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

4.47 of 5 stars 4.47  ·  rating details  ·  5,302 ratings  ·  349 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 January 1st 1982)
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Buck
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...more
Blanca
Jun 11, 2007 Blanca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: LBJ lovers
Shelves: texas, non-fiction
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
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
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...more
Sue
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...more
Frank Stein
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
John Woltjer
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
Roger
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....more
Matt
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...more
Kevin
"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...more
Joe
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
Riley
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
Donna
Jul 28, 2012 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Judy
Robert Caro just published the fourth book in his biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson and I thought that I should read them in order. Quite simply, this book is amazing. It's 960 pages long and I found that I couldn't put it down. I got up early in the morning to read and stayed up late at night reading--using the excuse, "just ten more pages" until several hours had passed. This is the story of the forces that shaped Lyndon Johnson and an examination of what drove him to constantly strive for gr...more
Rachelfm
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...more
Matt
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...more
Andre
5/5

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...more
Daniel King
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
Jeanne Joesten
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
Melody
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...more
Edan
Oct 21, 2008 Edan rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Melissa
Like the fourth in the series (I started out of order...), this book was impossible to put down. Caro has emphasized in recent interviews that his interest in his work on LBJ is the study of the acquisition and use of political power, rather than the man per se. That really comes through in the book. It was an entire education (for me anyway) into the US political process - not the political process for the the voter, but the political process for the politician. I find I am reading the news wit...more
Murray
This is considered to be one of the greatest biographies of all time. Caro is still, as far as I am aware, working on the next (final) volume of his brilliant study of LBJ. The detail is remarkable, and he gradually brings into focus this gangly, bullying, charismatic man. Here is a politician who was being careful even during schooldays, not to take a position that might work against him in later years. he had enormous charm and that chameleon quality that made his political mentors believe he...more
Frank
Reading this I couldn't help but think about that part in the Big Lebowski where Maude refers the Dude to a doctor, saying, "He's a good man, and thorough." So is Robert Caro.

Caro is an excellent biographer. The portrait he paints of LBJ feels very truthful and clear. He approaches it like a good journalist. The interviews that set him off to search for the true story -- as discussed in the afterward -- paint Caro as the real hero of this tome.

Learning about the shenanigans LBJ pulled just in...more
Brian Katz
This was a troubling read for me, as I cannot remember despising the subject of a biography with as much hatred as I felt for Lyndon Johnson's path to power. From this account, Johnson as a boy was a bully, a coward, a liar and a flatterer, and those might have been his better qualities. The college years, and early political years, in the book show how he took those traits and, using his Machiavellian mind in combination with his father's political know-how, started dominating those around him,...more
Cory
Want to read a narrative of LBJ by someone who read every last goddamm record that survives of LBJ and those close to him? This is the book for you.

Some sections drag (on the audiobook, it takes about 8 hours to get to LBJ's birth) as there are detailed descriptions of e.g. the area in which LBJ grew up. But you can't help but to admire the work's comprehensiveness.

Some portions of the narrative seem selective, but especially when Caro gets into areas where there is more documentation (e.g. camp...more
Johnathan
Robert Caro has been writing The Years of Lyndon Johnson for more than 30 years, beginning with The Path to Power, which was published in 1981. As of now, he's written 4 volumes -- they are all considered classics -- and is currently writing the last installment.

I like this book a lot, though it's different from other similar biographies I've read (Adams, Truman, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Mansfield) in the sense that you really get a 'warts and all' view of Johnson. Those other biographies leave...more
Dick Gullickson
The fascinating story of one of our most complex presidents. Lyndon Johnson was a simultaneous mixture of rogue and hero, easily fixing elections and cheating his way to power while spending time tutoring a local janitor to read without seeking recognition for doing so. Johnson was a prime example of how real people are far more interesting and complex and made up of contradictory mixtures of good and evil than any fictional character. An outstanding biography.
Martha
Absolutely enthralling. It took about 500 pages to get used to both Caro's style and Johnson's jarringly unappealing choices and personality, but the last 1/3 of the book is breathless in a way one would never expect possible from a special senatorial election. As soon as I finished the book, I immediately downloaded the second volume of the series and started reading, which is about the highest praise I can offer after about 800 often dense pages.
Rfilippelli
Caro has devoted close to 40 years to writing about Lyndon Johnson's life. His series on LBJ is undoubtedly one of the greatest political biographies of all time and a seminal study of power.
This book, the first in the series, published in 1982, has already achieved a legendary status. The level of research is truly astonishing, winning for its author enormous acclaim. Presented brilliantly in an engrossing writing style Caro gives us an unsparing portrait of Lyndon Johnson's early career. He a...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) Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #2) 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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