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BOOKSHELF: Need A Christmas Shopping List For New Books?

Compiled by Editor Jamie H. Vaught

Are you ready to browse for entertaining new books, which seem to be more plentiful during the holiday season?

Now just in time for Christmas shopping for your loved ones who are avid readers, here's a new list of recently-published nonfiction books, in no particular order, with many of them highly-reviewed:

--"Above The Line: Lessons In Leadership And Life From A Championship Season" by Urban Meyer with Wayne Coffey (Penguin Press, $27.95) delivers real-life examples in leadership and team building. Meyer, who played college football at the University of Cincinnati where he received his bachelor's degree in psychology in the mid-1980s, is the head coach at Ohio State. In the 262-page book, Meyer also talks about the 10-80-10 principle, which is a powerful strategy for getting most out of your team.

--"The Santa Claus Man: The Rise And Fall Of A Jazz Age Con Man And The Invention Of Christmas In New York" by Alex Palmer (Lyons Press, $25.95) is a fascinating story about an eccentric guy named John Duval Gluck who played Santa Claus for the children in the big city, beginning in 1913, and became a celebrity who rubbed elbows with movie stars and politicans. Gluck, however, had a dark secret; he was a cheater. This well-written book is a warm and heartbreaking holiday tale. The author, by the way, is Gluck's great-grandnephew.

--"Destiny And Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush" by Jon Meacham (Random House, $35.00) is a lengthy and intimate biography about the 41st president. Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who had access to the Bush diaries and extensive interviews with the former president, paints a surprising portrait of a very private man who led the country through tumultuous times. The author also presents Bush’s candid assessments of many of the major figures, ranging from Richard Nixon to Nancy Reagan; Mao to Mikhail Gorbachev; Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld; Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton. Wrote retired NBC broadcaster Tom Brokaw of the 837-page hardcover, "Meet the George Bush you didn't know." Historian and author Michael Beschloss added, ".... Meacham takes us behind closed doors to show us what this sometimes misunderstood leader was really like."

--"Sinatra: The Chairman" by James Kaplan (Doubleday, $35) is a sequel to "Frank: The Voice" which was published in 2010. The story of “Ol’ Blue Eyes” continues with this new massive volume (980 pages) picking up the day after Sinatra claimed his Academy Award in 1954 and had reestablished himself as the top recording artist in music. The author goes behind the legend to give an inside look of his life. Sinatra also was a powerful actor, business mogul, tireless lover and associate of the powerful and infamous. The famed singer, who died in 1998, would've been 100 years old last week.

--"Kentucky's Governors" by editor Lowell H. Harrison (University Press of Kentucky, $35.00) is a historical account of the lives of each Kentucky governor from Isaac Shelby in 1792 to Ernie Fletcher in 2004 when the 294-page hardcover was published in an updated edition. While it is not actually a new book, this volume would be of great interest to many Kentuckians especially after following the recent governor's race. Nevertheless, history buffs would enjoy a copy even though ex-Gov. Steve Beshear and new Gov. Matt Bevin are not included in this particular editon. If you go to, you can get a huge discount of 80 percent as part of its holiday sale which continues until February 1.

--"Two Minute Warning: How Concussions, Crime, and Controversy Could Kill the NFL (And What the League Can Do to Survive)" by Michael Freeman (Triumph Books, $25.95) is a look into the growing threats (such as drug use, domestic violence and health of the players) to NFL's popularity and what the league can do to avoid collapse. Despite its massive earning power, the league is at its most pivotal moment since the AFL-NFL merger in 1966. Top NFL athletes, coaches, and executives as well as economists and scientists were interviewed for this new volume.

--"Lady Bird And Lyndon: The Hidden Story Of A Message That Made A President" by Betty Boyd Caroli (Simon & Schuster, $29.99) is a fascinating story about the former First Lady, who was often portrayed as nothing more than a shy bystander. The author, an accomplished biographer who was in Louisville recently for a book signing, paints a different picture, describing Mrs. Johnson as lively and opinionated businesswoman who was her husband's true politcal partner. Well-known author David Maraniss wrote, "This inside look at the marriage of Lady Bird and Lyndon provides stunningly fresh insights into the well-examined political soul of Lyndon Johnson. But the star of this story is Lady Bird, and out of Caroli’s strikingly original portrait of this strong, smart woman emerges an irresistible tale of politics, ambition, and the power of unconditional marital love."

--"Outsider In The White House" by Bernie Sanders with Huck Gutman (Verso, $16.95) is an autobiography of the current presidential candidate. The 346-page paperback is a compelling read of Sanders' passionate and principled political life. Representing Vermont as an outspoken independent, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 as an independent after 16 years in the House of Representatives.

