If you’re looking for the FULL Jenna Bush Hager’s book club list from The Today Show book club, below is my complete Today Show Jenna Bush Hager’s book club list, which I continue to update with Jenna’s book club books over time.
While I like other celebrities’ book clubs and often participate in them, I love the “Read With Jenna” book list on The Today Show book club best because I find Jenna’s book club books to feel the most genuine. Sometimes I get the vibe that other celebrities have picked a book for reasons other than pure and deep love for the book. I also happen to like Jenna’s book club books the best!
And fun fact: In December 2019, I was on The Today Show to discuss one of the books from Jenna Bush’s reading list with her and Hoda Kotb! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which was both scary and exhilarating.
Best of Jenna Bush Hager’s Book List
Before we get to the full Jenna Bush Hager Book Club list, let’s talk about the “best of” Jenna Bush Hager’s books list that were on The Today Show book club. Although I absolutely adore nearly ALL of the Read With Jenna book list, my personal favorites from the Jenna Bush Hager Book Club list include:
- The Dutch House (an all-time favorite, especially on audio) and
- Searching for Sylvie Lee (so captivating and immersive).
My blog readers seem to agree, as these specific books from Jenna Bush’s reading list are also some of the best-selling books on this blog!
Jenna Bush Hager’s Book Club List
Without further ado, below is the complete Jenna Bush Hager’s book club list for those who want Jenna Bush’s reading list, with short summaries and some personal thoughts about the books.
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
It’s an epic family drama of the lives of the four Skinner siblings dealing with the tragic death of their father and the deep depression of their mother, which they call “The Pause.”
Sibling Fiona Skinner re-tells her family’s story decades later, in her old age, after being asked for the inspiration for her work, The Love Poem.
I loved the poetic prose of this book and how it relayed events of all sizes in the siblings’ lives, including another family tragedy. I simply didn’t want The Last Romantics to end!
The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams
The Unwinding of the Miracle is a memoir of life, death and everything that comes after. In a video interview I watched, Williams said, “I know this is dark and depressing, but I promised I would be honest with you.”
Williams is a young wife and mother facing a terminal cancer diagnosis. With a jaw-dropping background facing insurmountable odds, including being born blind in post-War Vietnam to a family that wanted to end her life and an unbelievably tumultuous months-long escape, she had surgery that restored part of her sight and eventually became a Harvard trained lawyer who traveled to all seven continents on her own. It’s hard to imagine that a terminal cancer diagnosis followed at the age of thirty-seven.
Seeking clarity, Williams began to write the story of her life. In The Unwinding of the Miracle, one of the best books about dying, she walks the reader through the day-to-day emotional journey of living and dying with cancer: shock, loneliness, sadness, despair, anger, hope. She’s candid and real, and the miracle of her life forever touched my heart.
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
A Woman is No Man blew me away. It’s a window inside the lives of conservative Arab women living in America, and you won’t soon forget peering in.
In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya meets with suitors, even though she doesn’t want to get married. Her mother, Isra, was also denied a choice when she left Palestine for Brooklyn as a teenager to marry.
What’s more, is that Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, but she begins to question her past, as the complex secrets behind the lives of Deya, Isra and the other women in their family, unravel for the reader.
“It’s about what is acceptable for a woman — how a woman can use her voice,” Jenna has said. “And to see these women change, and to see their idea of what they can change over generations is really the story of so many women.”
A Woman Is No Man, to me, is about strength, education, choice, immigration, the “American Dream” and so much more. It’s, without question, a must-read.
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
My top pick and a reader favorite
Searching for Sylvie Lee is an exceptional, suspense-filled mystery about the disappearance of a woman, and the ties that bound her with her sister and mother in a Chinese immigrant family.
Sylvie is a brilliant woman who had been raised by distant relatives in the Netherlands and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Now, it’s naïve younger sister Amy’s turn to help, as she retraces Sylvie’s last steps, and determines the truth about her family.
Searching for Sylvie Lee is one of the best Asian American (AAPI) books. It’s immensely intriguing, with character-driven depth far beyond that of a traditional mystery. It’s a spellbinding story with well-drawn characters who are very different, yet similar, in displaying a modern portrait of an Asian immigrant family, while compelling you to turn the pages to find out what happened to Sylvie at the same time. I simply couldn’t put it down, and it’s one of the best sellers on my blog.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
Evvie Drake Starts Over is about a recently widowed small-town woman from Maine, sheltering herself in her grief.
