Jenna Bush Hager Shares Her Book Club Secrets

Posted by Cybil on July 31, 2019

Jenna Bush Hager is the cohost of TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, alongside Hoda Kotb. She's also the author of several books, including her latest, Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life, and began her career as a reading teacher at a public school in Baltimore. She runs a book club called #ReadWithJenna.


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Goodreads: Tell us a bit about where you got your love for reading.

Jenna Bush Hager: I don’t remember a night when I was a little girl that I went to bed without one of my parents reading to my sister, Barbara, and me. It was just part of our nightly routine. And so it’s part of how I was raised. We never had a TV in our room, at least until, really, college, so it was the way that I entertained myself. And I had a mom who was an only child, and, really, she’s said that she found this partnership in books. She found this companionship that she didn’t have with a sibling in books. She passed that on to Barbara and me.

GR: Why did you create the #ReadWithJenna book club?

JBH: We tested it out last summer. We tried a summer book club with The Today Show, and we read Tommy Orange’s There, There. I was really excited by it. I mean, one, it was so much fun to talk about books with other people via Instagram or the show and hear other people’s reviews—I’m constantly asking friends for recommendations, and so I thought, "Why not do what I do in my personal life on television?"

And I feel like it’s translated really well because, fundamentally, people love to read. People love books. They love to hear what other people are reading. They love recommendations. They love the community books bring them, whether that’s reading with good friends or reading with your mom or your sister. A lot of times, when my sister and I travel together (which is less and less now that I have multiple children), we’ll pick a book and read it at the same time. Part of what’s fun about that is the conversation. It’s really fun to read and get to know these characters, but it’s also really fun to have conversations around reading and around books. And I think that’s what this book club does.

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GR: How do you decide which books to select?

JBH: Well, we’re reading constantly to figure out what books to select. I ask friends, and I ask avid readers. I’m constantly asking for recommendations of great books that are coming out, and we get advanced copies of some of these books. I think I want to highlight characters that we feel like we know that also we maybe have never met—characters that feel fresh and unique in their voices and we also relate with them somehow. And we’ve focused really on women authors so far, although that’s not going to be the criteria at all. I'm looking for books that you can lose yourself in, but also learn about other cultures and other ways of life and the other ways that people live.

GR: In your opinion, what makes a great book club pick?

JBH: I think a great book club pick is a book that people want to stay up late reading and then the next morning call their friends and talk all about.

GR: What tips would you have for readers choosing their book club selections?

JBH: Choose books that vary in perspective from yours. Or that vary from book to book and have different narrators. Choose books that you know will lead to conversations but that you know are also really fun to read, because the worst feeling is showing up to a book club meeting—which I’ve done before—and not have finished the book. You feel like the slacker.

So you want books that people can’t put down, first and foremost. You want something that’s really readable, and you want to stay up late reading.

GR: Beyond the book, what tips do you have for making a book club successful?

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JBH: I think, first of all, bring the snacks and the wine. Step one is have a good snack plate. Create a fun atmosphere. Whether that means you’re with people that you love to be around (including maybe people that you don’t spend much time with) or people who love to read, and then bring on some good food!

GR: What else are you reading and suggesting to friends?

JBH: I just finished Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, which I really liked a lot. I’ve never met a protagonist like Queenie, and I thought it was fun and fresh and raw. So that was a good one.

I loved American Marriage. American Marriage was my favorite book of 2018, and I constantly recommend it to people just because I think it’s such a beautiful book, and one that you’ll read—like, I could read it again. And I think I’ll read it multiple times.

I like Tana French a lot—she’s an Irish mystery writer. I think her mysteries are really fun. I particularly liked The Secret Place.

Another British author, her name is Erin Kelly. She wrote a book called The Poison Tree. I'd recommend reading The Poison Tree first and then The Dark Rose. And she’s a mystery writer as well. I like mysteries.

