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The Power Broker

4.51 of 5 stars 4.51  ·  rating details  ·  4,276 ratings  ·  554 reviews
Book Description
A fresh look at the greatest builder in the history of New York City and one of its most controversial figures.

In various roles in city and state government from 1930 to 1965, Robert Moses reshaped the fabric of the city. From Lincoln Center to the Triborough Bridge, the West Side Highway to the Cross Bronx Expressway, his public projects, reassessed in thi...more
Hardcover, 1246 pages
Published by History Book Club (first published January 1st 1974)
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Jessica
May 21, 2008 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone in the goddamn world (especially New Yorkers)
This is definitely the greatest book that I have ever read.

Midway through adolescence, I began wondering a bit which life event would finally make me feel like an adult. Of course I had the usual teenaged hypotheses, and acted accordingly to test some of them out. Getting drunk? Having sex? Driving a car? Going to college? None of these things did make me feel grownup; in many instances, their effect was the opposite. I had a brief thrilling moment of maturity when I voted for the first time at...more
Hadrian
Robert Caro's The Power Broker is the Citizen Kane of books. This is not only because of how often both are almost universally praised, not only because they have both become a cipher for what you want to refer to something truly Great in that form of media, not only because they are both narrative biographical epics which can also discuss the intimate details of the personal lives of their subjects, but also because they both the stories of engineers of human society on a grand scale.



Robert Mo...more
Jan-Maat
This is a book about power...And parks.

For forty-four years Robert Moses through the control of different institutions, often whose formal authorities he had designed and drafted into legislation, created a power base that enabled him to escape the constraints laid upon bureaucrats and elected officials and to stamp his vision upon the developing city of New York.

If the Bonfire of the Vanities is the shock book of 1980s New York then The Power Broker Robert Moses and the Fall of New York tells...more
Matt
At nearly 1,200 pages of text (not including endnotes and the index), Robert Caro’s The Power Broker is a big book. And despite its uniformly excellent quality – its Pulitzer Prize is well deserved – I felt every single one of those pages. This book came to dominate my reading time, to the extent that I started using my reading time to do other things, like watching erotic thrillers on Netflix streaming video. Like I said, it’s not a bad book. Actually, it’s a great book. Therefore, as I plodded...more
Mishka
i have never been afraid of hyperbole so here goes: i bow down before the greatness of this book. i can separate my 10 years living in new york as pre-caro and post-caro. every aspect of my life in new york, the subway, the roads, parks, politics (current and historical), every detail of mishka brown's highly anticipated treatise 'what i would do if i was in charge - the new york city edition' (yes, i talk about myself in the third person) is influenced by this book...this book is so vast, so fa...more
Brian
In early 2012 on a business trip to NYC, I was driving on Long Island Expressway for the first time when an odd and seemingly unnecessary bend in the road got my curiousity. Searching for the answer later in the day brought me to Robert Moses, which then brought me to this book, and as much as I loved this behemoth, I'm still trying to figure out if I'm in a better place viz-a-viz humanity for having read it.

Want to read a good horror book? Forget the kings of the genre in fiction, Caro has serv...more
Jerry Raviol
Although many folks know he is responsible for parks, bridges, roads, and tunnels - did you know that he reformed the budget system for the state of New York? Did you know that he was an Ivy League do gooder that never had a real paying job until he was more than 30 years old? Did you know that he spent his entire young adulthood trying to reform government? Did you know that the man most responsible for the highway, bridges, and tunnels of NYC, never had a driver’s license? He was chauffer driv...more
Steven Peterson
1162 pages of well researched text is what Robert Caro uses to tell the story of planner and political power Robert Moses. Over decades of service, Moses reshaped New York (both the city and the state) and other public structures. He began as a reformer; over time, he arrogated more and more power to himself--and still remained rather out of sight as a figure. He used his power sometimes unconcerned about the implications for citizens. The Cross-Bronx Expressway, for instance, displaced many peo...more
Jay Oza

If there is one book you want read besides a religious book, I would make this that book.

We all have ideas, and very few of us ever even get to create a vision, but unless you have power it will go no where. For example, Steve Jobs didn't get Apple to be #1 because they out innovated others. It was because he had power. If you want to understand power, read this book, since it is so well written and researched. You get the feeling that Caro knew Moses better than he.


