Jenna Bush Hager shares her 10 favorite vacation reads
June marks the official start of summer – and with warmer weather arriving and travel returning, many of us are eager to go on (well-deserved) vacations. A getaway is the perfect opportunity to unwind with a book, but narrowing down your long reading list can seem like a challenge.
If you’re looking for a page turner or two to take with you on your next trip, Jenna Bush Hager can help. The TODAY Book Expert recommended her top 10 favorite books to read on vacation, from easy and light reading to an exciting murder mystery. So whether you’re soaking up the sun on a beach or enjoying a stay in your own backyard, sit back, relax, and indulge in one of these great summer reads.
“Malibu Rising”, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Jenna recently announced that she had selected Taylor Jenkins Reid’s ‘Malibu Rising’ as her June 2021 Read With Jenna Book Club pick. “I felt like ‘Malibu Rising’ was compulsively fun reading that anyone would like to throw in their beach bag, ”Jenna said. “I think after the year we have had everyone is looking forward to summer and this book was the perfect start.”
Set in Malibu in the 1980s, this novel focuses on the night of a life-changing late-summer party for four siblings, the offspring of legendary fictional singer Mick Riva. The story unfolds in just 24 hours, and flashbacks to Mick’s eventful relationship with the mother of his children provide a glimpse into the lives of the Riva siblings and what shaped them.
“The Secret History”, by Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt’s debut novel immediately grabs its readers from its first page, as the narrator recalls her friend’s murder years after the incident. He reflects on his time as a member of a student group at an elite liberal arts college in New England. Under the influence of their classics teacher, the group immerses themselves deeply in the ancient Greek culture they study. The events leading up to the murder unfold in sequential order, and the novel explores the lasting effects it had on the students. You will want to devour this exciting book all at once.
“Bridget Jones’ Diary”, by Helen Fielding
Written in the form of a diary, this novel chronicles a year in the life of a bachelor in her thirties living in London, Bridget Jones. Bridget’s bursting laughing tale details her struggles with her self-image, vices, and of course, her complicated love life. Determined to find love (because who doesn’t have the daily fear of dying alone?), She decides it’s time to go in search of personal improvement. “I think Helen Fielding’s ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ is always a great summer read,” Jenna said. If you’re looking for fun, relevant read, you’ll want to carry it in your beach bag.
“Summer Sisters” by Judy Blume
“’Summer Sisters’ by Judy Blume, my sister and I talk about this book all the time,” Jenna said. Set in the summer of 1977, this coming-of-age novel tells the story of two friends, Victoria and Caitlin, who spent summer vacations together in Martha’s Vineyard as teenagers. No book captures the essence of the summer season and the friendships that shape our lives like this.
“Le lieu secret”, by Tana French
Do you prefer your vacation reading to be a thriller? “The Secret Place” will put you on the edge of your seat with its unexpected twists. The novel is set in a Dublin boarding school a year after a boy was murdered on the school grounds. When 16-year-old Holly Mackey presents Detective Stephen Moran with a photo of the boy captioned “I know who killed him,” the case reopens. Each chapter of the novel is told from the alternate perspective of Detective Stephen Moran and the students as they detail the outcome of the case.
“A Little Life”, by Hanya Yanagihara
If you are looking for a title that moves you deeply, this epic story will blow you away. The novel is set over three decades and follows the lives of four male friends, beginning with their post-graduate pursuit of career success in New York City. The novel skillfully explores several difficult topics, including sexuality, substance abuse, abuse, trauma, and recovery.
“All the adults here”, by Emma Straub
When Astrid Strick sees an acquaintance being run over by a bus, her perception of life and motherhood suddenly changes. The May 2020 Read With Jenna Book Club Pick explores the complex themes of family, community, aging and love. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, all at very different stages in their lives. “It’s about how families can be messy and complicated and at the same time love-centric,” Jenna said of the light, humorous read.
“The girl with the loud voice”, by Abi Dare
This unforgettable novel tells the powerful story of a young girl living in present-day Nigeria named Adunni, who dreams of receiving an education. Despite the many obstacles and misfortunes she faces, Adunni refuses to let her “loud voice” be silent. Her inspiring story reflects the story of many brave young women around the world who yearn for a better future. Adunni’s resilient voice will stay with you long after you finish reading the book. “It’s her (Adunni) voice,” Jenna said. “While reading, there were times when I felt like Adunni whispered, sang and, in places, cried at me.” Jenna selected “The Girl With the Loud Voice” as the Read With Jenna Book Club pick for February 2020.
“Like water for chocolate”, by Laura Esquivel
Set during the Mexican Revolution, this beautiful novel tells the story of the De La Garza family. Tita De La Garza falls in love with her neighbor Pedro, but family tradition De La Garza does not allow the youngest girl in the family to marry. Instead, it is his duty to take care of his mother until her death. Each section of the story is introduced with a different Mexican recipe, and Tita’s cooking becomes strongly tied to her emotions as she deals with her struggles.
“A tree grows in Brooklyn”, by Betty Smith
This semi-autobiographical American classic is told from the perspective of Francie Nolan, an impoverished young girl living in the slums of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As you immerse yourself in the bittersweet life of Francie and the daily experiences of the Nolan family, you will feel both grief and hope.
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