I love Donna Tartt and Ann Patchett. I’ve read every single thing they’ve ever written, both of them. The Secret History is one of my go-tos that I recommend constantly for people.

And then another book called The Thirteenth Tale is one that is so much fun. It was out a long time ago and I read it, and then I’ve reread it, and then I’ve recommended it—my sister read it at the same time.

GR: What are some of your all-time-favorite books?

JBH: The Secret History, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Bel Canto are a few of my all-time favorites. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is one of my favorites, too. It’s so beautiful.

And then I loved American Marriage and Homegoing.

GR: Tell us about your recent book club picks!




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"Rating: 5/5. I wept and smiled. So immersed in a story about love—holding on to it, appreciating it—and the indelible strength of siblings, the shared history."


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"Rating: 5/5. It's a beautiful story about what it means to live. 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."


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"Rating: 5/5. To see these women change, and to see their idea of what they can be change over generations, is really the story of so many women."


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"Rating: 5/5. It is a fast-paced book, for sure. I couldn't help but continue to read to figure out where she was and what happened to her."


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"Rating: 5/5. I was captivated by Evvie's predicament of finding herself a young widow. In a lot of romantic comedies, you kind of know exactly what’s going to happen. You know exactly the character’s motivation, which is to find the guy. And, really, I think Evvie's motivation is to find herself. And to me that felt really empowering and fresh. Now, does she find a guy, too? That I can’t tell you. It’s light, it’s fun. I left wanting more!"



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Comments Showing 1-50 of 51 (51 new)


message 1: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Is it just me, or is it weird that each of them got a 5/5 rating?

Then again, maybe she simply made sure to only include the top-quality picks.


message 2: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Katsuro wrote: "Is it just me, or is it weird that each of them got a 5/5 rating?

Then again, maybe she simply made sure to only include the top-quality picks."


If you asked me for picks, I'd give you my 5/5s first! She isn't particularly well-spoken, but she has great taste in books!


message 3: by Desmond (new)

Desmond Nicholas Canion Hey bro


message 4: by Ethel (new)

Ethel Katsuro wrote: "Is it just me, or is it weird that each of them got a 5/5 rating?

Then again, maybe she simply made sure to only include the top-quality picks."

As soon as a celebrity mentions a book, you can be sure that book will get a 5* rating.


message 5: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

I really don’t understand the need to be nasty. We have enough of that in the world. Let’s have this site be a place of peaceful coexistence.


message 6: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Cheryl wrote: "Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

I really don’t understand the need to be nasty. We have enough of that in the world. Let..."


So true.


message 7: by Tara (new)

Tara Griffin This place should be about books and the pleasure of reading, not politics.


message 8: by Jean (new)

Jean Mean personal attacks have no place on this site and I don‘t appreciate it. Politics is not part of these discussions unless the book is political.


message 9: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

Thank you so much. I'm sick to death of "celebrity" book clubs anyway, but not as much as I am the normalizing of the war criminals Bush and Cheney. In addition, I doubt very seriously she has read one of these books. Not one.


message 10: by Mackey (last edited Jul 31, 2019 01:55PM) (new)

Mackey Jean wrote: "Mean personal attacks have no place on this site and I don‘t appreciate it. Politics is not part of these discussions unless the book is political."

If they are going to include book clubs by political people - and she is one - then you cannot censor the comments. These are not mean or rude - they are the truth!


message 11: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Tara wrote: "This place should be about books and the pleasure of reading, not politics."

Then they should do a better job of not including such controversial people!!


message 12: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Sophie wrote: "Cheryl wrote: "Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

I really don’t understand the need to be nasty. We have enough of that in..."