--"Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few" by Robert B. Reich (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95) reveals the falsehoods that have been bolstered by the corruption of our democracy by huge firms and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. It adds that power and influence have created a new American oligarchy, a shrinking middle class and the greatest income inequality and wealth disparity in nearly 100 years. And the author discusses what it will take to fix the country's economic system. Wrote Chicago Tribune in a review, "Like any good teacher, Robert Reich knows that making a simple yet crucial idea stick often takes much time and many presentations of the concept… In Saving Capitalism, Reich drives home a basic fact that, if widely understood, could lift America from today’s destructive political standoff.” Currently a professor, Reich served as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton during the 1990s.

--"Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-year Losing Streak" by Travis Sawchik (Flatiron Books, $26.99) is a behind-the-scenes look with stories of the key figures who changed the way the small-market Pittsburgh Pirates played the game. In other words, it is the story of how the baseball franchise adopted big-data strategies to the end the losing streak and make the playoffs. The 242-page hardcover is similar to highly-acclaimed "Moneyball" which was published in 2003.

--"A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through The Past And

Future Of Mental Illness And Addition" by Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Fried (Blue Rider Press, $28.95). The youngest child of late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and former U.S. Congressman from Rhode Island, Patrick discusses his personal and political battles with mental illness and addiction as well as becoming one of the country's leading advocate for mental health and substance abuse care. In 2006, while he was serving in Congress, it was revealed for the first time the younger Kennedy had been struggling with bipolar disorder and prescription painkillers.

--"Cheney One On One: A Candid Conversation with America's Most Controversial Statesman" by James Rosen (Regnery, $27.99) is a raw, exclusive look inside the mind of former Vice President, one of the most measured, discreet and misunderstood men in American politics. Cheney -- who had been in government for four decades, including serving as the White House Chief of Staff under President Ford -- takes stock of his life and legacy with unprecidented candor. One interesting tidbit: During his early days, Cheney was a Yale dropout who became an important figure in Ford Administration by his mid-30s.

--"The Courage To Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath" by Ben S. Bernanke (W.W. Norton, $35.00) is a 610-page book that reveals his feelings about the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and offers candid impressions of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, leading members of Congress, Wall Street CEOs and policymakers when he was the Federal Reserve chairman. A professor who was chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from February 2006 to January 2014, Bernanke grew up in South Carolina and has a PhD in economics.

--"Jack Kemp: The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America" by Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes (Sentinel, $29.95) is a biography about the former Buffalo Bills quarterback who became the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President George H.W. Bush's administration. A positive personality, Kemp was also a nine-term Congressman, serving in the western part of New York state. The authors used never-published papers and more than 100 Kemp Oral History Project interviews to trace Kemp's life. The former pro football star was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2009.

--"The Bullies of Wall Street: This Is How Greed Messed Up Our Economy" by Sheila Bair (Simon and Schuster, $17.99) is about how the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 impacted families on a personal level using language that everyone from age 12 and up can understand. The author, who was the former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), describes the many ways in which a broken system led families into financial trouble, and also explains the decisions being made at the time by the most powerful leaders in business and government that led to the recession. Bair also wrote "Bulls By The Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself" which was first published in 2012.

--"Raw: My 100% Grade-A, Unfiltered, Inside Look At Sports" by Colin Cowherd (Gallery Books, $26.00) is an insightful look in the sporting world based on his personal experience, containing behind-the-scenes stories on everything from the NFL to NASCAR to March Madness. Cowherd is one of the most outspoken sports broadcasters and serves as host of The Herd on Fox Sports Radio and Fox Sports 1.

--"Huckabee: The Authorized Biography" by Scott Lamb (W Publishing Group, $24.99) is an intimate look at one of the country's most likeable leaders who is running for President. For the time, the former governor of Arkansas opens to friend and author to tell his life story. With full access to Huckabee’s personal library, files, and family records, the readers will get the definitive account of his rise to political prominence. Huckabee, who is also a pastor, is from Hope, Ark., and shared the same grade school teacher as President Bill Clinton, who is nine years his senior. Personally, I'm not a big fan of authorized biographies, but this one is an enjoyable read for the most part about a pleasant man whether you like him or not politically.

--"The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope" by Austen Ivereigh (Picador, $16.00) is a 447-page paperback about Pope Francis who grew up in Argentina. Based on extensive interviews in Argentina and years of study of the Catholic Church, this biography describes how this revolutionary thinker will use the power of his position to challenge and redirect the Catholic Church.

--"Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History" by Michael Gillette (Oxford University Press, $21.95) is now in a 400-page paperback, a reprint of the 2012 hardcover. It is an intimate story of a shy young country girl's transformation into one of the most effective and admired First Ladies in U.S. history. Mrs. Johnson recorded 47 oral history interviews in a period of 18 years and these conversations form the heart of this book.

--"In This Together: My Story" by Ann Romney (Thomas Dunne, $27.99) is a candid story about her journey with MS, a disease affecting over 2.3 milliion people, her faith and finding joy. Recognize the author's name? A former First Lady of Massachusetts, Romney is the wife of former presidential candidate and ex-Gov. Mitt Romney.

In case you missed it earlier, you may want to check my previous Bookshelf column which was posted in late October. Click here for the October Bookshelf.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of online magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at

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