Bookworms, rejoice. There are endless possibilities for your next read. Isaac Fitzgerald and Qian Julie Wang stopped by TODAY on May 26 to discuss a few books for the summer, following their visit in April.
Their picks this month included picks for AAPI Heritage Month, as well as compelling nonfiction and a few bonus picks for the website (you came to the right place). After you finish Read With Jenna's June 2023 pick, keep the literary fun going with these recommendations. The kids in your life can read along with the YA books below, or Read With Jenna Jr.'s 2023 list.
"Gone to the Wolves" by John Wray
Fitzgerald says John Wray's writing is a "cacophony of literary talent and incredible storytelling." The book follows friends Kip Norvald, Leslie Z and Kira Carson and their love for metal music, which takes them from suburbs of Florida to Los Angeles to Scandinavia. "This masterful work — buoyed by Wray's clear skill when it comes to writing music and the power it wields—is perfect for fans of literature and rock and roll alike," he says.
"The Possibility of Life" by Jaime Green
Is there life out there? That's the question guiding Jaime Green's nonfiction book, which "guides the reader through the practicalities — not to mention imaginative science fictions — of the likelihood that there is other life in the universe," Fitzgerald says, calling the result "an absolute joy of a book."
He says, "With deep, rich research, mind-melting philosophy, but also a breeziness to her writing style that somehow manages to make the unnerving question, 'Are we alone in the universe?' one that's a delight to ponder."
"The Eyes and the Impossible" by Dave Eggers
If you're a dog lover, this is the book for you. Dave Eggers' fable-like tale is the story of Johannes, a free dog who has never been leashed. He shares what he learns of the outside world with the rest of the animals in his community.
"At its core, this is a fable about freedom, and a celebration of movement, but it is also an incredible reading experience. Immerse yourself in this novel, and let Eggers' physical, fast-paced writing — which is at the height of its power here — carry you through his wildly inventive narrative. With gorgeous illustrations by Shawn Harris, here is a book that is truly for all ages, as only the best stories are," Fitzgerald says.
Kids or YA
"The Rhythm of Time" by Questlove with S.A. Cosby
Questlove co-wrote this YA novel, a time-travel adventure by way of a "funky cellphone," according to Fitzgerald. Friends Rahim Reynolds and Kasia Collins are whisked back to 1997. "Stuck in the past — with Collins working diligently in the present to figure out a way to bring him home — Rahim explores the late '90s Philadelphia rap scene while doing his damnedest not to mess with anything that might change the future. A wonderful, hip-hop-fueled story that drives home themes of familial responsibility, the importance of friendship, and the human desire to follow one's dreams, 'The Rhythm of Time' is a perfect middle grade novel for the young science-fiction-loving rap aficionado in your life," Fitzgerald says.
Qian Julie Wang's picks
"Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea" by Rita Chang-Eppig
Wang says "Deep as The Sky, Red as the Sea" by Rita Chang-Eppig is for "anyone who loves pirates, historical fiction, and a strong heroine force." Shek Yeung, our protagonist, is based on a real historical figure. After seeing her husband slain, she hatches a plan to lead the fleet as a pirate queen. "Turn to this book for swashbuckling adventures written with immersive, lyrical prose," she says.
"Biting the Hand" by Julia Lee
In her memoir, "Julia Lee traces her own reckoning with what it means to be Asian in America," Wang says. The author grew up amid the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and informs her coming-of-age story with the works of other scholars, but of Black and Latino descent. "Lee thoughtfully traces her racial journey of atonement and self-discovery, and to her understanding of Asian Americans' duty to fighting for progress and social change — not as 'neither/nor' but as 'both/and," Wang says.
"The East Indian" by Brinda Charry
"Brinda Charry's debut novel is an immersive work of historical fiction," Wang says. The book follows one of the first people to immigrate from India to colonial America. Tony arrives to the Colonies through a series of Dickensian events, including the death of his mother and a kidnapping in London. "This is a cinematic coming-of-age tale: you will fall in love with Tony and the New World he finds himself in," she says, adding that the author's background as a Shakespeare scholar shows in the prose and plo.
Kids or YA
"An Asian American A to Z" by Cathy Linh Che and Kyle Lucia Wu
Wang calls this comprehensive exploration of Asian American a "must read" for children who wish to learn about Asian American history, specifically moments of resistance, from the Third World Liberation Front to the Muslim ban and the Japanese incarceration camps during WWII.