Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught
This is the second of a three-part series about recently-published nonfiction books for possible summer readings.
--“The Long Game: A Memoir” by Senator Mitch McConnell (Sentinel, $28.00) is a surprisingly pretty good autobiography by the Senate majority leader from Kentucky. While some folks may not be crazy about him, the 278-page hardcover, however, is a pleasant read with numerous behind-the-scenes stories and makes McConnell more human than he appears in television interviews. Since he often keeps a low profile, not very many people understand how he got to where he is, what motivates him, and how he deals with critics or the political establishment on both his left and his right. But his new book will help the readers get to know the undemonstrative senator on personal and political levels, including his childhood battle with polio and his failure to play good baseball.
I especially enjoyed a passage where McConnell and the new president, George W. Bush, had an uneasy discussion about the podium on the platform during the inauguration in Washington, D.C. At the time, it appeared the podium was nowhere to be found. McConnell also mentions an interesting episode with then-new Senator Al Franken of Minnesota after making a speech on the floor. I'll let you read and find out.
Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin enjoyed the book and wrote a blurb on the back cover. “The Long Game is a warm, candid and captivating story of a young boy who conquered polio, loved the Brooklyn Dodgers, and set his sights on becoming a ballplayer before finding his life’s calling in politics,” wrote Goodwin. “The steady upward climb from high school president to office boy in the Senate mailroom, from county judge to majority leader, is told with insight, humor and telling detail.”
--“Bush” by Jean Edward Smith (Simon & Schuster, $35.00) is a critical but fair biography of George W. Bush. The well-researched book -- over 800 pages long -- is a comprehensive assessment of the Bush presidency (2001-2009). The hardcover has everything you need to know about Bush and his administration, but you may not agree with the author's conclusions, including the invasion of Iraq, which Smith calls "the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president." The lengthy book, which has numerous photos scattered throughout the pages, is scheduled for release on July 5. The well-known author has written several award-winning biographies, including the ones on Dwight Eisenhower, FDR and John Marshall.
--“Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History” by Karen Blumenthal (Feiwel and Friends, $18.99) is an intimate look at the public and personal life of presidential candidate Mrs. Clinton, who has more than 40 years of experience in politics and public life. The 433-page hardcover is actually written for teens but it’s still a nice read for adults as well. Wrote one reviewer, it is “a balanced, wholly human portrait with all the flaws it entails….”
--“Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency” by Charles Rappleye (Simon & Schuster, $32.50) is a fair-handed appraisal of the nation’s 31st president. Drawing on rare and intimate sources, the author provides a close portrait of President Hoover and a compelling picture of perhaps the greatest crises of the modern era. Hoover is most commonly remembered for his failures and mismanagement of the Great Depression. In the 555-page book, the author also points out Hoover’s personal struggles and second-class temperament didn’t serve him well in the White House.
--"Off Script: An Advance Man's Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide" by Josh King (St. Martin's Press, $27.99) is an inside story of what really happened behind the scenes in political campaigns in modern history. The author, who has worked as an "advance man" for political figures, has unique experience working with the reputations of officeholders, candidates and other public figures. It is a nice read for political junkies. A former director of production for presidential events at the White House, King is now a public relations executive.
--“Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey With Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford” by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin (Gallery Books, $28.00) offer a rare portrait of the U.S. presidency through the eyes of a former Secret Service agent. Hill brings history to life by reflecting on his remarkable career in the U.S. Secret Service in protecting presidents with never-before-told anecdotes and revealing their personalities. This 451-page hardcover is getting rave reviews on Amazon.
--“Crippled America: How To Make America Great Again” by Donald J. Trump (Threshold Editions, $25.00) outlines his bold plans on restoring U.S. to greatness. The book explores the presidential candidate’s view on several issues, including the economy, healthcare, education, immigration reform, to name several. As you know, Trump is a successful businessman who has expanded his interests in real estate, sports and entertainment over the years. Trump has authored over 15 bestsellers and his first book, “The Art of the Deal,” is considered a business classic and one of the most successful business books of all time.
--"The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life" by Barbara Boxer (Hachette Books, $27.00) is a memoir by the retiring U.S. Senator from California who shares her provocative and touching recollections in politics. The 75-year-old author, who has served in Congress for over 30 years, says one goal of her book is "to inspire people to fight for change. It takes what I call the Art of Tough and I've had to do it all my life."
--“Congress, Presidents, and American Politics: Fifty Years of Writings and Reflections” by Lee H. Hamilton (Indiana University Press, $35.00) provides a historical look about the U.S., beginning in mid-1960s when the author was first elected to Congress as a representative from southern Indiana. Hamilton, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, offers frank and sometimes surprising reflections on Congress, the presidency, and presidential character from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. The author also writes that there are valuable lessons to be learned from past years when Congress worked better than it does now.
--“Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down” by Bill Press (Threshold Editions, $27.00) reflects back on how President Obama has failed to live up to either his promises or his progressive potential, leaving Democrats unhappy on the issues that matter most. According to Bill Press, a liberal political commentator, Obama’s supporters or progressives had thought Obama’s 2008 victory would be the shining hope for their movement, but after eight years of more the same, they are haunted by what could have been. The author, who has his own radio and TV show, is a former host of MSNBC’s Buchanan and Press, and CNN’s Crossfire and The Spin Room.
--“Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency” by Charlie Savage (Little, Brown and Company, $30.00) is an inside look into the Obama administration’s national security team in a way that no one has before. The 769-page hardcover provides detailed national security accounts of closed-door meetings at the highest levels of government with exclusive interviews with more than 150 current and former officials and access to previously unreported papers. The author, who is a Washington, D.C., correspondent for the New York Times, reveals emotional debates over the fates of detainees and acts of war which lacked congressional authorization, the planning for the Osama bin Laden raid, among others.
--“True Reagan: What Made Ronald Reagan Great and Why It Matters” by James Rosebush (Center Street, $27.00) is one of numerous books about President Reagan, but it is a first-hand look from the author who served as chief of staff to Mrs. Reagan and deputy assistant to the president. Rosebush provides a unique perspective of Reagan, observing the president’s personality, decision-making and his guarded nature.
--“Lessons My Father Taught Me” by Michael Reagan with Jim Denney (Humanix Books, $24.99) discusses the early days with his father, President Ronald Reagan, and reflects on what he has learned from him. The author shares his father’s wisdom and experience, including trips to the family ranch where Ronald Reagan taught him how to ride a horse and how to shoot a gun, and told stories about life, love, family, faith, success and leadership. The 255-page is basically a tribute to President Reagan.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com 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 KySportsStyle@gmail.com.