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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

This guy's writing is electrifying; it sizzles with life and carries you along on a journey that is at once breathtaking, devastating, and inspiring. A history lesson and an all-consuming adventure with one of the most endearing characters I've ever encountered.
Reviewed by: Laura
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594483295
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - September 2nd, 2008

This book destroyed me, and I mean that in the best way possible. Beautiful language, an exquisitely heart-breaking love story, and gorgeous, wistfully descriptive passages about a Paris of a different time. Hands down, my favorite book ever, and my all-time favorite "romance."
Reviewed by: Laura
Giovanni's Room Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385334587
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Delta - June 13th, 2000

This book has all the best ingredients for a good read: history, characters you wish were your friends, romance, and a built-in love of other literature. It had me ready to pack up and move to the island of Guernsey (now that the war is long over of course.) One of my favorite comfort novels.
Reviewed by: Erin
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385341004
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - May 5th, 2009

I’ve never been one to read weighty biographies, but after cracking this one, I’m a convert. It helps that this particular story reads like the most literary of novels. The pages whip past as you absorb Catherine’s childhood with her cold, ambitious mother, her marriage to the strangest of princes, her voracious and intelligent mind, and her adjustment to royal life and ascension to power. I’ve yet to meet a character like this in a novel.
Reviewed by: Kat
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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345408778
Availability: Backordered
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - September 18th, 2012

Andrew Porter masterfully presents each of his characters' experiences with stunning believability: Elton losing his longtime job as a respected architect, Richard developing as a poet but struggling with his relationships with other men, and Chloe discovering the consequences of her radical boyfriend's actions. When Chloe drops out of college and returns home, she sets into motion a chain of events that sparks a reaction from everyone around her. I was struck by the air of secrecy and helplessness that pervades the story, mirroring the hushed secrets and misunderstandings that fuel the plot. And even when I knew how Chloe's story would inevitably end, I had to keep reading just to see how Porter would tie everything together. This is a beautifully written, suspenseful tragedy.

Reviewed by: Andrea
In Between Days Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307273512
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Knopf - September 4th, 2012

Kevin Powers is an Iraq veteran who's earning his MFA in poetry, and it's abundantly clear in this book that he knows both what he's writing about and how to write about it. His protagonist, soldier John Bartle, is charged with mentoring the younger, much less resilient Murph, and the two look after each other during the siege of Al Tafar. This is an honest, raw, unflinching portrayal of the war and its effects on the soldiers, the victims, and their families. I am not someone who normally reads or enjoys war novels, but this one really struck a chord with me.
Reviewed by: Andrea
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The Yellow Birds: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316219365
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - September 11th, 2012

I loved this memoir of growing up (mostly) in Texas in quite the dysfunctional family. Mary describes her childhood with the humor and compulsion of poetic therapy but the grit and reality of sand in the mouth. Her story is compelling, especially when describing her relationship with her mother and their reversal of roles. Best for anyone delving into the biography genre!

Reviewed by: Tracy
The Liars' Club: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143035749
Availability: Backordered
Published: Penguin Books - May 31st, 2005

This memoir struck me on so many levels—not just for its exquisite and textured writing but also for its powerful honesty and startling frankness. Ian Brown’s son Walker was born with an extremely rare genetic syndrome. To his parents, caregivers, and even his doctors, Walker is a mystery, unable to speak and truly communicate; his disease makes Walker and his needs, feelings and even his symptomatology a complete unknown. As investigative journalist, Ian turns his focus to the disease, traveling the world to meet with the few doctors and parents of children who know CFC (cardiofaciocutaneous), and becomes immersed in this community. He comes to find the value of every human life, and begins to accept the wonder and love of Walker just as he is.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780312675417
Availability: Out of Print
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - July 17th, 2012

Before Wild became the Oprah-sanctioned bestselling explosion that it is today, Cheryl Strayed wrote an anonymous advice column for the literary website The Rumpus. Her penname was Sugar. Thousands of people wrote in to confess, vent, and beg for advice, and she answered them. But what sets Strayed apart is her format: instead of dispensing clichéd tidbits, she wrote essays in response. Wrenching, soulful, vulnerable essays that somehow reach right in and poke at the heart of what her desperate readers are really asking. By the time I finished it, I was considering three different tattoos from the book. It’s that kind of read.
Reviewed by: Kat
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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307949332
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - July 10th, 2012

In Blue Nights, Didion again writes about loss and grief—this time focusing in on the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo. Like The Year of Magical Thinking there is an unflinching honesty to Didion’s voice. book groups especially will be drawn in to discuss the complexity of Didion’s narrative structure. Her writing is layered and rhythmic, so we are handed sentences and words that repeat and spiral. It is as if Didion could not help herself, writing in overlapping threads of memories and moments that cannot be separated from the life and love of a person who is so suddenly absent. Blue Nights is haunting and singular—a book whose very inertia is in the complex filter of a life sifted through loss. Didion has handed us a compilation of grief—an assembly that is determined and striking, and will ring familiar to anyone that has had to form their own narrative around holding on and letting go.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Blue Nights Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307387387
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - May 29th, 2012