The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1

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Overview

This is the story of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country. The Path to Power reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and ambition that set LBJ apart. It follows him from the Hill Country to New Deal Washington, from his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut as Congressman, his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, at age 31, of the national power for ...

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The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1

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Overview

This is the story of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country. The Path to Power reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and ambition that set LBJ apart. It follows him from the Hill Country to New Deal Washington, from his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut as Congressman, his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, at age 31, of the national power for which he hungered. In this book, we are brought as close as we have ever been to a true perception of political genius and the American political process.

Means of Ascent, Book Two of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, was a number one national best seller and, like The Path to Power, received the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy and ambition that set LBJ apart.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

"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 works are—-let it be said flat out—-at the summit of American historical writing." —Washington Post

"A monumental political saga . . . powerful and stirring. It's an overwhelming experience to read The Path to Power." —Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times

"Not only a historical but a literary event. An epic biography . . . A sweeping, richly detailed portrait . . . vivid [with] Caro's astonishing concern for the humanity of his characters. An awesome achievement." —Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

"Stands at the pinnacle of the biographical art." —Donald R. Morris, Houston Post

"The major biography of recent years. Brilliant . . . Magisterial . . . Caro has given us an American life of compelling fascination. A benchmark beside which other biographies will be measured for some time to come." —Alden Whitman, Los Angeles Herald Examiner

"An ineradicable likeness of an American giant. Caro has brought to life a young man so believable and unforgettable that we can hear his heartbeat and touch him." —Henry F. Graff, Professor of History, Columbia University

" Epic. A brief review cannot convey the depth, range and detail of this fascinating story. Caro is a meticulous historian.  Every page reflects his herculean efforts to break through the banalities and the falsehoods previously woven around the life of Lyndon Johnson . . . combines the social scientist's interest in power with the historian's concern with theme and context, the political scientist's interest in system, and the novelist's passion to reveal the inner workings of the personality and relate them to great human issues . . . A monument of interpretive biography." —Michael R. Beschloss, Chicago Sun-Times Book Week

"Splendid and moving. At this rate Caro's work will eventually acquire Gibbon-like dimensions, and Gibbon-like passion. . . . Caro is a phenomenon . . . an artful writer, with a remarkable power to evoke and characterize politicians, landscapes, relationships. This massive book is almost continually exciting." —Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times

"By every measure—-depth of research, brilliance of conception, the seamless flow of the prose—-it is a masterpiece of biography." —Dan Cryer, Newsday

"Extraordinary. A powerful, absorbing, at times awe-inspiring, and often deeply alarming story. A vivid picture of the emergence of one of this century's authentically great politicians." —Alan Brinkley, Boston Sunday Globe

"The book races at Johnson's own whirlwind pace. A tour de force that blends relentless detective work, polemical vigor and artful storytelling into the most compelling narrative of American political life since All the King's Men." —Henry Mayer, San Francisco Chronicle

"A landmark in American political biography. The definitive life of LBJ. Caro has written a Johnson biography that is richer and fuller and may well be one of the freshest and most revealing studies ever written about a major historical figure." —Steve Neal, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"A masterful narrative on a grand scale, a fascinating portrait of LBJ's activities set against a fully drawn canvas of life in the Texas hill country. By far the most significant Johnson book to appear." —Library Journal

"No mere political biography. Caro is on the way to becoming our finest fine-tooth-comb historian." —Jack Goodman, Salt Lake Tribune

"Magnificent. For understanding our recent past and the men and policies that brought the country to its present condition and aimed us toward whatever our future is to be, it's an immensely important work." —Bryan Woolley, Dallas Times Herald

"A brilliant and necessary book. There are whole and fascinating areas in Johnson's life that no one else discovered." —Merle Miller, front page, Chicago Tribune Book World

"This is a watershed book. Caro writes with sweek and passion. From the first sentence I was hooked. All other biographies of Johnson pale in comparison." — Joseph P. Lash

"Engrossing and revealing. This fascinating, immensely long and highly readable book is the fullest account we have—and are ever likely to have—of the early years of LBJ." —David Herbert Donald, front page, NY Times Book Review

"A superb and unique biography...Meticulous in research, grand in scale, this is a major work that will remain a tower of its kind."— Barbara Tuchman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679729457
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/1990
  • Series: Years of Lyndon Johnson Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 960
  • Sales rank: 60,629
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 1.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert A. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, twice won the National Book Critics Circle Award, 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 “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.” In 2010, President Obama presented him with the National Humanities Medal.
Caro lives in New York City with his wife, Ina, an historian and writer.

