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Bob Dixon

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JAMIE'S BOOKSHELF: Possible Nonfiction Books for Winter Reading

Updated on December 26, 2018

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught

Here's a list of recently-published nonfiction works that you may want to consider for winter reading.

--“Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle: Lessons from a Football Life” by Bill Curry (Mercer University Press, $29) is an updated version -- a 10th anniversary edition -- of the volume that was published in 2008. Curry, who was the head football coach at Kentucky for seven years during the 1990s, shares fascinating stories, wisdom and tough love of teammates and coaches who turned from a next-to-last NFL draft selection to a two-time Pro Bowl performer. Curry, who played for legendary NFL coaches Vince Lombardi and Don Shula, also coached at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Georgia State.

--"The Fifth Risk" by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95) is a fascinating investigative piece that takes the readers into the engine rooms of U.S. government under attack by its own leaders. The author notes the people President Trump appointed to take control of various government agencies or departments appear woefully underprepared for the job and points out several departments have deleted inspection reports and statistics which may put Americans at greater risk. Lewis has written several best-selling books, including Moneyball, Flash Boys, and The Blind Side.

--“Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All time” by Ian O’connor (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28) is a 492-page biography of NFL’s most mysterious, controversial and successful head coach. Even though Belichick declined to be interviewed or cooperate, the author interviewed 350 people to come up with a full human portrait of the fascinating coach, who has won several Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. “His friends swear he’s an entirely different man away from football, capable of a compassion and kindness that would shock many who only know the one-dimensional character they see and hear on TV,” said O’Connor, a senior writer for and the author of three previous books.

--"Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life" by Jane Sherron De Hart (Knopf, $35) is a comprehensive and revealing biography of the 107th Supreme Court Justice. This remarkable 725-page volume, which took 15 years to complete, was written with the cooperation of Ginsburg herself and contains many interviews with the justice, her husband, her children, her friends and her associates. You will learn Ginsburg has a Jewish background and served as a baton twirler at a Brooklyn high school. She also worked as a law professor at Rutgers while hiding her second pregnancy so as not to risk losing her job. The author is a professor emerita of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

--"#DoNotDisturb: How I Ghosted My Cell Phone to Take Back My Life" by television host Jedediah Bila (Harper, $26.99) is an inspiring and entertaining look at how she has managed to navigate away from her tech addiction which had controlled her life. The author, who has a master's degree from Columbia University and is a former high school academic dean and teacher, shares intimate stories of ups and downs of her journey through our tech-polluted world.

--“Don Shula: A Biography of the Winningest Coach in NFL History" by Carlo DeVito (Sports Publishing, $26.99) is a remarkable biography about another great NFL coach. In 1963, Shula became the youngest head coach in NFL history when he took over the Baltimore Colts. Later he had public disagreements with star quarterback John Unitas and owner Carroll Rosenbloom. So Shula went to Florida and accepted the position as the boss of the Miami Dolphins in 1970. He once led the 1972 Dolphins, who finished with a perfect 17-0 mark, including a Super Bowl win over the Washington Redskins.

--“Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants” by H.W. Brands (Doubleday, $30) is a lively story about a new set of political giants who battled to complete the unfinished work of the Founding Fathers and resolve the future of our democracy. Three young men -- one of them is Henry Clay of Kentucky who was the Speaker of the House -- entered the national scene in the early 1800s when elected to Congress as the Founding Fathers were beginning to retire to their farms. They took the nation to war and ran for the presidency. Their rise was marked by dramatic duels, vicious debates, scandal and political betrayal during dangerous early years of our country.

--“Presidents of War” by Michael Beschloss (Crown, $35) is an intimate and fresh look at America’s wartime chief executives, beginning with James Madison and the War of 1812, as they took the country to war. You will see the presidents struggle with Congress, the courts, the press, their own advisors and antiwar protesters, and seek comfort from their spouses, families and friends. During his 10 years of research and writing, Beschloss – a presidential historian -- also interviewed the surviving participants and found original letters, diaries and once-classified national security documents to come up with an important 740-page hardcover.

--“Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer” by Lisa McCubbin (Gallery Books, $28) is an insightful biography of First Lady and wife of President Gerald Ford. Unlike many First Ladies, she was very outspoken on topics such as equal rights for women, breast cancer, depression, abortion and sexuality. Mrs. Ford, who was a devoted wife and mother, eventually admitted to an addition to alcohol and prescription drugs. The 411-page volume includes in-depth interviews with all four of her children -- Susan Ford Bales, Michael Ford, Jack Ford, and Steven Ford -- as well as family friends, and colleagues.

