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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

Let me admit that this was my first Philippa Gregory read. I was very impressed by her writing style, by the level of detail she provided, and by her ability to create suspense despite the general outcome being a forgone conclusion. I love the women she writes--they are complex characters, neither good nor altogether bad, who arouse your sympathies while making choices you disagree with.

Reviewed by: Nici
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The Lady of the Rivers: A Novel (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416563716
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Washington Square Press - April 3rd, 2012

Say Her Name is an autobiographical novel about the loss of Francisco Goldman's wife, Aura. I don't think anyone has ever loved anyone as much as Goldman loves his late wife - his devotion radiates from every sentence. I felt haunted by this book for weeks, and found myself thinking about Aura as if I had met her. It's a sad book, but trust me, it is well worth any tears.

Reviewed by: Kat
Say Her Name Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802145802
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Grove Press - April 10th, 2012

As someone who shares the same love, I fell easily into this all too common tale of the high-functioning alcoholic. The honesty with which Knapp writes is refreshingly undramatic. There are a lot of gritty rock-bottom memoirs out there, but Drinking manages to have the soul baring quality of a best friend’s confidence without the gut wrenching cringe factor.

Reviewed by: Kimberly
Drinking: A Love Story Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385315548
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - May 12th, 1997

Susie Bright has the kind of life that memoirs were invented for—and finally she has written one! Chock full of “did-that-really-happen” moments and the fiercely intelligent and empathetic insight that she is known for, Big Sex Little Death is not to be skipped. Perfect for book group or class discussions

Reviewed by: Kat
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Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781580053938
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Seal Press - April 24th, 2012

Pat Tillman was a true American hero. An All Star football player, he gave up his career to join the Army, only to be killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, a fact which the government covered up. Krakauer delves into the story, following Tillman's life as well as the actions that lead to his death, and cutting through the web of lies woven around it.

Reviewed by: Flannery
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307386045
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Anchor - July 27th, 2010

Every year, Great White Sharks migrate to a jagged group of rocks of the coast of San Francisco called the Farallone Islands. The islands are largely inhabited by birds and seal, but a small group of intrepid people stay on the habitable island to study the sharks. This is a fascinating look into a little known local phenomenon, as well as an engrossing insight into a mysterious local creature.

Reviewed by: Flannery
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The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805080117
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Holt Paperbacks - May 30th, 2006

I love James Herriot. As a child, I aspired to be a country vet because of him. This collection recounts his first years as a small town vet, and is full of stories that are by turns heartwarming, sad, and comforting, and reveal the best, deepest nature of our animal friends. His love of life and all creatures is infectious, making this a sweet, funny, and uplifting book.

Reviewed by: Flannery
All Creatures Great and Small Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9780312965785
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: St. Martin's Press - April 15th, 1998

Kevin Brockmeier’s latest novel imagines a world in which pain becomes visible as a white light, shining out of cut thumbs, sore backs and broken limbs. Brockmeier follows a series of characters as they grapple with this strange new world, in which people diagnose each other at a glance and struggle to contain their secrets. My fellow bookseller Susan and I love this book so much that we argued over who got to write the review. Read it yourself and pass it on.
Reviewed by: Kat
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The Illumination (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307387776
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Vintage - February 21st, 2012

Newspaper journalist Joshua Foer was originally given the U.S. Memory Championship as an assignment, but rather than just writing a story, Foer became a participant. Through his research for the article, Foer interviewed the likes of Ben Pridmore (the current Memory Champion winner) who could memorize the exact order of 1,528 digits in an hour, to meeting with a man who could only remember as far back as one thought. Foer found that in many ways memory can learned; it turns out there is a secret language for our brains—that our minds have a preference to remembering one way over another. Foer basically studied this “memory language” and decided to join the Memory Championship to test his skills. The results are laugh-out-loud funny, but also fascinating. This book needs to be your next read—especially for all those Bill Bryson fans out there!

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143120537
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Penguin Books - February 28th, 2012

This book is an early contender for my favorite novel of 2012, and even though it’s only March, I doubt it will be strongly challenged. Debut author Liz Moore has written a piercing novel that is perfectly weighted with sadness and hope. Arthur Opp is a 500 lb former professor who hasn’t left his home in nearly 10 years, and has no plan to, until a student from long ago calls him, asking for help with her son. Magnificently heart-felt and beautifully written—don’t miss this one.

Reviewed by: Kat
Heft: A Novel Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9780393081503
Availability: Out of Print
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - January 23rd, 2012