July 30 is Paperback Book Day, and what better way to celebrate than by picking up a copy of one of Jenna Bush Hager's Read with Jenna book club picks? While many of the books chosen in recent months are still only sold as hardcovers, there are 18 books available in paperback since beginning the book club in March of 2019.
Whether you enjoy reading about romance or prefer a suspenseful mystery, there is a Read with Jenna pick for everyone.
"The Bluest Eye" is about Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old Black girl in America who prays for her eyes to turn blue so she will look like the blonde, blue-eyed children. This story is filled with pain and tragedy as Morrison brings readers attention to issues of race, class, and gender.
"It was the first book that really opened my eyes to how literature can create understanding and take you into worlds you don’t know," Jenna said.
"Friends and Strangers" is about Elisabeth, an accomplished journalist and new mother, who is struggling to adjust to life in a small town after nearly 20 years in New York City. Elisabeth hires Sam, a senior at a local women's college, as a babysitter. The two women grow closer, but when Sam discovers a kindred spirit in Elisabeth's father-in-law, difference between the two women's lives are revealed. Through this story readers dive into an exploration of motherhood, power dynamics and privilege.
Jivan, a Muslim girl from the slums, is determined to move up in life yet finds herself accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. This epic thriller tackles complex themes such as class, fate, corruption, justice and dreaming of a better life in a country spiraling into extremism.
This book follows the life cycle of one family as kids become adults, grandchildren become teenagers, and a matriarch grapples with the legacy of her mistakes. After viewing a school bus accident, Astrid Strick realizes she had not quite been the parent she had thought she was. Wisdom, humor and insight collide in this novel about all the things that follow us into adulthood.
This book is set in Odessa, Texas in 1976, right on the cusp of the next great oil boom. On the morning after Valentine's Day, 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on a front porch beaten and barely alive. This novel takes a dive into the intersections of violence, race, class and region all while telling a story of the strength and vulnerability of women.
"For anybody looking for a great escape, this is a wonderful book where you will find yourself really engrossed in the stories of these women," Jenna said.
After the unexpected death of her mother and a wrecked love affair, Casey Peabody goes to Cambridge, Massachusetts, without a plan. Every element of her life seems to come into crisis as she strives to live the creative life she has dreamed of, all while finding herself falling for two very different men.
“It is in some ways a love story. That’s clear from the title, but I think what Lily King did really well was that 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,” said Jenna.
Adunni is a young Nigerian girl who we first meet just after the death of her mother. Without her supportive mother, Adunni is forced into a loveless marriage by her father in exchange for money. Things only get worse from there, but despite obstacles, she refuses to let her voice be silenced.
"Dear Edward" is a coming of age story about a young boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash. With a cast of unforgettable characters and an emotional story about finding strength and meaning in life after tragedy, it is difficult to put this book down.
Beginning with the birth of her mother and ending in her death, Margret Renkl tackles the themes of love and loss through a series of brief essays.
"It was a beautiful walk in the woods, you stopped and took in all of these beautiful things about life," Jenna said, "about relationships, about family, about friendships, about finding who you are."
Since their days at an elite boarding school, longtime friends Lilian and Madison had hardly spoke, that is until Lilian receives a letter from Madison pleading for help. Madison's twin step-kids are moving into her house and require a caretaker, but they are far from normal. Whenever they become agitated, the children spontaneously combust. With nothing to lose, Lilian accepts the job and finds that she needs these strange children as much as they need her
Set over the course of five decades, "The Dutch House" is a dark tale about two siblings who cannot overcome their past. The siblings, tossed from wealth and into poverty after being forced out of the house they grew up in by their stepmother, share an unbreakable bond kept intact by a common fascination with the house. This bond, however, might be holding them back from moving on with their lives.
"The Dearly Beloved" follows the story of two young couples who are brought together to lead a historic church in New York City in the 1960s. Against the backdrop of a tumultuous era in the city and the church's congregation, this novel expertly navigates themes of faith, reason, marriage and how to find meaning in our lives.
"It’s a book about faith, friendship, relationships and what connects us," Jenna said.
"Patsy" is about a woman who leaves Jamaica and her young daughter behind to look for the opportunity to love whomever she chooses. As an undocumented immigrant, she becomes a nanny, all while her daughter, Tru, struggles to understand why she was left behind.
Written by the host of NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour" podcast, this debut novel is about recently widowed Evvie Drake. This joyful, hilarious and hopeful book follows Drake and her old friend Dean as they explore new possibilities all while grappling with the secrets of their past.
"I was captivated by Evvie Drake right away," said Jenna. "By the character of Evvie — and her predicament of finding herself as a young widow and trying to find herself."
Sylvie, the beautiful, successful older sister of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother, and then she vanishes. Her younger sister, Amy, retraces her path only to uncover secrets about herself and her family.
"Mysteries are my guilty pleasures. I always think I'm kind of good at solving what's happened early on in the book," Jenna explained. "I couldn't help but continue to read to figure out where she was and what happened to her."
Set in Brooklyn, New York, this story follows three women in a Palestinian family and dives into the tension behind what each generation expects a woman's role to be. The narrative bounces between the early '90s, when newlywed Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law, and 2008, when Isa's daughter, Deya, is living the consequences of her family's past.
"It's about what is acceptable for a woman — how a woman can use her voice," Jenna told TODAY. "And to see these women change, and to see their idea of what can be changed over generations is really the story of so many women."
Julia Yip-Williams lived an extraordinary life. From being born blind in Vietnam and narrowly escaping euthanasia to becoming a Harvard-educated lawyer with a husband and two little girls, she achieved what she once assumed to be impossible. At age 37, however, she was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer, and a different journey began.
"It's a beautiful story about what it means to live," Jenna told TODAY. "So, it's sad in some ways. But also, for us still living, it's a great reminder that life is precious, and it's a gift — and to live every single day like it's our last."
"The Last Romantics" is a powerful story about a Connecticut family who find themselves forced to question their life choices and ask what they are willing to do for love.
“It’s about siblings coping with a tragedy and how their whole lives unravel and come together,” said Jenna.
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For more book recommendations, check out:
- All of Jenna Bush Hager's book club picks
- Jenna Bush Hager picks 'timely' novel about Black experience in US for July 2021
- 5 books to read after finishing 'Malibu Rising' by Taylor Jenkins Reid