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Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnsonby Robert A Caro
Synopses & Reviews
The political biography of our time, now available in a four-volume hardcover set. Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon Johnson is one of the richest, most intensive and most revealing examinations ever undertaken of an American president. It is the magnum opus of a writer perfectly suited to his task: the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer-historian, chronicler also of Robert Moses in The Power Broker, whose inspired research and profound understanding of the nature of ambition and the dynamics of power have made him a peerless explicator of political lives.
“Taken together the installments of Mr. Caro’s monumental life of Johnson . . . form a revealing prism by which to view the better part of a century in American life and politics during which the country experienced tumultuous and divisive social change. . .Gripping.” --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“By writing the best presidential biography the country has ever seen, Caro has forever changed the way we think, and read, American history . . . It’s his immense talent as a writer that has made his biography of Johnson one of America’s most amazing literary achievements . . . As absorbing as a political thriller . . .A masterpiece, unlike any other work of American history published in the past. It’s true that there will never be another Lyndon B. Johnson, but there will never be another Robert A. Caro, either.” –NPR
“One of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece” --The Times (London)
The Path to Power reveals the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and urge to power that set LBJ apart. Chronicling the startling early emergence of Johnson’s political genius, it follows him from his Texas boyhood through the years of the Depression in the Texas Hill Country to the triumph of his congressional debut in New Deal Washington, to his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless of the national power for which he hungered.
National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction
Means of Ascent follows Johnson through his service in World War II to the foundation of his long-concealed fortune and the facts behind the myth he created about it. The explosive heart of the book is Caro’s revelation of the true story of the fiercely contested 1948 senatorial election, which Johnson had to win or face certain political death, and which he did win--by “87 votes that changed history.” Caro makes us witness to a momentous turning point in American politics; the tragic last stand of the old politics versus the new—the politics of issue versus the politics of image, mass manipulation, money and electronic dazzle.
National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography
Master of the Senate carries Johnson’s story through his twelve remarkable years in the Senate. It is an unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done. In a breathtaking tour de force, Caro details Johnson’s amazing triumph in maneuvering to passage the first civil rights legislation since 1875.
Pulitzer Prize in Biography
Los Angeles Times Book Award in Biography
National Book Award in Nonfiction
The Passage of Power is an unparalleled account of the battle between Johnson and John Kennedy for the 1960 presidential nomination, of the machinations behind Kennedy’s decision to offer Johnson the vice presidency, of Johnson’s powerlessness and humiliation in that role, and of the savage animosity between Johnson and Robert Kennedy. In Caro’s description of the Kennedy assassination, which The New York Times called “the most riveting ever,” we see the events of November 22, 1963, for the first time through Lyndon Johnson’s eyes. And we watch as his political genius enables him to grasp the reins of the presidency with total command and, within weeks, make it wholly his own, surmounting unprecedented obstacles in order to fulfill the highest purpose of the office.
National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography
“Brilliant . . . Important . . . Remarkable … In sparkling detail, Caro shows Johnson’s genius for getting to people—friends, foes, and everyone in between—and how he used it to achieve his goals…With this fascinating and meticulous account, Robert Caro has once again done America a great service.”— President Bill Clinton, The New York Times Book Review (front cover)
“The politicians’ political book of choice…An encyclopedia of dirty tricks that would make Machiavelli seem naïve.” London Literary Review
“Making ordinary politics and policymaking riveting and revealing is what makes Caro a genius. Combined with his penetrating insight and fanatical research, Caro’s Churchill-like prose elevates the life of a fairly influential president to stuff worthy of Shakespeare. . .Robert Caro stands alone as the unquestioned master of the contemporary American political biography.” The Boston Globe
Robert A. Caro's life of Lyndon Johnson, which began with the greatly acclaimed The Path to Power, also winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, continues — one of the richest, most intensive and most revealing examinations ever undertaken of an American President. In Means of Ascent the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer/historian, chronicler also of Robert Moses in The Power Broker, carries Johnson through his service in World War II and the foundation of his long-concealed fortune and the facts behind the myths he created about it. But the explosive heart of the book is Caro's revelation of the true story of the fiercely contested 1948 senatorial election, for forty years shrouded in rumor, which Johnson had to win or face certain political death, and which he did win — by "the 87 votes that changed history." Caro makes us witness to a momentous turning point in American politics: the tragic last stand of the old politics versus the new — the politics of issue versus the politics of image, mass manipulation, money and electronic dazzle.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, has three times won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year and for Best Biography of the Year, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the National Book Award, the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.” In 2010, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.
Caro’s first book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, everywhere acclaimed as a modern classic, was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the twentieth century. Time magazine chose it as one of the hundred top nonfiction books of all time. It is, according to David Halberstam, “Surely the greatest book ever written about a city.” And The New York Times Book Review said: “In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort.”
The first volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, The Path to Power, was cited by The Washington Post as “proof that we live in a great age of biography . . . [a book] of radiant excellence . . . Caro’s evocation of the Texas Hill Country, his elaboration of Johnson’s unsleeping ambition, his understanding of how politics actually work, are—let it be said flat out—at the summit of American historical writing.” Professor Henry F. Graff of Columbia University called the second volume, Means of Ascent, “brilliant. No review does justice to the drama of the story Caro is telling, which is nothing less than how present-day politics was born.” The London Times hailed volume three, Master of the Senate, as “a masterpiece . . . Robert Caro has written one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age.” The Passage of Power, volume four, has been called “Shakespearean … A breathtakingly dramatic story [told] with consummate artistry and ardor” (The New York Times) and “as absorbing as a political thriller …By writing the best presidential biography the country has ever seen, Caro has forever changed the way we think about, and read, American history” (NPR). On the cover ofThe New York Times Book Review, President Bill Clinton praised it as “Brilliant . . . Important . . .Remarkable. With this fascinating and meticulous account Robert Caro has once again done America a great service.”
“Caro has a unique place among American political biographers,” The Boston Globesaid.. “He has become, in many ways, the standard by which his fellows are measured.” And Nicholas von Hoffman wrote: “Caro has changed the art of political biography.”
Born and raised in New York City, Caro graduated from Princeton University, was later a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and worked for six years as an investigative reporter for Newsday. He lives in New York City with his wife, Ina, the historian and writer.
Table of Contents
v. 1. The path to power — v. 2. Means of ascent.
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