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Jamie Vaught: Potential summer reading includes looks at Summitt, Reagan, 2016 presidential run

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Summer vacation is just around the corner and most of us are planning relaxing trips to the mountains or beach. With that in mind, here is a list of recently published nonfiction books that you may enjoy.
 
“The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt” by Maria M. Cornelius (University of Tennessee Press, $29.95) is a story of Summitt’s final coaching season in 2011-12 through the eyes of many folks, including her players and friends, who knew the legendary basketball coach very well. 

The 311-page hardcover gives readers a behind-the-scenes perspective at the end of her remarkable career, including the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. 

Summitt ended her 38-year career on April 18, 2012 with a 1,098-208 mark and eight NCAA titles along with 32 SEC titles.  After her retirement, she also served as the head coach emeritus at UT until her death in 2016 at the age of 64. 

The author has written about the Lady Vols hoops program for various media outlets for nearly 20 years.​​
 
“Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus” by Matt Taibbi (Spiegel & Grau, $26) is loaded with the author’s 25 pieces from Rolling Stone along with two original essays that tell the story of Western civilization’s very own train wreck – the 2016 presidential campaign and election. The 315-page looks at the failures of the right and the left, and explores the seismic shift in how we perceive our national institutions, the democratic process and the future of the country.

“Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son” by Paul Dickson (Bloomsbury, $28) is a 358-page biography about one of baseball’s most colorful (and hated) characters.  Durocher, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994, had a combative personality who was often in trouble.  A womanizer, he was married and divorced four times and was a regular name in the Hollywood gossip columns. 

After his playing days, he was a manager for 24 years, winning three pennants and a World Series. Only five managers in MLB history have won more games than Durocher.  The author has written more than 40 books, including “Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick” (which won the 2013 Casey Award for the best baseball book of the year).
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“The Kingdom of Happiness: Inside Tony Hsieh’s Zapponian Utopia” by Aimee Groth (Touchstone, $27) is an insider’s compelling look at the successful CEO of Zappos and his quest to create his own version of utopia in the center of Las Vegas. It was Hsieh who introduced his “radical” idea of the modern business model to the world – a model built on satisfied customers and a valued workforce. 

He had written a best-selling book, titled “Delivering Happiness,” which was about his online shoe company (Zappos) and his business philosophy.  He later invited the author to venture out to Las Vegas and participate in his social engineering experiment and write about it.  As a result, Groth paints a picture of what could potentially be the business model of the future and one man’s quest to create his own paradise in the desert through social engineering.
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“Six Encounters with Lincoln: A President Confronts Democracy and Its Demons” by Elizabeth Brown Pryor (Viking, $30) is a 480-page hardcover which reveals six captivating, mostly unexplored meetings between Lincoln and his constituents and at their fascinating backstories.  While there are numerous books written about Lincoln, the award-winning historian provides fresh material about the former president, revealing his character and opinions in unexpected ways. 

Pryor shows how Lincoln had struggled with the challenges of leadership in a boisterous democracy.  The author also wrote the Lincoln Prize-winning “Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters.”

“Almost Perfect: The Heartbreaking Pursuit of Pitching’s Holy Grail” by Joe Cox (Lyons Press, $26.95) is a fascinating story about baseball’s hard-luck pitchers who nearly came up with a perfect no-hitter, meaning no batters had reached the base. There have been 13 pitchers who had retired the first 26 batters but ended with a heart-breaking moment when they failed to come up with a perfect game.

Also, there were three other pitchers who successfully retired 27 consecutive batters, but were still not credited with perfect games. The author, who is from the Bowling Green, Ky., area, goes through these 16 pitchers, recounting their games in thrilling fashion and telling the personal stories of the fascinating and very human baseball figures involved.

The 265-page hardcover include chapters on Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix’s 12-inning perfect game in 1959 and Washington’s Max Scherzer’s near miss in 2015.  A member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Cox has written books about the Kentucky Wildcats.​​

“The New Baseball Bible: Notes, Nuggets, Lists and Legends from Our National Pastime” by Dan Schlossberg (Sports Publishing, $17.99) is an enjoyable and oversized paperback that you’d like to have if you are a pure baseball fan.  It is actually an updated version which was first published as “The Baseball Catalog” in 1980.

The 408-page softcover covers numerous topics such as umpires, how to play the game (strategy), equipment, ballparks, famous faces (Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, among others), managers, executives, trades, the media, big moments in history, the language of baseball and spring training.  The author is a former sportswriter for the Associated Press and has written over 35 books.
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“Clean House: Exposing Our Government’s Secrets and Lies” by Tom Fitton (Threshold Editions, $16) is now available paperback and looks at incriminating documents from the attack in Benghazi, Hillary Clinton’s secret e-mails, the IRS scandal and the Obamacare swindle. The author is the president of Judicial Watch, the right-leaning government watchdog. It is the same grassroots group that assisted in impeaching Bill Clinton and took the Bush White House secrecy all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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“Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980” by Craig Shirley (Broadside Books, $29.99) is another President Reagan book, but the 412-page hardcover is different. Instead of discussing Reagan’s two-term presidency, it focuses on the four-year period between his failure to get the presidential nomination at the 1976 Republican convention and his 1980 election victory over President Jimmy Carter.  

As pointed out by the author — called “the best of the Reagan biographers” by the London Telegraph, Reagan still managed to rise to presidency after he was attacked from all sides during the four-year period. “He was too extreme for the liberals and moderate Republicans,” added Shirley. “He was too old. He was simply ‘that actor’ who played in B-movies.

His experience didn’t go beyond California. On the other hand, Reagan’s primary opponent, George H.W. Bush, was the former director of CIA, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nation, ex-chairman of the Republican National Committee, and a former Congressman from Texas.

It seemed to be a classic David vs. Goliath match. The actor of California versus the intellectual of Washington.” 

“Game of Thorns: The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton’s Failed Campaign and Donald Trump’s Winning Strategy” by Doug Wead (Center Street, $27) is an interesting look at the 2016 presidential campaign and the candidates. The author provides an interesting perspective about the Clintons and President Trump. 

The author, who has been an employee of 10 presidential campaigns, was a special assistant to the president in the George H.W. Bush White House.  He also recently served as a senior advisor to U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

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

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