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Bob Dixon

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JAMIE'S BOOKSHELF: Plenty of Captivating Nonfiction Books for Autumn Reading

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught


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

--"Henry Clay: The Man Who Would Be President" by James C. Klotter (Oxford University Press, $34.95) is a new biography about a famous political leader who lived in Lexington, Ky. The author, who is a history professor at Georgetown College and state historian of Kentucky, discusses Henry Clay's five runs for the presidency as well as Clay's views on slavery and how they affected his career. The volume even contains lessons for modern-day political leaders and the voters who elect them. One of the best orators in the country, Clay, who died in 1852, was a charismatic and charming leader who also served as the U.S. Speaker of the House, Senator and Secretary of State.

--"12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos" by Jordan B. Peterson (Random House Canada, $25.95) is a national bestseller. The 411-page hardcover discusses discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility in a humorous, surprising and informative way and comes up with 12 practical and profound rules for life. For instance, the author informs us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street. Dr. Peterson is a renowned psychologist who has taught at Harvard and the University of Toronto. His classic 1999 book, "Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief," transformed the psychology of religion.

--"The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence" by Michael D'Antonio and Peter Eisner (Thomas Dunne Books, $28.99) is an investigative and well-researched biography about our current Vice President who acts as Donald Trump's cheerleader-in-chief. The authors conducted exclusive interviews with Pence confidants and members of Congress to unmask the real Mike Pence, who is from his home state of Indiana. Interestingly, Pence began as a Catholic Democrat before becoming a conservative evangelical Republican. In the 1980 presidential election, Pence voted for Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan.

--"Hurricane Season: The Unforgettable Story of the 2017 Houston Astros and the Resilience of a City" by Joe Holley (Hachette Books, $27) is an inside look at the Astros' extraordinary championship season, including the front office decisions that built a winning team and the resilience of the nation's fourth-largest city damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The Houston franchise won 101 regular-season games against 61 losses en route to a seven-game World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The author is a columnist for the Houston Chronicle. A native Texan, Holley once wrote for the Washington Post.

--"House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia" by Craig Unger (Dutton, $30) is a groundbreaking hardcover that connects the sitting president of the United States and Vladimir Putin through a well-explained, well-documented web of Russian Mafia members and oligarchs. The 354-page volume is written by the same author who wrote bestselling "House of Bush, House of Saud." Unger also has written about the Trump-Russia scandal for The New Republic and Vanity Fair. Asked about the reaction in Russia to President Trump's election victory, the author said, "Are you kidding? They loved it. They celebrated privately at the highest levels, and even in public in the Russian Duma. Imagine taking over the White House without having to fire even one shot."

--"Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation" by Ken Starr (Sentinel, $28) certainly brings back memories of the Bill Clinton presidency of the 1990s when the author served as independent counsel, investigating the White House. Twenty years after the Clinton impeachment, Starr writes in vivid detail how the Clinton scandals -- Whitewater to Vince Foster’s death to Travelgate to Monica Lewinsky -- shared a common thread: the Clintons’ contempt for our system of justice as well as abusing their powers and privileges. A former Baylor University president from 2010 to 2016, Starr was Time magazine's co-person of the year with President Clinton in 1998.

--“21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari (Spiegel & Grau, $28) is an in-depth look into the major topics like religion, terrorism, war, politics, fake news, environment, nationalism, among others, that we are confronting on a daily basis. The author raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves if we are to survive. In 21 chapters, he provides advice on how to think about these subjects and how to act in order to prepare for a future unlike anything we can dream of. The 375-page hardcover poses many provocative questions such as Which is more effective at building global communities today – religion or Facebook? Why is liberal democracy in crisis? What does the rise of Donald Trump signify? How relevant are human rights to the 21st Century? The author, who has a Ph.D. in history, has previously written two bestsellers – Sapiens (which explored our past) and Homo Deus (which looked to our future).

--“From the Corner of the Oval: A Memoir” by Beck Dorey-Stein (Spiegel & Grau, $28) is a 331-page volume that takes readers inside the Obama White House through the eyes of a young staffer learning the ropes, falling in love and finding her place in the world. The author, in 2012, was an outsider who unbelievably landed in the Oval Office via a posting on Craigslist, becoming one of President Obama’s stenographers. A former high school English teacher, the young woman eventually traveled to 45 countries as an elite team member.

--"Leadership In Turbulent Times" by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster, $30) is filled with remarkable stories about leadership from four of our country's presidents -- Abraham Lincoln (transformational leadership), Theodore Roosevelt (crisis management leadership), Franklin D. Roosevelt (turnaround leadership) and Lyndon B. Johnson (visionary leadership). The 475-page volume is basically the culmination of five decades of studies in presidential history as the best-selling author previously has written acclaimed biographies about these four presidents over the years. Writes Warren Buffett, "Business students invariably ask me: "With what historical figure would you like to have lunch? Doris Kearns Goodwin has prepared a marvelous banquet with four leaders whose lives provide lessons for all of us. Pull up a chair."

--“Blind Ambition: The White House Years” by John W. Dean (Open Road Media, $19.99) is a paperback version that was first published in 1976 as a hardcover bestseller. It was one of better “Watergate” books. The 488-page memoir covers the author’s early years at the White House when he was a counsel to President Nixon. One of the primary players in the Watergate scandal, Dean eventually became the government’s key witness in the investigations that ended the Nixon presidency, appearing before Senate Watergate Committee on national TV. Dean is an outspoken advocate for transparency and ethics in government. With today’s political and legal environment, the book would be of great interest to many readers.

--“Play By Play: Calling the Wildest Games in Sports – From SEC Football to College Basketball, The Masters, and More” by Verne Lundquist (William Morrow, $28.99) is an entertaining memoir of one of nation’s most beloved sports broadcasters. A former play-by-play voice of the Dallas Cowboys during the 1970s, Lundquist recalls some of the most memorable moments in sports history in his long career, including several pages about the famous 1992 NCAA tourney showdown between Kentucky and Duke when he, Len Elmore and sideline reporter Lesley Visser covered the matchup for CBS.

--"Reagan: An American Journey" by Bob Spitz (Penguin Press, $35) is the latest biography about President Ronald Reagan who served at the White House from 1981 to 1989. For this 863-page volume, the author -- a journalist who has written seven books, including The Beatles and Dearie (Julia Child) -- conducted hundreds of interviews and had unfettered access to previously unavailable documents, providing fascinating glimpses at Reagan's remarkable life and American history. The popular president who was also a two-term governor of California was never considered a brilliant student during his early days nor a political genius, but he somehow held onto his ambition and willingness to see the good in people and in America.

--"Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency" by Major Garrett (All Points Books, $28.99) brings to life the twists and turns of covering the White House and its unconventional President with wit and style. The author, who is CBS News Chief White House correspondent, has been reporting on the White House for nearly 20 years, covering four different presidencies.

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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