Ah, the wonders of literature. If there's one person who understands that most, it's Jenna Bush Hager.
The TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host has long preached about how books have impacted the way she sees the world, even sharing that passion with her monthly book club on TODAY. It's a love cultivated by her mother, former first lady Laura Bush, and one Jenna told Parents magazine she hopes to pass down to her own brood.
"Sharing favorite books is one of the best parts of parenting," the mom of three said in the cover story for the magazine's new August issue. In it, Jenna shares the many books that shaped her to be the person she is today and how it all started in childhood.
She recalled her mom, as well as her father, former President George W. Bush, being so fond of pouring over bedtime stories with her and her twin sister, Barbara.
"Most often, my parents would read to us in their bed. The four of us would all be in there together while my mom and dad took turns reading out loud. That gave us such a cozy, secure feeling."
Certain books, she said, defined particular parts of her life. Fantastical reads by Roald Dahl were a big part of early childhood, while a book from the "The Baby-Sitters Club" series and Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic "Anne of Green Gables" introduced her to the teen years.
"Barbara and I loved that depiction of Anne and Diana’s friendship," Jenna recalled. "Remember when they got drunk on the wine? And of course there was the boy, Gilbert, who was Anne’s first love. I wanted to learn more about these things. It also changed the way I thought about books — the way literature can open your eyes and create empathy.”
Heading into her 20s, she gushed about "The Secret History," the first novel by "The Goldfinch" author Donna Tartt — "I was so obsessed with it I was practically unable to talk" — that she read one year in college.
As for adulthood, Jenna said she and her husband, Henry, have sought out books that have given them guidance during tough times as parents to Mila, 7, Poppy, 4, and Hal, 11 months. She points to Kevin Nelson's "hilarious and crazy" book "Nothing to See Here," which she chose for her book club last year.
"Weirdly, it also helped Henry and me reshape our perspectives on parenting. You realize that in the end, being a great parent isn’t about doing a million over-the-top things. What kids need is our calm, steady presence. They just need to feel loved.”