Compiled by Editor Jamie H. Vaught
Here's the second of a two-part series about recently-published nonfiction books, in no particular order, with many of them highly-reviewed:
--“Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show” by Daniel de Vise (Simon & Schuster, $26.00) is a lively biography of two of our country’s most popular television stars -- Andy Griffith and Don Knotts -- and the definite work on the legacy of the folksy Andy Griffith Show. The author, who is Knotts’ brother-in-law, captures the friendship of two famous men at the height of their fame as well as the struggles each faced in his personal life. The book also features extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to both actors, revealing many interesting tidbits. Knotts, who played as Barney Fife, won five Emmy awards during the Andy Griffith Show years, while Griffith (Sheriff Andy Taylor) didn’t capture any. By the way, 'Andy' was with 'Barney' at his deathbed in 2006 and he passed away six years later.
--“The Last Season: A Father, A Son and A Lifetime of College Football” by Stuart Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95). It is a powerful and heartwarming story of a son who returned to his native South to spend a special autumn with 95-year-old father, sharing their happy and sad moments as well as life lessons of Saturdays with their beloved Ole Miss Rebels. For many years, they previously had not spent very much time together. Not long after the author, who had a successful career as a writer and political consultant, turned 60, he began to think about his relationship with his daddy especially after working and losing a presidential campaign in 2012.
--“The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” by Dale Russakoff is an inside story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million quest to transform deeply-troubled Newark (N.J.) Public Schools and to solve the education crises in U.S. In an interview, the author said the readers will find out what billionaires – in this case, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan – are thinking when they put huge amounts of money into trying to reform education in urban America. In addition to Zuckerberg, Russakoff, who worked 28 years as a Washington Post reporter, spent significant time with then-Newark mayor and current U.S. Senator Cory Booker and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie for this book. This volume looks at an honest examination of the school reform movement, including the difficulties of changing the culture, and controversial impacts of private money in the public schools. The author is a longtime volunteer tutor in Newark schools, which were taken over by the state in 1995.
--“Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader” by Robert Middlekauff (Vintage Books, $17.00) is a new account of the early years of George Washington which shaped the future president into becoming an extraordinary leader. The 360-page paperback – rich in psychological detail -- shows a self-conscious Washington, who grew in confidence and experience as a young soldier, businessman, and Virginia gentleman. Says National Review, "(It’s an) excellent new study of Washington’s leadership.”
--"Finley Ball: How Two Outsiders Turned the Oakland A's Into a Dynasty and Changed the Game Forever" by Nancy Finley (Regnery History, $27.99) tells the story of two outsiders -- controversial owner & ex-insurance executive Charlie Finley, and his cousin & ex-high school principal Carl Finley -- who found themselves as part of baseball's insiders club. Telling the Finley side of the story, the author, who is Carl's daughter, offers a fascinating account of her Uncle Charlie's 20-year run as baseball's enfant terrible. Their Oakland franchise won the World Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
--“Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” by Jane Mayer (Doubleday, $29.95) is a chilling investigative account that should be read by anyone who is concerned about the future of American democracy. The author, who is a staff writer for The New Yorker, spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews, and researched public records and private papers for this 450-page effort. It is currently a bestseller.
--“Men In Green” by Michael Bamberger (Simon & Schuster and Sports Illustrated Books, $27.00) is now in paperback. The author, who did a lot of traveling, has written a nostalgic portrait of golf‘s greatest generation, then and now, and it has become a must-have book for golfing fans. The book discusses many golf heroes like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson as well as the little-known folks, going from Palmer’s private warehouse in Pennsylvania to a trailer park in Northern California where an aging tour beauty lives alone with her memories of high times and bright lights. Wrote Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal, “Maybe the best golf book I’ve ever read.”
--“Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies” by Charles Koch (Crown Business, $28.00) is a management book that discusses the author’s Market-Based Management system, including the five dimensions to show how anyone can apply its framework to generate good profit in businesses or organizations. To summarize, good profit is the earnings that follow when long-term and cultural value is created for everyone -- customers, empowered employees, shareholders and society. Koch, the author, is chairman of the board and CEO of Koch Industries, Inc., which has over 100,000 employees around the world. Some of its products include asphalt, chemicals, fibers, natural gas, pulp and paper, among many items.
