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The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #1)

4.42  ·  Rating Details ·  11,111 Ratings  ·  594 Reviews
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 C ...more
Paperback, 882 pages
Published February 17th 1990 by Vintage (first published November 21st 1982)
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Lee Hurwitz The ends justify the means. LBJ was corrupt, a womanizer, and a pathological liar. But, he got things done. In 1949, his first speech on the Senate…moreThe ends justify the means. LBJ was corrupt, a womanizer, and a pathological liar. But, he got things done. In 1949, his first speech on the Senate floor is referred to as the "we of the south speech" where he ripped into civil rights and said that the Yankee Northerners had no business dictating how Southerners should treat their citizens. After this speech, Johnson was congratulated by the segregationist Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. When he was President, he once said to a group of aides "I've had more women by accident than Kennedy had on purpose". He was a Southerner who used road projects, public works projects, university subsidies, and other goodies to one-by-one pick off Northern and Western filibuster supporters to break the previously impregnable filibuster and sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson was a great man. He had many flaws, but he was a great man.(less)

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Mar 17, 2013 Buck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-writing
Not being American myself, I have no particular interest in US presidential history, unless that history can be shoehorned into an entertaining biopic, preferably with a British actor in the lead role. (I wonder who they’ll get to play Obama when the time comes. Liam Neeson?)

This book, though. This book is something else. ‘Political biography’ is too pissant a term for this Ahab-like undertaking. I’d call it a biographie-fleuve, but I don’t think that’s a real word even in French. Let’s just cal
Jan 08, 2017 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2017
"...if Lyndon Johnson was not a reader of books, he was a reader of men--a reader with a rare ability to see into their souls."
-- Robert A Caro, The Path to Power


I'll write more tomorrow, but if the next three (and the final, yet to be written book) are as polished and well-researched as this one, this may end up being the definitive biography of any president. I loved Morris' Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy. It and Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton were nearly tied in my affection and es
Jun 11, 2007 Blanca rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: LBJ lovers
Shelves: non-fiction, texas
I finished the first installment of the complete history of LBJ's political career just as I began working at the Texas Legislature. Lots of people think LBJ was a mean ole' SOB, but he was also enigmatic, visionary and had a great understanding of how to bust some balls for the good of the people. Caro has been banned from the LBJ Museum at UT-Austin because he doesn't portray LBJ as a warm and fuzzy guy. Despite the accounts of infidelty, great ego and down-right intimidating scariness, LBJ is ...more
James Thane
Jun 28, 2012 James Thane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Published in 1982, this is the first volume in Robert Caro's massive biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. Originally scheduled to run three volumes, the fourth has just been published and there is at least one more to follow. Caro has devoted the last forty years of his life to this project. He has done a staggering amount of research, which includes interviews with scores of the former president’s contemporaries, and the result is the most complete study of the life of LBJ that we are ever likely to ...more
Aug 25, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
I like my heroes Greek, as in tragic; the more complicated and conflicted the better. What kind of drama is there is a man finds it easy to make the right choices all the time?

Lyndon Johnson is one of the more-complex statesmen of our nation's history. Caro's biography (this is the first of a proposed four) certainly does the complexity justice. So far I've read two of the four (the fourth has not been written), and thus far easily surpass any biography I've ever read. Caro is an incredible wri
Mar 17, 2013 Sue rated it it was amazing
As a veteran devourer of fiction, I believe that we don’t live in an age of great fiction. But we do seem to live in an age of great biographies. I have come late – about thirty years late – to volume 1 of “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” this riveting account of the early life of Lyndon Johnson. Last year when I read excerpts from volume four, I knew I had to get to the beginning of Caro’s great opus, expected eventually to be five volumes. (Continue in good health, Robert Caro!)

Volume 1 illumine
Lauren Albert
Remarkable. I won't say it reads like a novel because it is history, good history. But it draws you in like a novel and is as well-written as a good novel. It is not just a biography of Johnson, it is a biography of a time and a place. And it is drawn so vividly that one feels anxieties about the outcome of events that were long ago decided.

He has long chapters that are not at all about Johnson but about people who, at some point, were important to his life or career and at one point, about the
John Woltjer
Dec 23, 2013 John Woltjer rated it it was amazing
I am currently reading Volume 3 of the 4 volumes Caro wrote about LBJ. What Caro has done here is to craft about as close to a perfect biography as is humanly possible. I am a former History teacher, and thought I knew LBJ well. But this series quite honestly does everything short of bring to life a hologram of Johnson, who comes alive in your presence and short of bleeding on your rug, lives with you as you progress through the series. My biggest challenge in writing this review is that I canno ...more
May 11, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, audiobook
This is a sensational opening to the LBJ biography series. I was blown away by the detail that Caro includes and the stories that he is able to weave, shedding both positive and negative lights on LBJ. It appears that no stone was left unturned and no person opinion was swept under the rug. Caro does a great job in this, the first of four massive volumes.

