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JAMIE'S BOOKSHELF: Many Fascinating Books To Keep You Entertained

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught

--"Silas House: Exploring an Appalachian Writer's Work" by editor Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt (University Press of Kentucky, $32.95) brings together established and rising scholars to discuss House and his writings through a critical lens. A bestselling author who is one of the most significant voices in Appalachian and American literature today, House has focused nearly all of his work on Appalachia, its people and its cultures. The 192-page hardcover also features an interview with House where he discusses his philosophy and art.

--"Dissent: The Radicalization of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Court" by Jackie Calmes (Twelve, $32.50) brings readers closer to the truth of who Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is, where he came from, and how he and the Republican party at large managed to secure a seat on the Supreme Court. An award-winning investigative journalist, Calmes features new interviews with his accusers and overlooked evidence of his deceptions, and the 478-page hardcover overall is a harsh look into the highest echelons of U.S. political power.

--"Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History" by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta (Harper, $30) is a riveting account of how the U.S. government, through Trump administration's tragic mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, failed its people as never before. It is a complete story of Trump’s handling—and mishandling—of the COVID-19 catastrophe, during the period of January 2020 up to Election Day that year. The 479-page hardcover is a good read and is based on exhaustive reporting and hundreds of hours of interviews by two authors who write for the Washington Post.

--"Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty" by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday, $32.50) is a devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations. But the source of the family fortune was vague until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that began the opioid crisis. The author, who wrote bestselling "Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland," is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

--"An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen" by Peter L.W. Osnos (Platform, $25.95) is a wide-ranging memoir that uses a reporter's skills to portray historic events and encounters beginning with his parents' extraordinary World War II experiences escaping Europe to India (where he was born) to the present day. In more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and publisher, including 18 years at The Washington Post, the author shares stories about the famous people or influential personalities he has worked with and gives an insider's perspective of the news and publishing businesses.

--"The Devil's Playbook: Big Tobacco, Juul, and the Addiction of a New Generation" by Lauren Etter (Crown, $29.99) tells a riveting story of greed and deception in one of the biggest botched deals in business history. The 469-page volume shows how Philip Morris' struggle to innovate left CEO Howard Willard desperate to acquire Juul, even as his own team raised serious concerns about the startup's reliance on underage customers. The author is an award-winning investigative reporter at Bloomberg News.

--"I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final year" by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker is an explosive 578-page hardcover that tells the behind-the-scenes story during Trump's disastrous 2020, revealing a dysfunctional and bumbling presidency's inner workings in unprecedented, stunning detail. Focused on Trump and the key players around him — the doctors, generals, senior advisers, and Trump family members — the award-winning authors from The Washington Post provide a forensic account of the most devastating year in a presidency like no other.

--"Comeback Season: My Unlikely Story of Friendship with the Greatest Living Negro League Baseball Players" by Cam Perron with Nick Chiles (Gallery Books, $27) is a compelling read for baseball fans, history buffs and all readers interested in the intersection of race, discrimination and sports. The author writes how an early love of history and a penchant for collecting set him on a remarkable path to preserving the storied past of the Negro Leagues and providing financial security for players who were confined by discrimination to teams with outsized talent but little funding. The 255-page volume also includes players' unforgettable voices and fascinating stories in the Negro League. Said the author, "At the age of 13, I wasn't an expert on the long American history of economically exploiting Black men. But I sensed that if a legendary Hall of Famer like Cool Papa Bell had to work as a courthouse janitor to support himself, there was something wrong with the picture."

--"An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination" by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang (Harper, $29.99) takes the readers inside the complex court politics, alliances and rivalries within Facebook, its growing political influence as well as its skirmishes with privacy groups and the FTC. The authors' exclusive reporting has led them to a shocking conclusion: The missteps of the past several years were not an anomaly but an inevitability — this is how Facebook was built to perform. In a period of great upheaval, growth has remained the one constant under the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook.

--"Surrounded By Bad Bosses (And Lazy Employees): How to Stop Struggling, Start Succeeding, and Deal with Idiots at Work" by Thomas Erikson (St. Martin's Essentials, $17.99) is a new paperback -- written with the author's signature humor and warmth -- that will help you deal with the most hopeless managers and employees you can imagine and keep you entertained along the way. A Swedish behavioral expert, active lecturer and bestselling author, Erikson has been delivering lectures and seminars (in Swedish and English) to executives and managers from major companies such as IKEA, Coca Cola, Microsoft, Volvo and KIA Motors in Europe for many years.

--"Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness" by Ingrid Fetell Lee (Little, Brown Spark, $18.99) is a new 358-page paperback that explores how the seemingly boring spaces and objects we interact with every day have surprising and powerful effects on our mood. Drawing on insights from neuroscience and psychology, the author -- who is a designer and the founder of the website, The Aesthetics of Joy -- explains why one setting makes us feel anxious or competitive, while another fosters acceptance and delight. She reveals how we can harness the power of our surroundings to live fuller, healthier, and truly joyful lives.

--"Never Listen to an Idiot: How to Survive in the Propaganda Jungle" by Michael C. Edwards (Chez Press, $19.98) is a 389-page paperback that exposes the propaganda games being played on us, from our personal relationships to the major corporations, government agencies and news media trying to manipulate our behavior. Communications play a critical role in every part of our lives and we need to improve our listening skills so that we can actually control our behavior and improve our self-management. The author, who holds a Master of Science degree, is a former university professor of Digital Cinema, an award-winning film producer, screenwriter, film and TV director. Edwards' professional background includes work as a licensed clinical psychologist, a marketing specialist, and CEO of several private and publicly traded companies.

--"Hot Seat: What I learned Leading a Great American Company" by Jeff Immelt (Avid Reader Press, $30) is a candid memoir about good leadership from the former CEO of General Electric. The author is the one who replaced the most famous CEO in history, Jack Welch, at the helm of GE in September 2001. Named one of the “World’s Best CEOs” three times by Barron’s, Immelt writes about the hard-won lessons he learned from his experience in leading GE immediately after 9/11, through the devastating 2008–09 financial crisis, and into an increasingly globalized world.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of five books about UK basketball, including recently-published “Chasing the Cats: A Kentucky Basketball Journey.” 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 email at

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