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Bob Dixon

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JAMIE'S BOOKSHELF: More Nonfiction Books For Fun Reading

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

Updated January 6, 2020

Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught

(This is the second of a two-part series about recently-published nonfiction books you may want to consider for fun reading.)

--"Coach Hall: My Life On and Off the Court" by Joe B. Hall and Marianne Walker (University Press of Kentucky, $26.95) is an intimate memoir about Coach Hall's life and coaching career. The former UK boss reveals never-before-heard stories about the players, coaches, and friends. During his 13 years at Kentucky, Hall took the Wildcats to the Final Four three times, including 1978 NCAA championship. The 198-page hardcover is a very nice addition for a UK Wildcat fan's library.

–“Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know” by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company, $30) is a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers and why they often go wrong. The gripping hardcover takes you on an intellectual adventure through history, psychology, and scandals taken straight from the news, revisiting the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State University, among others. Gladwell, who has been included in Time’s 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers, has written several bestsellers, including Outliers.

--“The Fall of Richard Nixon: A Reporter Remembers Watergate” by Tom Brokaw (Random House, $27) is written by a noted journalist who was the White House correspondent for NBC News during the final year of Watergate. Published in the 45th anniversary year of Nixon’s resignation, the hardcover also serves as behind-the- scenes account of how the President and White House officials often tangled with the media.

--“One Soul at a Time: The Story of Billy Graham” by Grant Wacker (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, $24.99) is a remarkable biography about one of the most celebrated evangelists in American history. With decades of research on Graham and American evangelicalism, the 324-page hardcover includes personal interviews, archival research, and never-before-published photographs from the Graham family and others. Graham, who was from North Carolina, died in 2018. The author, who has written several books, is Professor Emeritus of Christian History at Duke Divinity School.

--"Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church" by Austen Ivereigh (Henry Holt and Company, $30) is an interesting look at Pope Francis' six-year attempt -- often amid fierce pushback -- to bring about needed reform or change in the Catholic Church. The 403-page hardcover is based on three years of travels in Europe and Latin America and dozens of intimate conversations with those who work with and know the pope, as well as a meeting with Pope Francis himself. The author also wrote a biography of Pope Francis' early life several years ago.

--“Sergeant Sandlin: Kentucky’s Forgotten Hero” by James M. Gifford (Jesse Stuart Foundation, $35) is a story about Kentucky’s only World War I Medal of Honor recipient. During a 1918 battle, Sandlin once attacked and disabled three German machine gun nests and killed all 24 occupants by himself. The author, who is also CEO and senior editor of the Jesse Stuart Foundation, says the hardcover is a tribute to Sandlin and to every military person who served in U.S. armed forces.

–“Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us” by Donald Trump Jr. (Center Street, $30) is obviously the hardcover the left-wing folks don’t want you to read. The President’s son exposes all the tricks the left uses to smear conservatives and push them out of the public. The author writes about the importance of fighting back and standing up for what you believe in. He also discusses his childhood summers in Communist Czechoslovakia that began his political thought process, and working with his father on construction sites and later in the White House.

–“Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me” by Adrienne Brodeur (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27) is an electrifying memoir about a daughter’s story of living in the thrall of her charming, complicated mother and the stressful consequences of her involvement. It’s an extraordinary story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us. Wrote The Washington Post, the volume is “a glittering, insightful page-turner of the worst-case scenario of mother-daughter boundary issues.” A former book editor at a major publisher, the author is the executive director of a program associated with Aspen Institute.

–“Fan in Chief: Richard Nixon and American Sports, 1969-1974” by Nicholas Evan Sarantakes (University Press of Kansas, $60 hardcover, $26.95 paperback) is a remarkable story of both personality and politics about a former president who loved sports. For instance, President Nixon even phoned coach Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins to suggest plays for the Super Bowl. An associate professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, the author attempts to show how Nixon’s passion for sports engaged Americans and how he used this passion to his political advantage.

--“Advising Nixon: The White House Memos of Patrick J. Buchanan” by Lori Cox Han (University Press of Kansas, $39.95) is a rare insight into the decision-making of some of the most powerful figures in the U.S. government. The author studied numerous Buchanan’s memos housed at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and provided a behind- the-scenes look at the Nixon White House. A former Nixon advisor, Buchanan later became a well-known conservative voice and ran for president.

–“Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law” by James B. Stewart (Penguin Press, $30) is a dramatic story of the politically explosive FBI investigations into both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The FBI has been pushed into the middle of both parties’ campaigns for the White House for the first time in U.S. history. A Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has written several books, Stewart is currently a columnist for the New York Times and a professor at Columbia Journalism School.

–“Reagan: The American President” by Larry Schweikart (Post Hill Press, $35) is a definitive biography of the former movie actor turned politician, featuring never-before-seen documents and sources from the Reagan Presidential Library. The author is a professor of history at the University of Dayton and has written several books. Another must-read for the Reagan fans.

–“Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick” by Wendy Wood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28) is a new hardcover about how we form habits, and what we can do with this knowledge to make positive change. It says we spend a shocking 43 percent of our day doing things without thinking about them. The author draws on three decades of original research to explain the fascinating science of how we form habits, and offers the key to unlocking our habitual mind in order to make the changes we seek. A provost professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California, Wood has written for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, among others, and on NPR.

–“Inside Trump’s White House: The Real Story of His Presidency” by Doug Wead (Center Street, $30) is an extraordinary story of the Trump White House with the President and his staff talking openly in exclusive interviews. The new book includes never-before-reported stories and scoops, and Trump explains how his actions sometimes lead to misunderstandings with the media and the public. It is an interesting read. If you keep an objective mind, you'll enjoy this hardcover. A New York Times bestselling author, Wead is former adviser to two American Presidents.

--“Colin Powell: Imperfect Patriot” by Jeffrey J. Matthews (University of Notre Dame Press, $35) is a captivating and balanced story of Powell’s remarkable career, and of what we can learn from both his good and bad followership. Powell, who once was an ambitionless teenager who barely graduated from college, served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. The book is of special interest to readers of military history, political biography, and leadership.

--"The Nancy Pelosi Way: Advice On Success, Leadership, And Politics From America's Most Powerful Woman" by Christine Pelosi (Skyhorse Publishing, $19.99) is a close look at how the Speaker of the House of Representatives became the most powerful female politician in the U.S. and the many important lessons that can be gleaned from her actions and dialogue along the way. The book weaves major issues and Pelosi's professional and personal experiences to show how this mother of five acheived her success. The 177-page hardcover is written by Pelosi's daughter, Christine, who is an attorney.

–“Elizabeth Warren: Her Fight. Her Work. Her Life.” by Antonia Felix (Sourcebooks, $15.99) is a biography now in paperback about one of the nation’s most powerful women who is running for president. The author writes how Warren brought her expertise to Washington to become an icon of progressive politics in a deeply divided nation, and weaves together never-before-told stories from those who have journeyed with Warren from Oklahoma to the halls of power. A former law professor for more than 30 years, Warren is now U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

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