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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

his book has it all: mouthwateringly good food writing, exquisite nature writing, including vivid descriptions of fields and forest, snippets of Mark Twain's transcendent musings about American food, and an incredible travelogue that spans many states and takes you back to Twain's childhood. One of my favorite books in recent memory.

Reviewed by: Kat
Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143119340
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - October 25th, 2011


The title of this book is admittedly not very festive, but I promise you, great things await within. It's the incredible story of the birth of modern forensics, told through the story of a particularly twisted serial killer in France, and the brilliant scientist and criminologist who eventually stopped him.

Reviewed by: Kat
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780307279088
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Vintage - November 1st, 2011


Michele Norris of NPR’s All Things Considered set out to write a book about “the hidden conversation on race” that was taking place around the country since the election of President Obama. Norris was interested in the continuing phenomenon she felt when interviewing people about what they weren’t saying when race came up; people were being careful and she wanted to know why. Then, when interviewing her own family about race and silence, a family secret was revealed and suddenly Norris’s journey to understanding the complexity of racial legacy became a more immediate and intensely personal story. The Grace of Silence illuminates the ways that silence and revelation are deeply imbedded into how we have racial dialogue. I cannot get the ending words of this memoir out of my head, and nor do I want to. This is a beautiful, telling, and wonderful read.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307475275
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - September 6th, 2011


I have not been able to shut up about this book for six months now, and I'm pretty sure I will continue to talk about it for a very long time to come. This is the novel to give the people who need books in their lives, the people who crave amazing fiction and know all to well the sway that literature can have over a person.

Reviewed by: Kat
Staff Pick Badge
The Borrower Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780670022816
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Viking Adult - June 9th, 2011


Starting with a phone call that leads to a child, drugged but alive in a suitcase, this Danish mystery is a perfect blend of Tanya French and Stieg Larsson—as psychologically driven as it is plot driven—a page turner so riveting that you may want to gear up if you plan to sit within arm’s length to this book’s reader.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
The Boy in the Suitcase (A Nina Borg Novel #1) Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9781569479810
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Crime - November 8th, 2011


This novel is a great fit for John Irving fans, with its blend of humor, deep pathos, and wrought exploration of family and friendships. Irma Voth is a Mennonite girl whose family moved from Canada to a small and even more insulated Mennonite community in Mexico. When Irma marries a local and is ostracized by her father, she must discover on her own the way of the world in order to survive. This is an amazing, original novel that should be at the top of anyone’s wish list.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Irma Voth: A Novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062070180
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Harper - September 6th, 2011


This is one of the most lushly imagined books I've read in a long time, and it also happens to be one of the best love stories I've read in awhile as well. It's about a tortured young woman named Briony who is convinced that she is a witch, and that she was somehow responsible for her stepmother's untimely death. The language is an incredible blend of old-world English and modern-day poetry.

Reviewed by: Kat
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Chime Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780803735521
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dial Books - March 17th, 2011


The main character of this novel, private investigator Claire DeWitt, reminds me a bit of Sherlock Holmes – she has addictions, and isn't very friendly most of the time – but with a New Age twist (imagine Holmes using the I Ching to find clues, if you can). The story is set in New Orleans six months after Katrina, a time and place that is viscerally well realized.

Reviewed by: Kat
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt Novels #1) Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780547428499
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - June 2nd, 2011


This was by far one of my favorite novels of the year—and it turns out—one of the New York Times too. Landing itself on the coveted NYT’s best ten books of the year list, this novel is an incredible debut. Telling the tale of 13-year old Ava who has grown up on an island in her family’s alligator-wrestling theme park (I know, I know, but it works) Russell introduces us to by far one of the most valiant and true heroine’s I have read in a long time. The bravery and pluckiness Ava has in her determination to hold her family together when circumstances threaten to tear them apart is beautiful and stoic. This is an original, incredible, and touching novel—a great read for fans of The Secret Life of Bees.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Swamplandia! (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307276681
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - July 26th, 2011


A wonderful woven tapestry that centers around one small town in America with a legendary garden Hoffman takes us through three hundred years of history. Starting with the town’s founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fears of bears and ending in modern day with a desperate young man who craves solace after being an EMT in New York City , Hoffman has crafted an exquisitely magical book whose characters are vivid and unexpected. For fans of Isabel Allende, this is one of those magical books that tells a true tale of humanity with a bit of magic thrown in.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
The Red Garden Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780307405975
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Broadway Books - August 2nd, 2011


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