--“The Rise of Marco Rubio” by Manuel Roig-Franzia (Simon & Schuster, $17.00) is one of many books that you may enjoy if you follow politics. It's a biography that tells the story of how Rubio, a U.S. Senator from Florida, rose so fast and about the forces that have shaped him. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and documents, Roig-Franzia shows how Rubio has cultivated a knack for apprenticing himself to the right mentor, learning the issues, and volunteering for tough political jobs that made him shine. The author writes lengthy articles for the Washington Post’s Style section and also once served as the newspaper’s bureau chief in Miami.
--“Running With The Champ: My Forty-Year Friendship with Muhammad Ali” by Tim Shanahan with Chuck Crisafulli is a new book that will appear in early May. The author, who retired in 2013 as regional sales manager for a medical products company, also shares the stories of various celebrities whom Ali met over the years, such as Michael Jackson (who showed Ali and Shanahan his doll collection), Elvis Presley, John Travolta, Andy Warhol and many others. Ali invited Shanahan to sparring sessions (and once sparred with him) and the two men would often go running together in the early morning. Shanahan accompanied Ali to his Pennsylvania training camp as the Champ prepared to fight Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers and Leon Spinks. While I haven’t seen the book in its final form, it seems to be a touching story of an extraordinary friendship through the best and worst of times.
--“The Grand Old Man of Baseball” by Norman L. Macht (University of Nebraska Press, $39.95) is the third volume about legendary Connie Mack, a baseball player, manager and team owner. After Mack put together one of baseball’s greatest teams -- the 1929-31 Philadelphia Athletics -- the Great Depression unfortunately reshaped his legacy as his franchise struggled on the field and at the gate. The 623-page hardcover describes the physical, mental and financial decline of Mack’s final years. If you are a true baseball fan, you’ll enjoy this one.
--"Hillary and Bill: The Clintons and the Politics of the Personal" by William Chafe (Duke University Press, $21.95) is a new and updated version of 2012 book that explores the intersection of a marriage and two political careers of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Inseparable from the day they first met, their personal dynamic has determined their political fates. To summarize, with the 2016 presidential race currently in full steam, the key question is which Hillary would be the presidential candidate—the person who reaches out to others and seeks collaborators or the Hillary who demonizes the opposition and fiercely protects her privacy and self-image. The author of this 412-page softcover is an emeritus professor of history who has written numerous books on civil rights, women's history and politics.
--“Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary” by Edward Klein (Regnery, $29.99) paints a troubling portrait of Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, with the help of author’s unprecedented access to personal friends and longtime associates of the Clintons and Obamas. If you are a Clinton fan, you won’t like this. However, if you are an undecided voter who likes to read the good and the bad about each political figure, this hardcover could be a nice addition to your library.
--"Michelle Obama: A Life" (Vintage Books, $17.00) by Peter Slevin is now available in paperback and it is the first comprehensive account of the life and times of President Obama's wife and the most unlikely First Lady in modern American history. The author follows Mrs. Obama to the White House from her working-class childhood on Chicago’s largely segregated South Side. The book also takes a look at the drama of Barack’s historic campaigns and the harsh glare faced by Michelle in a role both relentlessly public and not entirely of her choosing. A former writer for the Washington Post, Slevin, now a journalism associate professor, offers a fresh and compelling view of the White House years when Mrs. Obama casts herself as mentor, teacher, champion of nutrition, supporter of military families, and fervent opponent of inequality.
--"Peak: Secrets From The New Science Of Expertise" (Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, $28.00) by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool provides a new look at the way we can all step up our game and become experts in our fields. The authors have studied people who stand out as specialists in their fields and over time they have concluded that we are all capable of extraordinary achievements anywhere from competitive sports and musical performance to science, medicine and business.
--“100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball” by the staff of Who’s Who in Baseball and Douglas B. Lyons (Lyons Press, $24.95) is a colorful story of major league baseball over a period of several generations. In partnership with “Who’s Who in Baseball,” the informative book features a century’s worth of the annual paperback’s front covers with an account of why the player rated the cover and what was going on in baseball at the time. If you are a baseball junkie, you certainly will recognize the familiar red “Who’s Who in Baseball” paperback at local newsstands when it arrives by the start of each baseball season. And now you can get 100 years of paperback covers in a single book form! It's certainly a nice baseball account if you like history.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com online 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 KySportsStyle@gmail.com.