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Bob Dixon

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Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

JAMIE'S BOOKSHELF: More Intriguing Books Arriving in Spring

Updated: May 18, 2023

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught

Updated May 18, 2023

--An Ordinary Man: The Surprising Life and Historic Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by Richard Norton Smith (Harper, $50) is a massive and remarkable biography. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, the book, which took 10 years to write, reveals many surprising details about Ford’s childhood in Michigan, his early anti-establishment politics and lifelong love affair with the former Betty Bloomer, whose impact on American culture he predicted would outrank his own. As the accidental president who replaced embattled Richard Nixon during the mid-1970s, Ford led the country through its worst Constitutional crisis since the Civil War and broke the back of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. The author is a well-respected presidential scholar and acclaimed biographer of historical figures like George Washington and Herbert Hoover.

Wrote former newsman Bob Schieffer of CBS News, "Gerald Ford is probably remembered more for how he got to the presidency than for what he did there. In this brilliant book, Richard Norton Smith tells the rest of the story. On every other page I found something I didn’t know, bringing new and important insights into how Ford kept the nation together and moved it past its most severe political crisis since the Civil War. It will become the definitive work on Ford and his presidency."

--Brain Games to Exercise Your Mind: Protect Your Brain from Memory Loss and Other Age-Related Disorders by Gary Small (Humanix Books, $19.99) is a 230-page paperback that is filled with 90 stimulating puzzles, logic riddles, and brain teasers that will help you exercise your mind, and have fun while staying sharp. According to the paperback, memory loss and age-related dementia illnesses affect nearly 6 million adult Americans. The author, who has written over 10 books, is the chair of psychiatry and physician in chief for behavioral health at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey.

--The Great Money Reset: Change Your Work, Change Your Wealth, Change Your Life by Jill Schlesinger (St. Martin’s Press, $28.99) provides a road map for navigating our present era, showing us how to take advantage of the major changes unfurling all around us to make big life improvements. Whether it’s negotiating a better deal with your boss, starting or selling a business, moving to a new locale, retraining for a new career, taking time off to find yourself, or saying “the heck with it” and retiring early, the volume reveals an essential framework for strategizing and planning your next move.

--The Teachers: A Year Inside America's Most Vulnerable, Important Profession by Alexandra Robbins (Dutton, $29) goes behind the scenes to tell the true, sometimes shocking, always inspirational stories of three teachers as they navigate a year in the classroom. The author also interviewed hundreds of other teachers nationwide who share their secrets, dramas, and joys.

The author of several New York Times bestsellers, Robbins has written for outlets, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic.

--Look for Me There: Grieving My Father, Finding Myself by Luke Russert (Harper Horizon, $28.99) is an emotional travel memoir of a young journalist taking charge of his life, reexamining his relationship with his parents, and finally grieving his larger-than-life father, who died too young. His father, Tim Russert, was the longest-serving moderator of NBC's Meet the Press before he died of heart attack in 2008 at the age of 58.

--God with Us: The Four Gospels Woven Together in One Telling by James Barlow (Tyndale House Publishers, $12.99) is a powerful story about Jesus. The 266-page paperback brings the life of Jesus into focus with the readable stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John woven together into a single narrative. It is a reading experience unlike any other.

--Assignment China: An Oral History of American Journalists in the People's Republic by Mike Chinoy (Columbia University Press, $35) tells a remarkable story of how U.S. reporters have covered China -- from the civil war of the 1940s through the COVID-19 pandemic -- in their own words. Reporting on China has long been one of the most challenging and crucial of journalistic assignments. Foreign correspondents have confronted war, revolution, isolation, internal upheaval, and onerous government restrictions as well as barriers of language, culture, and politics. The author has assembled a nice collection of personal accounts from respected journalists, including Stanley Karnow, Seymour Topping, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Melinda Liu, Nicholas Kristof, to name several.

--Serving Up Winners: Ten Steps to Building Your Program by Dennis Emery and Dr. John Huang (Amazon KDP, $20) is an insightful paperback written by a successful tennis coach (along with a Kentucky sportswriter and author) that is filled with valuable teaching points culled over four decades of growth. The now-retired legendary coach is Dennis Emery, who remains the winningest tennis coach in University of Kentucky history and coached 39 All-Americans in the collegiate ranks. He shares his tennis experience with other up-and-coming coaches looking to develop players and build their teams. When he retired from UK in 2012, Emery held an all-time record of 655-404, which ranked him sixth among active coaches, while his 23 NCAA Tournament berths was second among active coaches.

