The Full Read With Jenna Book List (Rated!)

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Jenna Bush Hager has been recommending great reads since 2019 and we’re helping her keep it going in 2024. The Read With Jenna book list is chock full of a diverse reads…and I mean that in the broadest sense. This Today Show book club list has books by authors of color with characters of color. There are strong female voices and a range of themes from family drama, mysteries, tragedy, historical perspectives and more.

She started the with Read with Jenna book club over at the Today Show as an expansion of her author interview series. She’s got some cred what with her English Lit major and a librarian for a Mom. Her enthusiasm for books is infectious we love that she’s such a book nerd.

Jenna knows how to recommend books that tap the zeitgeist and her book list is a great resource for book club pics, summer reads and for breaking a reading slump.

Jenna's book club full list

But where to start? Don’t worry, we’ll help you with that. We’ve complied a full compendium of the Read with Jenna book list. And we’re also providing the Goodreads ratings to help you find some excellent crowd-sourced reads.

Bookmark this page because we’ll keep adding to the list as long as the Jenna Hager’s list keep growing.

(This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase, I’ll make a small commission.)

Jenna’s been recommending books for a long time and this list is extensive. Here’s a table of contents to help you skip to a particular section.

Top 10 Rated Books on Jenna’s Book Club List

Jenna’s book club picks a new book every month. If scrolling the entire multi-year list seems daunting, then perhaps you can narrow your options by looking and the most well-rated books as a starting point.

These are the top 10 books on the Jenna Bush Hager book club list….ranked by Goodreads ratings. All of them are 4+ star reads and you’ll find quite a mix of topic and genre on the list…so you are sure to find something you’ll like.

4.50Solito
4.50How to Say Babylon
4.44The Girl With the Louding Voice
4.41Remarkably Bright Creatures
4.30The Four Winds
4.30Late Migrations
4.26A Woman is No Man
4.23The Lincoln Highway
4.23These Impossible Things
4.18Beautiful Country

2024 Read with Jenna Book List

Real Americans, book cover.

Real Americans, Rachel Khong

  • Recommended: May ’24
  • Rated: 4.2

This family story kicks off with Lily, who’se the daughter of Chinese immigrants, struggling to make sense of her life working a dead-end job that she’s not even getting paid for, She meets Matthew, an heir to a pharmaceutical fortune. They fall in love and start a family together.

You get multiple timelines and the POVs from Lily in 1999, Nick in 2021, and (Lily’s mother) Mei in 2030. Ultimately, this is a story about family dynamics and how choices can have rippling effects across time. 


The Husbands, book cover.

The Husbands, Holly Gramazio

  • Recommended: April ’24
  • Rated: 3.61

This fun book asks the question- What if you had an endless choice of husbands with the lure of someone better right around the corner (or, in this case, up in the attic?). When Lauren seeks to find out when she comes home one day to find a husband that she didn’t know she had occupying her house. When he goes up to the attic to get something, a different version of her husband comes back down. And so on.

The book pokes at when is enough, enough, and when should you stop looking for something better and be content with the life you have? It offers some Midnight Library vibes, but with a lighter tone.


The Great Divide, book cover.

The Great Divide, Christina Henríquez

  • Recommended: March ’24
  • Rated: 3.73

In 1907 construction began on the Panama Canal, attracting people from all over the world who were looking for jobs, for adventure and a different life. This historical fiction brings together the stories of a local Panamanian fisherman, a sixteen year-old from Barbados, an American scientist dead set on eradicating malaria. The book presents an intimate study of the people who traveled from all around the world to make the Panama Canal a reality, and a look at how its construction so drastically affected the Panamanians.


Good Material, book cover.

Good Material, Dolly Alderton

  • Recommended: February ’24
  • Rated: 3.99

Andy’s life is spinning out of control. He’s a part-time amateur comedian who, at 35, is experiencing a serious failure to launch. He’s obsessed with figuring out the demise of his relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Jen. He had thought everything was perfect.

