"The main emotion that the reader, or at least one reader, comes away with is anger: anger at a government that for so long could tolerate a body of leaders who succeeded at stalling the cause of reform in this country, and anger at a citizenry that also would allow such a government to rule them. If nothing else, Caro has given concrete illustrations of how democracy can go awry in the hands of selfish, power-hungry men." D. K. Holm, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
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
"Although Caro grudgingly acknowledges Johnson's achievements, the real juice of this book lies in his tales of Johnson's underhanded and self-serving behavior. Unlike some biographers (David McCullough, for example, who seems to fall in love with the presidents he chronicles), Caro is fatally attracted to the kind of man he can hate. Nothing gets his Oedipal adrenaline going like a successful, powerful man of great accomplishment and impure heart. Especially if that man is a liberal. Character flaws are Caro's specialty." Ronald Steele, Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic review
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.
Book Three of Robert A. Caros monumental work, The Years of Lyndon Johnson
—the most admired and riveting political biography of our era—which began with the best-selling and prizewinning The Path to Power and Means of Ascent
Master of the Senate carries Lyndon Johnsons story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. At the heart of the book is its 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.
It was during these years that all Johnsons experience—from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine—came to fruition. Caro introduces the story with a dramatic account of the Senate itself: how Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had made it the center of governmental energy, the forum in which the great issues of the country were thrashed out. And how, by the time Johnson arrived, it had dwindled into a body that merely responded to executive initiatives, all but impervious to the forces of change. Caro anatomizes the genius for political strategy and tactics by which, in an institution that had made the seniority system all-powerful for a century and more, Johnson became Majority Leader after only a single term—the youngest and greatest Senate Leader in our history; how he manipulated the Senates hallowed rules and customs and the weaknesses and strengths of his colleagues to change the “unchangeable” Senate from a loose confederation of sovereign senators to a whirring legislative machine under his own iron-fisted control.
Caro demonstrates how Johnsons political genius enabled him to reconcile the unreconcilable: to retain the support of the southerners who controlled the Senate while earning the trust—or at least the cooperation—of the liberals, led by Paul Douglas and Hubert Humphrey, without whom he could not achieve his goal of winning the presidency. He shows the dark side of Johnsons ambition: how he proved his loyalty to the great oil barons who had financed his rise to power by ruthlessly destroying the career of the New Dealer who was in charge of regulating them, Federal Power Commission Chairman Leland Olds. And we watch him achieve the impossible: convincing southerners that although he was firmly in their camp as the anointed successor to their leader, Richard Russell, it was essential that they allow him to make some progress toward civil rights. In a breathtaking tour de force, Caro details Johnsons amazing triumph in maneuvering to passage the first civil rights legislation since 1875.
Master of the Senate is told with an abundance of rich detail that could only have come from Caros peerless research—years immersed in the worlds of Johnson and the United States Senate, examining thousands of documents and talking to hundreds of people, from pages and cloakroom clerks to senators and administrative aides. The result is both a galvanizing portrait of the man himself—the titan of Capitol Hill, volcanic, mesmerizing—and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings of personal and legislative power. It is a work that displays all the acuteness of understanding and narrative brilliance that led the New York Times to call Caros The Path to Power “a monumental political saga . . . powerful and stirring.”
