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A debut novel about female friendship and family secrets, and 4 other books to add to your reading list

From Jake Tapper’s Book Club

A note from CNN’s Jake Tapper: Let me start this week’s newsletter with a confession.

If the Book Club show and newsletter only reflected those books I found myself reading over the past few years, many would have been thrillers by middle-aged white men. Good books—highly enjoyable, well-written, well-rendered—but I was literarily 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 needs 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, newsletter, and my own book collection, is to include and embrace the unimaginable diversity of the literary world—including the types of books (poetry, polemics, thrillers, non-fiction), the types of authors, the views represented, and so on.

This isn’t done to check boxes, it’s done to enhance our Book Club experience. My life has always been improved by seeking out the thoughts and art of those with different experiences and points of view—whether the diversity I’m seeking is political, cultural, or something else. That brings us to this week’s book selection: “Fiona and Jane” by Jean Chen Ho.

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

This may not be the first book the average middle-aged white guy automatically picks up and peruses. But that would be a mistake. What a great read! I feel like Fiona and Jane are friends of mine. I cannot wait to see what Ho writes next. “Fiona and Jane” brings you into the lives of these women in a relatable, authentic way. You will love it. Check it out!

Purchase “Fiona and Jane” by Jean Chen Ho through 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 story and evolution of families, Naples and even modern Italy as a whole.
Purchase “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante through here

‘Hakim’s Odyssey, Book 1: From Syria to Turkey’ by Fabien Toulme

French graphic novelist Toulme depicts what it’s like to be a refugee through Hakim — a young and accomplished Syrian who is forced to leave everything behind because of war. Book 1 follows the first leg of his journey, as he struggles to find work while dreaming of one day returning home.

Purchase “Hakim’s Odyssey, Book 1” by Fabien Toulme here

Recommended by the ‘Jake Tapper Book Club’

‘All My Rage’ by Sabaa Tahir

Tahir, a Pakistani-American young adult 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 fight almost destroys everything. As both their lives spin out of control, they must ask themselves what their friendship is worth and what it will take to overcome the past and present.

Purchase “All My Rage” through here

‘Groundskeeping’ by Lee Cole

In his debut novel, Cole takes readers back to his home state of Kentucky to meet aspiring writer Owen Callahan, a groundskeeper at a local college, and Alma Hazdic, a writer in residence. Owen lives with his Trump-supporting family, and Alma is from a liberal family of Bosnian immigrants. Despite their differences, they start a secret relationship. But as they grow closer, Alma finds herself struggling to understand him. .

Purchase “Groundskeeping” through here

Independent book store spotlight

We love independent bookstores! In our continued effort to highlight independent bookstores across the country, we salute Books & Burrows in Pittsburg, Kansas. The Indigenous-owned bookstore opened in November 2020, and works to highlight Indigenous authors and stories.

Do you have a favorite bookstore? Tweet @JakeTapper with your pick and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

What’s coming up on ‘Jake Tapper’s Book Club’ on CNN+

  • April 10 — Jake sits down with comedian Judd Apatow, author of a new book of conversations with that Apatow conducted with entertainers and celebrities.
  • April 17 — Jake speaks with Elizabeth Alexander, the author of a poignant new book, “The Trayvon Generation,” in which she considers the impact the last decade of racial justice uprisings had on Black youth through art.
  • April 24 — Jake speaks with Andrea Yaryura Clark, whose book “On a Night of a Thousand Stars” creates a beautiful but harrowing tale of life during Argentina’s Dirty War and a daughter’s quest to find out the truth about her family.

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