Co-host of Today with Hoda and Jenna and contributor on the Today Show, Jenna Bush Hager has been launching sales for various authors with her book club, Read With Jenna. Entertainment Weekly recently reported that Hager’s book club stands alone in sales impact this year in comparison to other book clubs, calling her influence of book selections something that hasn’t been “seen since Oprah’s glory days.” The morning show anchor just revealed her pick for August, and readers are ready to turn the pages.
A read for the end of summer
Hager’s pick for August is “Patsy,” by Nicole Dennis-Benn. According to Today.com, the story starts in Jamaica and focuses on Patsy receiving a visa. Patsy makes the difficult decision to leave her daughter, Tru, behind to build a better life in America, and reunite with her first love, who is female. “It’s a story about resilience and there’s some broken-heartedness,” Hager said. “But ‘Patsy’ is a book that will open a lot of minds.”
The story the proceeds to be told from Tru’s life in Jamaica, shifting back and forth with Patsy’s life in New York City. “She has to make a lot of sacrifices and it’s very interesting to hear the two perspectives because it is definitely a story about love and loss,” Hager said, as reported by Today.com. “She wants freedom, and as you read you understand what she’s running from — the secrets she needs to be freed of.”
A timely topic
Hager commented on the importance of this story, where readers can gain understanding of other people’s lives and cultures. “Dennis-Benn writes about the immigrant experience with abiding, bone-deep empathy… These themes may be difficult to read, but they’re important. I think particularly now it’s critical that we open our minds to the way others live,” she said.
Hager mentioned that she could resonate with the mother/daughter theme of the story. “Maybe it’s telling, right now, because I’m about to give birth,” she joked.
Though the book club founder said there will be some challenging issues to get through, the foundation of the book is built on love and hope. “At the end this is a beautiful story of love,” Hager said.
A purposeful post
Hager recently told Good Housekeeping that reading is very sentimental to her. “My earliest memories are laying in bed before I went to sleep with my parents reading to Barbara [Jenna’s twin sister] and I,” she said. “To this day, the sound of an audio book will still put me to sleep because I associate it with them reading to me.”
The morning show co-host takes her responsibility as founder of Read With Jenna very seriously. She reads at least six or seven books a month, focusing on new and unknown authors. “I’m not recommending to one best friend,” Hager said, according to Entertainment Weekly. “I’m recommending to this huge audience of people that trust us and love our show. That puts pressure on me.”
Hager purposely puts the spotlight on underrepresented cultures, while appealing to a wide audience. “We’ve chosen books that are about identity and family, about finding our own voices,” she said.
Above all, to make the cut into the book club, it has to be a page-turner. “No matter what, you have to have a great, compulsively readable plot. Something where you cannot wait to figure out what’s going to happen,” Hager said. “And, obviously, I was an English major so it has to be beautifully well-written.”
It looks like Hager’s selection has already benefited from being named as the August pick. According to Entertainment Weekly, “Patsy” was listed as the No. 12 book on Amazon after Hager’s announcement. Previously, it wasn’t in the top 100.
Hager’s picks clearly carry a lot of literary weight!