It wasn't nasty. What was nasty is that her father purposefully lied to the American people and thousands of innocent people ended up dead!! That is nasty!! And that is not political. It is history.


message 13: by Ginny (new)

Ginny Chen If you don’t like her recommendation or tastes on books, simply don’t read it. No need to turn this place into a political forum. Start your own forum where you can express how you feel about war criminals, but not here please


message 14: by Randy (new)

Randy Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

The Obama girls have a book club too? Maybe Goodreads can do a piece on them.


message 15: by Scott (new)

Scott How do I get this garbage off of my home page.


message 16: by Dna (new)

Dna I respectfully stand by my comment. I wasn't rude or nasty at all...get a grip :)

Mackey and others, I appreciate the comments xo


message 17: by Dna (new)

Dna Ginny wrote: "If you don’t like her recommendation or tastes on books, simply don’t read it. No need to turn this place into a political forum. Start your own forum where you can express how you feel about war c..."

Ginny, when a war criminal's daughter is PUSHED onto my feed, I will comment. Because by that point, Goodreads has made Goodreads political: not me. I hope that makes sense.


message 18: by Dna (new)

Dna Lauren wrote: "Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal." I wish I could retweet, like, or amplify your comment x1000."

I wouldn't want you to offend people who aren't offended by leaders who lie to them and lead young soldiers and innocent civilians to death just to help his buddies get lucrative "rebuilding" contracts and loot Iraq for decades on end! But thank you, Lauren :) xo


message 19: by Dna (new)

Dna I'm not going to reply to comments after this. Everyone enjoy whatever book she's "recommending" LOL


message 20: by Ciara (new)

Ciara Dna wrote: "I'm not going to reply to comments after this. Everyone enjoy whatever book she's "recommending" LOL"

Well Done!! I support you. Someone had to write a comment about what we were all thinking.


message 21: by Katsuro (last edited Jul 31, 2019 04:29PM) (new)

Katsuro Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

She's not responsible for her father's actions.

Look, hate on George W. Bush all you like, but stop acting as if Jenna is responsible for her father's crimes. That doesn't make you good people; it just makes you the kind of person who intentionally blames a woman for a man's actions.


message 22: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Dna wrote: "I'm not going to reply to comments after this. Everyone enjoy whatever book she's "recommending" LOL"

No need for the quotation marks. I'm not even sure what you're trying to say by using them.
These are actual recommendations.


message 23: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ciara wrote: ".....And the 'nasty' part is calling George Bush a War Criminal.."
No, the nasty part is acting as if Jenna Bush is responsible for crimes that she never committed. Don't hold people responsible for their parents' crimes.
Quite obvious, really.


message 24: by Dna (new)

Dna Ciara wrote: "Dna wrote: "I'm not going to reply to comments after this. Everyone enjoy whatever book she's "recommending" LOL"

Well Done!! I support you. Someone had to write a comment about what we were all t..."



Thank you, Ciara!


message 25: by Katsuro (last edited Jul 31, 2019 04:50PM) (new)

Katsuro Dna wrote: "Lisa West, gosh, you're faux servile attitude is adorable...bet that gets you far in the bedroom...or do you just read Fifty Shades and call it a day? LOL PROMISE? :)"

...Wow.

This kind of comment is not okay. It's rudeness for the sake of rudeness. You commented again, despite saying you wouldn't, solely for the sake of making nasty comments about a stranger's sex life.

This kind of tone is completely unacceptable.


message 26: by Dany (new)

Dany Hi all, just a quick reminder to please treat other members with courtesy and respect. We know that opinions differ, however, comments made supporting your opinions can still be worded in a way that's respectful and civil towards your fellow members. Please refrain from personal attacks and name-calling.


message 27: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

Ditto


message 28: by Ciara (new)

Ciara Katsuro wrote: "Ciara wrote: ".....And the 'nasty' part is calling George Bush a War Criminal.."
No, the nasty part is acting as if Jenna Bush is responsible for crimes that she never committed. Don't hold people ..."


Katsuro wrote: "Dna wrote: "Lisa West, gosh, you're faux servile attitude is adorable...bet that gets you far in the bedroom...or do you just read Fifty Shades and call it a day? LOL PROMISE? :)"

...Wow.

This ki..."