Biography

"I was never interested in writing biography just to show the life of a great man," Robert A. Caro once told Kurt Vonnegut, who interviewed him for Hampton Shorts. What Caro wanted to do instead "was to use biography as a means of illuminating the times and the great forces that shape the times -- particularly political power."

As an idealistic reporter for Newsday on Long Island, the young Robert Caro thought he understood how political power worked. He had written several prize-winning investigative pieces, including a series denouncing a bridge project proposed by public-works developer Robert Moses. When Caro's editor sent him to Albany to lobby against the bridge, he met with legislators and explained why the project was a terrible idea. The legislators agreed with him -- until Moses made his own trip to Albany and changed their minds.

"I remember driving back home that night and thinking that it was really important that we understand this kind of political power, and that if I explained it right -- how Robert Moses got it and what was its nature, and how he used it -- I would be explaining the essential nature of power," Caro told Vonnegut.

Caro left his job at Newsday to write a biography of Moses, a project he estimated would take one year. It took seven. During that time, Caro scraped by on a Carnegie Fellowship and the advance from his publisher -- an amount so small that he and his wife were forced to sell their house to make ends meet. But Caro persevered, constructing his story of back-room politics from scores of interviews and drawers full of old carbon copies. When his editor at Simon & Schuster left, Caro was free to seek a new editor, and a new publisher. Robert Gottlieb at Knopf shepherded The Power Broker into print in 1974. It would eventually be chosen by Modern Library as one of the best 100 books of the 20th century.

Caro then began work on his magnum opus, a projected four-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, spending years not only on the research trail but in the Texas hill country where Johnson grew up. The Path to Power, volume one of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, was published in 1982 to thunderous critical acclaim. Means of Ascent appeared in 1990, followed by Master of the Senate in 2002. Each successive volume has sent critics scurrying for new superlatives to describe Caro's "grand and absorbing saga" (Ron Chernow). "[Master of the Senate] reads like a Trollope novel, but not even Trollope explored the ambitions and gullibilities of men as deliciously as Robert Caro does," Anthony Lewis wrote in The New York Times Book Review.

Among Caro's fans are a number of politicians, including former Senate majority leader Thomas Daschle. "I think the thing you learn from reading that magnificent book is that every day, this body makes history," he told Roll Call after reading Master of the Senate. Even British politicians are hooked: one member of Parliament considered sending a note urging the author to speed up publication.

But time is an essential ingredient of Caro's work, whether he's wheedling an interview out of Johnson's cardiologist or writing and rewriting his chapters in longhand before banging out the final text on an old Smith-Corona. And he has no intention of expanding his research team of one: his wife, Ina. Readers eager for the final installment of the Johnson saga will simply have to follow Caro's example, and be patient.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 30, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Princeton University, 1957; Nieman Fellow at Harvard University
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

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(22)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    First Rate Work!

    It took me twelve days to read the first out of soon to be five total volumes of Lyndon Johnson's rise to power.

    The author portrays Lyndon Johson, from the time he was a child, as a person who craves power and how he obtains it. He shows Lyndon as a person who slowly achieves what he has always wanted in the most amoral ways possible.

    Because of this book, not only is Robert Caro now my favorite book author, it has helped me completely understand the art of politics.

    Anyone interested in politics, history, or biographies should read this book.

    Now on to the second volume!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    Makes biography by other authors seem superficial

    After finishing the fourth (of an expected five) book of this mega-biography, I vowed I’d read the first three. (I don’t know why Johnson is so fascinating to me – I definitely wasn’t a fan.) The Path to Power covers Johnson’s early years – from his birth in 1908 through 1941,just after his loss in a race for a US Senate seat from Texas. The Path to Power also includes genealogical information on his mother’s side (Bunton) and his father’s. What Robert Caro doesn’t know about LBJ has to be negligible – he covers LBJ in such detail, that even voluminous biographies by other authors seems superficial after reading his. In addition to incredible biographical information, he provides the Big Picture: life in Texas hill country during LBJ’s formative years, the long-standing history of corruption in Texas politics, and what it was like to keep house before electricity. (That becomes particularly important to understand why Rural Electrification was such an important issue in the 1930s.) On one hand, LBJ is shown to be an organizational and political genius. On the other hand, he was a real SOB from an early age. In one chapter, I feel sorry for him and in another, I’d like to wring his skinny neck. Overall, however, this series of books by Mr. Caro provides a fascinating portrait of a man who sought and obtained power by whatever means necessary. I appreciate the author’s pressuring his interviewees for the real story of LBJ, not the good-ole-boy stories they apparently told previous biographers. I’m looking forward to reading #2 and#3 next.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2004

