‘Today Show:’ Jenna Bush Hager Doubles Her Book Club Pick to Close Out Summer

Jenna Bush Hager’s popular book club “Read with Jenna” has been a comfort to viewers throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The Today Show co-host consistently recommends thought-provoking page-turners while giving readers something of an escape.

As a special treat, Hager is selecting two books for the month of August to conclude the summer season.

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager of the 'Today Show'
Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager of the ‘Today Show’ | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

‘Today’ star celebrates baby’s first birthday

Hager clearly has plenty to celebrate in August. With her son’s first birthday on August 2, the Today journalist gathered with her husband Henry, two daughters Mila and Poppy, and her parents, former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, to commemorate the big day.

“Happiest Birthday to the baby of our dreams Hal Pal,” Hager wrote on Instagram. “Life sure is wild and wonderful with you in it. Glad we could celebrate early with the ones who love you most.”

The occasion marked the first time Hager has had her kids visit with their grandparents in eight months due to the coronavirus crisis.

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“It was great. We got COVID tests to go and see them,” Hager explained. according to Today. “There they are holding their grandkids, and they’d only seen Hal maybe once … Mila is now waking up at 5 in the morning because she was there waking up, running down to be with her Grammy and Jefe, and I just think even little moments of being with family (are special).”

Jenna Bush Hager’s opts for a beach read

Revealing that she’s had some anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hager picked one book due to its compelling storyline.

“I chose The Comeback because to me, it is the perfect summer read,” Jenna said of the novel written by Ella Berman, as reported by Today.com. “This beautifully written and compulsively readable book broke me from my pandemic blockage.”

The suspenseful read focuses on Grace Turner, a young actress who leaves Los Angeles to escape an abusive and manipulative director who brought her to stardom. Grace is broke and living with her parents when she decides to return to LA after being invited to present a prestigious award. Rotating between past and present, The Comeback chronicles Grace’s journey of addiction, power struggles, and ultimately redemption.

Berman hones in on how the effects of living through a traumatic experience can manifest in one’s life. “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,” she told Today. “That feeling of numbness or being frozen.”

‘Read with Jenna’ also selects an August memoir

Hager decided to collaborate on her second August pick. The Today co-host met Noelle Santos, owner of the only Bronx, NY independent bookstore The Lit Bar, several years ago when doing a segment for Today. “I just loved how she was bringing a new face to literature and I loved her passion for it,” Hager said in praise of Santos.

The two reading connoisseurs chose Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America, a memoir by R. Eric Thomas, for the additional selection to close out the summer. Hager was drawn to the book of essays after the events surrounding the death of George Floyd. Thomas chronicles his journey of self-acceptance on his sexuality, spirituality, and race, bringing invaluable conversations to light while using a humorous tone.

“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?”

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Hager credits Santos for the illuminating selection, saying, “I knew (Santos) would have ideas on books that we can read as a club that would help us open our minds.”

The Comeback and Here For It are both on sale now.