Her friend invites Dean, a struggling former major-league pitcher and friend, to visit for a few months and reset himself. After meeting, Dean and Evvie agree not to talk about Evvie’s late husband and Dean’s baseball career.
As you may suspect, a friendship forms and turns into something more. Evvie Drake Starts Over is a fun read for light romance lovers and the new beginnings trope. If you are doing a 50 States of America reading challenge, this also makes a great book for Maine.
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Jamaican Patsy gets a visa to America and wishes to be reunited with her oldest friend, Cicely. But Patsy’s plans don’t include her overzealous mother or her five-year-old daughter, Tru.
Meanwhile, Tru builds a relationship with her father and questions her own sexuality and identity. About this book, Jenna has said, “It’s a story about resilience and there’s some broken-heartedness. But ‘Patsy‘ is a book that will open a lot of minds.”
Patsy spans years in the lives of a mother and her daughter. I found it to be a very character-driven novel about a very complicated woman, with a lot of themes of immigration.
And if you are doing the Around the World Reading Challenge, you can add this book to your PDF tracker for Jamaica!
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
In The Dearly Beloved, Charles and Lily and James and Nan are two couples who meet in Greenwich Village in 1963, after Charles and James are hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church.
Charles was supposed to succeed his father as a Harvard professor, but he was compelled to the ministry. He fell in love with Lily, who has suffered deep losses in life and doesn’t believe in God.
James was the youngest son of a Chicago family, who grew up angry with his alcoholic father and distancing himself from his anxious mother. Nan was the daughter of a Mississippi minister. Nan’s faith changed the course of James’ life.
The Dearly Beloved follows these two couples through decades of roller coaster friendship as they seek the meaning of life. About this book, Jenna has said, “It’s a book about faith, friendship, relationships and what connects us.”
And I agree with her! I found the first half to be slow, and only about character development, but it really picked up in the second half as the characters explored each of their own views on faith based on the experiences of their lives and their relationships with each other. I could barely put it down by the end, and I think it would provide A LOT of discussion material for a book club.
Note: when I posted my review of this book on Instagram, I received more comments than ever from others saying they loved this book as well.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
My top pick and a reader favorite
The Dutch House is another one of my favorite fictional family drama books. It was also one of my favorite books of 2019, one of the best books to read in the Fall, an amazing character-driven book and definitely my favorite audiobook of 2019 (it’s read by TOM. HANKS. And it’s perfection)!
The Conroy family’s lives are altered when they move into “The Dutch House” outside of Philadelphia. Without spoiling any storylines, siblings Danny and Maeve are basically left to raise themselves, and Maeve becomes like a mother to Danny as they grow through decades of life and often return to the nostalgia of “The Dutch House.” This is essentially a story about an unbreakable sibling bond.
The story so exquisitely closes that I actually had chills in the last few minutes of the audio. I hope everyone decides to read (or LISTEN!) to this book.
For more information, read my full review of The Dutch House, with quotes, pairings and book club questions and food.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
I read Nothing to See Here in one day! For months I really wasn’t that interested in reading it: a story about a down-on-her-luck woman who becomes the nanny of her former friend’s stepchildren, who have a tendency to spontaneously combust into flames when agitated? That just sounded odd to me. But I trust Jenna’s book choices, and she certainly proves me wrong!
At the end of the day, the whole flames thing worked for the story, and it was a great metaphor to tackle what happens to children internally and externally when life spins out of their control. Nothing to See Here presented themes of nurturing children and giving them coping skills in a world over which they lack control.
It’s also about a unique friendship, class and wealth, parenting choices and judgments about other people’s parenting — all of which are handled in very nuanced ways in Nothing to See Here. Trust me, you won’t regret this one.
Tip: It’s excellent on audio.
Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl
Late Migrations was the book that I discussed on The Today Show with Jenna Bush! Since I wrote an in-depth summary of the experience and the book, I will discuss it more generally here, and you can check out my in-depth analysis of Late Migrations if you want more details.
In Late Migrations, Renkl shares tidbits about her life, some larger events and some smaller moments, mostly during her childhood in Alabama in the 1960s. The book consists of brief micro-essays, which repeat themes of: nature, love, loss, the value of memories and the meaning of life.