It wasn’t.

The first section of the book is from Andy’s POV and then it switches to Jen. Alderton’s writing style brings a lot of humor, empathy and insight in their relationship.


The Waters, book cover.

The Waters, Bonnie Jo Campbell

  • Recommended: January ’24
  • Rating: 3.51

The book is a character study of three sisters, one of the women’s daughter, and the domineering legend of a matriarch who looms large not only over her offspring, but over the neighboring town as well. The matriarch “Herself” is the town healer. The town doesn’t like her…but they also can’t do without her.

The book is set in Michigan, but reads like Southern noir with a swamp, some snakes, suspicions, dark doings and grudges.


2023 Read with Jenna Book List

We Must Not Think of Ourselves, book cover.

We Must Not Think of Ourselves, Lauren Grodstein

  • Recommended: December ’23
  • Rating: 4.12

Adam Paskow, an English teacher, stuck in the Warsaw Ghetto is asked to chronicle the stories of his neighbors, friends and acquaintances. He captures heartbreaking stories of what the Jews in the ghetto have lost and what they need to do to survive.

There are moments of resilience and joy, but the book is also a brutally honest, factual and informative story for those interested interested in Holocaust literature


The Sun Sets in Singapore, Kahinde Fadipe

  • Recommended: November ’23
  • Ratings: 3.41

Singapore’s multicultural ex-pat scene get a full examination in Fadipe’s story about three women (and one dude), all with Nigerian heritage. Singapore is a pretty lux city, but in this story, Dara, Amika and Lillian are each struggling to make it work there. The story explores their relationships, family struggles, finances, jobs, and insecurities with empathy and a dash of drama.


How to Say Babylon, Safiya Sinclair

  • Recommended: October ’23
  • Ratings: 4.50

In the Old Testament, Babylon was a symbol of worldliness and corruption, a prison for unclean and immoral spirits. In Sinclair’s strict Rastafarian household, it was the bogeyman around which her tyrannical father built a terrifying patriarchal hell that revered obedience above all else.

In this memoir, Sinclair shares how she came of age under these hardships and how she rose above them to gain education and acclaim as a poet.


Amazing Grace Adams, Fran Littlewood

  • Recommended: September ’23
  • Ratings: 3.39

Grace used to be amazing…”polyglot of the year”…and everything. Now, she’s on the backside of 40, sporting a fresh set of divorce papers and stung by a teenage daughter who won’t speak to her. Well, today is the day that she puts a stop to the unraveling of her life. Grace abandons her car in traffic and starts marching toward putting her life back together again.

The story is told over the course of one day, with flashbacks that illuminate how Grace got to where she is today.


Summer Sisters, Judy Blume

  • Recommended: August ’23
  • Ratings: 3.9

Occasionally, Jenna’s book club will do a throwback to a book published in the before-time, and she’s done it again this month. Following on the heels of the Is That You God, It’s Me Margaret movie, Jenna has resurfaces one of Blume’s fun summer beach reads.

This coming of age story begins in the 1970s in Martha’s Vineyard. The story follows two friends, Victoria and Caitlin, over the course of several years. It’s full of flings, fraught friendship dynamics, humor and some bittersweet heartache.


Banyan Moon, Thao Thai

  • Recommended: July ’23
  • Ratings: 3.95

This sweeping family drama follows a fraught mother/daughter dynamic playing out against the backdrop of a crumbling gothic pile of a house, the death of the family matriarch and some dark family secrets.

As Ann and her mother Huong grieve the passing of Minh, they also have to examine their estrangement, find a way to move on from their (difficult) past relationship, to move forward in their individual lives

All three characters narrate their own backstory, which includes Minh’s migration from Vietnam and Huang’s upbringing.

The book is emotional, poignant and is great for fans of Pachinko.


