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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 book is just stunning; it got under my skin in a big way. Francisco Goldman was vacationing in Mexico with his wife, Aura, when she was fatally injured in a bodysurfing accident. The autobiographical novel that he wrote in the years following is many things: a manifestation of his searing love and grief for Aura, an interrogation of his own role in her life and death, and a futile attempt to understand a random and terrible event. Highly recommended, and well worth any tears.
Reviewed by: Kat
Say Her Name Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802145802
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - April 10th, 2012

Barnes’ slim masterpiece is well worthy of the Booker it won, and your hard-fought reading time as well. The narrator, Anthony, is an erudite man who has lived a life of calm introspection and is now retired. But his story is perhaps not as straightforward as he might have you believe, particularly his remembrance of an old love affair, and the consequences that he is just now beginning to see. Powerful and surprising.
Reviewed by: Kat
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The Sense of an Ending (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307947727
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - May 29th, 2012

Told with a confessional tone in small, page-long chapters, With My Body is the story of a transformative first love that cannot be forgotten. The narrator is a married mother of three when she begins writing about her younger self, unearthing memories of a more passionate time that she is desperate but unable to return to. Raw, enthralling and at times brutally honest, this is a sexy literary read that is difficult to set aside.
Reviewed by: Kat
With My Body: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062122636
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - June 19th, 2012

After a pandemic wipes out most of the human race, leaving behind zombies in its wake, the survivors fight to regain the cities they once inhabited. Zone One focuses on a group trying to retake Manhattan, fighting their way through the classic flesh eating undead, as well as Whitehead’s own creation, “stragglers”, who are stuck as they were when they died. Whitehead’s literary roots help make this a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse.
Reviewed by: Flannery
Zone One Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307455178
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - July 10th, 2012

This story of one man’s return to his childhood home twines through the history of his family, all haunted by the ghosts of their lives. The prose captures the chill of winter, the warmth and pain of life, and the wild woods and rivers on which the tale unfolds. This is a lovely, haunting debut that flows through time, blending reality with myth and memory.

Touch Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393342390
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - April 30th, 2012

This is a harrowing story of a troubled family on the brink of disaster. After reading the first two pages, I HAD to find out how a father and son could possibly get to this place. This is a story about a dysfunctional family, school bullying, and the misunderstanding that tears them all apart. This one wrenched my heart.
Reviewed by: Clytia
Grace Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780758250926
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Kensington - April 1st, 2012

A beautifully written story told from the point of view of three WWII military wives. Sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and consumerism all play a big part in the lives of these women. During a time when you were taught to keep private pain private, all three find themselves coping with the damage done by war and history.
Reviewed by: Clytia
Next to Love: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812982411
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Spiegel & Grau - May 15th, 2012

I once came across a review that pegged The Leftovers as an agnostic take on the rapture, and I haven’t been able to get that out of my head. When thousands of people worldwide disappear in a single moment, there is no religious explanation, only confusion and grief. Perrotta’s characters struggle to move on in this strange new world, craving answers and meaning in the face of loss. A powerful and authentic meditation on the myriad ways we respond to tragedy.
Reviewed by: Kat
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The Leftovers: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312363550
Availability: Backordered
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - May 22nd, 2012

Alice Hoffman is known for her lyrical style and novels that are dosed with magic and surrealism. But in The Dovekeepers, she breaks away from the world of fantasy and retells the story of the Romans’ siege of Masada in 70 CE, during which all but a handful of the 900 Jewish defenders were slaughtered. Using the voices of four separate women, who intersect in surprising ways, the story unfolds into one of determined strength, unity, and faith. With an almost biblical feel, Hoffman’s novel has a cadence and depth that makes it feel timeless—she has truly brought history to life—so perhaps there is a bit of magic in her telling after all.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
The Dovekeepers: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451617481
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - April 3rd, 2012

Ann Patchett is one of those authors you want to read for the first time again and again; you can’t help but be swept up with that wonderful feeling of seeing life from a new perspective. State of Wonder is an adventure story whose beauty lies in the description and, well, oddity of its setting, with deadly snakes, harrowing river rides, and malaria-induced nightmares, where breathtaking beauty stands side by side with wrenching loss. Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down another elusive doctor who is working with a tribe in the Amazon to create a valuable new drug. There are images in this book that you will never be able to forget; there is a moral tug-of-war that will make your heart pound, and there is that incredible beauty that Patchett embeds in her writing.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
State of Wonder: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062049810
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - May 8th, 2012