Caro uses a technique with which I am usually highly critical; that of tangential writing. He steers away from the story to tell a tale about s
Frank Stein
May 25, 2009 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing
For years I've shoved Caro's The Power Broker into people's hands like I got commission for it, like I was some kind of cheap pusher ("Just try it..."). It's the greatest nonfiction book I've ever read, hands down, bar none, no question. But the only other thing Caro ever wrote was this four volume (fourth volume still forthcoming, and he'll probably manage to split it up and turn it into two more door-stopping volumes) biography of Lyndon Johnson, and I knew there was no way I cared enough abou ...more
Biography at its best. I eagerly wait for the second volume.
Where is my ten-star function when I need it? I have been waiting all year to pick up a fantastic non-fiction book, something along the lines of Taylor Branch's civil rights trilogy, "The Warmth of Other Suns," "Mayflower," "The Beauty and the Sorrow," or "Behind the Beautiful Forevers." I'm going to echo the words of another reviewer who describes reading this series as one of the greatest pleasures of his reading life.

I selected this book because I've long been interested in LBJ's largely-over
Ben Loory
Jan 20, 2017 Ben Loory rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably great. One of those books that makes you want to knock every other book you've read down a star or two. A "I didn't know books could be this good" kind of book.
Jun 01, 2012 Andre rated it it was amazing

Probably the best biography I've ever read. Robert Caro has created an almost incredibly detailed and excellent study of a man and the historical situation around him. I know more about the Texas Hill Country, its geological and human history, from the first two chapters, than about any other plot of land I could name. Chapter 27 on life as a poor pre-electrification farmer--same in the 1930s in west Texas as in the 1600s anywhere, evidently--is deeply powerful as a explication of a life of m
Feb 14, 2012 Riley rated it it was amazing
It would be difficult to overstate the breadth of this book, which covers Lyndon Johnson's life up to his failed bid to move to the Senate from the House in 1941. Author Robert Caro, no question a great writer, offers lengthy vignettes on everything from the Hill Country where Johnson grew up to a classic description of the powerful but lonely House Speaker Sam Rayburn. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book that also delves at length into the down and dirty of how Johnson came to power through mon ...more
Aug 17, 2010 Mcgyver5 rated it it was amazing
This book was looooong! I wouldn't cut anything, though. As with other Robert Caro books, the content covers far, far more than the biographical subject. I read all about the inner workings of the Roosevelt administration, Sam Rayburn, "Cactus Jack" Garner, Texas machine politics, the ecology of the Texas Hill Country, and the creation of a little company called Brown and Root.

When it comes to Lyndon Johnson, it fills in a lot of pre-history referenced in the other books and just makes me even m
Oct 18, 2016 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me a month to read this but it was well worth the effort. At times, I thought of skipping to the last book (so far) in the series which covers when Johnson became president, but I never felt like giving up this one despite its size and how detailed it is. By the end, I was hooked and well up for reading the whole series. Think what makes it great is that it isn't just about Lyndon Johnson but like it says in the title, about "the years of Lyndon Johnson" - it's really a history book about t ...more
Mar 23, 2013 Kevin rated it it was amazing
"This book. This book is something else. ‘Political biography’ is too pissant a term for this Ahab-like undertaking. I’d call it a biographie-fleuve, but I don’t think that’s a real word even in French. Let’s just call it a great big fucking book, in every sense of the various adjectives.

People are going to be arguing about Robert Caro’s portrayal of Lyndon Johnson for decades to come, but even on the most generous interpretation of the facts, it seems pretty clear that the 36th POTUS was at onc
Jun 29, 2016 Neal rated it it was amazing
I learned more about US politics from this book than almost any other. It's a real treasure. Starts off with an incredible description of the Texas Hill Country where LBJ grew up. Then describes his childhood and political development in college. The bulk of the book though shows how LBJ maneuvered through New Deal DC, making allies and using New Deal programs to benefit his sponsors. By the end of the book (and FDR's death) of course LBJ, who had portrayed himself as a liberal, betrays the New ...more
Susan O
I am so glad that I finally pulled The Path to Power off of my shelf to read. Caro's superb writing made reading about an admittedly unlikeable man a pleasure. I thought I would take a break before reading the second volume, but the end of this one changed my mind, so I've already started volume two. There are four volumes of Caro's biography of LBJ with an anticipated fifth, so as you can imagine it is very detailed. This volume covers LBJ's childhood and family history up through his campaign ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Donna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who want to understand political power and its uses
Shelves: biography-memoir
This biography has been sitting on my bookshelf for more than 20 years as I have regularly bought the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th volumes of Caro's masterwork. As I have been reading a variety of fiction books simultaneously, I decided I needed one long book to read at bedtime every night to keep some consistency in my reading life. I picked a great one.