The Celebrants, Steven Rowley

  • Recommended: June ’23
  • Ratings: 3.7

This book is billed as a modern retelling of “The Bill Chill”. It’s been 28 years since these friends have graduated college and they’re are due for their semi-regular retreat to Big Sur, where they re-commit to one another, help each other through life’s pains and also remember their friend who died too young.

This year, one of the friends is bringing a sobering diagnosis, which forces the group to face their own mortality and the fragility of their connections. This sharp-witted book is suffused with joy, compassion and sadness.


Chain Gang All-Stars, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

  • Recommended: May ’23
  • Ratings: 4.15

Adjei-Brenyah’s world imagines a future American prison system with a strong profit motive. The prisons have the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment (or CAPE) system which puts on gladiatorial fights to the death…for entertainment. Prisoners participating in (and surviving ) these gruesome contests can earn an commuted sentences.

Reviews are likening the book to the Hunger Games meets Russell Crowe’s Gladiator meets any movie by Jason Statham meets Squid Games. The book has strong world-building and razer sharp social commentary. But it’s also leavened with love, remorse, atonement, and hope from the various characters.

Read it for book club and use our Chain Gang All-Stars reading guide.


Camp Zero, Michelle Min Sterling

  • Recommended: April ’23
  • Ratings: 3.22

The world in this dystopic novel looks much like our own. Our own that is if we don’t take climate change more seriously. In far northern Canada, Americans have created a small camp to try and stake out a space for their citizens as the world warms. In the first of three narrative threads, Rose is seeking a place for her grandmother (and she’s also agreed to spy upon what the architect is up to in Camp Zero). Grant, a professor, is fleeing some dark family doings. And the women of White Alice are working a climate station.

The book marries the three threads together with book’s themes of societal disarray, desperation and the ever widen gap between the haves and have nots.

And if you like climate fiction, check out our whole list of Cli-Fi books.


Black Candle Women, Diane Marie

  • Recommended: March ’23
  • Ratings: 3.39

Four generations of Montrose women are living together under one roof, with their tinctures and their magic. And the youngest, Nickie, has just brought a boy home for the first time. But here’s the hitch– there’s been a lot of lying, sneaking and secrets in this house and one of those secrets is a curse looming over these women guaranteeing that whoever they fall in love with will die.

Author Diane Marie plucks at those secrets threads by toggling between modern day California and a voodoo shop in 1950’s New Orleans.


Maame, Jessica George

  • Recommended: February ’23
  • Ratings: 4.10

London-based Maddie’s overbearing mother spends huge chunks of time in her native Ghana, leaving Maddie to care for her very ill father. Her brother is MIA and her father’s Parkinson’s care requires a lot of emotional and financial resources, which Maddie handles from the insecure position of a cruddy admin job.

And yet despite these responsibilities, Maddie is naïve and inexperienced when is comes to being a young professional woman in the city. When her mom returns from Ghana, Maddie takes the opportunity to move-out, get a better job and start experiencing new friendships, romances and adulting.

Then a tragic event shakes her up and once again she needs to rethink things. This book offers a touching look at grief, dysfunctional family relationships, being the only Black face at work, and the hard work of finding happiness.

Here’s our Maame book club discussion guide.


Sam, Alegra Goodman

  • Recommended: January ’23
  • Ratings: 3.78

This bildungsroman asks the question “What happens to a child’s sense of joy and belonging–her belief in herself–as she grows up?”

The book follows the titular Sam as she grows up from the ages of 7-19. Her dad is more absent than present and her mom is struggling to to keep the household together. Sam develops a passion for climbing, but she’s also torn between what she wants and meeting the expectations that others have for her. This is a character-driven coming of age story which explores themes of acceptance and discovering your path.