The essays are poetic and explore a vast array of human emotions and experiences, particularly as she manages the grief that follows the loss of loved ones. Late Migrations is one of the best books about grief and one book that I believe everyone should read. It’s great for fans of Mary Oliver.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
“The only way out of it is through it.”“Dear Edward” by Ann Napolitano
Dear Edward was an especially unique coming of age story detailing the teenage years of a 12-year-old boy after he is the sole survivor of a plane crash.
It’s very heavy and deep and, for a while, I thought I just may not be in the mood for this type of book right now. But, I grew to love the characters and the arc of grief, resilience and hope that grew in the years following the crash.
I especially enjoyed Edward’s friend Shay, who supports him along his unique journey. I also found meaning as I followed Edward while he questioned why he was the sole survivor.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
In The Girl with the Louding Voice, a Nigerian woman is trapped in servitude, but she is determined to fight for a life of choice. Her mother has told her that the only way to get an education is to get a “louding voice.”
About this book, Jenna has said, “She doesn’t get an education, she isn’t allowed to learn. Although it’s the fictional story of one young girl in Nigeria, it really is the story of so many others.”
What follows is her struggle to develop a voice to speak for both herself and other girls. Adunni is the most lovable and positive-spirited protagonist, and this is a very quick read. It also weaves in interesting facts about Nigeria.
Note: I loved it, and I have yet to hear anyone give this book a less-than-stellar review.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Writers & Lovers is a portrait of an artist as a young woman. Casey arrives in Massachusetts in 1997 without a plan after her mother’s death. She waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a room, in which she works on her novel. Then she falls for two men and must juggle her creative life with her personal life as she enters into the next phase in her life.
What resonated with me most about this book is how it presents the unique struggles of the modern twentysomething, coping with coming into adulthood, which means dealing with things like obtaining medical insurance, creating a life-sustaining career, finding a partner and dealing with grief and the effects of bad parenting — which, at the time, may not seem like a lot — but really and truly are some of the largest of life events.
About this book, Jenna has said, “when you are done with this book, what you find is that as long as you are true to yourself and you really understand what makes you happy, that is the true love story.”
For more, read my full review of Writers & Lovers.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
In Odessa, Texas in 1976, a great oil boom is anticipated. In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, a 14-year-old girl appears on a front porch, barely alive after a brutal beating. This act is then “tried” in the churches and bars of Odessa before reaching the courtroom.
Valentine is a story of violence and race, of class and region, yet it offers beauty and hope. It took place in the town where the story in Friday Night Lights originated, and although it’s a different type of book, it has similar threads.
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
In All Adults Here, Astrid realizes she was not exactly the parent she thought she was to her three grown children, who are all struggling. But who decides which lapses and apologies mattered?
With wisdom and humor, this book is about the things that follow us into adulthood. Perhaps only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend can understand the courage of telling the truth to those you love. I loved this one and found it so heartwarming and refreshing.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar
A Burning is an interconnected tale of three people in modern India: Jivan is a Muslim girl living in the slums and determined to move upward. Then, she is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train based on a Facebook comment. I found her story to be most compelling — and downright shocking.
PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who gravitates to a right-wing political party, and becomes linked to Jivan. Lovely is an irresistible outcast whose has the alibi that can free Jivan — but it will cost her.
A Burning is a shocking book about the horrors of social media. It explores complex themes of class, fate, corruption and justice, and it is great for fans of the books of Tommy Orange and Jhumpa Lahiri.
Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan
Friends and Strangers is an insightful and thought-provoking story about two women, for fans of Such a Fun Age.
Elisabeth is a journalist and new mom, struggling to adjust to small-town life after living in New York City. She is connected to the real world only through social media.
Sam is a senior at the local college, hired by Elisabeth to babysit, and deciding between her career and her relationship, as she worries about the future.
Friends and Strangers give the reader a peek into one year in the lives of these women, as well as their friends and family, as the book explores modern American themes of motherhood, age, power, class and privilege.
It’s a great book club book because the characters each deal with unique modern struggles and make arguably bad choices — all of which make for thoughtful conversation. The book also offers a lot to talk about in terms of the economics and social structure of modern America.
Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas
Here for It is the bestselling heartfelt and hilarious memoir of essays about growing up differently.
Author R. Eric Thomas didn’t know he was different until the world told him he didn’t fit in anywhere: his rich, mostly white suburban high school, his conservative Black church, or his Ivy League big city university.
