Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught
This is the first of a two-part series about the recently-published nonfiction books that you may enjoy reading this winter.
--"James Still: A Life" by Carol Boggess (University Press of Kentucky, $40) is a new lengthy biography about one of Kentucky's most famous writers. Still first achieved fame during the early 1940s when he wrote classic novel "River of Earth," described as a "work of art" by the Time magazine. That book, which looks at the life of an Appalachian family in the coal-mining communities in the eastern Kentucky mountains, was often compared to John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." Known as a writer of short fiction and poetry, Still was a very private, simple man who lived most of his life in a century-old log house in Knott County before he passed away in 2001. During his early days, Still graduated from Lincoln Memorial University. Author Boggess, a former English professor who personally got to know legendary Still very well in the last decade of his life, is the president of the Appalachian Studies Association.
--"James Still in Interviews, Oral Histories and Memoirs" (McFarland, $39.95) by editor Ted Olson would be another possibility for a James Still fan. The 320-page book, published in 2009, attempts to help the readers understand and appreciate the many sides or viewpoints of Still's literary voice and vision via transcribed interviews and oral histories with the Kentucky writer. Olson is a professor in the Department of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University. (Publisher's website is www.mcfarlandpub.com)
--“Unbridled Spirit: Lessons in Life and Business from Kentucky’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs” by Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame (Lioncrest Publishing, $15.99) is a collection of fascinating stories about legendary Kentuckians who become a huge success in business. The 20 Hall of Famers share the stories to help and encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs in Kentucky. Some of the inside stories include former NBA and U of L star Junior Bridgeman, collegiate sports marketing pioneer Jim Host, and KFC legend and former Kentucky governor John Brown Jr. In the paperback, Brown revealed an interesting piece about what nine business professors from Harvard had told him when he asked for advice about running KFC.
--"Looking Up: From the ABA to the NBA, the WNBA to the NCAA" by Jim O'Brien (James P. O'Brien Publishing, $29.95) is a personal memoir that goes behind the scenes and reveals remarkable stories about the nation's greatest basketball players in history. O'Brien -- a retired sportswriter who has written 27 books primarily about Pittsburgh sports such as the Steelers, the Pirates, among others -- covered the now-defunct American Basketball Association for well-known city newspapers as well as The Sporting News during the late 1960s and '70s. The 480-page softcover includes stories about UK coach John Calipari, the Kentucky Colonels, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving and many others.
--"Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back” by Gretchen Carlson (Center Street, $27) is a revealing hardcover about the author’s views on what women can do to empower and protect themselves in the workplace or on a college campus, what to say when an individual makes suggestive remarks, among others. This is the same author, a well-known television news celebrity, who wrote a 2015 memoir titled “Getting Real.” Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News’ then-CEO Roger Ailes and it was settled in 2016.
--“Principles” by Ray Dalio (Simon & Schuster, $30) is an expanded and revised book that is written for a general audience, highlighting the author’s life and work principles. The 569-page hardcover offers a straight-forward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply. “I’m passing along these principles because I am now at the stage in my life in which I want to help others be successful rather than to be more successful myself,” wrote Dalio, who is the founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater which has become the largest and best-performing hedge fund in the world. “Because these principles have helped me and others so much, I want to share them with you. It’s up to you to decide how valuable they really are and what, if anything, you want to do with them.”
--"Grant" by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press, $40) is a well-reviewed biography (1,074 pages) about our former Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, whose life, for the most part, has been misunderstood. Before the Civil War, Grant had business failures and struggled with alcoholism. But he became a success during the war and his military fame translated into a two-term presidency. Even though the Grant Administration encountered corruption scandals, involving his closest staff, Grant never failed to help the black Americans seek freedom and justice. The prize-winning author who has written six previous books was the recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. Chernow also has received eight honorary doctorates.
--“Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir” by Sally Quinn (HarperOne, $28.99) is an emotional 416-page story about her career in Washington, D.C. as a longtime journalist. Quinn shares her candid memories and looks back on her spiritual awakening that has brought deeper meaning to her life. In addition, she reflects on her marriage to Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee, caring for a learning-disabled son and keeping vigil during her husband’s illness and death.
--"Unstoppable: My Life So Far" by Maria Sharapova (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28) is an insightful memoir by tennis star who was born in Russia. She discusses her rise to fame as well as her scandalous suspension from tennis. Sharapova has won five Grand Slam tournaments.
--“Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics” by Lawrence O’Donnell (Penguin Press, $28) is a fascinating look about an election where nothing went according to the script. No, the book isn’t talking about the stunning 2016 election which saw unconventional candidate Donald Trump become president. During the late 1960s when the U.S. was fighting in the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson was a likely Democratic nominee in 1968 but Eugene McCarthy surprised political world by throwing his hat in the ring and a revolution seemed to be taking place in one of U.S.’s darkest chapters. Senator Robert Kennedy, the brother of former President John F. Kennedy, jumped into the race and Johnson quickly dropped out. The presidential campaign, nevertheless, was loaded with a remarkable cast of characters, including the candidates as well as the staffers such as a young Bill Clinton. As it turned out, Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968. The author is the host of MSNBC’s The Last Word.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com 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.