical than brutish. Perfect for fans of The Yellow Birds and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
Reviewed by: Kat
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Eleven Days Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9780307960702
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - June 18th, 2013


Burial Rites is the kind of vividly atmospheric historical novel that makes you grateful for winter. Set in Iceland in 1829, the story centers around Agnes, a housemaid who has been charged with murder and condemned to die. She’s sent to live on a farm until her execution day, with a family who is terrified of her, and slowly, painstakingly, the real story comes out. I predict that book groups won’t be able to stop talking about Burial Rites, so prepare yourself for a long night. Gripping ‘til the last page and based on a true story (but don’t look it up! You’ll spoil the ending!).
Reviewed by: Kat & S.M.C.

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Burial Rites: A Novel Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9780316243919
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - September 10th, 2013


From the publication years ago of Danticat’s novel, Dew Breaker, I have long been a fan of Danticat’s writing. And oh, how this new novel surpassed my expectations and rekindled my awe of this talented author. Told in interweaving chapters that go back and forth with time, the tale centers around a father’s love for his daughter, a heartbreaking decision, and a child, suddenly vanished. Mesmerizing from the first page, this book creates a magical tale of the calamity and daily life of in a small Haitian town—not wanting to give too much away, Danticat has offered up a story about the complexity of life when heartbreak and love are mixed together into one.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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Claire of the Sea Light Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780307271792
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - August 27th, 2013


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