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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

Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward lends her lyrical and powerful voice to the harrowing reality of a girl living in slavery in the pre–Civil War South. As we follow Annis through the violent landscapes and hands of multiple slavers, we witness her fight to survive and her connection to lines of women heirs, both living and spirits, who languished, fought, and loved within the bonds of slavery. I have long said that Jesmyn Ward is among the best living writers of our time. Bear witness and be moved by this heartrending journey toward resilience.  

—Casey

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Let Us Descend: A Novel By Jesmyn Ward Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781982104498
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - October 24th, 2023


A fun and silly book perfect for lovers of cats or ballet. The story is simple and sweet: A boy tells his friends about his talented cat and invites them over for an exclusive Cat Ballet masterclass. The playful illustrations are accompanied by ballet terms and a glossary at the back. Dancers will recognize the moves, nondancers will learn a little more about the world of ballet, and everyone will enjoy some silly cats! 

—Alana

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My Cat Does Ballet By Robert Heidbreder, Matt Schu (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Robert Heidbreder, Matt Schu (Illustrator)
$18.99
ISBN: 9781665917032
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - October 17th, 2023


Amanda Peters’s The Berry Pickers delivers an emotional punch. A Mi’kmaq family migrates to Maine every summer to harvest blueberries, but one summer tragedy strikes: The young daughter, Ruthie, vanishes without a trace. Her brother is torn by guilt, which leads him down a path of self-destruction; all the while Ruthie is growing up with an overprotective, unstable mother who is hiding secrets. The novel beautifully portrays childhood trauma’s lasting impact on our lives and on the many reactions we have to trauma. Gripping, poignant, and unforgettable.  

—Kristina

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The Berry Pickers: A Novel By Amanda Peters Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781646221950
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - October 31st, 2023


The first novel in nearly 10 years by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Michael Cunningham is worth the wait. Centered on an extended family in Brooklyn before, during, and after the pandemic, in Day, Cunningham gives voice to the quiet but powerful push and pull between family members as they try to understand their individual and collective place in the world. Moments of marriage, parenthood, and friendship are all rendered with such tenderness, insight, and empathy that this one family’s story serves as an affecting glimpse into the human experience.  

—Casey

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Day: A Novel By Michael Cunningham Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780399591341
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - November 14th, 2023


After the violent death of her family, Reed was taken in by a mysterious order of women who help uplift heroes through magic and battle. In order to gain her full powers, Reed must mentor her first hero to glory, but the Elders are keeping secrets that could upend her whole world. With her excellent world building plus her utterly compelling and complex protagonist, Kendare Blake does not disappoint. I devoured this series opener. 

—Ivy

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Champion of Fate (Heromaker #1) By Kendare Blake Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780062977205
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Quill Tree Books - September 19th, 2023


If you’re looking for your next squeeze-my-heart-so-I-know-I’m-alive book, look no further than Family Meal. Fall in love with a cast of wounded but worthy characters as they confront grief, addiction, disordered eating, and each other. Exploring queer love, families found and made, and above all, beautiful, messy friendship, Bryan Washington writes with such care and humanity that you jump right into the novel’s emotional trenches, having found your people.  

—Melinda
 

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Family Meal: A Novel By Bryan Washington Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593421093
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - October 10th, 2023


Prepare yourself for a reading experience unlike any other! Ed Park’s sly but magisterial novel surveys Korean history through the far-ranging lens of three different interconnected stories, one of which imagines the covert Korean Provisional Government that formed in 1919 still operating today. Bending history, genre, form, and brain space, it is deliciously smart and funny—you’ll be glad to spend your time within this expertly crafted, satisfying adventure.  

—Melinda

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Same Bed Different Dreams: A Novel By Ed Park Cover Image
By Ed Park
$30.00
ISBN: 9780812998979
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - November 7th, 2023


“Cavemen created the gods, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t do the same.” An extraordinary, brilliant ride through a critical period of human history. The chilling story of technology, computers, and artificial intelligence pushing through human limits. A deep dive into the minds of 20th-century geniuses, told in three parts with a masterful blend of fiction and fact. This is a mesmerizing, thought-provoking novel that left me both exhilarated and terrified.  

—Trey

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The MANIAC By Benjamin Labatut Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593654477
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Press - October 3rd, 2023


Candelaria is the story of three generations of women fighting their way to one another through a surreal and chaotic apocalyptic event. Melissa Lozada-Oliva weaves a tale of generational trauma as five women grapple with various betrayals and failed expectations, with moments of intimate familial nuance that are both dark and deeply humorous. This is a strange and magical book that is raw, tender, horrifying, and utterly weird.

—Magnolia

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Candelaria: A Novel By Melissa Lozada-Oliva Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781662601804
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Astra House - September 19th, 2023


Alice McDermott’s quiet and affecting novels (The Ninth Hour, Someone) tend to focus on the behind-the-scenes role of women in supporting the underpinning of our society. In Absolution, which Ann Patchett said should win the Pulitzer Prize, she turns her eye to the wives of American military officers in the early days of the Vietnam War. What is the moral benefit and harm caused by “doing good” in the midst of a complex world? Luckily, we have Alice McDermott’s empathetic and observant storytelling to show us the way.  

—Casey

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Absolution: A Novel By Alice McDermott Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780374610487
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 31st, 2023


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