This book should be studied,...more
Tony
A massive, magisterial work on the man who built the roads, parks, etc. in New York. I'd been meaning to read this book for a long time because the author's continuing books on Lyndon Johnson are superb. The Power Broker did not disappoint. At times this bordered almost on too much information and there were certainly some thematic redundancies. But these are mere quibbles. There is a real sense of 'being in the room' while events are occurring. Caro, likewise, is able to explain legal, structur...more
Aaron Arnold
This is a six star book. I read it after having hoovered up Caro's LBJ series, and while nothing to me can equal those for sheer writing power, this comes damn close. Like those books, this is exhaustively researched and sourced from an unimaginable number of archival documents and personal interviews. Like those books, it is the study of a man who loved power more than anything, and whose most minor whims have consequences that echo to this day. Like those books, its depth seems to encompass th...more
Anne
Holy mother of all that is holy. If you've got any attachment to New York, any interest in city planning, and any stamina whatsoever, RUN (do not walk) to get your own copy and read, read, read!!!
Jeff Joseph
WOW, WOW, OH MY GOD, This is one of those books that has you calling everyone you know telling them how they must read this book. Its absolutely mind boggling,facinating, amazing and really quite scary what this evil genius accomplished. Truth is SO much stranger than fiction! This is one of those books where your a different person when you finish the book then when you start(,and thats not due to the time factor involved in reading this big ass sucker)

For many years Ive been noticing this su...more
Josh
Finally finished with this ridiculously long but incredible book about urban power and politics. It's terrifically thorough despite omitting several stories about the late years in Moses' career (presumably because of simple length considerations, and the recency of those events at the date of publication). So even at 1162 pages, I actually wouldn't have minded it being longer. Of course the subject and the story are so thoroughly compelling. Robert Moses did some amazing and amazingly terrible...more
Nick Black
Amazon, 2008-10-13.

Something about Caro's writing is really irritating me, and I can't put my finger on it. The characters thus far are awesome, though. I wish I had more time to be putting into it :/.
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2013-09-13 picked this back up a few days ago, after reading Caro's LBJ books last year. started over from the beginning. really wondering how Caro is going to justify the remaining ~500 pages, though the first 500 were pretty damn good.
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Searching the e-text reveals that the phrase "the best b...more
Jeremy
If you only read one 1162-page book this year... read this one. Wow. Having just finished this, it's hard to say which achievement is more monumental: Robert Moses's commandeering of New York's byzantime infrastructure to serve his own ambitious vision--the book makes an open-and-shut case for Moses, whom many have never heard of and never served in public elected office, being the most important and powerful man in the history of New York--or Robert Caro's ability to write a definitive biograph...more
Mark
Long before Robert Caro, a former Newsday reporter, began his seemingly endless series of Lyndon Johnson biographies (last volume is in production now), he wrote this absolutely brilliant portrait of Robert Moses. I knew very little about the man before reading it. Afterwards, I understood not only the deep extent of his political power in New York, but the fact that he was responsible for many of the city's major parks, bridges and the infamous Cross-Bronx Expressway. A man driven by ego and th...more
Mjackman
Bob Caro has a readable way of drawing you into Moses' life story, and shows Moses' fascinating transformation from reformer to ramp-builder. I was unaware that progressives actually *embraced* the automobile and big plans to clear "slums" back in the "good old days." I guess lots of reformers came up saying, "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." (An apt epitaph for Moses.)
Max
The ultimate in investigative reporting - a history so well written, so thorough, so deep and with so many takeaways that it is beyond thought provoking. It changes the way you perceive the world. Caro shows how money, politics and power work behind the scenes to determine events in ways we ordinarily never see. He meticulously details a half century of greed and ambition ever evolving to control government from one generation to the next, from one set of power brokers to the next.

We learn how...more
Chris
An historic tragedy of a life.

As a work of journalism it easily tops any such work I’d read before. Truly monumental. I spent the better half of a decade working as a print journalist, and I’m in awe of what Caro managed to pull off here — the task seems superhuman. (I caught only one typo, on p. 948, out of nearly 1,200 pages (excluding the notes)). But the relevance of Caro’s success applies to my general human being as much as, or more than, the former journalist in me: I find myself wanting...more
Chris Haak
At 1,162 pages, this was most certainly the longest, heaviest book I have ever read. Actually, I didn't read every word, because I listened to about half of the book on Audible while driving just so I could get through the thing in two weeks.

