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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

Wow, that a debut novel can do so much and so beautifully—I was mesmerized from the very first page, when a young boy’s heart reaches his fingertips and thus marks the world with his words. Poet E. J. Koh does the same with her multigenerational family saga that is at once intimate and expansive. The Liberators is Korean history writ small, in the family relations of Insuk and Sungho, and the divisions and harm, the love, loyalty, strength, and hope of a people enduring. This book is a gem, simply stunning from start to finish.  


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The Liberators By E. J. Koh Cover Image
ISBN: 9781959030157
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - November 7th, 2023

After the death of her mother, Belle finds herself lured into a dark secret her mother Noelle held. Belle has always been obsessed with keeping her skin beautiful and young, constantly going into digressions about her extensive beauty routine. When a stranger appears with information about her mother, Belle gets sucked into the world of a strange, exclusive spa that figured in Noelle’s death. Mona Awad’s dark humor and poignant writing shines through in this, and as a big fan of Bunny, I was enthralled until the last word.  


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Rouge: A Novel By Mona Awad Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982169695
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: S&S/ Marysue Rucci Books - September 12th, 2023

A historical novel, a feminist manifesto, an alien utopia on the moon—this book has it all! The Future Future explores the myriad of power imbalances in our world, between servants and masters, men and women, rich and poor—as well as how the oppressed must band together in solidarity and sisterhood to survive. The softness and love our protagonist cultivates in the face of all that’s set against her is priceless.  


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The Future Future: A Novel By Adam Thirlwell Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374607616
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 17th, 2023

Years ago, after reading Sigrid Nunez’s novel The Last of Her Kind, I wondered why she wasn’t a household name. Now, after The Friend and a well-deserved National Book Award, she’s widely (and rightfully) considered one of our finest writers. Her new novel, set primarily during the pandemic, explores the precariousness of life and our need for meaningful connection. Written in her clean and economical prose, the book is filled with perfectly drawn characters and spot-on observations.  


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The Vulnerables: A Novel By Sigrid Nunez Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593715512
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - November 7th, 2023

Blackouts is Justin Torres’s long-awaited follow-up to We the Animals, and it is just as inventive, stealthy, and powerful. His latest blends truth and fiction, with the uncredited work of early-20th-century queer psychologist Jan Gay at its heart. Her research becomes the present-day project bequeathed to our young narrator by his elderly friend. Through actual excerpts, archival photographs, and their own sharing of experience, a queer history is retrieved and imagined forward in this thoughtful, lovely new work.  


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Blackouts: A Novel By Justin Torres Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374293574
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 10th, 2023

This collection of early stories from Hiromi Kawakami opens readers to a world of a fantastical Japan. Pulling from deep within Japanese narrative traditions, Kawakami revitalizes the weird with tales of shapeshifting con men, people possessed by fox spirits, a tale of love between ancestors born 400 years apart, deftly mixing traditional ideas with modern settings and sentiments. A great introduction to Japanese literature for the curious.  


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Dragon Palace By Hiromi Kawakami, Ted Goossen (Translator) Cover Image
By Hiromi Kawakami, Ted Goossen (Translator)
ISBN: 9781737625353
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Monkey - September 19th, 2023

A darkly entertaining tale, Recital of the Dark Verses takes notes from Cervantes and Dumas and the absurdity of Shakespeare’s comedic mishaps, and never ceases to surprise in gruesome, cadaverous humor. With naive thieves, a perfume-scented corpse, and the many forms of the devil/trickster at play, we traverse the Spanish landscape on the backs of donkeys while debating whether verses written by St. John of the Cross were ecstatically written for God or for an illicit lover. Delight yourself in this playful but wise comedy of errors.  


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Recital of the Dark Verses By Luis Felipe Fabre, Heather Cleary (Translator) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781646052790
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - September 19th, 2023

One of the great novels of Latin American literature and a touchstone for surrealist writers the world over, Pedro Páramo is a haunting journey through memory, loss, and grief. Its critique of authoritarianism remains as pertinent today as the day it was published. Gorgeously translated by the renowned Rulfo scholar Douglas J. Weatherford, this new Grove Press edition includes an introduction by Gabriel García Marquez that should be all the convincing you need to put this novel at the top of your reading list.  


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Pedro Páramo By Juan Rulfo, Douglas J. Weatherford (Translator), Gabriel García Márquez (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Juan Rulfo, Douglas J. Weatherford (Translator), Gabriel García Márquez (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780802160935
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - November 14th, 2023

In Ayana Mathis’s affecting new novel, a mother’s love is the driving force toward self-determination in the face of the ongoing onslaughts of an unjust society. Duchess, a strong and feisty woman living in a self-sufficient Black community in Alabama, and her daughter Ava, who struggles to make it in Philadelphia with her son, give voice to the courage needed to define life on one’s own terms while still embracing the family and community that make us who we are.  


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The Unsettled: A novel By Ayana Mathis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525519935
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - September 26th, 2023

The Girls is a delightfully harrowing story about a lesbian couple who become enmeshed in a small town murder. John Bowen is a master of the bizarre and his talent truly shines through his peculiar protagonists. If you're a fan of mystery novels set in charming locales with sinister underbellies, this should be the next book on your reading list.  


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The Girls By John Bowen Cover Image
ISBN: 9781946022707
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: McNally Editions - November 14th, 2023


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