2022 Read with Jenna Book List

The Secret History, Donna Tartt

  • Recommended: December ’22
  • Ratings: 4.17

Jenna tossed us a throwback to the early ’90’s with this classic book by Tartt. It’s a dark academia story that follows six students at Hampden College in Vermont. They come under the thrall of Professor Morrow, who teaches the Greek Classics. As they get further steeped into the classics, they attempt to commune with Dionysus by performing a Bacchanal. Things go terribly wrong and a death occurs.

The book is stuffed with secrets, race/class/culture dynamics, lies, blackmail, longing and jealousy.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”

Shivers!

If you’ve already read and loved this one, we’ve also got a list of books similar to The Secret History.


The Cloisters, Katy Hayes

  • Recommended: November ’22
  • Ratings: 3.53

Dusty old museum (check). Renaissance occult obsessions (check). Darkly gothic academia (check, check, check).

When Ann is offered the opportunity to work the summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she’s thrilled. But then she gets assigned to the dark corners of The Cloisters, which is a museum deep in the Bronx housing a medieval art collection and some arcane research on divination. Ann begins working with one of the researchers to put together an exhibit on divination and they uncover a mysterious deck of Tarot cards. Mystery and mayhem ensue.

A slow burn thriller ensues features a dangerous game of power, seduction, lies and ambition.


The Whalebone Theatre, Joanna Quinn

  • Recommended: October ’22
  • Ratings: 4.09

When a whale washes up on the shores of Dorset, England, Cristabel makes the most of it by turning the skeleton into a magical theatre. Her landowning family is partial to collecting bohemian hangers-on. And this motley crew of eccentrics help to shape Cristabel into a headstrong, independent young woman. When WWII breaks out, Cristabel and her siblings get drawn in in different ways and she finds herself doing clandestine work.

The book strikes a chord with vivid characters, a caring sibling story and coming of age at a difficult time.


Solito, Javier Zamora

  • Recommended: September ’22
  • Ratings: 4.51

Javier Zamora was nine when he made the long journey as an unaccompanied minor from El Salvador to join his parents in America. The trip that was supposed to take two weeks, ended up taking two months. Along the way, Zamora tried hard to be brave but he was forced to persevere way beyond his years.

“This is an unforgettable story of faith, love and perseverance that should be read by young adults as well as adults. It places the immigrant experience on a moving personal level filled with hope, cruelty and miracles.”

Read it for book club and use our Solito discussion guide.


The Many Daughters of Afong Moy, Jamie Ford

  • Recommended: August ’22
  • Ratings: 3.90

Dorothy Moy is our main character, but the story really goes back in time to tell the story of seven women in her lineage. They are all related by trauma, which keeps resurfacing, generation after generation. Each of them feels emotions from a past that they never experienced, and in Dorothy’s case, it manifests as depression.

She’s determined not to let the same happen to her daughter and so she seeks a radical treatment. She’s trying to proactively break the cycle, with the hope that ‘by no longer identifying as victims of the past, we are empowered to change the future.’

The timespan of the book ranges from 1836 to 2086 and it’s an interesting mix of both historical fiction and speculative fiction.

Read it for book club and use our Many Daughters of Afong Moy discussion guide.


The Measure, Nikki Erlick

  • Recommended: July ’22
  • Ratings: 4.08

If you received a mysterious box and the contents could tell you how long you had to live, would you open it? And if so, how would you respond to the knowing?

Erlick’s book tackles these questions when everyone over 22 receives such a box on their doorstep. The book follows eight main characters as their lives are changed by the knowledge. Reactions range from defiance to resignation with societal conflicts arising between the short-timers versus those long-timers.

This book would make a particularly good book club read– lots to talk about here– which you can do using our book club questions for The Measure.


These Impossible Things, Salma El-Wardany

  • Recommended: June ’22
  • Ratings: 4.23

This is a coming of age story following the lives of three Muslim women, Malak, Kees, and Jenna, as they navigate their way through adulthood, romantic entanglements and familial obligations while staying true to their deeply held faith. They are challenged with how to start adulting and craft their own lives, in the context of strong culture and societal norms.