--American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy by David Corn (Twelve, $30) tells a fast-paced, behind-the-scenes story of how the GOP since the 1950s has encouraged and exploited extremism, bigotry, and paranoia to gain power. The author reveals the hidden history of how the Party of Lincoln forged alliances with extreme right, including a personality cult around former President Donald Trump, to win elections. Corn is a veteran Washington, D.C., journalist and political commentator.

--Wake Up With Purpose!: What I’ve Learned in My First Hundred Years by Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt with Seth Davis (Harper Select, $28.99) is a remarkable story about Sister Jean, the Loyola Chicago matriarch and college basketball icon. The driving force inside the hardcover is the narrative of Sister Jean's fascinating life--from teaching at a Catholic school during World War II to serving on a Chicago college campus during the 1960s and beyond to cheering from the sidelines for her team at the NCAA tournament in 2018. Said Sister Jean, "I've seen so many changes in the last 102 years, but the important things remain the same."

--Shirley Chisholm: Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics by Anastasia C. Curwood (University of North Carolina Press, $36) is a new 457-page hardcover about the first African American congresswoman. Chisholm, who spent her formative years moving between Barbados and Brooklyn, was also the first Black major-party presidential candidate who shook up New York and national politics. The author is a professor of history and co-founder of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies at the University of Kentucky.

--Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the American I love by Mike Pompeo (Broadside Books, $32.99) is a memoir about the former Secretary of State and CiA director who led the Trump Administration's most significant foreign policy change in decades. A possible presidential candidate, Pompeo includes stories of his interactions with world leaders and President Trump as well as his analysis of geopolitics. He was also a four-term U.S. Congressman from Kansas.

--It's OK to be Angry About Capitalism by Bernie Sanders (Crown, $28) takes on the billionaire class and discusses truths about our country's failure to address the destructive nature of a system that is controlled by corporate greed and profits, while failing to meet the needs of ordinary Americans. Sanders, a third-term U.S. Senator from Vermont, argues that unfettered capitalism is to blame for an unprecedented level of income and wealth inequality, is undermining our democracy, and is destroying our planet. Sanders comes up with solutions that would improve American lives.

--Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent U.S. Attorney's Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department by Geoffrey Berman (Penguin Press, $30) is an explosive memoir of serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in face of the Justice Department's attempts to protect President Trump's friends and punish his enemies. The Southern District includes Manhattan and several counties to the north. Interestingly, Trump was the one who appointed Berman for the job in 2018 but the U.S. Attorney found himself pushing back against the Justice Department to preserve the independence of his prestigious New York office.

--Barkley: A Biography by Timothy Bella (Hanover Square Press, $29.99) is a comprehensive biography of former college basketball and NBA star Charles Barkley, who is one of the most interesting and outspoken athletes in the past 50 years. Passionate, candid, iconoclastic, and gifted both on and off the court, the former superstar has made a lasting impact on not only the world of basketball but pop culture at large. Raised by his mother and grandmother in Leeds, Alabama, Barkley struggled in his early years to fit in until he found a sense of community and purpose in basketball. And he has become a bold agitator for social change, unafraid to grapple, often brashly, with even the thorniest of cultural issues facing our nation today.

--A New History of the American South by editor W. Fitzhugh Brundage, and associate editors Laura F. Edwards and Jon F. Sensbach (University of North Carolina Press, $45) is a new 584-page hardcover filled with stories written by accomplished historians who weaved through a new narrative of southern history from its ancient past to the present. For at least two centuries, the South's economy, politics, religion, race relations, fiction, music, foodways and more have figured prominently in nearly all facets of American life. The book also considers the experiences of all people of the South: Black, white, Indigenous, female, male, poor, and elite. Together, the essays compose a seamless, cogent, and engaging work that can be read cover to cover or sampled at leisure.

Jamie Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of six books about UK basketball, including newly-published “Forever Crazy About the Cats: An Improbable Journey of a Kentucky Sportswriter Overcoming Adversity." 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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