The entire Bush Family has profited financially and with a high public profile because of George Bush's Politics. We know who Jenna Bush is and she has a bookclub feature on Goodreads solely because of her father, The Politician. Jenna Bush has never spoken out against her fathers policies, so we can assume she supports those policies. It is also distasteful to me that people who start wars that kills whole families can then continue to laugh and joke at their own dinner-table surrounded by their family.


message 29: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ciara wrote: "Katsuro wrote: "Ciara wrote: ".....And the 'nasty' part is calling George Bush a War Criminal.."
No, the nasty part is acting as if Jenna Bush is responsible for crimes that she never committed. Do..."


See, this? This, I respect. You present actual, logical reasons for condemning her, and don't just act as if people should be held responsible for the crimes of their parent.


message 30: by Dna (new)

Dna Katsuro wrote: "Ciara wrote: "Katsuro wrote: "Ciara wrote: ".....And the 'nasty' part is calling George Bush a War Criminal.."
No, the nasty part is acting as if Jenna Bush is responsible for crimes that she never..."



Katsuro, I'm sorry, but I haven't read any of your last few comments. I'm just blocking you, because I don't want to offend you. Happy reading. :)


message 31: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Lee This is a place for books, not nasty personal attacks against someone just because you don't like their father. Find a different forum to spew your vitriolic comments on!


message 32: by Sandra (new)

Sandra It’s sad to read these comments. The personal attacks are disgraceful and disgusting. Woman to woman....move on with grace.


message 33: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 01, 2019 08:33AM) (new)

Alexandra Beth wrote: "Don't feed the troll. It is that simple.

Trolling – (verb), as it relates to internet, is the deliberate act, (by a Troll – noun or adjective), of making random unsolicited and/or controversial c..."


No one here is trolling. But you're being a net nanny, and no one likes those.

Everyone here is expressing their opinion, within Goodreads TOS, which they have the right to do, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it.

And which should come as no surprise to Goodreads, as they have a distressing habit of promoting these celebrities who don't use or barely use Goodreads, as if what they like to read has any significance to the reading public, when really it doesn't - except to their mega-fans, if they have any.

Everytime Goodreads promotes one of these people, some GR users complain, disliking the practice for various reasons. Clearly GR doesn't care, as they continue to do it. So, it's unlikely they'd be surprised some users are gonna take issue with it.

Doesn't matter to me what her politics are, her opinion about what she likes to read has no interest to me whatsoever, same with Sarah Jessica Parker (who coincidentally was pushing books she was involved in publishing), Reese Witherspoon and Emma Watson, who Goodreads has promoted before.

Anyone who picks up a book simply because a famous person has said they really liked it has something wrong with them. And I highly doubt Jenna Bush Hager will even read this article and comments, or care that some people don't like her due to her dad. I'm quite sure she's very used to that. And it says much more about them, than it does her. Concern about "personal attacks" regarding a famous person who isn't even here are a bit out of whack, I think. Regardless of if someone agrees or not.

I highly suspect this "article" has been paid for by the subject as advertising, just like the other promos about celebrities and their "book clubs" and publishing endeavors we've seen in the recent past.

Personally I wish GR would stop, or at least be honest and transparent enough to disclose the true reason they're promoting these people here.

Jenna Bush Hager's "book club" isn't on Goodreads, and there's no mention of her even being a Goodreads user. SMH Regardless what I think of her in my opinion this promotion of her and her "book club" doesn't belong on Goodreads.


message 34: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 01, 2019 08:42AM) (new)

Alexandra Beth wrote: "Your first sentence makes you no better."

You accused people of being trolls, yet someone pointing out you are being a net nanny gets an insult from you. Nice double standards there.

Clearly you don't know what a troll is, because it's not someone saying something you don't like.

"The rest of your comment, however is valid. Signed, Net Nanny."

My entire post is valid.


message 35: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 01, 2019 09:33AM) (new)

Alexandra The Just-About-Cocky Ms M wrote: "Damn! I'm sorry I missed the now-deleted comment. But thanks for responding, Alexandra."

