Jenna Bush Hager Gives Her Gift Suggestions
The holidays may be over but the season of giving continues, and books are a nice way to show people you care! TODAY host, Jenna Bush Hager runs the Read with Jenna Book Club and here are Jenna’s recommendations for gift giving; they may help you decide what to pick for the readers in your life.
For a Good Friend, Collegue or Classic Literature Lover
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. The Bluest Eye remains one of Toni Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.
For Your Grandmother
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope, tracing a widow’s unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus.
After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.
Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.
Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.
Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.
For Your Best Friend
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
The beloved New York Times bestselling author reflects on home, family, friendships and writing in this deeply personal collection of essays.
“Any story that starts will also end.” As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this truth in these wise essays that afford a fresh and intimate look into her mind and heart.
At the center of These Precious Days is the title essay, a suprising and moving meditation on an unexpected friendship that explores “what it means to be seen, to find someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.” When Patchett chose an early galley of actor and producer Tom Hanks’ short story collection to read one night before bed, she had no idea that this single choice would be life changing. It would introduce her to a remarkable woman—Tom’s brilliant assistant Sooki—with whom she would form a profound bond that held monumental consequences for them both.
A literary alchemist, Patchett plumbs the depths of her experiences to create gold: engaging and moving pieces that are both self-portrait and landscape, each vibrant with emotion and rich in insight. Turning her writer’s eye on her own experiences, she transforms the private into the universal, providing us all a way to look at our own worlds anew, and reminds how fleeting and enigmatic life can be.
From the enchantments of Kate DiCamillo’s children’s books to youthful memories of Paris; the cherished life gifts given by her three fathers to the unexpected influence of Charles Schultz’s Snoopy; the expansive vision of Eudora Welty to the importance of knitting, Patchett connects life and art as she illuminates what matters most. Infused with the author’s grace, wit, and warmth, the pieces in These Precious Days resonate deep in the soul, leaving an indelible mark—and demonstrate why Ann Patchett is one of the most celebrated writers of our time.
For Your Sister, Mother, Daughter
The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford
Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.
As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.
Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.
As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.
For an Art or Mystery Lover
When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.
Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.
A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
For Someone Joyful
Little Pieces of Hope by Todd Doughty
Named by The Washington Post as one of the best feel-good books of 2021, Little Pieces of Hope is an enchanting collection of lists, musings, prompts, and illustrations that will inspire you to cherish all of the things–from the extraordinary to the everyday, from the big to the little–that bring hope into our lives
On March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and all of our lives began to change in unprecedented ways, Todd Doughty knew he needed to do something to help him stay connected to the everyday joys of daily life. So he wrote down a list of things that make him happy: The musical intro to “All Things Considered.” Someone forgiving you. Someone believing in you. Your foot sticking out from under a blanket in order to find the cool spot. Freshly cut yellow tulips. A really good burger.
Many, many lists later, Little Pieces of Hope pulls together the best of Doughty’s lists along with never-before-seen entries, essays, musings, prompts, quotes, and playlists that offer solace, connection, and a daily touchstone of joy in a difficult world.
A beautiful keepsafe full of glorious illustrations, Little Pieces of Hope is brimming with the pleasures of life, inspiring readers to look for and celebrate the good things that surround us.
For a Man, Father, Husband
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America
In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.
Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.
For Someone You Love
Love Poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky
Sacred poetry from twelve mystics and saints, rendered brilliantly by Daniel Ladinsky, beloved interpreter of verses by the fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz
In this luminous collection, Daniel Ladinsky—best known for his gifted and bestselling interpretations of the great Sufi poet Hafiz—brings together the timeless work of twelve of the world’s finest spiritual writers, six from the East and six from the West. Once again Ladinsky reveals his talent for creating profound and playful renditions of classic poems for a modern audience. Rumi’s joyous, ecstatic love poems; St. Francis’s loving observations of nature through the eyes of Catholicism; Kabir’s wild, freeing humor that synthesizes Hindu, Muslim, and Christian beliefs; St. Teresa’s sensual verse; and the mystical, healing words of Sufi poet Hafiz—these along with inspiring works by Rabia, Meister Eckhart, St. Thomas Aquinas, Mira, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Tukaram are all “love poems by God,” from writers considered to be “conduits of the divine.” A spiritual treasure to cherish always.