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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

This was the one of my favorite reads of last year. Quirky, magical, and wholly compelling, Holman’s novel tells the story of a young boy growing up in Depression-era rural Virginia. Raised with the rumors of his mother’s mysterious ways, Eddie Alley’s life is forever changed when a car accident leads to an impromptu visit from a city writer and photographer. Eddie’s small town life, along with his future, is suddenly thrown, but not without consequences. Holman interweaves folklore and ghost stories and spins them into this multi-generational tale that talks to loyalty, betrayal, redemption and the way that we cannot run away from who we truly are. There is a mystery and a love that run the vein of this novel that sits with me still—I loved it!

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Witches on the Road Tonight Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802145710
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Grove Press - January 10th, 2012

I started reading this on a lunch break, and ten hours later it had become my new favorite short story collection. Fallon’s stories take place around an enormous military base in Texas named Ft. Hood, and delve intimately into the lives of the women left behind when their husbands ship off to Iraq. The book manages to be neither political nor voyeuristic, but showcases incredible storytelling and character work. I cannot recommend it enough —and the New York Times loved it too!

Reviewed by: Kat
Staff Pick Badge
You Know When the Men Are Gone Cover Image
ISBN: 9780451234391
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - January 3rd, 2012

This staff favorite, by the acclaimed author of Prague, was chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Library Journal, and many others. “The always-original Phillips has outdone himself in this clever literary romp. Successfully blending and bending genres, he positions himself as a character in a novel that skewers Shakespearean scholarship, the publishing industry, and his own life to rollicking effect.” —Booklist

The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812977929
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - February 21st, 2012

Following the national bestselling collection of stories For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, award-winning author Nathan Englander presents a new compilation of Judaic-inspired stories that are memorable and bold. Balancing between the locked up and locked in, Englander's short stories spill wisdom in well-incremented doses while leaving many things unsaid. This irresolution and ambiguity becomes as important as what is said between the characters, and a world of parallels circles the characters and the readers, making this a very thought-provoking collection.

Reviewed by: Tracy
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307958709
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Knopf - February 7th, 2012

A young man enters service for the upper crust of 1900s Amsterdam in this great historical novel that positively drips with sensuality. I loved the depictions of the life of the absurdly wealthy, the interpersonal conflicts of the house staff, and the wonderfully tasty prose that evokes the feel of the times. It's a novel to slowly devour and to take pleasure in reading.

Reviewed by: Nici
History of a Pleasure Seeker Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307599476
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Knopf - February 7th, 2012

My favorite part of this incredibly rich novel set in Reconstruction-era Alabama is the heroine, Augusta Branson. I fell into her as a character—submerged and sympathetic—and felt her struggle for security and safety and her painful growth all the more keenly for that identification. The details are intoxicating, the characters are memorable, and it’s a bit of a nail-biter all the way to the end.

Reviewed by: Nici
The Rebel Wife: A Novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781451629514
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - February 7th, 2012

Expanding on some of the themes found in her autobiographical novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson writes in her new memoir about being adopted and raised by Pentecostal parents. The first half of the book is a series of stories and snapshots from Winterson’s young life as a girl and of her relationship with her adoptive, religious zealot mother who was thwarted and abusive. The second half of the memoir feels as if it’s almost written in “real-time” and tells of Winterson’s quest to find her biological parents. In some ways, Winterson has done for the feeling of displacement and yearning that comes with being adopted, what Joan Didion did for grief in Year of Magical Thinking: written a singular story that captures a universal topic. With woven words and tactile imagery, she has created a raw narrative of survival, wit, and the importance of claiming identity.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780802120106
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Grove Press - March 6th, 2012

Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog) has long been one of my favorite novelists. The pulse and threat of violence is a prevalent theme in his books, and his new memoir offers an illuminating glimpse into the way violence shaped his childhood. Dubus grew up in an entirely different world from his famous novelist father (Andre Dubus), in rough neighborhoods where fighting was commonplace. A thoughtful, electric memoir, and a must-read for fans of Dubus.

Reviewed by: Kat
Staff Pick Badge
Townie: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393340679
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 6th, 2012

Part memoir, part journalism, and part history, David Treuer’s Rez Life uses his novelist eye to talk to reservation life from past to present. Treuer, a member of the Ojibwe tribe of northern Minnesota, grew up on Leech Lake reservation but was educated in mainstream America. Whether he is writing about the labyrinth of policy that goes into a fishing treaty, or the circumstances surrounding his grandfather’s death, Treuer explores how poverty, politics, and preservation of native language and culture are constant struggles of crisis—but also enduring and courageous ways of life.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780802119711
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - February 7th, 2012

Never have I read a novel with such a quirky and precocious protagonist as Flavia de Luce. Eleven year old Flavia lives in her family’s historic mansion in the British countryside circa 1950 where she spends her hours cultivating a love of chemistry. When a mysterious murder turns everything upside down, she begins to piece together a dubious plot generations in the making.

Reviewed by: Kimberly
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385343497
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Bantam - January 19th, 2010