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 54 (54 new)


message 1: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ricksand 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 Dna (new)

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


message 4: by Lauren (new)

Lauren 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.


message 5: by Desmond (new)

Desmond Nicholas Canion Hey bro


message 6: by Elle (new)

Elle  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 7: 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 8: 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 9: by Tara (new)

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


message 10: 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 11: 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: 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 15: 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


The Just-About-Cocky Ms M I am not interested in any book "recommendations" or alleged "how-tos" regarding successful book clubs from anyone other than my trusted friends on Goodreads.

I do not give a hoot in hell about what Oprah likes, What Reese Witherspoon likes, what any semi-illiterate Kardashian likes, or any inane, dim-witted politician's daughter likes in reading material.

If anyone wants to post such crap as this--Oh, wow! Look what cute little Jenna Bush has to say [with all the speaking ability of a third-rate Barbie doll] about books and book clubs!!!--then that someone had better be prepared for folks who do not necessarily like the person selected to freely and honestly express their contrary opinions.


message 17: 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 18: by Scott (new)

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


message 19: 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 20: 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 21: 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 22: by Dna (new)

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


message 23: 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.


The Just-About-Cocky Ms M Randy wrote: "The Obama girls have a book club too? Maybe Goodreads can do a piece on them."

As I said, I take a very dim view of recommendations from celebrities, political figures of any stripe, or relatives of celebrities and political figures. They have no insight whatever, or judgment, or anything else regarding what I might consider to be a good book--or the best ways to manage a book club. That's what my own intellect and preferences are for, as are my GR friends who routinely recommend books.

And for these same reasons, I usually dismiss any list declaring itself to be "The Best-loved Novels about [fill in the blank]" or "100 Books You Absolutely Positively Must Read before You Die."

So when GR pushes these little "News and Noteworthy" items, unasked and usually unwanted, on my feed, I can damn well say exactly what I like about the content without any of the special snowflake net nannies having a freaking hot flash about it.


message 25: by Katsuro (last edited Jul 31, 2019 04:29PM) (new)

Katsuro Ricksand 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 26: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ricksand 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 27: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ricksand 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 28: 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 29: by Katsuro (last edited Jul 31, 2019 04:50PM) (new)

Katsuro Ricksand 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 30: by Dany , Goodreads employee (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 31: by Lisa (new)

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

Ditto


message 32: 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 33: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Ricksand 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 34: 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 35: by The Just-About-Cocky Ms M (last edited Jul 31, 2019 06:23PM) (new)

The Just-About-Cocky Ms M The whole"I'm related to a president/governor/mayor/actor/celebrity so I get special treatment and recognition" is ludicrous.

In the first place, the persons who are benefitting from this relationship are generally average or considerably below average individuals in all respects.

Really, why would any even marginally educated and fairly prolific reader care what Jenna Bush recommends? What claims to anything remotely notable, useful, or worthwhile can Ms. Bush make, other than who her father is? Without that connection, I doubt a soul on the planet would care what she read. or even if she reads at all.

Let's look at Alison Pataki, who suffers the delusion she can actually write historical fiction. Her books are unadulterated Harlequinesque romantic crap, filled with historical errors and glaring anachronisms. But she continues to have everything she spews forth published because her father used to be governor of New York.

And let's not forget Kathleen Hale and all her relatives in high places, plus her husband, all of whom made certain she was published without delay or vetting or anything remotely resembling what talented authors endure for years. And when she gets a negative review, she stalks, threatens, and assaults the reviewer in her own home.

So every time I see GR forcing yet another worthless, untalented, and utterly banal person shilling for books or book clubs or lists on my feed, I will respond to those bits of spam in any way I see fit.

Be warned.


message 36: 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 37: 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.


The Just-About-Cocky Ms M So you are saying that the remarks here are "unsolicited?" How is that possible? I suspect every comment from beginning to end on this thread has every right to be here, whether you agree with it or not.


message 39: 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 40: 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.


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


message 42: 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 43: 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 44: 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 45: 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 46: 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 47: by Emily (new)

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


message 48: 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 49: 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


The Just-About-Cocky Ms M 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 to offer either of those things, then don't read them.

You have no right to expect people to express themselves in a manner that suits you and your particular sensitivities.


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