He recalls what it means to be an outsider based on his own life experience. In particular, he struggles to reconcile his faith with his sexuality, and he discusses internet fame and his career. He wonders: Is the future really worth it? And he finds his answer by redefining “normal,” as the reader empathizes with him along the way.
The Comeback by Ella Berman
The Comeback dives into the fractured psyche of a young actress who was raised in Hollywood under the influence of a charming, but manipulative film director, and the moment when she decides to expose his secretive sexual abuse, after she is asked to present him a lifetime achievement award after she has lived in hiding for a year and is staging her comeback.
The Comeback explores power and naivety, how dark secrets can define one’s self, and the moment of fighting back. It has the most breathtaking first page I have ever had, and the reader continues on a heart-racing, page-turning ride. Ironically, reading this book felt like watching a movie, as the words so vividly came to life.
I highly recommend this one as one of my Best Books of 2020 and one of 3 Books to Read After Watching the #FreeBritney Documentary!
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Jenna Bush Hager said that she waited all year to announce Transcendent Kingdom as her book club pick.
Gifty is a candidate for a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Stanford University, studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother had been a talented high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an injury rendered him addicted to OxyContin. What’s more is that her suicidal mother is living in her bed.
Gifty seeks to discover the scientific basis for the suffering around her. But as she turns to sciences for answers, she grapples with her faith.
Transcendent Kingdom is the powerful story of this immigrant family, suffering from depression, addiction and grief. I really enjoyed it.
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Leave the World Behind was longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award in fiction. Amanda and Clay are expecting a vacation from New York City with their teenage son and daughter in a remote corner of Long Island, when there is a late-night knock at the door. Ruth and G. H. are an older couple in a panic because a sudden blackout has swept the city.
Amanda and Clay wonder whether they should trust this couple now that they are isolated from civilization and they wonder whether they are safe, in this suspenseful novel about parenthood, race and class, particularly in moments of crisis.
Everyone talks about the ending of this one, and — love it or hate it — it definitely keeps you thinking long after you turn the last page. At the end of the day, it’s the questions of what happens before the ending that matter most in this one.
White Ivy by Susie Yang
In White Ivy, Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar. And this is her story of love, lies, and dark obsession.
Outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items. As a teen, Ivy attracts the son in a wealthy political family. Then, Ivy’s mother punishes her by sending her back to China.
Years later, Ivy has grown, but she is haunted by her upbringing. Back in Boston, a reconnection with Gideon feels like fate. But the ghosts of her past resurface.
White Ivy gives dark insights into the immigrant experience and themes of class and race. And the ending will shock you.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Pecola Breedlove is a young black girl who is mocked for her dark appearance and prays for “beauty.” She dreams of blond hair and blue eyes in order to fit in. But ass her dream grows bigger, her life begins to disintegrate.
The novel examines our obsessions with beauty and conformity, with powerful themes of race, class and gender. It’s a very good, but very difficult subject matter.
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
In Black Buck, an unambitious 22-year-old named Darren is a Starbucks employee living in a brownstone with his mother, who dreams of his success.
Then a chance encounter with the CEO of New York’s hottest tech startup results in Darren joining their elite sales team.
As the only Black person in the company, Darren reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman. But when tragedy strikes at home, he plans to help the youth of color infiltrate America’s sales force.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
From the beloved bestselling author Kristin Hannah, comes The Four Winds, set amidst the Great Depression in Texas, when America was in crisis and millions were out of work.
Elsa Wolcott was deemed too old to marry and her future seemed bleak. Then, she meets a man and quickly decides to marry him.
But, when everything on their farm is dying, including their marriage, Elsa must either fight for the land she loves or leave it and go west to California, in search of a better life.
Send for Me by Lauren Fox
Send for Me is a beautifully poetic work of pre-WW2 historical fiction based on a true story that moves between Germany and present-day Wisconsin. It begins with some of the most breathtaking prose I have read, and it continues to captivate as the story progresses.
Annelise imagines a future working at her parent’s bakery in Germany. They simply can’t believe that anti-Semitic sentiment will affect them. But as Annelise falls in love, marries, and gives birth, danger comes closer. She’s given the chance to leave for America — but without her parents.
