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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

Ghost Wall is indeed a haunting book. Silvie “vacations” with her family to a primitive skills reenactment anthropology class. Silvie’s father’s passion is primitive life and she has been raised to fend for herself in the wild. She and her fellow students forage food and hunt rabbits, and Silvie is exposed through their friendship to the modern world, while the students have a close view of--and the opportunity to intervene in--Silvie’s family life.

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Ghost Wall: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374161927
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - January 8th, 2019

You will find compelling fiction in this excellent twenty story collection.   The introductions from the series editor, Heidi Pitlor and this year’s editor, Roxane Gay are valuable.  The authors’ contributions explaining the thinking behind each story are useful if read after each story.  Roxane Gay has selected stories from diverse authors, varying locations, and themes. You will be in an immigration detention center looking for your son or a man with Alzheimer’s left alone with his grandson or an Iranian immigrant who struggles to connect with his daughter and more.

The Best American Short Stories 2018 (The Best American Series ®) Cover Image
By Roxane Gay (Editor), Heidi Pitlor (Editor)
ISBN: 9780544582941
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - October 2nd, 2018

Have you ever felt like the world just didn’t make sense? That the world was confusing? So did Eleanor Oliphant in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. What makes this book a choice for any book group is its relatability. At some point we have all felt the pain of being socially awkward. This fast paced novel unfolds in a realistic style adding to it’s quirky nature. As Eleanor shares her soul it is seemingly obvious she needs help.  Enter Raymond. Eleanor is skeptical of him as a human being. Yet what Raymond has to offer is just what Eleanor may need to open her heart.

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735220690
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - June 5th, 2018

Seedfolks is one of those books that leaves you wishing you could be part of the community garden around which it revolves. Told through the eyes of multiple characters, this slim novel tackles issues of belonging, judgement, and acceptance. How does a community form? What and who sustains it? I found it hard to not love each character equally, but Curtis became my favorite.  Knowing little about gardening, he knows his estranged girlfriend loves tomatoes. A choice for young adults and grown-ups this book may make you want to reconnect with the earth, or a neighbor down the road. Community grows where it is planted.

Seedfolks Cover Image
By Paul Fleischman, Judy Pedersen (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780064472074
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperTeen - December 14th, 2004

An ocean filled story set on the west coast of Ireland and narrated by a voice that sounds like Maureen O'Hara, this audiobook is the perfect spoil for rainy day weather.  A week in Winter fulfills all the wants of an audiobook--beautiful narration, captivating plot and characters with stories you want to hear. The listener will be all in to see how it ends, as is Maeve Binchy's craft.

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A Week in Winter Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594136658
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Large Print Press - November 14th, 2013

This powerful short book gives us all more tools to live more kindly. We're reminded to look at others as people who have complex backstories that influence their actions, and that we can never really know those backstories. It provides the background and tools to implement kindness at all levels and with all people - even your own family! “Radical Kindness” resonates at a depth that surprised me! It inspires me and gives me greater motivation to work at being kinder.

Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving Cover Image
By Angela Santomero, Deepak Chopra (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780062913364
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Harper Wave - March 5th, 2019

Good historical fiction makes you believe you’re reading a wonderfully written biography. This book does just that. I knew absolutely nothing about Fanny Stevenson and now I want to learn more about the life she shared with Robert Louis Stevenson. Globe-trotting from France to California to the South Pacific, Fanny and RLS were always in search of either health or a great story and sometimes the found both! Fanny broke gender and moral norms as she marched to the beat of her own drummer. We should all be that brave.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345516541
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - September 23rd, 2014

An avid-collector of place-based fiction, I was fortunate to find this book while traveling in the Virgin Islands. But if you aren’t able to visit yourself, Typhanie Yanique will take you there with her storytelling. Land of Love and Drowning follows a family on St. Thomas through the first half of the 20th century. Vivid characters, social commentary, magical realism. Incredibly compelling and unlike anything I’ve read before. My flight home was hours delayed, but reading this book, I barely noticed! Caution: some parts are very uncomfortable—dealing with incest—but if I can handle it you probably can too.

Land of Love and Drowning: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633812
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - July 21st, 2015

I never took a World Religions class, so I’ve had to piece together my understanding of other religions from conversations and books. From that standpoint, If the Oceans Were Ink is one of the most important books I’ve read. To counter misunderstanding and division after 9/11, American journalist—and secular feminist—Carla Power spent a year studying the Quran with her friend, Shiek Nadwi. Their conversations and travels, relayed in Power’s excellent prose, provide an invaluable introduction to the basic tenets of Islam and the distinctions between its origins and its later cultural trappings. A model for respectful interfaith dialogue.

If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805098198
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Holt Paperbacks - April 7th, 2015

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is a funny and smart read by the former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama. The author, Alyssa Mastromonaco worked on Barack Obama’s campaigns before being asked to join him at the White House. She writes of the funny albeit frequently stressful behind-the-scenes efforts and gives an intimate and friendly look into the world of Obama and his team. There are hilarious and human moments managed with humor, grit and confidence. Mastromonaco’s book is intimate look at a White House team that seems to be a long way from today.