Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson)
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Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #2)

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  4,378 ratings  ·  221 reviews
With this, the second volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro enters into the central narrative of his magisterial biography - one of the richest, most intensive and revealing examinations ever undertaken of an American President.





Here we have Johnson's service in the Second World War and the foundation of his long-concealed fortunes- as well as the facts behind...more
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Published 1992 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1990)
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James Thane
This is the second volume (of four thus far) in Robert Caro's magisterial biography of former president Lyndon B. Johnson. It treats the period from mid-1941, when Johnson lost a special election for the U.S. Senate, through 1948, when Johnson won election to the Senate in a hotly contested and heatedly disputed primary election. Johnson was crushed by his loss in 1941, and believed that the election had been stolen from him by an opponent who was more clever than he. He vowed it would never hap...more
Matt
To say that Means of Ascent does not reach the towering heights of Caro's first volume of his Years of Lyndon Johnson is no slight. Path to Power is one of the greatest feats of biography I've ever read. The only reason Means falls short is because it happens to dwell on LBJ's wilderness years.

This was the time between his first failed senate run, during a special election, and his second, successful senate run, which culminated in the famed "87 votes that changed America." During these 7 years...more
Sue
I know perfectly well how Lyndon Johnson’s life turned out, yet I was urgently turning the pages as his 1948 run for the Senate played out its sordid finish in this second volume of Robert Caro’s monumental biography. A biography researched and documented, yes; but a narrative stranger than fiction.

“Means of Ascent” covers seven years of Johnson’s life, comprising his brief (and greatly aggrandized) career in the Navy in World War II and the beginnings of his considerable fortune through ownersh...more
Joe Martin

I loved the first volume of Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Path to Power. I’d ever read a better biography. I’ve still never read a better one but I’ve now read one that’s just as good.

This book really succeeds because it’s essentially four stories in one book.

Chapters 1–5 are the story of Johnson’s later years in Congress and what he did during World War II. (Johnson spent most of the war avoid danger and then flew into danger, literally, at the last minute in order to have some

...more
Antonio Nunez
I first heard of this book in 2001, when the Sunday Times of London asked William Hague, former chief of the UK Conservative Party, which book would he take to a desert island. At the time Hague was licking his wounds after having been mauled in Parliamentary elections, and was forced to step down as Party Leader. He was defeated by one of the most brilliant and ruthless political operators this country has known since the days of Baroness Thatcher, Tony Blair. Having seen the book in a used-boo...more
Matt
In reading Caro’s second volume of the LBJ biography series, I was completely blown away. While some call it the lesser exciting of Caro’s first two volumes depicting LBJ’s Texas life and early congressional years, I felt that it helped shape the image of the president I knew from the history books. Means of Ascent is by no means a shrinking violet in the literary world, though its action does, perhaps, pale when placed against its older sibling, Path to Power. Still, Caro brings to life those y...more
Bart Thanhauser
When I was reading the last few pages of The Means of Ascent, Robert Caro’s second book in his LBJ series, my friend asked me a question I’d been thinking a lot about: why are you reading a biography about LBJ?

I had been thinking about this question because it’s one that Caro himself discusses in The Means of Ascent’s final pages. Caro writes, “From the first time I thought of becoming a biographer, I never conceived of my biographies as merely telling the lives of famous men but rather as a me...more
Justin
Means of Ascent is the second volume in (now) projected 5 volume biography of LBJ. It covers the period from after his first, unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate until his successful run six years later. For what at one time was to be a 4 volume biography, it seems a poor allocation of resources to devote the same amount of space (an entire volume) to six years spent in the House of Representatives as to the eight years spent as either the Vice President or President of the United States of Ame...more
Vheissu
Caro not only knows how to tell a great tale, but he is an expert in what I call "forensic history." That is, he uses historical evidence to answer definitively questions that hounded LBJ his entire professional life. In the second volume of his biography, Caro demonstrates conclusively that LBJ stole not only the 1948 Senate seat from Texas but also the KBTC broadcasting license in Austin, a.k.a. a license to print money.

My only real criticism of the book is Caro’s hagiographic treatment of Cok...more
Mary
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent - Robert A. Caro

Spoiler Alert: This book is not for the politically squeamish nor the faint of heart.

