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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

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: Available from Warehouse - 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: Available from Warehouse - 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: Available from Warehouse - 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: Available from Warehouse - 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
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9780525953869
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dutton Books - April 23rd, 2013


I read an advanced copy of this back in October, and I've been counting down the days to March so that I can press this into the hands of everyone I know who loves unreliable narrators, love triangles, and books about books about books. This utterly absorbing debut follows our narrator through several identity changes, romantic trysts, and missions to bring his unstable best friend, a brilliant writer, back from the brink of fame-induced emotional breakdowns. It has the feel of equal parts Great Gatsby and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - dreamy and irresistible.
Reviewed by: Andrea
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The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9780670026005
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Viking Books - March 21st, 2013


I’m a bit obsessed with Cheryl Strayed. Much like Gabrielle Hamilton of Blood Bones and Butter, Strayed is an incredible writer with a strong voice that will blow you away. Wild is an account of Strayed’s 1,000-mile solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, undertaken at age 26 following the sudden loss of her mother. Despite the blood and bruises and the terrible things that happened to her toenails, I couldn’t help but root for her with every sentence, and dream about following in her footsteps.

Reviewed by: Kat
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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307476074
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - March 26th, 2013


Fans of Maya Angelou will revel in her latest work Mom & Me & Mom as readers get a glimpse behind the phenomenal woman, writer and poet and into the most important years of her development: her earliest childhood experiences. Readers will be able to explore and discover Maya’s unusual and inspirational relationship with her mother, reminding us all of the incredible power of connection that is uniquely forged between mothers and daughters.
Reviewed by: Rochelle
Mom & Me & Mom Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781400066117
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - April 2nd, 2013


The Newlyweds tells the story of Amina, a young woman from Bangladesh who moves to America to marry a man she met online. As she settles in, Amina struggles to maintain contact with her family, and to merge the practicality of her new marriage with the romanticism she desires. This is a thoughtful, strong debut novel, perfect for fans of Ann Patchett or Alice Munro.

Reviewed by: Kat
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The Newlyweds (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780307388971
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Vintage - February 12th, 2013


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