Two generations later, Annelise’s granddaughter, Clare, is a young woman in love. But when she finds her grandmother’s letters from Germany, she sees her family in a new light and must choose between the past and future. Send for Me is a quick read that poignantly explores duty and obligation, hope and forgiveness in ways that feel new, different, and fresh for WW2 historical fiction.
What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster
What’s Mine and Yours is a sweeping novel about the American family and the ways that race affects our most intimate relationships.
A North Carolina is outraged after an initiative pulls students from the largely Black side into predominantly white high schools. For two students, Gee and Noelle, this integration sets off a sequence of events that ties their families together over the next twenty years.
And their mothers—each determined to see their child have a better life—will make choices that will haunt them for decades to come.
This novel explores that which is every family: what breaks them apart and how they come back together.
Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
In Good Company, Flora thought she was happily married — until she stumbles upon an envelope containing her husband’s wedding ring—the one he claimed he lost years ago.
She and her husband had struggled for years in Manhattan to keep his small theater company afloat, then a move to Los Angeles gave them real career successes, as well as a reunion with Flora’s friend Margot, now a television star. And the truth about the ring becomes clear in this story of the marriages and friendships that can both hurt and heal.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Great Circle is the story of a daredevil female aviator charting her own course, over the span of Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles.
At age fourteen, Marian drops out of school and finds a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons — which will ultimately haunt her for the rest of her life, even as she circumnavigates the globe.
A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on her disappearance in Antarctica. Her immersion into the character unfolds alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates collide.
It’s an epic tale thoroughly researched and beautifully told.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
From one of the most beloved modern fictional authors comes Malibu Rising. In August 1983, Nina Riva, talented surfer and supermodel, is hosting her annual end-of-summer party. She and her siblings are the offspring of a legendary singer and the source of local fascination in Malibu.
Nina was just publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. And her siblings are dealing with drama of their own. By midnight the party is out of control and, by morning, the mansion has gone up in flames.
This book brought more family drama than I ever anticipated, with well-drawn characters and an addictive plot. It’s the story of one forgettable night that forever changes one family.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
Hell of a Book is honest, poignant and actually funny! As a Black author undertakes a cross-country tour to promote his novel about Soot, a young Black boy in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a potentially imaginary child who appears at the author’s tour.
Their stories build and converge, exploring themes of family, love of parents and children, art and money. This book is also about a tragic police shooting that plays over and over again on the news.
It will have you guessing who has been killed and who “The Kid” is, leaving you with great points to discuss for a book club.
The Turnout by Megan Abbott
In The Turnout, sisters Dara and Marie Durant have been dancers since they were homeschooled and trained by their mother, the founder of a dance school. After their parents’ death in a tragic accident, the sisters began running the school together, along with Dara’s husband, who was also once their mother’s prized student.
When a suspicious accident occurs at the beginning of the annual performance of The Nutcracker, the sisters are threatened by an interloper and a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, as thrilling themes of family, sexuality, femininity, and power are explored.
Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
In the memoir Beautiful Country, seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 balancing both curiosity and fear. In China, her parents were professors, but in America, her family is undocumented and struggling to survive.
Qian is isolated for speaking in limited English and takes refuge in the library, learning the language through books, and eventually experiencing some quintessential New York experiences, like eating pizza and visiting Rockefeller Center.
This is an unforgettable Asian American immigration coming of age story about a family fractured by their invisibility and poverty, but reaching for the light. If you love books as much as I do, you will love learning all the books that shaped Qian’s life as an American.
That concludes Jenna Bush Hager’s book club list!
Where to start: If you are still feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about where to start with the Jenna Bush book list, I recommend you first check out two of my personal favorites (as well as two of the best selling books on this blog) from the Jenna Bush Hager Book Club list:
The Dutch House (an all-time favorite, especially on audio) and
Searching for Sylvie Lee (so captivating and immersive).
Where to continue: If you have read some or all of these books already, check out Jenna Bush Hager’s favorite books for even more personal recommendations beyond the Jenna Bush book list from throughout her entire lifetime.
And if you want to “Read With Jenna” by creating a list of books from Jenna Bush Hager’s book club list to read or review the ones you have read, get all my bookish printable PDFs for FREE when you sign up for my weekly email newsletter — a quick, warm and fuzzy email with curated book pairings. (It’s like Reading Rainbow for women!)
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I continue to update The Today Show’s Jenna Bush Hager’s book club list each month to make it the best resource for you!
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