This is the fourth biography I have read about LBJ. It is also the second of four (a promised fifth still to come) focused on LBJ's life by Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author, Robert Caro. Like all of LBJ's biographers, Caro must come to grip with the man's insatiable need to be in control - unlike the other biographers I have read...more
Nicholas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bill
Another compelling effort by Caro. This one is brief by his standards (a mere 412 pages) and clearly a bridge between Volumes I and III of his epic The Years of Lyndon Johnson. The writing and insights are as powerful as in The Path to Power, but the period it covers is the least interesting of LBJ's life, his "wilderness years" the period between his first (unsuccessful) and second (successful) run for the US Senate.

The description of how LBJ made millions via his radio station is, as Caro says...more
Donna
Aug 04, 2012 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of political science
Shelves: biography-memoir
At the end of this book Caro writes: "What I set out to try to do was to examine the way power works in America in the middle of the twentieth century."

Power. The one word that motivated Lyndon Baines Johnson. When he finally secured any measure of power he used it to the furthest extent he could--and then a bit beyond that.

This is the second volume in Caro's magnificent biography of Johnson and focuses on the years 1941 to 1948. Johnson was "in the war" for only a short period of time, but he m...more
Joe
Awesome. This is the most riveting volume of the Caro LBJ trilogy. The chapter on Box 13 alone is worth the price of this book. LBJ learned a lesson when he lost the Senate race to Pappy O'Daniel in 1938- Don't call-in all your votes until the other side has called-in all theirs.FDR would later joke with him about this. He didn't let that mistake happen again in 1948. Little did he know he'd have to "manufacture" a few votes, then hide a few more to beat out former Governor Coke Stevenson by les...more
Roger
The second of Michael Caro's trilogy on LBJ. Takes you from his time in House of Representatives to his election to the Senate in 1948. Outlines the influnces on his life, how he amassed power during the FDR years, how he used his friendship with Sam Rayburn to enhance his status, created his wealth, his true war record and his extra martial relationships. The book gives great depth to his "landslide" election by 87 votes to the Senate. Did he steal the election? In the Path to Power, Mr. Caro t...more
Ben
This volume of Robert Caro's epic multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson would seem to be inessential. LBJ is cast to the political wilderness after the death of FDR, his greatest booster, and from the description, it sounds like it will be Lyndon kicking a can down a dusty road and feeling sorry for himself. Do not be deterred! I enjoyed it even more than the first volume. It has personal intrigue, cutthroat business deals, vicious political maneuvering, courtroom drama, and my favorite thing,...more
John Woltjer
There were two fundamental elements that animated the life of Lyndon Johnson: conviction and ambition, and throughout his life, conviction always took a back seat to ambition. When he had no access to either, he fell into a darkness that was all consuming. This is an assessment that Caro returns to over and over in the 4 books he wrote about LBJ. Johnson was a man with a bone deep compassion for the poor and downtrodden--he felt deeply connected to the poor Mexican children at the Cotulla school...more
Norman Cohen
Caro reiterates certain themes from Volume 1 here, but uses different scenarios to touch on those themes. So as it was his campus lying in Volume 1 which led to his not so nice nickname "Bull" Johnson -- here it is his inflated war record, that just ballooned with each retelling. Stealing elections at San Marcos and in the Little Congress, primes him for the big steal, of the 1948 Senate race. The themes of Caro's entire series get broadened here and we somehow by the end accept that Johnson wil...more
Hugh Ashton
Since large parts of the main body of the book repeated the first volume, I can't give it more than 4 stars. However, it is once again an exhaustively researched piece of work, serving as a model for historical writers. The most interesting part for me was the afterword. Apparently after the book came out, there were quite a few attacks on Coke Stevenson, the former Governor who was defeated by Johnson in the 1948 Senatorial election.

