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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

Kristen Iversen grew up downwind from a plant that produced plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs, and her parents and neighbors were told that the land, water, and air were perfectly safe from contamination. This was not true. Decades later, Iversen twines her own intimate family history with piercing investigative journalism, and reveals a level of corruption and incompetence that is just staggering. The result is a powerful, horrifying, and very important memoir.

Reviewed by: Kat
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Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307955654
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Broadway Books - June 4th, 2013


In her best-selling graphic novel Fun Home, Alison Bechdel explored her relationship with her father; in Are You My Mother?, she turns her focus to her mother. The psychological intent of this memoir is fascinating. In trying to understand the gulf between mothers and daughters, Bechdel visits with 20th-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, then with Virginia Woolf, then with her current partner, and finally, back to her mother. A wonderful, fun, and smart read.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780544002234
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - April 2nd, 2013


This is an inspiring story of a young man and his dying mother who form a book club of two that brings them closer as her life draws to an end. Schwalbe and his mom read titles ranging from classic literature to current bestsellers, poetry to mysteries, fantasy to spirituality. As Will recounts their wide-ranging, deeply personal conversations, we hear their passion for reading and their love for each other. They—and we—are reminded how books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating, changing the way that we connect with the world around us.

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The End of Your Life Book Club Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307739780
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - June 4th, 2013


Anna Quindlen is a best-selling author and a Pulitzer Prize winner. She is also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a successful woman with a lot to say about the ups and downs of getting older. Chapter by chapter, she shares her philosophies on motherhood, marriage, friendship, solitude, and faith, weaving them all together into a warm and candid memoir about the changes, the lessons, and the losses we all (women in particular) experience as time goes by.

Reviewed by: George
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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake: A Memoir of a Woman's Life Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812981667
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - April 23rd, 2013


I cannot say enough about this debut novel, which takes place in Chechnya, after its decade-long war with Russia. The snowy landscape is scarred by bombs, and countless people have “disappeared” at the hands of soldiers and rebels. Inside this bleak setting are an orphaned 8-year-old girl, Havaa; Akhmed, Havaa’s neighbor, who takes her in; and Sonya, a surgeon who reluctantly takes the pair into hiding at one of the region’s last functioning hospitals. This is a beautifully told tale that shines with eloquence and maturity. For fans of The Tiger’s Wife or Birdsong.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780770436407
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Hogarth - May 7th, 2013


I was gripped by this story from its first page. It is hard to describe this beautifully told novel without giving anything away. Judith is raised by her widowed father, under the influence of his deep religious faith and a town that is slipping into an industry-based poverty depression. Judith tries to make sense out of a life that is somewhat outside of her grasp. When an external event starts a catalyst of chaotic change, we hold our breaths as this imaginative and deeply tender-hearted child tries to put things in place, while risking her own well-being. This is a novel about belief systems, about the developmental shifts in a child’s awareness, but it is also about the deep and clumsy love between a parent-and child. But most of all, this novel speaks to the crux of childhood—at the strength it takes to hold onto faith and wonder, even when all the evidence says otherwise. This is an amazing read.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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The Land of Decoration: A Novel Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9781250024077
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - March 5th, 2013


I read this book in one sitting overnight because the thought of putting it down seemed absolutely impossible, and I couldn’t rest until I knew how it ended. Hosseini’s latest work is touching, painful, and exquisitely beautiful. It is about an Afghani family scattered across the globe, the lives they touch, and the bonds between them that last forever. Each chapter is a masterpiece in itself. Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, writes with the certainty and delicacy of one who understands the pain every human suffers, but who still remembers that our lives are filled with beauty. I cannot recommend And the Mountains Echoed highly enough. Don’t miss our event with Hosseini on June 2nd.
Reviewed by: Katie
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And the Mountains Echoed: A Novel Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9781594631764
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - May 21st, 2013


Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle) certainly must have pulled from her own unconventional background to so convincingly bring the two intrepid stars of this new novel to life. It is 1970, and 12-year-old Bean and 15-year-old Liz have been left by their artistic, whimsical mother, Charlotte, in a desert town in California. They end up making their way “home” to the Virginia town they were born in but have not seen since. Their Uncle Tinsley and the small Southern town that greet them seem suspended in time, but truly everything is on the edge of social change, with the Vietnam War and racial integration barely at bay. Both Bean and Liz have to grow and shift in their loyalty to themselves and one another, and must make heart-breaking decisions to try to carve a road between their past and future.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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The Silver Star: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781451661507
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - June 11th, 2013


This is my favorite book. I know that’s a big thing to say, but so far no other book has quite matched up. It’s a ghost story, but it’s also unlike any ghost story I’ve ever read—the spirits that inhabit this book are deeply entwined with the natural world, and they are responsible for shifting the weather, ripening tomatoes, and helping snakes shed their skin. Intrigued? You should be. I can’t say enough about this book, but I’ll stick to this: read it.
Reviewed by: Kat
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A Gracious Plenty Cover Image
$13.95
ISBN: 9781618580313
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Turner - October 2nd, 2012


Time travel romance? Count me in! Ridgway has created an immersive world where a time travel guild helps accidental time-jumpers settle into the 21st century. Nick, formerly a 19th century aristocrat, is living comfortably in modern-day Vermont when the Guild recruits him to return to his past and do battle with their nemesis. Nick and his sweetheart Julia are drawn into an adventure with the future hanging in the balance.
Reviewed by: Andrea
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The River of No Return Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780525953869
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dutton Books - April 23rd, 2013


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