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

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

by Robert A. Caro


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679729457
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/17/1990
Series: Years of Lyndon Johnson Series , #1
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 960
Sales rank: 27,079
Product dimensions: 6.08(w) x 9.17(h) x 1.57(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

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, 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 President Barack Obama awarded Caro the National Humanities Medal, stating at the time: “I think about Robert Caro and reading The Power Broker back when I was twenty-two years old and just being mesmerized, and I’m sure it helped to shape how I think about politics.” The London Sunday Times has said that Caro is “The greatest political biographer of our times.”  
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. 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 of The 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 Globe said . . . “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.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

October 30, 1935

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Princeton University, 1957; Nieman Fellow at Harvard University

Table of Contents

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Path to Power 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
watkd25 More than 1 year ago
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!
NewsieQ More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
MatthewN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was hooked after the first chapter. This is the book that makes you understand LBJ, or at least what drives him. I am torn between feeling sorry for him and loathing him. You come away with the impression that he never did anything that did not benefit himself personally with a few exceptions. His years as a school teacher down in south Texas and at Houston are at odds with the rest of the book where he is demonized. Did he deserve the treatment that Caro gave him? When you look at the cold hard facts of his record as a congressman, I tend to think a lot of what Caro writes is more truthful than embellishment. People remember 2 kinds of people. The really good and the really bad. Average people don't tend to linger in too many people's minds. LBJ trended toward the really bad according to the various personal interviews that Caro records in this book.Overall, I loved it. You must read this book. LBJ was an extraordinary man who accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. My feelings toward his politics are irrelevant. He is a part of history and his story is probably more interesting than you think.
jensenmk82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most astonishing books I've ever read. No one interested in American politics should fail to read Caro's monumental biography.
RodneyWelch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A narrative masterpiece: the best of the series. No one will fail to notice Caro's bias against his subject, but it's a bias (in this volume anyway) which he seems to have earned. Years after reading the book, I'm still impressed by the depth of his research and his sheer narrative skill in getting the absolute feel for Johnson's life, struggle and environment. If you read nothing else, read Chapter 27, "The Sad Irons," an overwhelming account of life in the Texas hill country.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best biographies out there, of anyone. Caro is a masterful craftsman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book about a vile man. I could not bear to read the subsequent volumes. It is no wonder that John and Robert Kennedy could not imagine Lyndon Johnson as president. John Kennedy had him caged and we would all be better off if he had never achieved his goal, the White House.
patience_crabstick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This first volume in the not-yet finished full biography of Lyndon Johnson is as much a history of Texas and the hill country as a life of LBJ. Caro excels at portraying life on the Texas frontier as well as what it was like to live on a farm, with no electricity, during the depression. LBJ's early years--sometimes you want to kick the crap out of him, other times you can't help but like him--are chronicled in this volume which takes us up to his failed run for US Senate against Pappy O'Daniel in 1942.
sfsinger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing book, first of three. If you want to know how political power is gained and used in the US, you must read this book. All three volumes.
jmgallen More than 1 year ago
“The Path To Power” is the first in Robert A. Caro’s multi-volume “The Years of Lyndon Johnson”. This one covers Johnson’s family and political backgrounds through his youth, rise to the eve of his successful 1948 election campaign. Johnson’s roots ran deep into Texas soil and were nurtured in the political life of the Lone Star state. Born into a family of more prominence than respect he accompanied his father to the legislature and saw him sink into poverty. Though a life-long Democrat, the Johnsons were influenced by the People’s Party, a populist movement associated with Williams Jennings Bryan. Armed with the Bunton eye, Johnson strut, the affection of his father’s colleagues and a deep fear of failure and poverty, Lyndon moved to make his place in the world. Caro’s theme is of a Johnson who was consistently consumed by ambition and driven to do whatever was necessary to achieve success. The Johnson introduced at San Marcos Teachers College was the same man seen throughout his career. He was a man who would use, and dump, anyone when it was expedient. He would pander to the powerful, weave myths out of whole cloth, cheat in elections and never hesitate to call in chits to get himself out of scandal. During the time covered by this book Johnson made three associations that would play major roles in his life and career. This tome chronicles his courtship and marriage to Claudia Alta Taylor, his Lady Bird. Typical of Johnson’s method, Lady Bird was the daughter of the richest man in town whose wealth and connections would be crucial early in Lyndon’s career. Sam Rayburn remembered Johnson visiting the Texas legislature. Lyndon enthusiastically served as the son Mr. Sam never had. Though also the consummate politician, Rayburn would be a mentor and sponsor for the rest of his life. Johnson became a favorite of Franklin Roosevelt’s because of his unflinching support, even when others abandoned the president, although Johnson quietly shifted his associations to Texas interests that opposed to the New Deal. The Path To Power” is very detailed, deeply researched and well written. It definitely portrays Johnson as a ruthless political operative whose only morals were to promote his own advancement. This work is essential to anyone wishing to understand LBJ.
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Robert Caro as good as there is
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