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JAMIE'S BOOKSHELF: Entertaining Books Arrive for Fall Reading

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught


(This is the first of a two-part series about recently-published nonfiction books.)

--"The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers" by Maxwell King (Abrams Press, $28) is a full-length biography of an American icon who was the face of children's television for many years. The author traces Rogers' personal, professional and artistic life with original interviews, oral histories and archival documents. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood television program. Rogers, who grew up near Pittsburgh, died in 2003.

--"First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power" by Kate Andersen Brower (Harper, $28.99) is a fascinating look at the powerful men who are next in line for presidency, exploring the lives and roles of 13 modern vice presidents — eight Republicans and five Democrats. The author, who wrote New York Times bestsellers First Women and The Residence, interviewed more than 200 people, including all six living former vice presidents. Former White House press secretary Dana Perino wrote, "First in Line is a nonfiction book that reads as quickly as a novel you can’t put down. As Kate Andersen Brower pulls back the curtain on the relationships between Presidents and Vice Presidents, readers will be delighted by a trove of stories, secrets, and life lessons. Her interviews and research supplemented my own experience in watching the importance of a strong, loyal, and trusting relationship between the two highest officeholders in the land."

--"Jim Brown; Last Man Standing" by Dave Zirin (Blue Rider Books, $27) is a revealing biography about an outspoken football legend who starred for the Cleveland Browns. The author had considerable access to Brown, speaking with him at length about his life and career, and came up with a remarkable 320-page hardcover that is a must-read for sports fans and students of the black freedom struggle. Brown's public support of Donald Trump and criticism of Colin Kaepernick are the lastest examples of his ongoing, public conflicts. A Hollywood actor after his football days, people thought Brown would become "the black John Wayne."

--"Pence: The Path to Power" by Andrea Neal (Red Lightning Books, $22) is a biography of Vice President Mike Pence, who is a former governor and congressman from Columbus, Ind., which is located approximately 40 miles south of Indianapolis. The author explores Pence's journey from conservative talk radio host to vice president, and attempts to cut through partisan rhetoric to reveal the facts about Pence's life, motivations and actions via interviews with friends, family, staff, former teachers and politicians from both sides.

--"The Stupidest Sports Book of All Time: Hilarious Blunders, Bloopers, Oddities, Quotes, and More from the World of Sports" by Kathryn and Ross Petras (Workman Publishing, $12.95) is loaded with fascinating and unbelievable sports stories or tidbits such as Ty Cobb's dentures, history-making blowouts (Georgia Tech's 222-0 win over Cumberland College of Lebanon, Tenn., in 1906), winning a free vasectomy in a promotion, too numerous to mention. Needless to say, it's sure a stress-free book for a sports fan.

--"Obama: An Oral History 2009-2017" by Brian Abrams (Little A, $24.95) is a lengthy series of flowing, behind-the-scenes narratives about the Obama presidency. The author interviewed aides and advisors from the Obama administration and on the presidential campaigns as well as several elected members of Congress from both parties. It is a remarkable and candid 507-page volume covering the Obama years, including the combative 2016 presidential election dominated by Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

--"The Briefing: Politics, The Press, and The President" by Sean Spicer (Regnery Publishing, $28.99) is a memoir written by a longtime political insider who was thrusted into national spotlight when he was chosen president-elect Trump's press secretary. As you'll recall, Spicer had a rocky tenure during the first seven months of the Trump administration before he stepped down. Despite critical reviews as well as few factual errors, I personally enjoyed this 278-page hardcover which includes details and stories about his faith and family, his press conference battles and a personal look at President Trump.

--"Out of the Clouds: The Unlikely Horseman and the Unwanted Colt Who Conquered the Sport of Kings" by Linda Carroll and David Rosner (Hachette Books, $27) is a true story of the American Dream about the two underdogs -- a thoroughbred (Stymie) and a trainer (Hirsch Jacobs) -- who rose from rags to riches during the 1940s. The duo were actually commoners in the old-money racing aristocracy. Stymie was a small horse who was considered a worthless hayburner, while Jacobs was once a dirt-poor son of Jewish immigrants.

--"Every Day Is Extra" by John Kerry (Simon & Schuster, $35) is a revealing autobiography about his life as a Navy lieutenant, in combat in Vietnam, prosecutor battling the mob, lieutenant governor, presidential candidate, five-term U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State. In his 623-page hardcover, the author acknowledges mistakes, lessons learned the hard way while sharing an extraordinary idealism about our nation's ability to make changes at critical moments. Kerry, who once sold Collier's Encyclopedia door-to-door in Massachusetts during the summer of 1964, told stories about his Senate colleagues Ted Kennedy and John McCain as well as President Obama.

--"No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy: The Life of General James Mattis" by Jim Proser (Broadside Books, $28.99) is an informative biography about President Trump's first cabinet nominee. Mattis, who had just retired from active military duty for only three years at the time, received a rare Congressional waiver so he can become Secretary of Defense. The author looks at one of today's most admired leaders in the nation and his personal integrity.

--"The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year" by Amy Siskind (Bloomsbury Publishing, $28) is a first-draft history and a comprehensive accounting of President Trump's first year. This interesting 509-page hardcover was put together when Siskind, the author, became alarmed about how the U.S. is becoming more authoritarian under Trump. The author -- a frequent source for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times -- is a national spokesperson, writer and expert on helping women and girls advance and succeed.

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