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Bob Dixon

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Middlesboro, KY 40965


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BOOKSHELF: Bored? Here's Another Summer Reading List of Nonfiction Works

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught

This is the second of a two-part series about recently-published nonfiction books that you may enjoy this summer.

--“Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” by Anne Lamott (Riverhead Books, $20) is an attempt to tell what we need to know about mercy. While using the kindness, wisdom and humor, Lamott explains that as we struggle to move through this complex world, mercy certainly points us in the right direction. She shares her own stories of despair and salvation, disconnection and renewal as well as those of people she has met in recovery.

--“Ernest Hemingway: A Biography” by Mary V. Dearborn (Alfred A. Knopf, $35) is a revelatory look into the life and work of the noted author, who passed away in 1961. At the time, Hemingway was the greatest living novelist and short story writer who captured the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. With the help of never-before-used material – FBI and KGB files, medical records, papers of his mistress, among others, the author has written a rich 739-page biography about this complicated individual.

--“In the Shadow of the White House: A Memoir of the Washington and Watergate Years 1968-1978” by Jo Haldeman (Rare Bird Books, $35) is a compelling story about her journey – the highs and lows -- as the wife of H.R. Haldeman, who was often referred to as the second most powerful person in the Nixon White House. Her husband held the title as the White House chief of staff. The author shares the story of the “woman behind the man” and personalizes the Watergate experience. She was married to her husband for 44 years before he passed away in 1993.

--“Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever” by Patrick J. Buchanan (Crown Forum, $30) is a personal look at both the failings and achievements of President Richard Nixon. The author – a leading conservative -- was one of Nixon’s closest advisors at the White House during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Interestingly, when Watergate broke, it was Buchanan who urged Nixon to destroy the White House tapes (before they were subpoenaed), and fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, as Nixon eventually did in the “Saturday Night Massacre.” After testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee, Buchanan describes the ugly scene at Camp David in 1974 when it was concluded Nixon couldn’t survive the scandal. Buchanan later became a three-time presidential candidate.

--“Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom” by Condoleezza Rice (Twelve, $35) is a sweeping view at the worldwide struggle for democracy and why U.S. must continue to support the cause of human freedom. The author, who is the former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, shares insights from her experiences as a policymaker, scholar and citizen in order to put democracy’s challenges into perspective. Dr. Rice has seen three dramatic events in her lifetime – the Civil Rights movement in the South, the end of Communism in Eastern Europe and the freedom’s awakening in the Middle East at the beginning of 21st century. She writes, “These experiences have taught me that there is no more thrilling moment than when people finally seize their rights and their liberty. That moment is necessary, right, and inevitable. It is also terrifying and disruptive and chaotic. And what follows it is hard – really, really hard.”

--“The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote” by Sharyl Attkisson (Harper, $27.99) is a disturbing examination that takes you behind the scenes of the modern smear machine, exploring how sophisticated political operatives establish narratives, manipulate media and shape the images you see or read every day. The author -- who is a longtime television journalist and an investigative reporter -- takes a critical look at how the black market serving professional propagandists really works. Attkisson also wrote a bestselling book titled, “Stonewalled.”

--“Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty” by John B. Boles (Basic Books, $35) is the newest biography of our nation’s third President who served from 1801 to 1809. He was also the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. The 627-page volume is an even-handed portrait of Jefferson as a politician, diplomat, musician, farmer, party leader, slaveholder and family member, among many roles. The author is a history professor at Rice University and was the former editor of the Journal of Southern History.

--“Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters” by Anthony Tjan (Portfolio/Penguin, $28) provides practical guidance how leadership based on goodness translates into long-term success. In this 293-page book, the author leads a movement to change the way we think about goodness, redefining it as a lifelong, proactive commitment that can be exercised and taught. The hardcover also contains profiles about “good people” who are extraordinary leaders and motivators in their fields, providing insights from Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Beth Comstock of GE, Army General (ret.) Stanley McChrystal, among others.

--“Al Franken: Giant of the Senate” by Al Franken (Twelve, $28) is a candid memoir about his remarkable career ranging from Saturday Night Live to politics. The 406-page hardcover also discusses our polarizing political culture. Before representing Minnesota in the U.S. Senate since 2009, Franken was a comedy writer, author and radio talk show host. It was political newcomer Franken who narrowly and finally won the U.S. Senate election over incumbent Norm Coleman after an unprecedented eight-month recount saga.

--“Understanding Trump” by Newt Gingrich (Center Street, $27) is an attempt by a long-time political insider to help folks understand political newcomer Donald Trump, a celebrity and businessman who is unlike any president the U.S. has ever had. Gingrich, a former Congressman and Speaker of the House from Georgia, shares what he learned about the new president after two years with Trump and his team throughout the presidential campaign and the first months of the presidency. In a 347-page hardcover, the author also provides insights into how Trump’s past experiences have shaped his life and style of governing.

--“This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class” by Elizabeth Warren (Metropolitan Books, $28) gives a blunt view of the rise and fall of our nation’s middle class with a plan of what needs to be done to help people get ahead. The author shares eye-opening stories about her battles in the U.S. Senate as well as experiences with hard-working Americans. “Washington works great for the rich and powerful who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but it is not working very well for everybody else,” said Warren in a news release. “America’s once-solid middle class is on the ropes, and now Donald Trump and his administration seem determined to deliver the knockout punch. At this perilous moment in our country’s history, it’s time to fight back – and I’m looking for more people to join me.” Warren, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, began the book well before President Trump was elected.

--“Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002” by David Sedaris (Little, Brown and Co., $28) is an unusual 514-page volume that contains 25 years of author’s diaries, giving us a never-before-seen side of one of our generation’s greatest humorist. It is the closest thing to a memoir that Sedaris has written. The intimate account gives the readers a glimpse into his early life, his family, his struggles with money, funny moments, and his search for an artistic point of view.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of 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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