    The making of a president

    Why Lyndon Johnson was the way he was is neatly summed up in this excellent work by Robert Caro. Knowing that Johnson was a complex character, as well as a supreme political opportunist, we need to ask why. Caro provides the answer by pulling back the veil that covered the poverty and backwardness that was the Texas Hill Country of the first half of the twentieth century. Showing the poor little boy (who allowed school friends to 'pop' his ear lobes for a nickel) with dreams of greatness and his fathers reputation constantly in front of him to the manipulator of campus politics, the author illustrates the emergence of one of the greatest politicians in America. An excellent, highly engaging work. But one must stop there as other works in this excellent series are already available and should be read in as well.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2013

    Ascent to Power

    Robert Caro as good as there is

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  • Posted October 14, 2012

    Recommended with Reservations

    Some people might object to the opinions and conclusions of the author, and I do to some 0f them. This is not an impartial biography of the man Lyndon Johnson and I do not think the author gave Johnson enough credit for his genius and in several instances his courage. For example, Johnson knew the Democratic party had a good chance of losing the South in future elections if the Voting Rights Act passed. Yet he supported it and his prediction about the South came true. The Southern Republicans are the same old bigoted reactionary Democrats with a different label, but they help the national GOP in Congress create a majority from time to time. Johnson did a lot of other good things, but his Viet Nam policy was catastrophic, as was Nixon's.
    In short, the book is worth reading but with caution.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2012

    Wow!

    This is likely the gold standard of biographies! Exhaustively researched using public and private documents, Caro adds extensive notes from his personal interviews with many of the people involved which adds a lot more color and flavor than raw documents can provide. Caro writes in a fashion that holds the readers interest but the writing is not always smooth. I sometimes found myself re-reading passages or sentences over and over to grasp the meaning. At over 900 pages excluding index, footnotes, and acknowledgements, this book is not for the faint of heart, but it's well worth the effort!

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  • Posted April 13, 2011

    A GREAT READ

    Well written, well researched and excellant biography of one of the most influential men of th 20th century. I don't always agree with his conclusions and at times I think he is a little hard on Johnson always thinking the worst of his motivations. That aside, Caro paints an unforgettable portrait not just of Johnson but of the place and time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2004

    An extraordinary work

    Robert Caro's book, The Path to Power, is an extraordinary biography. Mr. Caro develops Lyndon Johnson's childhood and early adulthood in wonderful detail and amazing clarity. This is a three dimentional approach to biography. After reading this book, the reader almost feels that he has met Johnson himself. Caro's gift for writing is also extraordinary. There are very few biographies that read like a novel - certainly this is one. It is hard to put the book down once you've started the work, long as it is. His development and description of the people in Johnson's life, Johnson's parents, Sam Rayburn, 'the White Stars', along with description of the important events of his early life - running away from home, his first congressional race, 'the Dam', read as well as any prose a reader could hope to enjoy. For those interested in Lyndon Johnson or American politics of the middle 20th century, this book is not to be missed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2003

    Outstanding

    Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson is one of the best biographies ever written, period. In this first volume, it takes Caro 70 pages just to set the stage for LBJ's birth - describing the Texas Hill Country as a trap, setting forth the ways in which LBJ resembled his forebears. Rather than annoying by failing to get to the point (or even begin it), Caro enchants, entices and relaxes you into LBJ's way of being, much as LBJ did himself. Caro clearly dislikes his subject but does him justice. This book is a joy to read, watching a master at work in his early days.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2003

    Very readable LBJ biography

    This is some of the best evidence of writing history in a way that is compelling and readable. This provides a very full picture of LBJ's early political years and his influences. But beware: this book will make you mistrust every politician you come across - even more than before. I find it interesting to read about Brown & Root's financial support of LBJ, knowing that they are still a large influential company today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2002

    Definitive, Gut-Wrenching Masterwork

    Robert A. Caro doesn't take research lightly. It's clear he really put his whole life into following LBJ's early years, living where he lived, talking with ANYONE who remembered him, etc. Like he did in 'The Power Broker,' Caro works to break down long-held beliefs about his subject that are just plain wrong! LBJ was NOT a popular student in college, he was NOT really a liberal, (just an opportunist who went where the votes were), but he WAS a liar from a very early age. Caro is the ONLY man to trust on LBJ, just read his stuff and forget all the chatter.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2000

    An Excellent Source of 'Behind- the- Scenes Politics

    For those who yearn to to study the politics that we see glossed over on television, Cairo's book provides an in-depth account of the rise of an unlikely boy from the Texas Hill Country to the national scene. Johnson's desperation, and ambition are well chronicled in this book. An excellent resource.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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