About the Author
"A wonderful, a glorious tale . . . It will be hard to equal this amazing book. It reads like a Trollope novel, but not even Trollope explored the ambitions and the gullibilities of men as deliciously as Robert Caro does." --Anthony Lewis, New York Times Book Review
"Mesmerizing . . . A tale rife with drama and hypnotic in the telling . . .The historian's equivalent of a Mahler symphony . . . [It] brings Lyndon blazing into the Senate." --Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"Caro must be America's greatest living Presidential biographer . . . No other contemporary biographer offers such a complex picture of the forces driving an American politician, or populates his work with such vividly drawn secondary characters." --Richard S. Dunham, BusinessWeek
"A panoramic study . . . Combining the best techniques of investigative reporting with majestic storytelling ability, Caro has created a vivid, revelatory institutional history as well as a rich hologram of Johnson's character." --Jill Abramson, New York Times
"Probably the best book ever written about the U.S. Senate. A terrific study of power politics." --Steve Neal, Chicago Sun-Times
"After more than a quarter of a century of research and thought about Lyndon Johnson, Caro sees the man in full . . . Caro's immersion in the man and period yields a fascinating, entertaining abundance." --Lance Morrow, Time
"Brilliant . . . An indefatigable researcher and dazzling prose stylist, Caro has pulled off the seemingly impossible: He has converted the mundane legislative agenda of the Truman-Eisenhower era into a riveting political drama worthy of Robert Penn Warren." --Douglas Brinkley, Boston Globe
"In this fascinating book, Robert Caro does more than carry forward his epic life of Lyndon Johnson. With compelling narrative power and with remarkable subtlety and sensitivity, he illuminates the Senate of the United States and its byzantine power struggles. In this historical tour-de-force, Robert Caro shows himself the true 'master of the Senate.' " --Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
"To immerse oneself in Robert Caro's heroic biographies is to come face to face with a shocking but unavoidable realization: Much of what we think we know about money, power and politics is a fairy tale . . . Master of the Senate forces us not only to rewrite our national political history but to rethink it as well . . . Compulsively readable." --Eric Alterman, The Nation
"A spectacular piece of historical biography, delicious reading for both political junkies and serious students of the political process . . . Fascinating . . .Worth the wait." --Robert D. Novak, The Weekly Standard
"In terms of political biography, not only does it not get better than this, it can't . . .The highest expression of biography as art . . . Caro's command of his material is absolute . . . As absorbing as an epic movie." --Patrick Beach, Austin American-Statesman
"Master of the Senate is vintage Caro--a portrait so deft, vivid, and compelling that you practically feel LBJ gripping your arm and bending you to his will." --Jean Strouse
"The most complete portrait of the Senate ever drawn. The work, told within the framework of the life of Lyndon Johnson, is really an epic history of the twentieth century." --Michael Wolff, New York
"Every paradox that makes politics truly, endlessly, fascinating . . . is there in . . .The Years of Lyndon Johnson . . .Regarded by many as the greatest political biography of the modern era. Essential reading for those who want to comprehend power and politics." --Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (London)
"For Caro writing a biography is writing a thriller--in Johnson's case, a western. You can't stop turning the pages." --Michael Howard, The Times (London)
"Quite breathtaking . . . One of the great political biographies." --Gordon Brown, The Times (London)
"An epic tale of winning and wielding power." --Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer
"In this magnificent work, Robert Caro has given us the grand and absorbing saga of Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. Senate, and the Democratic Party at mid-century. The richly cadenced prose is hypnotic, the research prodigious, the analysis acute, the mood spellbinding, and the cast of characters mythic in scale. I cannot conceive of a better book about Capitol Hill. An unforgettable, epic achievement in the art of biography." --Ron Chernow
"Caro is a master of biography . . . with his Tolstoyan touch for storytelling and drama . . . A dazzling tour de force that certifies Caro as the country's preeminent specialist in examining political power and its uses." --Paul Duke, Baltimore Sun
"A gripping tale of suspense. The narrative tension rarely dissipates . . . We know that Johnson will ultimately succeed, but the thrill lies in learning how." --Jordan Rau, Newsday
"Masterful . . . A work of genius." --Steve Weinberg, New Orleans Times-Picayune
"Breathtaking to read, like spending a week curled up with a magnificent political novel." --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, Modern Maturity
"Caro writes history with [a] novelist's sensitivity . . . No historian offers a more vivid sense not only of what happened, but what it looked like and felt like." --Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"Caro drives the story forward irresistibly . . . If Mr Caro's work on Johnson has not already set a new standard in American political biography, it surely will when his story of Johnson's presidency is complete." --The Economist
"Does it live up to the profound success of the earlier volumes? The answer is a resounding yes . . . The biography of the season." --Brad Hooper, Booklist
"Uniquely mesmerizing." --Publishers Weekly
"Magisterial . . . A Plutarch (or perhaps Suetonius) for our time: would that all political biographies were so good." --Kirkus Reviews