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JAMIE'S BOOKSHELF: Noteworthy Books To Add To Your Holiday Cheer

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

By Jamie H. Vaught


As an avid reader, the Christmas shopping season traditionally is a joyful time to browse at a local bookstore or online, searching for a recently-published book or two for a loved one (or even for myself) as a holiday gift. So here are some of the highly-recommended volumes that you may want to ponder for a possible Christmas present.

–“Mornings with Jesus 2021: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul” by Guideposts (Zondervan, $18.99) is an annual, 365-day devotional that will help readers experience a closer relationship with Jesus. The 379-page paperback is filled with inspiring five-minute daily readings that help you rest and recharge your spirit by putting your focus on the Living God.

–“Christmas Kisses with My Cowboy” by Diana Palmer, Marina Adair and Kate Pearce (Zebra Books, $9.99) is a 426-page paperback with three delightful Christmas love stories filled with humor and heart.

–“Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past” by Traci Wilton (Kensington Books, $8.99) is a Christmas mystery. It is another fun read for the holidays.

–“The Brightest Star” by Fern Michaels (Kensington Books, $26) is a heartwarming Christmas novel. Wrote one reviewer on Amazon about the paperback, “Hard to put down. You wanted to cry and be happy at same time. ….”

–“Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Ace Collins (Zondervan, $14.99) is filled with incredible stories about the songs that you’ve sung since you were a child. The songs like The First Noel, Jingle Bells, White Christmas and Silent Night continue to bring Christmas to life each year and the book will tell you how your favorite Christmas songs came to be.

–“The Passion Translations: The New Testament with Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs (2020 edition)” by Dr. Brian Simmons and the translation team (BroadStreet, $29.99) is a modern, easy-to-read Bible translation, unlocking the passion of God’s heart. Each volume in the New Testament begins with an introductory background to help the readers understand the deep mysteries of the Scriptures better. It also contains 16 pages of full-color maps.

–“The Outsider: Pope Francis and His Battle to Reform the Church” by Christopher Lamb (Orbis Books, $24) examines the Pope’s ministry and agenda for the church as well as the forces of opposition mobilized against him. The author is the Rome correspondent for The Tablet, the British Catholic publication.

–“The Murder of Marion Miley” by Beverly Bell (University Press of Kentucky, $19.95) is a captivating story about one of the nation’s top amateur golfers who was murdered in 1941 in Lexington, Ky. Once called “the most photographed golfer in the world,” the celebrity was only 27 years old when she was killed by gunmen.

--"The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2021" (Skyhorse Publishing, $15.99) is the latest edition of the best-selling reference book, exploring the milestones that made the year 2020 unique, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election. The 1,008-page paperback "has been the authoritative source for answers to questions for any subject," said Sarah Janssen, executive editor of the World Almanac.

–“The Luckiest Man: Life with John McCain” by Mark Salter (Simon & Schuster, $35) is a deeply personal and candid story about the late U.S. Senator. The author was one of McCain’s closest political advisors and friends.

–“Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times” by David S. Reynolds (Penguin Press, $45) is a new enthralling biography of our president during the Civil War. The author also wrote the Bancroft Prize-winning cultural biography of poet and essayist Walt Whitman many years ago. The new hardcover, which is over 1,000 pages long, would make a nice Christmas gift for a history buff.

–“The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry” by Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, $16.95) is a recently-published paperback filled with numerous essays of a life spent farming the fields of rural Kentucky with mules and horses, and of the rich, intimate knowledge of the land cultivated by this work. The essays were written in defiance of the false call to progress and in defense of local landscapes, essays that celebrate our cultural heritage, our history, and our home. The author is a well-known essayist, novelist and poet who lives with his wife on a farm in Henry County in Kentucky.

–“Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump” by Kate Andersen Brower (Harper, $28.99) is a remarkable look at the lives of five former presidents in the wake of their White House years, including the surprising friendships they have formed through shared perspective and empathy. The author – who interviewed the Carters, Donald Trump as well as the top aides, friends and family members of the five former presidents – takes us inside the exclusive world of these powerful men.

–“The Man Who Wasn’t There: A Life of Ernest Hemingway” by Richard Bradford (Tauris Parke, $20) is a new ground-breaking biography about the 20th century’s most iconic writer which includes previously unpublished letters from the Hemingway archives. Hemingway, who married four times and once lived in Cuba for several years, died in 1961.

–“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (Crown, $45) is a riveting first volume – 751 pages long – of his presidential memoirs. It is a well-written personal account of history in the making from the former president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy. This remarkable book is being published around the world simultaneously in 26 languages.

–“Facebook: The Inside Story” by Steven Levy (Blue Rider Press, $30) is a definitive history – much of it previously untold – of one of the nation’s most powerful and controversial companies.

–“Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America” by Gerald Posner (Avid Reader Press, $35) is a 803-page hardcover that reveals how and why American drug companies have put earnings ahead of patients, tracing the heroes and villains of the trillion-dollar-a-year pharmaceutical industry.

–“The Trump Century: How Our President Changed the Course of History Forever” by Lou Dobbs with Dennis Kneale (Broadside Books, $28.99) attempts to show President Trump’s thinking on the economy, foreign policy and border security. The hardcover adds that Trump has not only made America great again but created a new standard for all future Presidents.

–“Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing” by Jacob Goldstein (Hachette Books, $28) delivers a well-researched, entertaining, somewhat mocking look at how money is a made-up thing that has evolved over time to suit humanity’s changing needs. Money is the story of the choices that gave us money as we know it today.

–“White House, Inc.: How Donald Trump Turned the Presidency into a Business” by Dan Alexander (Portfolio/Penguin, $28) is an in-depth investigation that exposes President Trump’s efforts to make money off of politics, taking us inside his exclusive clubs, luxury hotels, overseas partnerships, commercial properties, and personal mansions.

–“High Crimes: The Corruption, Impunity, and Impeachment of Donald Trump” by Michael D’ Antonio and Peter Eisner (Thomas Dune Books, $32.50) is a comprehensive inside story behind our most significant modern political drama: the U.S. House impeachment of President Trump. The authors, who spent a year essentially embedded inside several House committees, drew on many sources to expose the politicking, play calling and strategies debated backstage, and to explain the Democrats’ successes and apparent public failures.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of five books about UK basketball, including newly-released “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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