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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

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
$15.00
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
Staff Pick Badge
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Cover Image
$18.00
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
$15.99
ISBN: 9781594868450
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Rodale Books - May 27th, 2008


As a journalist for the New York Times, Ray Bonner traveled the country following capital punishment cases. Those stories led to a Pulitzer Prize, and one particular case led to this book. Anatomy of Injustice is an impassioned and incisive investigation into the many shortcomings of the justice system brought to light in the story of a grievously mishandled murder case in South Carolina that left, Edward Lee Elmore, an innocent man facing execution. Raymond Bonner gives us an exhaustive account of the particulars of racism, prosecutorial misconduct, inept defense lawyers, and injustice in Elmore's case, which, the author makes clear, occurs in courts throughout America. He carefully examines each stage of the initial trial--jury selection, the role of the lawyers and judge, the appeal process--and introduces us to the spirited young female lawyer who, for two decades, fought to get Elmore a fair trial. Powerfully suspenseful and deeply moving, Anatomy of Injustice is a page-turner that also serves as a vital contribution to our nation's ongoing, increasingly vehement debate about justice and inequality.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307948540
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Vintage - January 8th, 2013


In her newest book, best-selling novelist Jeanette Winterson, turns her eye toward memoir, and creates an interesting testament to finding place and the nature of memory. The first half of the book is a series of snapshots from Winterson’s young life as a girl and of her relationship with her adoptive zealot mother who was often thwarted and abusive. The second half of the memoir is more in ‘real-time’ and tells of Winterson’s quest to find her biological parents. Winterson speaks to the displacement and yearning that can come with being adopted. With woven words and tactile imagery, she has created a narrative of survival, wit, and the importance of claiming identity.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780802120878
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Grove Press - March 12th, 2013


If beauty moves you, this is book needs to be your next pick. From its stunning cover to the depth and splendor of Williams’ writing, this titled moved me again and again. Williams opens the book with a succinct scene from her mother’s last days before dying of cancer. In a last conversation, Williams’ mother tells Terry that she is leaving Terry her journals with the simple instruction that Terry must not open them until she is gone. Terry pays heed and opens the diaries after her mother’s death only to find that they are blank—all of them. The finding, Williams says, sent her into a “double grief.” This book is about the journey Williams’ goes through to fill in those journals. It is a mediation on voice and understanding. It is a tribute to flight and identity, to seeking and exploring, to family reconciliation and letting go. And always, to the ways that observation, nature, and noticing can be their own reaching tools--to filling in and finding knowing and seeing beauty in the most remarkable of places.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250024114
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Picador - February 26th, 2013


Home is Toni Morrison’s shortest novel—at only 160 pages it could almost qualify as a novella, and yet its short length does nothing to detract from Morrison’s literary prowess. The lyrical story centers around Frank, a young African-American soldier who leaves his sister Cee, to fight in the Korean War. When he returns, the nation is at a full-capped edge with racial tension and women struggling for independence. Frank is desperate when he hears that Cee is caught up in a situation that she may not survive, and sets out to save her, throwing himself in peril’s way. Told in the multi-perspective narrative that Morrison is so loved for, we watch as two siblings hold their love for one another despite the odds, and the way an ever changing environment casts shadow and light creating a precarious dividend between surviving and thriving.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Home (Vintage International) Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780307740915
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - January 1st, 2013


Just released in paperback, this novel stands as one of my favorite reads of all time. That is not a title I offer lightly, but the reverence that this novel holds makes it deserving of such status.

There are few books that leave me in silence—that deep felt silence of profound experience like a cathedral or a sudden clearing among high trees. The Orchadist is a book that once read becomes sacred. The story starts in the late 1800’s in upper state Washington. In an orchard a solitary man, broken but slowly healing, lives and tends to his land when unexpectedly two girls show up—they are vigilant and slightly feral—and he offers them shelter. The events that unfold are rooted and startling. The setting, the language, and the depth of each character will take hold. There will be quiet moments of profound love, and equal moments of deep awe. And there will be grief, at the way hearts open, and families are forged, at the way independence is sought and strength is regained, at the way the seasons bend and move forward, and all that can be learned in surrender and change.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
The Orchardist: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062188519
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - March 5th, 2013


One of my favorite things is to discover a debut novel that feels like it was meant to be told, where the story itself has its own life-force and pulse to it, so strong that the characters and words seem to gather themselves together to shout out their truths. Julie Kibler’s Calling Me Home is just that kind of debut. Interweaving the story of a bi-racial and forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky, with that of a modern-day friendship between an unlikely pair, Kibler speaks to implicit racial tensions and the heartbreak of a particular time in history. But Kibler does more than that, she offers up the solidarity that exists in all forms of love. Whether it is the love of family or lovers to the love of friendship and community, Kibler speaks to the way that faith and humble acts of kindness can come together to cross barriers, to heal the burdens of loss even when they are generations old.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Calling Me Home Cover Image
$21.99
ISBN: 9781250014528
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: St. Martin's Press - February 12th, 2013


In this page-turner, Bender paints a picture of a contemporary suburban family with an odd twist. At a very young age, the daughter discovers a hidden talent that is both a blessing and a curse: She can taste the emotion of the cook in any food she eats. Although fantastical, this tale of family and coming of age poses very real struggles with love and accepting who you are.
Reviewed by: Brittany
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780385720960
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Anchor - April 19th, 2011


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