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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

Nell Freudenberger is a relentlessly talented writer and The Newlyweds is a work of beauty and poetry. Centered around Amina, a recent immigrant from Bangladesh who moved to America to marry a man she met online, the narrative’s strength and complexity lie in its presentation of Amina’s past and the histories of her friends and family. Truly a work to make you think and to spur many discussions, the novel offers a nuanced look at marriage and life.
Reviewed by: Nici
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The Newlyweds Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307268846
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Knopf - May 1st, 2012

If you already know all about Kate Atkinson, feel free to skip to the next review. But if you’re like me and you’ve been meaning to read her for years but never seem to get around to it, let me tell you that you MUST read Case Histories. It is by turns hilarious and tragic, with an unexpected existential edge that has lingered ever since.
Reviewed by: Kat
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Case Histories: A Novel (Jackson Brodie #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316010702
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Back Bay Books - October 17th, 2005

This is a beautifully written debut novel set on a remote island off Western Australia in 1918. From time to time, I’d come across a sentence or paragraph that stopped me in my tracks, and I’d have to read it over several times to absorb its beauty of language. This is the perfect book group book. Moral decisions and consequences abound. It’s complicated, layered, and it stayed with me for a long time. I couldn’t help but sympathize with each of the characters.
Reviewed by: Clytia
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The Light Between Oceans: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451681758
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - April 2nd, 2013

Sisters Janie and Hannah confront xenophobia and culture shock when they move to the States as young girls, leading Hannah to later estrange herself from the family. When their father becomes terminally ill, Janie is charged with the task of bringing Hannah to Korea. The sisters' physical and emotional journey will teach them about the secrets that families keep from the rest of the world and from each other.

Reviewed by: Andrea
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Forgotten Country Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594486524
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - March 5th, 2013

The central character of The Vanishers is a student attending a school for those with psychic gifts, until one of her professors lobs an attack at her that leaves her body devastated by illness. The world this character inhabits is formed so nonchalantly that you can’t help but turn the pages, eager to learn more about how all of this works. A smart, literary thriller with teeth, and not at all what you’re expecting.
Reviewed by: Kat
The Vanishers Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307387363
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Anchor - January 8th, 2013

High school can be awful. But it’s slightly less awful when you have a team of sarcastic ants who trash-talk your bullies and provide you with sardonic encouragement at your most difficult moments. If that sounds weird, that’s because it is—but trust me, by the end of this book you’ll be wishing for an ant entourage of your very own. Odd, but very heartfelt, and unexpectedly vivid and real.
Reviewed by: Kat
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Everybody Sees the Ants Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316129275
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - September 18th, 2012

This is a starkly beautiful novel about a woman who does something I’ve certainly daydreamed about from time to time: she moves to a house in rural Wales, where she is perfectly alone, save for the ten white geese who live on the property. But her reasons for escape are not innocent, and darkness stalks the edges of her picturesque solitude—as does her husband, who is determined to track her down.
Reviewed by: Kat
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Ten White Geese: A Novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780143122678
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Penguin Books - February 26th, 2013

The Convert is, at its heart, a fascinating study of fundamentalism—where it comes from, how it grows in hearts and minds, and its power to spread to and warp whole communities or countries. The book’s subject, Margaret Marcus, was a young, Jewish American before she immigrated to Pakistan and became Maryam Jameelah, one of the loudest voices of fundamental Islam. An unsettling, arresting read that is also quite educational.
Reviewed by: Kat
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The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555976279
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Graywolf Press - September 4th, 2012

Extroverts are highly valued in our society, where people are constantly being told to speak up, to always be assertive, and to make quick decisions and stick by them no matter what. Susan Cain argues that by dismissing introverts, we aren’t hearing from those people who prefer listening and asking questions to shouting from the rooftops. A fascinating and empowering read, especially for those who have ever felt lessened by their quieter impulses
Reviewed by: Kat
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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307352156
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Broadway Books - January 29th, 2013

I was completely taken by this memoir and surprised by the way it moved me and made me examine my own thoughts and concepts about mind, body, and spirit. Matthew Sanford's life and body were irrevocably changed at age 13 when his family's car skidded off a snowy Iowa overpass, killing Matt's father and sister and leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. Matt’s telling about this event and his own childhood awareness of his time in the intensive care unit at the Mayo Clinic, to his growth and journey toward becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and father of twins, is not what one would expect. Matt’s narrative is never saccharine and nor does it fall into cliché, but instead his humor, anger, and deep observing intellect continue to manifest a sense of stubborn joy and wonder. Forced to explore what it truly means to live in a body, he emerges with an entirely new view of being a "whole" person. In this searingly candid memoir he delivers a powerful message about the endurance of the human spirit and of the body that houses it.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594868450
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Rodale Books - May 27th, 2008