Caro explains exactly why he came to regard Stevenson's chara...more
Nick Black
May 17, 2012 Nick Black rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Twitch
ould have been 4 stars -- the 1948 senate race, dominating this volume, was thrilling -- but the repetition of phrases and quotes is really getting out of hand. also, i think all the claims of LBJ being "the first time america would disrespect her president" is a bucket of crap -- has Caro never heard good ol' "ma, ma, where's my pa (he's gone to the white house!)" etc? has the man never taken AP american history?
Kellie
I am loving reading the Caro series, but am going to take a break before I tackle the next one. I read Caro's intro to this book about the song, "We Shall Overcome," the day after Obama was elected. I cried like a baby. This book really puts into perspective LBJ's insane quest/need for power. The history also helps me to realize that corrupt leaders who lie about war aren't that new.
Adam Higgitt
There can't be much still to be said about Robert A Caro's multi-volume study of Lyndon Johnson. Regarded by many as the greatest political biography ever (though with one volume still to go, it might be wise to reserve judgement) it has won virtually every book prize for which it is eligible and is on the favourite list of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Anything I say is therefore unlikely to add to the understanding of Caro's achievement in chronicling the life of America's 36th Pr...more
Jessica Brown
In my view the best of the 3 Caro books on Johnson. (All are great.) He made me care about Coke Stephenson someone I'd never heard of before. I'm just hopefully Caro stays healthy enough to finish this wonderful series.
Ken
I was a little disappointed when I discovered that this book covers only 7 years of Johnson’s life. However, as it turns out, the central episode of this book (LBJ’s 1948 Senate race against Coke Stevenson) is well deserving of a full-length treatment. The book stands on its own as a story of a remarkable election — and the pivotal election in LBJ’s career. And, like Caro’s other books, it’s researched to the point of obsessiveness and written in a compelling, brilliant style. In particular, the...more
M. Milner
The second volume of Robert Caro’s massive Lyndon Johnson biography is shorter than the first, both in size and scope. But like the first it’s an addicting, gripping read and even with its smaller scale, it does just as interesting a job in capturing a fascinating man.

While it's shorter, it's also more accessible than the first volume, since it covers a short period but one with very high drama: the 1948 senate election, which started as two competing schools of campaigning and ends as a courtr...more
Jim
Means of Ascent is the second book in a five book series about Lyndon Johnson, and America, during his life. This book focuses on the time when Johnson was a congressman during, and after, World War 2, and his subsequent campaign for the Senate in 1948.

This book was a depressing book. Much of the book looks at how Johnson won his 1948 Senate race. As someone who is instinctively pro-Johnson's achievements, his behaviour in the race can, at best, be described as distasteful, and certainly left me...more
Ben
If you have a sensitive moral conscience, you also will need a hard stomach. But this second installment in Caro's intensely in-depth investigation of Lyndon Johnson's rise to political power is as fascinating as the first. Its just over 400 pages turn as fast. The story of how he poured his soul into Texas' pivotal 1948 U.S. Senate election, and ultimately orchestrated its theft with the help of a coterie of worshipful toadies and local strong men, is illuminating. As a balm for all the stomach...more
Cory
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Kingman
I'm a Texan from a rural town. But no matter what I do to try and think of LBJ as anything other than a lying, egotistical, and Machiavellian bully, I can't get past Caro's amazing research and even handed reporting.

This is more focused and pointed than the first volume, mainly because there are only 7 years covered here. The chapters on Coke Stevenson stand alone as an excellent piece of Texana. You cannot read this book without sadness for what this liar did to a great man like Stevenson and t...more
Robert Morris
Robert Caro is a master. This second installment in his epic story of the life of Lyndon Johnson lacks the incredible story of his rise from poverty, but provides an incredible story in itself. The first section of the book documents a period of frustration and stasis for Johnson. We mostly see him being the calculating monster in private and public life that he was in the last book. The chapter on the corrupt way he built his wealth is especially interesting.

The second part of the book deals w...more
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722
He's the author of The Power Broker (1974), for which he won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. It's a biography of Robert Moses, an urban planner and leading builder of New York City. President Obama said that he read the biography when he was 22 years old and that the book "mesmerized" him. Obama said, "I'm sure it helped to shape how I think about politics."
Caro has also written four biographies on Lyndo...more
More about Robert A. Caro...
Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #3) The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #1) The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #4) Robert A. Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson Set: The Path to Power; Means of Ascent; Master of the Senate; The Passage of Power

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