Didn't miss much, most of it is still visible in quotes in my post.


message 36: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 01, 2019 09:31AM) (new)

Alexandra Beth wrote: "Alexandra wrote: "I am sorry to disappoint you but I was not insulted. "

I didn't say you were insulted. I said your response to me was insulting. Which it was, although you've now deleted it, it can still be seen in my post which quoted you.

I am not at all surprised you don't find being a net nanny a negative thing.


message 37: by Faye (new)

Faye No thanks, I will not be taking book recommendations from a nepotism 'celebrity' who has no qualifications other than her father is famous. She does not appear to have above-average intelligence. I'm sick of this celebrity book club trend, whatever happened to book recommendations from librarians, literary figures etc.?


message 38: by Ciara (new)

Ciara Hey Goodreads,
Where is my first comment disappeared to? It was accurate and insightful.
Not a good idea Goodreads having this person interviewed.


message 39: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Dna wrote: "I respectfully stand by my comment. I wasn't rude or nasty at all...get a grip :)

Mackey and others, I appreciate the comments xo"


You were definitely insulting, so maybe you like that word better. And I stand by my comment, we have way too much of that in the world today. More people agree with that on this site which is encouraging.


message 40: by Emily (new)

Emily I thoroughly enjoyed reading these comments. Thank you everyone :)


message 41: by T (new)

T Emily wrote: "I thoroughly enjoyed reading these comments. Thank you everyone :)"

I agree! Get Jenna's book choices out of here.


message 42: by Angela (new)

Angela Wells Cheryl wrote: "Dna wrote: "Really, we should all be taking book recommendations from the smug daughter of a war criminal."

I really don’t understand the need to be nasty. We have enough of that in the world. Let..."


Thank you! #BringBackKindness


message 43: by Ciara (last edited Aug 07, 2019 04:05PM) (new)

Ciara The Just-About-Cocky Ms M wrote: "If you don't like some of the opinions expressed here regarding book recommendations and book club ideas from a politician's daughter trading on her "celebrity," and thus someone wildly unqualified..."

Well-written, highly appropriate comment. Thank you.


message 44: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl The Just-About-Cocky Ms M wrote: "If you don't like some of the opinions expressed here regarding book recommendations and book club ideas from a politician's daughter trading on her "celebrity," and thus someone wildly unqualified..."

You are completely missing the point. This site is about books. Anyone who has read a book should be free to comment on the book either positively or negatively. Most of us are not here to get anyone’s views on public personalities. Based on your comment no one is qualified to make recommendations. And another point is that most of us are tired of all the hate being generated today. We don’t need it here. That is not what we come here for.


message 45: by Joellen (new)

Joellen Muntz Tara wrote: "This place should be about books and the pleasure of reading, not politics."


Agree


message 46: by Ciara (new)

Ciara Goodreads.

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has died. Where is your tribute to one of the greatest wordsmiths ever?

More appropriate than Jenna Bush.


message 47: by Pk (new)

Pk Her mother was a librarian. You think she isn't a reader? Shame on you for sharing your prejudices.


message 48: by Amber (new)

Amber My reading for pleasure book club have had some pretty awesome reading gems from The good neighbor Fred rogers biography by Maxwell King, classics like Dracula and more, and we have had some awesome fiction reads too like our ones for September is war of the world's by hg Wells, murder on the orient express by Agatha Christie and the good neighbor is ourbimonthly for August and September so we'll be selecting our next fiction and nonfiction group reads for October at the book club on Goodreads too. Feel free to join us there as everything is done at our own pace and optional.


message 49: by B (new)

B Cain Thank you GR for lists and reviews of new and older books to try. I appreciate that from everyone you interview.


message 50: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Pk wrote: "Her mother was a librarian. You think she isn't a reader? Shame on you for sharing your prejudices."

I totally agree with you.


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