A first novel on family secrets and 3 other books to add to your reading list

If the Book Club show and newsletter reflected only the books I’ve found myself reading over the past few years, many would have been thrillers by middle-aged white men. Good books – very enjoyable, well written, well rendered – but I was literally dining from a rather limited menu. (I say this, if you need reminding, as a middle-aged white man who writes thrillers.)

Obviously, a show about books has to aspire beyond that. The beauty of books is that they can open our minds to experiences beyond the familiar. Our goal with this show, this newsletter and my own collection of books is to include and embrace the unimaginable diversity of the literary world, including book types (poetry, polemic, thriller, non-fiction), types authors, opinions represented, etc.

It’s not meant to tick boxes, it’s meant to enhance our book club experience. My life has always been bettered by seeking out the thoughts and art of those with different experiences and viewpoints, whether the diversity I seek is political, cultural or otherwise. That brings us to this week’s book selection: “Fiona and Jane” by Jean Chen Ho.

Ho’s early work is the perfect modern example of great American fiction. It’s a brilliant series of stories about the lives of two Taiwanese American women and their friendship over 20 years as they explore identity, sexuality, heartbreak and family secrets.

She receives rave reviews: “…over the course of the book, Fiona and Jane become real, electric and precious people,” writes the New York Times. “The world Ho creates between the two women feels like a friend reading each other’s story, wishing she were there.”

This may not be the first book the average middle-aged white man picks up and automatically reads. But that would be a mistake. What a good read! I feel like Fiona and Jane are friends of mine. I can’t wait to see what Ho writes next. “Fiona and Jane” immerses you in the lives of these women in a genuine and authentic way. You will love it. Check it out!

Buy “Fiona and Jane” by Jean Chen Ho via Bookshop.org here

What else Jake is reading

‘My Brilliant Friend’ by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein)

The first book in Ferrante’s captivating Neapolitan series, “My Brilliant Friend” introduces us to Lila and Elena as children in the 1950s. Ferrante uses their complicated and intense friendship to explore the history and evolution of families, Naples and even modern Italy as a whole.
Purchase “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante via Bookshop.org here

“Hakim’s Odyssey, Volume 1: From Syria to Turkey” by Fabien Toulme

French novelist Toulme describes what it is like to be a refugee through Hakim, an accomplished young Syrian who is forced to give up everything because of the war. Book 1 follows the first leg of his journey, as he struggles to find work while dreaming of one day returning home.

Buy “The Odyssey of Hakim, volume 1” by Fabien Toulme here

Recommended by the ‘Jake Tapper Book Club’

“All My Rage” by Sabaa Tahir

Tahir, a young Pakistani-American novelist, tells the love story of Salahudin and Noor who grew up together as outcasts in a small California town. Their bond is undeniable, until a major battle destroys almost everything. As their lives spiral out of control, they must wonder what their friendship is worth and what it will take to overcome the past and present.

Purchase “All My Rage” via Bookshop.org here

‘Groundskeeping’ by Lee Cole

In his first novel, Cole takes readers back to his home state of Kentucky to meet aspiring writer Owen Callahan, gardener at a local college, and Alma Hazdic, writer-in-residence. Owen lives with his Trump-supporting family, and Alma comes from a liberal Bosnian immigrant family. Despite their differences, they begin a secret relationship. But as they grow closer, Alma struggles to understand him. .

Purchase “Groundskeeping” via Bookshop.org here

Spotlight on an independent bookstore

We love independent bookstores! In our ongoing effort to showcase independent bookstores across the country, we salute Books & Burrows in Pittsburg, Kansas. The Indigenous-owned bookstore opened in November 2020 and strives to showcase Indigenous authors and stories.
Do you have a favorite bookstore? Tweet @JakeTapper with your choice and we may feature it in a future newsletter.

What’s Happening on ‘Jake Tapper’s Book Club’ on CNN+

  • April 10 – Jake sits down with comedian Judd Apatow, author of a new book of conversations Apatow has conducted with artists and celebrities.
  • April 17 – Jake chats with Elizabeth Alexander, the author of a poignant new book, ‘The Trayvon Generation’, in which she examines the impact of the past decade of racial justice uprisings on black youth through art .
  • April 24 — Jake talks to Andrea Yaryura Clark, whose book “On a Night of a Thousand Stars” creates a beautiful but heartbreaking story of life during Argentina’s Dirty War and a girl’s quest to uncover the truth about his family.

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