User menu

Shopping cart

0 Items $0.00

New store hours: 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM Daily. Masks encouraged.

S.M.C.'s Reviews

Susan McCloskey has worked at Bookshop Santa Cruz since graduating from UCSC in 2000. She is the former Event Coordinator at Bookshop and continues to consult for the store. In her other life, she is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She believes in story, and loves the meld of working with books, narrative, and people.

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

This book is a must read for book groups. Set in a high security prison, our main protagonist, a death row inmate, states that prison is a place of enchantment. And he convinces us that it is—there is a mythic beauty to the prison’s stone walls, to the sounds of a hundred keys turning at once to lock the gates—there is an epic pull in the collective dreaming of men who must reach into their memories and imaginations to remember movement and love from an unconstrained time. Told mostly from the perspective of this poet-turned-prisoner, we are also introduced to the jail’s faithless priest and a woman, known only as “the lady” who is there to exonerate the condemned men. When the lady discovers the truth of one prisoner’s past, we are asked to look at the potential for violence that lives in each of us, and more so, to discover the beauty and humanity that exists even in the darkest shadows. This is a beautifully written book that begs for conversation; book groups will find themselves walking the line of trying to separate that which makes flinch, with that that makes us imagine and empathetically open.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
The Enchanted: A Novel Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062285515
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - February 24th, 2015

Syllabus by Lynda Barry

I’m a bit jealous that I haven’t gotten to be one of Lynda Barry’s students, but this book/syllabus/work of genius is the next best thing. It’s like having one of your favorite authors/artists/teachers look right at you and beam down the light of creativity into your soul. The handwritten, fully illustrated syllabus instructs students on which Emily Dickinson poetry lines to memorize (with an illustration of Emily Dickinson) and why literature-scholar-turned-psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist holds the key to imagination, and even how researching one portion of the brain and only answering to the name “Amygdala” for weeks on end is in fact life changing and creativity producing. This book really is a dream come true—unless you actually got to take a class from Lynda and then, well, don’t tell me about it.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9781770461611
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Drawn and Quarterly - October 21st, 2014

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Surgeon and author (The Checklist Manifesto) Atul Gawande confronts one of the toughest problems facing doctors and patients: what to do when medicine reaches its limits. When it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and dying, medicine often runs counter to what it should, and medical training does not prepare doctors for the death of their patients. Gawande became determined to change medicine so that the medical world not confuse living with dying. For fans of Oliver Sacks, this is a powerfully moving and informative book.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780805095159
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Metropolitan Books - October 7th, 2014

Small Victories by Anne Lamott

I read an advanced reading copy of this having just heard hard news; without knowing it I had retreated some, turned my face to the wall. And then came Anne Lamott with Small Victories, written in that honest, slightly pushy way she has, telling her own story of the “too much” of things, and suddenly I had company. And not just any company, but real, faithful, slightly grumpy company, and it was like salve, her reminders about crawling out, facing the world, and trusting again.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9781594486296
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - November 10th, 2014

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

From the publication years ago of her novel, Dew Breaker, I have long been a fan of Danticat’s writing. And oh, how this new novel surpassed my expectations and rekindled my awe of this talented author. Told in interweaving chapters that go back and forth with time, the tale centers around a father’s love for his daughter, a heartbreaking decision, and a child, suddenly vanished. Mesmerizing from the first page, Danticat has offered up a story about the complexity of life when heartbreak and love are mixed together into one
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Claire of the Sea Light (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307472274
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Vintage - July 1st, 2014

Quiet Dell by Jayne Ann Phillips

This novel stunned me with its originality and power. At its end, I realized I would be forever haunted—truly, there is no better word to describe the vibration left behind after reading this book. Fusing fact and fiction, the novel is based on a true crime that took place in 1931. Along the way, there are photographs (lifted from real archives) of the characters and the settings that surrounded them. Closing the cover, I did not feel weary about the world, but rather grateful and in awe of those who take the time to find the beating hearts amid the chaos.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
Quiet Dell Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781439172544
Availability: Backordered
Published: Scribner Book Company - July 1st, 2014

Steal the North

Emmy is a shy, sheltered 16-year-old when her mom, Kate, sends her to eastern Washington to an aunt and uncle she never knew she had. Fifteen years earlier, Kate had abandoned her sister, Beth, when she fled her painful past and their fundamentalist church. And now Beth believes Emmy’s participation in a faith healing is her last hope for having a child. Emmy goes reluctantly, but before long she knows she has come home. She feels tied to the rugged landscape of coulees and scablands. And she meets Reuben, the Native American boy next door. Here is a novel where land and place exist as their own characters; it is a quiet and lovely gem of a book.  

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
Steal the North Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780670786183
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Viking Books - April 10th, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

This masterpiece tells the story of two children on opposite sides of World War II. Its chapters are short, captivating portraits that interweave narratives and build, one voice on top of the other. The bombs that fall in this book reverberate as real; the hope and love and bravery are originally told and vividly depicted. There are comparable titles that will give you some idea of All the Light We Cannot See’s power—The Book Thief, The English Patient—but this story is its own. No words or review can really capture the poignancy it holds. Put it at the top of your list.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781476746586
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Scribner - May 6th, 2014

Thunderstruck & Other Stories

I have been a fan of Elizabeth McCracken ever since I read her novel The Giant’s House, a National Book Award finalist. McCracken’s vision is of a world slightly askew, and she has a wonderful way of blending the astringent and the sharp together with deep tenderness and understanding of longing and yearning. From the first story in this collection—an evocative and brittle but compassionate not-quite-ghost-story about a grieving mother—to the title story, which deals with a father’s acceptance of his daughter’s brain injury—McCracken writes with a no-holds-barred sensibility. The result is a unique and admirable collection that can be read and reread. 

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Thunderstruck & Other Stories Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780385335775
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Dial Press - April 22nd, 2014

An Untamed State

Roxanne Gay’s first novel is a searing story of a politically and economically divided Haiti as seen through one family’s terrifying ordeal. Mireille, a Haitian-born young woman, is on vacation from Miami and visiting her upper-class parents in Port-au-Prince when she is kidnapped at gunpoint. Her captors usually extract hefty ransoms from their wealthy victims, but Mireille’s proud father refuses to pay until it’s nearly too late, and Mireille ends up suffering days of excruciating torture. Her eventual freedom is only the first step in the family’s uncertain recovery. Gay’s portrayal of Mirelle’s healing from a shattered state is powerful and harrowing. The brutality of the book is something that a reader needs to be ready for, but this is a deeply talented author with an unflinchingly told tale. 

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
An Untamed State Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780802122513
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Grove Press, Black Cat - May 6th, 2014

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - S.M.C.'s Reviews