Caro did a lot of research and was able to interview many people from Johnson's early life who had not been honestly forthcoming in prior statements. What
Daniel King
Sep 15, 2011 Daniel King rated it it was amazing
As someone who rarely reads non-fiction, and has little interest in the intricacies of American politics, I was somewhat surprised, when I got through the first hundred or so pages, to find myself loving Caro's account of the early life and political career of LBJ. I picked up the book for two reasons. Number one: I've always been fascinated by the Vietnam conflict and Johnson played a significant role in turning Vietnam into the fiasco that it eventually became. My second reason, admittedly rat ...more
Oct 06, 2008 Edan rated it really liked it
Recommended to Edan by: Patrick Brown
I fucked up. I started to read Eat Pray Love when I was on page 150 or so of this masterpiece (I had to, for a deadline), and I got derailed. Now that I can return to the chronicles of LBJ, I don't want to. I'm at the homestretch of my own book and I really need to read some novels right now, to help me out. I am in fact lusting after a few specific ones right now. Fiction! Help me!

So, it is with great sadness and disappointment in myself that I put this book down. For now. I am giving it 4 star
Mar 21, 2017 Will rated it it was amazing
"His attitude was, all the minor details must be taken care of, everything must be taken care of, and of course we must win. But the thing was: if you took care of all the minor details, you would win. If you stayed up late, if you did just absolutely everything you could do - well from it would grow everything. The world's going to open. God, he made you believe, man - you weren't just [debaters]. You were people who were going to succeed. And we began to see that was true."

Caro seems to have t
Jan 08, 2009 Roger rated it it was amazing
The early years of LBJ in great detail. The author gives you an understanding of how this complex man who become President was molded and what drove him to reach for great heights. Also gives you an understanding on how his formative years eventually lead to a white Southern politician to push for civil rights legislation in 1964. A story of how a poor young man from the Hill County of Texas was able to achieve national power by age 31 and his heartbreaking loss of his first race for the Senate.
Dec 13, 2016 Mehrsa rated it it was amazing
Essential reading--the entire trilogy is riveting and so well written.
Feb 21, 2011 Joe rated it it was amazing
And you thought Halliburton was a GW Bush, thing. My friends, think again. It all goes back, way back to the 1930s, to a little outfit out of Houston called Brown and Root. Mr. Brown just wanted to build things, big things like dams, Air Bases, and stuff. He really, really had a thing for pouring concrete. LBJ just wanted to run things, big things like the whole country and probably the world, and possibly the known universe. He really, really had a thing for bossing people around, not to mentio ...more
Jeanne Joesten
Jan 03, 2013 Jeanne Joesten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I became a political junkie during the 60's and really all I knew about LBJ in my youth was that he escalated the Vietnam War and dramatically decided not to run for reelection in '68. I've wanted to read the Caro biographies of LBJ for years mostly because of my interest in the politics of the '60's and because of the praise heaped upon these volumes as they were published. I decided in this new year to take the plunge, starting at the beginning with this 1st volume. I was pleased to discover t ...more
Reading this book reminds me of the story Father Guido Sarducci told about a movie that's 37 hours long. Upon leaving the theater, movie-goers were asked what they thought and they all said the same thing: "too long."

This is the first of a four-volume (likely eventually to be a five-volume) series, the last of which, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power , was published this year. Having read portions of The Passage of Power and being retentive by nature, I decided to start at the b
It's not just about LBJ - although it certainly IS about him.

It's about power. People who love it, are determined to get it, and how they stomp along their journey to achieve their goals.

Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many soldiers died today? That's how I knew him. This book doesn't even take us up to that point. No, this first book of the 4 book series just takes us up to 1942. Johnson is unlikable - yet somehow the people like him and give him soooo much money.

He is the ultimate shape shifting politicia
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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)
  • Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #2)
  • Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #3)
  • The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #4)

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“If you can’t come into a room and tell right away who is for you and who is against you, you have no business in politics.” 5 likes
“I will not deny that there are men in the district better qualified than I to go to Congress, but, gentlemen, these men are not in the race.” 3 likes
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