And the difficult choices that they make, stress the bonds of both family and friendship.


Remarkably Bright Creatures, Shelby Van Pelt

  • Recommended: May ’22
  • Ratings: 4.41

Seventy-year-old Tova Sullivan works the nightshift as a cleaner at Sowell Bay Aquarium. She was recently widowed and also still mourns the loss of her son, who disappeared in the Puget Sound. Tova doesn’t really need to work, but she like to keep busy and she prefers to share her time with those who don’t ask a lot of questions.

Enter Marcellus. He’s a giant octopus who was rescued by the aquarium. However, he believes himself to be a captive. He fancies himself a pretty bright octopus and he keeps stretching the bounds of his tank by occasionally escaping…and Tova keeps finding him. Over time, the two develop a very special bond.

“This book warmed my heart! It was charming, wholesome, and thoughtful. This book explores themes of grief, healing, aging, loneliness, and friendship.”

Read it for book club and use our Remarkably Bright Creatures discussion questions.


Memphis, Tara M. Stringfellow

  • Recommended: April ’22
  • Ratings: 4.15

This moving debut charts the lives of three generations of black women. As it unfolds over 70 years, we see the sorrows, tragedy, poverty, violence, sacrifice, and heartbreak of these women, and also the repercussions for the generations that follow.

As the book opens, Miriam and her two children escape domestic violence and flee to her family’s ancestral home in Memphis.

“There is a mesmerizing quiet beauty in this story, while also sharing a darkness that permeates the lives of these characters.”


Groundskeeping, Lee Cole

  • Recommended: March ’22
  • Ratings: 3.59

Groundskeeping is good for Sally Roony fans. It features the story of two people from very different backgrounds and social classes who meet in a small Kentucky town. Owen is a student and groundskeeper at a small liberal arts college and Alma is a visiting writer on a fellowship. Owen and Alma fall in love easily but keep their relationship on the QT as they try to navigate their differences.

“Well written, this is an engrossing story, with good insight into the the different Americas that have been ripped apart by the politics of our times.”


Black Cake, Charmaine Wilkerson

  • Recommended: February ’22
  • Ratings: 4.14

Siblings Byron and Benny try to set aside their differences as they try to understand the mother who recently died. She leaves behind a traditional Caribbean black cake and an 8 hour recording that reveals some startling family secrets.

The story is about loss, about the decisions we make that we can never take back, and the sacrifices we’re forced to make. Some of the book’s themes include: fraught family dynamics, resentments and regrets, the cultural diaspora, regrets, race and identity and climate change.

Read it for book club and use our Black Cake discussion guide.


The School for Good Mothers, Jessamine Chan

  • Recommended: January ’22
  • Ratings: 3.56

In this chilling dystopia, a parent’s worst nightmare comes true when their children are taken to reform schools when the overreaching government has scrutinized their parenting skills…and found them wanting. Everything is at stake and the pressure to be perfect is extremely high.

Frida is struggling to be a good mother, and she gets caught out on a bad day. Now she needs to do everything she can to keep her daughter.


NEED BOOK CLUB IDEAS?

Use our guide to find dozens of book ideas for your group.

2021 Read with Jenna Book List

Bright Burning Things, Lisa Harding

  • Recommended: December ’21
  • Ratings: 3.35

The Family, Naomi Krupitsky

  • Recommended: November ’21
  • Ratings: 3.63

The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles

  • Recommended: October ’21
  • Ratings: 4.23

Read it for your own book club and use our reading guide for the Lincoln Highway to drive the conversation.


Beautiful Country, Qian Julie Wang

  • Recommended: September ’21
  • Ratings: 4.18

The Turnout, Megan Abbott

  • Recommended: August ’21
  • Ratings: 3.14

Hell of a Book, Jason Mott

  • Recommended: July ’21
  • Ratings: 4.07

We’ve also feature this novel on our list of 20 books that feature books as a key driver of the narrative.


Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • Recommended: June ’21
  • Ratings: 4.09

Read it for your book club and use our Malibu Rising discussion guide. And also check out our full list of books by Taylor Jenkins Reid (ranked and rated!)


Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead

  • Recommended: May ’21
  • Ratings: 4.14

Good Company, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

  • Recommended: April ’21
  • Ratings: 3.39

Flora thinks she’s lucky. She’s watched other marriages disintegrate but her marriage to Julian is strong and stable…or so she thinks. When she finds the wedding ring that he claims to have lost years ago, it makes her question what’s really going on.

The books covers Flora and Julian’s early marriage, their friendship with successful Margot, their ups, their downs and the inevitable messes that occur when a marriage lasts as long as theirs.


What’s Mine and Yours, Naima Coster

  • Recommended: March ’21
  • Ratings: 3.50

Send for Me, Lauren Fox

  • Recommended: February ’21
  • Ratings: 3.46

The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah

  • Recommended: February ’21
  • Ratings: 4.30

This book has been super popular with book clubs and we’ve featured it on our list of best book club pics for the year. Use our guide if your group decides to read it.


Black Buck, Mateo Askaripour

  • Recommended: January ’21
  • Ratings: 3.76

2020 Jenna Book Picks

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

  • Recommended: December ’20
  • Ratings: 4.09

White Ivy, Susie Yang

  • Recommended: November ’20
  • Ratings: 3.58

Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam

  • Recommended: October ’20
  • Ratings: 3.22

Transcendent Kingdom, Ya Gyasi

  • Recommended September ’20
  • Ratings: 4.13

Here For It, R. Eric Thomas

  • Recommended: August ’20
  • Ratings: 4.06

Recommended for fans of Samantha Irby and David Sedaris (both of which do a great job of reading their own works on audio.)


The Comeback, Ella Berman

  • Recommended: August ’20
  • Ratings: 3.76

Friends and Strangers, J. Courtney Sullivan

  • Recommended: July ’20
  • Ratings: 3.67

A Burning, Megha Majumdar

  • Recommended: June ’20
  • Ratings: 3.74

All Adults Here, Emma Straub

  • Recommended: May ’20
  • Ratings: 3.60

Valentine, Elizabeth Wetmore

  • Recommended: April ’20
  • Ratings: 3.79

Writers & Lovers, Lily King

  • Recommended: March ’20
  • Ratings: 4.06

The Girl with the Louding Voice, Abi Daré

  • Recommended: February ’20
  • Ratings: 4.44

Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano

  • Recommended: January ’20
  • Ratings: 4.09

Jenna’s Book Club List: 2019

Here’s an archive of the older Jenna’s Book Club picks.

Late Migrations, Margret Renkl

  • Recommended: December ’19
  • Ratings: 4.30

Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson

  • Recommended: November ’19
  • Ratings: 3.95

Here’s our Nothing to See Here book club guide.


The Dutch House, Ann Patchett

  • Recommended: October ’19
  • Ratings: 4.11

Use our discussion guide for The Dutch House.


The Dearly Beloved, Cara Wall

  • Recommended: September ’19
  • Ratings: 4.08

Patsy, Nicole Dennis-Benn

  • Recommended: August ’19
  • Ratings: 3.91

Evvie Drake Stars Over, Linda Holmes

  • Recommended: July ’19
  • Ratings: 3.84

Searching for Sylvie Lee, Jean Kwok

  • Recommended: June ’19
  • Ratings: 3.66

A Woman is No Man, Etaf Rum

  • Recommended: May ’19
  • Ratings: 4.26

Read it for book club and use our A Woman is No Man discussion guide.


The Unwinding of a Miracle, Julie Yip-Williams

  • Recommended: April ’19
  • Ratings: 4.09

The Last Romantics, Tara Conklin

  • Recommended: March ’19
  • Ratings: 3.73

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