BookShelf Column by Editor Jamie H.Vaught


Writer Remembers Former Major League Umpire Doug Harvey, Who Has Penned An Entertaining Memoir; Newly-Published Books in Sports, Business, Civil War & Politics Are Highlighted


     You perhaps could say there are two God-related books in this Bookshelf column.

     Wait a minute! Don't get the wrong idea. That first sentence would be misleading since only one deals with religion. 

     And the other one is non-religion. That book, titled "They Called Me God" (Gallery Books, $27.00), is about the life of a well-known baseball umpire, who retired many years ago.

     Before we move on to that truly religious book, let's take a quick look at that baseball book, which is authored by umpire Doug Harvey and Peter Golenbock.

     I remember Harvey as a white-haired guy whom I interviewed as a very young (and inexperienced) writer after a major league game in Atlanta years ago when I was in college. In a dressing room for the umpires under the stands, Harvey, sitting on a chair, was trying to cool off. His face was really red after umpiring the afternoon contest in a hot, humid Georgia weather.  He was in the late 40s at the time, but his famous white hair obviously made him look older.

     He wasn't the friendliest guy that I have met in my sportswriting career, but he was nice enough to have a chat for a brief interview. That afternoon, he certainly looked tall and was an intimidating guy to me. And the players obviously felt the same way.

     Now 84 and fighting cancer, Harvey -- who was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 -- was respected by the players and the managers alike. He made calls that were so feared and infalliable that the players called him God.

     I read the whole memoir and enjoyed it tremendously. If you like baseball, it's a nice copy to have.  While it contains some R-rated language, the colorful 274-page volume is actually pretty funny and has many fascinating stories about the star players like Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, to name a few.

     Harvey, a Californian who also spent some time as an official in the old American Basketball Association, also had stories about ex-UK roundball stars Cliff Hagan and Alex Groza.

     In his book, the legendary umpire also discusses having responsibility, fairness and honesty in his career.

     Now, the other book, "Killing Jesus" (Henry Holt and Company, $28.00) is a best-selling biography of Jesus and it is written by television commentator Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.   The book takes the readers inside Jesus's life, recounting the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable and changed the world forever.

     In case you didn't know, O'Reilly, who has written several nonfiction books, has a history degree, and once taught history and English in high school.

     I have not read this one yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

     There are many other attractive, recently-published books that you may want to consider. They are:

     --"Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era" (Dutton, $27.95) by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts.  The authors have used exclusive documents and never-before-reported records/interviews with top sources to come up with shocking new details about the controversial story.

     --"All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power” (Nation Books, $32.99) by Nomi Prins is an explosive account (521 pages) of the 100-year interdependence between the White House and Wall Street. It is a story of how an elite group of men transformed the U.S. economy and government, dictated foreign and domestic policy and shaped world history. So is the money driving politics?  Or greed driving bankers?

     --"The Civil War in Color" (Sterling, $35.00) by John C. Guntzelman is a stunning photographic reenactment of the War Between the States. The war actually comes alive as never before in this remarkable collection of colorized photographs from the era. There are over 200 photographs, coming from the Library of Congress's archives, which include both well-known and rarely seen images.

     Said Guntzelman, "These photos are no longer just dusty old pictures, but rather have become very real moments in time from our collective past, frozen forever in color."

     When I first received a copy of this coffee table book, I was immediately impressed, thinking, "Wow!"  You don't have to be an avid reader to enjoy this. It is both educational and entertaining, and would make a nice birthday or Christmas present. Or even a gift for yourself.

    --"Think Like A Freak" (William Morrow, $28.99) is written by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the same authors who wrote bestselling "Freakonomics." With their captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, the authors take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally -- to think, that is, like a Freak.

     --"Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" (Crown Business, $23.00) by Greg McKeown is a 260-page hardcover which tells how people can accomplish more and achieve greater success by doing less, but better. The author, through his research and his work with top companies and individuals, argues that we need to focus on a few essential things in our professional and personal life and responsibilities.

     --"The Nixon Defense" (Viking, $35.00) by ex-Nixon White House legal counsel John W. Dean is published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation from the White House. Based on previously ignored White House tapes, Dean manages to connect the dots between what's known publicly and what actually happened. The 746-page volume is also a stunning portrait of Nixon and his aides.

     --"Getting a W in the Game of Life" (Ascend Books, $18.95) by ESPN's Dick Vitale (with Reji Laberje) is a 248-page paperback about real-life stories. Vitale tells the readers -- young and old -- in such way never more personal than in these pages, discussing stories and issues confronted by today’s students, including criticism, social media pressures, over-scheduling, family dynamics, gossip, self-esteem, bullying, and more. Says Vitale on the book cover, "This is not just an advice book, it's a playbook for life!"

     --"American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company" (Crown Business, $16.00) by Bryce G. Hoffman is an untold story of Ford's epic turnaround under the leadership of CEO Mulally. To write a bestseller (422 pages in paperback), the author is given unprecedented access to company's top executives -- including numerous hours with Mulally -- and top-secret company documents.

     --"Clinton, Inc." (Broadside Books, $27.99) by Daniel Halper is a story about the America's most powerful political couple. The author uses a wealth of research, exclusive documents and detailed interviews with close friends, allies, and enemies of the Clintons. It could be an interesting piece for political junkies.

     --"The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon" (Little, Brown and Company, $18.00) by Brad Stone is a biography of's visionary leader and will be available in paperback in mid-August. The author enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees, and the Bezos family members, and his book is the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. It's a business book that you don't want to miss.

     --"Chuck Noll: A Winning Way" (James O'Brien Publishing, $28.00) by Jim O'Brien is a 606-page biography of the legendary NFL coach who guided the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in as many tries and no other coach can make that claim. O'Brien, a noted sportswriter who has written over 20 books on Pittsburgh sports, has a pleasant writing style and you'll enjoy the volume about Noll who was often mischaracterized, misunderstood and too often underappreciated. Noll passed away earlier this summer.

     --"The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan" (Simon & Schuster, $37.50) by Rick Perlstein reveals how the transition from Presidents Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan marked the end of a fraught period of national soul-searching during the 1970s and resurrected a new movement.  Moreover, the 855-page volume is in part a fresh and provocative biography of Reagan himself. The author's cinematic writing style will appeal to a wide array of readers, according to the publisher.

     --"The Nixon Tapes" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35.00) by editors Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter reveals the 37th president as crisis manager, geopolitical strategist and duplicitous paranoid. This remarkable 758-page book, which comes out on the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation in 1974, draws on 3,700 hours of the White House tapes.

      --"Dick Vitale’s Living A Dream” (Sports Publishing, $16.95) by Vitale with Dick Weiss is a reflection on his remarkable career as an ESPN broadcaster.  The 316-page paperback is an entertaining read if you are a college basketball junkie.

     --"The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age" (Harvard Business Review Press, $25.00) by LinkedIn founder and chairman Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh is basically a bold but practical guide for managers and executives. The authors made a revolutionary case for reclaiming trust and loyalty in workplace that will help the company leaders recruit, manage and retain the dynamic employees in today's environment, pointing out that the employer-employee relationship for modern times needs to be reinvented.

     --"Sidelined" (Zondervan, $24.99) by NFL coach Chuck Pagano (with Bruce A. Tollner) is an inspirational memoir about his battle against cancer and the struggles his Indianapolis Colts squad went through during the 2012 campaign.


Posted & Updated August 2014