--"Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other" by Conrad Black (Regnery Publishing, $28.99) is a well-written biography of our current President. The author knows Trump as a friend and has negotiated business deals with him, providing the most intriguing and significant analysis yet of Trump's political rise. Black is also the author of "Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom" and "Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full." He is a former newspaper publisher whose company Hollinger International published The Daily Telegraph (United Kingdom), Chicago Sun-Times, The Jerusalem Post (Israel), and The National Post (Canada). It is an essential book if you want to understand Trump as a man and as a president.

--“Paul Brown’s Ghost: How the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals Are Haunted by the Man Who Created Them” by Jonathan Knight (Sports Publishing, $19.99) is a mystery about the struggles the two once-proud franchises have gone through since Brown’s death in 1991. For the past three decades, the Browns and Bengals have faced bad luck, poor judgment and comic folly that soon had fans whispering about a curse. The legendary Brown is popularly known as the father of the Browns and the Bengals. The author also looks at the colorful characters and memorable moments of a rivalry that evolved from three decades of bad blood between Brown and Cleveland owner Art Modell.

--“Collision of Wills: Johnny Unitas, Don Shula, and the Rise of the Modern NFL” by Jack Gilden (University of Nebraska Press, $29.95) looks at the difficult or complicated relationship between Shula, the NFL’s winningest coach of all time, and his superstar QB Johnny Unitas. As you may recall, they both were the architects of the famed Baltimore Colts’ successful franchise for seven years, but they never won a title, losing to the Browns 27-0 in the 1964 NFL Championship Game and Joe Namath’s New York Jets in the Super Bowl after the 1968 campaign.

--“Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women” by Nina Burleigh (Gallery Books, $28) is a comprehensive story about the women who have been closest to President Donald Trump, including his mother, his wives (Ivana, Marla and Melania) and his eldest daughter, Ivanka, among others. The author -- the national politics correspondent at Newsweek who has written several books -- explores Trump’s attitudes toward women by providing analysis and background on the women who have had the most influence on his life.

--“University of Nike: How Corporate Cash Bought American Higher Education” by Joshua Hunt (Melville House, $27.99) is an eye-opening account about how the University of Oregon had sold its soul to Nike and how it affects higher education and college athletics in general. As you probably know, Nike's Phil Knight, who graduated from Oregon, has donated tons of money to the university in exchange for high-visibility branding opportunities. Many universities throughout the nation basically have copied Oregon's playbook and the hardcover is a disturbing look that many schools are being run like a business with Nike calling the shots.

--“Mother Angelica Her Grand Silence: The Last Years and Living Legacy” by Raymond Arroyo (Image, $14.99) is a fascinating story about one of the best-known nuns in the country. The founder of EWTN, the world’s largest religious media empire, she passed away on Easter Sunday in 2016 at the age of 92. In a moving conclusion to his four New York Times bestselling Mother Angelica books, the author completes the saga of this nun with his most intimate volume yet. The book discusses Mother Angelica’s spiritual battles in her cell (including encounters with the devil), a secret trip to the Far East, among many stories.

--"The Library Book" by Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster, $26) is a thrilling journey that tells the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before. The author, who loved books, begins the book with an investigation of the 1986 fire of the Los Angeles Public Library and more than 30 years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library and if so, who? And the book also looks at the big picture, showcasing the crucial role that libraries play in our lives while introducing the readers to an unforgettable case of characters from libraries past and present, including an 18-year-old woman who in 1880 was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, and a pastor known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information.

--"The Point of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors" by Charles Krauthammer and edited by son Daniel Krauthammer (Crown Forum, $28) is a powerful collection of well-known political columnist's most important works. This new hardcover, which Charles Krauthammer composed before his death in June 2018, features the columns, speeches and unpublished writings that showcase the best of his original thought and his last, enduring words on the state of American politics, the nature of liberal democracy and the course of world history. Former President George W. Bush even wrote a blurb, saying, “For decades, Charles’ words have strengthened our democracy. His work was far-reaching and influential – and…his ideas and values will always be a part of our country.”

--"The Story of Baseball in 100 Photographs" by the editors of Sports Illustrated with an introduction by Kostya Kennedy (Time Inc. Books, $30) is an extraordinary collection of revealing images from baseball's past and present. Some of the classic pictures in the volume include a hot dog stand at Ebbets Field in 1920, the great Satchel Paige in repose at Municipal Stadium in 1948, a Roberto Clemente portrait, Cincinnati's Crosley Field under the lights, among others.

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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