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

4.34  ·  Rating Details ·  9,148 Ratings  ·  334 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published March 6th 1991 by Vintage (first published March 7th 1990)
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(showing 1-30)
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Dec 03, 2008 Kellie added it
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.
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2009 Roger rated it really liked it
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
Aug 04, 2009 Nicholas rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This series has been one of the most fascinating historical, political biographies I've ever read. I do wonder if I would enjoy it as much if I was reading the text vs listening to it. I've flown through the first two door stoppers whereas other historical political books have taken me years to read (TEAM OF RIVALS & Bill Clinton's auto-bio for example) So, I do recommend the audiobook versions - the books are dense with info. It's been easier to stay engaged and remember what's happening wi ...more
Nov 24, 2009 Bill rated it really liked it
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
Jessica Brown
Aug 03, 2010 Jessica Brown rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 23, 2011 Joe rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 24, 2012 H. rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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

Oct 01, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, audiobook
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
Nick Black
May 17, 2012 Nick Black rated it liked it
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?
Aug 04, 2012 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Dec 08, 2012 Vheissu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2013 Sue rated it it was amazing
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
Bart Thanhauser
Jun 17, 2013 Bart Thanhauser rated it really liked it
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
James Thane
Jun 28, 2013 James Thane rated it liked it
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
Antonio Nunez
Jul 12, 2013 Antonio Nunez rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 25, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it
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
Adam Higgitt
Apr 02, 2014 Adam Higgitt rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing
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
May 20, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing
Caro's biographies are among the best books I have ever read. In LBJ and Robert Moses he has chosen complex, deeply flawed men who have an inordinate impact - positive and negative - on their times. As some have pointed out, this volume covers Johnson's "years in the wilderness" - but I don't think it suffers for that. Caro's telling of the '48 Senate campaign is amazing and deserves to be made into a movie.
Mar 08, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Means of Ascent, like Path to Power, is a beautifully written and breathtakingly researched book about an #$$-hole. At times its conclusions would fit an expose, as if Caro’s an opposition researcher, and his writing (or at least his findings) is in an anti-LBJ political pamphlet. He’s absurdly meticulous, so of course it doesn’t read like a political hack job, but it would be nigh impossible (I assert) to finish this book--which covers LBJ at his most win-at-all-costs ambitious, 1941 to 1948--a ...more
Dave Peticolas
Feb 16, 2015 Dave Peticolas rated it really liked it
I had heard that LBJ stole the 1948 Texas Senate election, but I had no idea about the astonishing (and pretty much irrefutable) details. Unbelievable. What a strange, strange man he was.
Kelly McCubbin
Aug 19, 2015 Kelly McCubbin rated it it was amazing
If Volume One of Caro's "Years of Lyndon Johnson" were his "The Grapes of Wrath", this is his "The Searchers". By the end of the book the breathtaking and colossally corrupt 1948 senate race that Johnson clearly stole out from under his opponent is so peppered with mobs and pistoleros and bribery and cowboys and backrooms and vintage, old west, legal proclamating that you can hardly believe it wasn't a strict genre fiction... But it wasn't.
e watch, in this volume, the complete loss of any vestig
Jul 25, 2016 Blake rated it it was amazing
Another triumph. This time, it is not the breadth of Caro's vision that overwhelms us, but its focus. After a casual exploration of LBJ's time in military service (a relaxed affair up until a highly dangerous, yet subsequently over-embellished airborne mission), and of his acquisition of a (financially lucrative) radio station, the book launches into a 300 page legal-political thriller that is the 1948 Texas Senate primary election. The stakes, in this case, are grand - Johnson was foregoing his ...more
Nov 07, 2015 Maeve rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
This book was masterfully written if a bit repetitive. Highly researched. Illuminating of LBJ's character, the injustice of the 1948 senate race, and upset me at points in ways fiction does not.
Vikas Erraballi
Jan 06, 2016 Vikas Erraballi rated it it was amazing
Just the last third of this book, which contains the EPIC battle between Governor Coke Stevenson (aka Mr Texas) and Johnson for a seat in the Senate, is worth an entire season of Game of Thrones.

This is the third book I've read of the four Caro has, to date, written on Lyndon B. Johnson. I have not read them in order. My first was Master of the Senate (#3), followed by Passage to Power (#4). Collectively, these books go far beyond telling the story of the life of Lyndon B. Johnson. They tell the story of an era through the lens of the life of LBJ. Each book provides insights into later events and earlier events, so as to put the current book into context.

In each book, we also learn abo
May 09, 2016 RJ rated it it was amazing
One of the best biographies I've read. Caro focuses on the 1948 Democratic primary campaign and how Lyndon Johnson did just about anything to win it. The best I've read in the series, which is at four volumes now.
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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 about Robert A. Caro...

Other Books in the Series

The Years of Lyndon Johnson (4 books)
  • The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #1)
  • Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #3)
  • The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #4)

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“He (LBJ) played on their fears as he played on their hopes.” 1 likes
“A handshake, as delivered by Lyndon Johnson, could be as effective as a hug.” 1 likes
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