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Jenna Bush Hager shares two Read With Jenna book club picks for August

Curl up in the sun with the latest Read With Jenna picks.
/ Source: TODAY

The end of summer is quickly approaching, but there's still plenty of time to relax in the sun while devouring a good book. For August, Jenna Bush Hager picked not one, but two perfect books to take your mind away from the anxieties of a quickly approaching fall. Between her two selections, every reader is sure to find a story they can sink their teeth into this month.

Join the Read With Jenna book club and dive into "The Comeback" by Ella Berman and "Here For It" by R. Eric Thomas.

"I chose 'The Comeback' because to me, it is the perfect summer read," Jenna explained.

The TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host shared that when she started Berman's debut novel, she had been struggling to find joy in reading for the first time in her life, as she dealt with anxieties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

"This beautifully written and compulsively readable book broke me from my pandemic blockage," said Jenna.

"The Comeback" by Ella Berman

Book of the Month is a subscription-based book club that delivers hardcover books to your door at an affordable price. The first month is $9.99 with the code “READWITHJENNA,” and after that, it’s $14.99 a month.

Each month, subscribers choose one of the five featured titles of the month with the option to add-on up to two additional books for $9.99 each. As of Jan. 2020, the #ReadwithJenna pick will be available as an add-on option for subscribers. You can easily pause your subscription at any time or skip a month and roll your credit from one month to another. Just so you know, TODAY has a relationship with Book of the Month Club, so we make a share of revenue from purchases and subscriptions to Book of the Month Club.

The story revolves around a young actress named Grace Turner. At the start, our protagonist is broken and living in her parents' home in Anaheim, California, after escaping from Los Angeles. When she fled the City of Angels without a word and seemingly overnight, she left behind fame, addiction, her loving but very young husband and the abuse she suffered for eight years at the hands of a manipulative director who had made her into a star.

When it dawns on Grace that she can’t hide from her problems, she returns to Los Angeles to face her life. Armed with a secret and nothing to lose, she must decide if and how she will fight back.

"I really wanted to focus on the aftermath of trauma as opposed to the actual incident itself, and I wanted to show how that can affect someone — their relationship with everyone in their life, their friendships, their career — that feeling of numbness or being frozen," Berman told TODAY.

Throughout the book, you might find yourself rooting for Grace to find her truth and get her redemption. The story reads like a mystery, leaving the reader in agonizing suspense the whole way through.

"Even though it’s about something so heartbreaking, I wasn’t left desperate," said Jenna.

Berman takes advantage of the distance afforded by fiction to brilliantly continue the important conversation started by the #MeToo movement. She uses nuance, wit and humor to keep the book light and exciting, even while addressing these difficult topics.

Courtesy Ella Berman

"I think you can be a little more brave and explicit exploring something through fiction than you would be otherwise," she said. "It allows you to have the distance to expose some of the mechanisms as opposed to being so in it yourself."

The author's idea for the book was inspired by the time she spent working in the music industry and the sexism she observed in both the employees and the artists. She wrote it while living alone in Los Angeles and observing the city from an outsider's perspective.

"I was driving around making weird voice notes and going to the ocean and making weird scrambling notes," said Berman. "I think immersing myself in it was important, and also being quite isolated while I was doing it and not speaking to a soul kind of helped write Grace's character because she is definitely very isolated."

At its core, this book is a thrilling adventure. It will give readers their fix for gossip and intellect simultaneously.

"Here For It" by R. Eric Thomas

In collaboration with Noelle Santos, Jenna Bush Hager has chosen "Here For It" by R. Eric Thomas as an August Read With Jenna pick.

Jenna met Santos, owner of The Lit Bar, the only independent bookstore in The Bronx, New York, for the first time a few years ago when she filmed a segment about her bookstore for TODAY.

"I just loved how she was bringing a new face to literature and I loved her passion for it," Jenna said.

In the wake of George Floyd's death, Jenna shared that she wanted to promote a book that could continue important conversations happening around the country.

"I knew (Santos) would have ideas on books that we can read as a club that would help us open our minds," said Jenna.

"Here For It" is a memoir, presented through essays, about Thomas's life, identity and journey to self-acceptance while he was growing up as a Black and queer man in the U.S.

"I had been telling a lot of these stories that are included in the book in the essay form at live storytelling shows for a long time and I realized that a story has the power to unite people whether we have different backgrounds or not and to engender empathy," Thomas told TODAY.

R. Eric Thomas

The book is filled with both laugh-out-loud humor and deep moments of reflection that are stirring and relatable.

"Humor is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s the thing that keeps me going," Thomas said. "There’s no time in human history that hasn’t been hard but if we don’t have something that brings us joy, if we don’t have something that makes us laugh, what are we really fighting for?"

From stories about reconciling his Christian identity with his sexuality to falling in love, the author raises questions about how we show up in the world even when we feel marginalized.

"The book is, I hope, like a conversation with a good friend at brunch, that’s the way I always imagined it," said Thomas. "I haven’t been to brunch in like four months so I think a lot of people are like, 'If I can’t be out in the world, at least we get to have this conversation in book form.'"

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NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. Legal residents of the 50 US or DC who are 18 or older. Begins June 30, 2020 at 8:30 A.M. ET and ends July 1, 2020 at 8:30 A.M. ET. Limit 1 entry per person. For Official Rules, odds, and prize details, visit this page. Sponsors: The TODAY Show and NBCUniversal Media, LLC.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. Legal residents of the 50 US or DC who are 18 or older. Begins June 30, 2020 at 8:30 A.M. ET and ends July 1, 2020 at 8:30 A.M. ET. Limit 1 entry per person. For Official Rules, odds, and prize details, visit this page. Sponsors: The TODAY Show and NBCUniversal Media, LLC.