It's a fascinating story about the rise, and subsequent 40+ years of dominance of Robert Moses in New York state/city politics, and finally his fall from power in the 1960s. The amount of power that he had at one point was remarkable - FDR tried to fire him,...more
Nicola
The man who built countless parks, state-of-the-art highways and brought the United Nations to New York City, was also an arrogant, racist, power-hungry jerk who spent countless millions of taxpayer dollars on projects that enriched his allies, destroyed close-knit neighborhoods and starved public transit. Robert Moses's fingerprints are on almost every element of modern New York, both good and bad. The Power Broker is both a fascinating and infuriating read.

I physically had to saw this 1,200-p...more
Matt
I am neither an urban planner, nor a New Yorker. With that cleared up, I can attempt to review this epic biography by Robert A. Caro, which has garnered a great deal of hype over the past 40 years. Caro takes the entire life of this man and puts it out for review, letting nothing escape his descriptive powers (though the book is a mere 1200 of the original 3000 pages Caro prepared). The book is so thorough and complex that the reader must digest a great deal of information to move through the se...more
Dan
This is a remarkable book, the type of book that I imagine myself recommending to friends 10-15 years from now as frequently as if it were a current bestseller. (It took me a full month to read.) The breadth of Caro's research is simply stunning; I have seen comparisons between Caro's epic histories and Gibbon's work in the 18th century, and they hold up.

I do wish I could give 4.5 stars to this book. I had two complaints--one stylistic and one substantive.

Stylistic - I wish Caro would editoriali...more
Jose-rodrigo Hernandez
Apr 08, 2012 Jose-rodrigo Hernandez rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: new york history buffs, urban planners, politicians
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Harlan
This is an astonishing book. For at least three reasons. First, Robert Caro is a master of exhaustively-researched biographies, and this book is remarkable in the comprehensiveness of his portrait of Robert Moses. From details of his youth and college years, to a blow-by-blow description of his fall from power as an old man, the writing is detailed, opinionated, and razor sharp. Second, the life of Moses is astonishing in itself. The book gives a portrait of how idealism can be quickly turned to...more
Emily
Since I loved Robert Caro's LBJ books so much, I thought I'd tackle the biography that started it all. I just couldn't get into this book. The problem was not Caro's writing, which is as rich and detailed as ever, but rather the subject matter. Robert Moses seems to have been an arrogant, charmless man who viewed the "public" in public works as an amorphous blob, disdaining--bulldozing--the individual people for whom he built all those parks, highways, and housing projects. The story of how he d...more
Vance Christiaanse
At 1336 pages (three volumes) this book wasn't nearly long enough to cover its topic: the life of one of the most powerful men in human history, Robert Moses; I'd have gladly listened to another thousand pages.

Who was Robert Moses (1888 – 1981), you ask? Well, he's the man who personally decided where pretty much every major highway and bridge in and around New York City was built. If you like subways, as I do, you'll want to learn how this guy worked tirelessly to make sure New York City's subw...more
Tracie
This book is 1200 pages long and weighs a million pounds. It's going to take me awhile.

UPDATE: It is now March 2011, approximately 9 months after I started reading The Power Broker: WHAT'S UP MOTHER FUCKERS I FINALLY FINISHED THIS MOTHER FUCKING BOOK. This is a cause of celebration for me, as it has been weighing me down for the last 4 months as I've carried it around trying to sludge through its 1200 pages. But it was totally, totally worth it. It's dense, but it has to be, and I learned a lot...more
Michael W.
Sep 24, 2007 Michael W. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: New Yorkers
Shelves: biography-read
Robert Caro's exhaustive, yet compelling biography of Robert Moses should be required reading for anyone in or considering public service. Moses held more power than Mayors and Governors in New York for over 40 years, without ever having to be elected. Though he did once mount a disastrous run for Governor of New York.
Many of the passages are amazing and even humorous, specifically the relationship and petty moves and counter-moves between Moses and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the 1930s. The boo...more
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Why is it not available on Kindle 8 262 May 30, 2014 07:40AM  
New York Exhibits 1 35 Mar 28, 2007 03:40PM  
  • Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City
  • Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
  • The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects
  • The Works: Anatomy of a City
  • What It Takes: The Way to the White House
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life
  • Great Streets
  • Huey Long
  • Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States
  • Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century
  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities
  • The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance
  • Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-1972
  • Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier
  • The Sweet Science
  • Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City
  • Edge City: Life on the New Frontier
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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
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) Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #2) 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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“Hospitality has always been a potent political weapon. Moses used it like a master. Coupled with his overpowering personality, a buffet often did as much for a proposal as a bribe.” 0 likes
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