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Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #3)

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  8,311 ratings  ·  439 reviews
The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody o ...more
Paperback, 1167 pages
Published April 25th 2003 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1999)
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As I was reading this book, I thought back to our recent election, and to a minor flap that occurred when Michelle Obama said she was "proud" of America for the first time in her life. Some people - white people - didn't, or couldn't, understand what she meant. They should probably read this book, for while it is a dense, incredibly detailed chronicle of Lyndon Johnson's Senate years, it is also the story of civil rights in America.

It's a disgusting story.

There were times I was so infuriated r
Erik Simon
Maybe the single greatest book on how politics in modern America works. This is the third of a projected four-volume bio on LBJ, and the first two were superior books, but this thing is a masterpiece. To my thinking, it's the second greatest history book written about America.
Robert Caro has got to be the best American biographer of the past 50 years. It's sad that he's only turned out 4 books in the last 35 years, but each one is so exceptionally researched and well-written.

Master of the Senate is another chapter in Caro's multi-volume study of Lyndon Johnson, focusing on his time in the Senate, specifically his efforts to pass the first Civil Rights bill since Reconstruction. His study of the political dynamics of the Senate in the 1950s, including the entrenched
Jan 19, 2009 Leslie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in US politics
This is an excellent book on two levels: it sheds light on the character of Lyndon Johnson and it reveals the intricate workings of the US Senate. I was appalled by the side of LBJ that Caro uncovers. He was an ego-maniacal bully who used physical intimidation and lies to manipulate those around him. He was the youngest Senator to hold the position of Senate majority leader and he was truly masterful at claiming and wielding the power that came with that position. The book uses the famous Civil ...more
I can't wait for the final volume of this to come out. While everyone I know told me I was crazy for delving into a three volume bio of LBJ that ends just as he finally becomes V.P., it is a great reminder that politics has always been dirty and the dirtiest always win (Oh, yeah...the country also loses then.) Having said that I found the LBJ in the book one of those amazing characters who made me battle myself. Half the time I loved him and half the time I hated him. In domestic policy the goal ...more
Mar 28, 2009 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jessica by: everyone i've ever known who's read it
I've started about eight books in the past week, but I can't get into any of them. I've just been flailing around in the Proust, and nothing else I've tried to read lately has done anything for me.... so tonight I decided to stop this charade and go for what I want.

I've suspected for awhile that I was born to read this book, yet I keep telling myself it's not time yet. There's something a little scary about starting a book like this one. What if it's not as mindblowing as I think it's going to b
Frank Stein
Yes, this, the third volume in the Johnson biography, is also one of the best books ever written, like the other ones. And yes, I can't wait until the next volume comes out.

Caro is such a great writer because he is so honestly interested in the minutiae of process, and he treats all his great works as procedural thrillers. He doesn't just want to know that Johnson was able to win a vote in the Senate, he wants to know exactly what horse-trades he had to make, what motions he would use to speed u
After 3 volumes and 3000+ pages (probably 4000+ counting all the notes, which are well worth reading), I can't think of a better term to describe this bio of LBJ than "page-turner." Actually, I can think of lots of better terms: compelling, gripping, exhaustively detailed, amazingly well researched and documented, vivid, compassionate, fair, unblinking, dogged, and probably the greatest analysis of political power in 20th century America that will ever be written.

Quite simply, I love this book,
As one who has come late to the magisterial multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, I continue to be amazed at Robert Caro’s skill in walking the tightrope of scholarly research and lively presentation. After recently reading volumes one and two, I had come to know the man from Texas, and now in volume three I’ve seen LBJ truly in his element, trading favors and exploiting arcane rules to turn the Senate on its complacent ear. Yet even as I call LBJ “the man from Texas,” I know where he prefer ...more
Jean Poulos
This is a long book. Caro provides extended passages of background about a quarter of the book on the history of the Senate, from the great days of Webster, Clay and Calhoun to current times. He also went into detail about the architecture and seats in the Senate both before and after the War of 1812. Approximately half of the book covers in detail the epic battle over the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. Johnson’s magic is the main subject of the book: how he made things happen in the U.S. Senate. Johns ...more
Quite simply, one of the finest books I have ever read. Some have acturatley described Caro's biographies as more akin to a thriller )or western) than a political biography. This volume is lengthy but reads terribly quickly and chronilces Johnson's rise to power and political machinations in the U.S. Senate. Especially memorable events chronicled included Johnson's efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first such bill since Reconstruction. Another beloved aspect of the book are the r ...more
Like the second, the third volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson progresses from a slow start to a riveting finish. In the first 100 pages Caro recounts the exercise of power in the Senate from its inception to the time Lyndon Johnson entered in 1948. At that time, the firmly entrenched seniority system vested unmitigated power in the committee chairmen who were old, conservative and southern. This instructive history lesson gives us the context we need to assess Johnson’s significant accomplish ...more
Hugh Ashton
This book is deceptive, and is not what it purports to be. It's actually much more than an account of LBJ's years as a Senator.

It provides an account of the US Senate as an institution – an institution which was originally developed at least partly as a defense against populism, and partly as a way in which the states could confer on more equal terms than in the House of Representatives.

After the Civil War, however, it came to be a symbol of opposition to progress, particularly in the field of s
At last I've slayed the beast--and what a glorious battle it was. More than one thousand pages of then-Senator Lyndon Johnson wheeling and dealing, calculating and obfuscating, inspiring and deceiving, and then, in the end, doing the right, and truly great, thing. Master of the Senate, the third volume in Robert Caro's yet-to-be-completed Years of Lyndon Johnson biography, covers nearly the entirety of LBJ's years in the United States Senate (1949-1961), from his start as a lowly freshman to his ...more
Roxanne Russell
A 1232 page book that I didn't want to end.

Two fascinating subjects- the Senate of the US and Lyndon B Johnson- maneuvering through an eventful period of American history. Riveting material, covered with credibility and narrative mastery. Caro interjects actual quotes from his sources as he brings this larger than life Texan to life on the page. It's too too cheesy to say it, but I can't help it- LBJ is the type of man you'd love to hate, like JR Ewing.

I was very interested in the long section
The third volume of Robert Caro's epic biography of Lyndon Johnson covers what would prove to be the pivotal years in his ascent to the presidency -- his years in the United States Senate. Here he sets out to achieve three goals: to show how Johnson exercised power, to chronicle how Johnson positioned himself to run for the presidency, and to explain the conundrum of Johnson's personality. In the first two goals Caro's book is an unqualified success, as Caro explains how Johnson transformed the ...more
I knew practically nothing about Lyndon Johnson when I started to read this. Other than knowing he was in office when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, and having a deep familiarity with the employment law aspects of that act, I knew little about him other than his "Great Society" legislation, and even that vaguely. This book chronicles, with great detail, his time in Congress, particularly that time he spent in the Senate. I am not certain I have ever taken so long to read a single book, ...more
I really liked the first two volumes in Caro's life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Means of Ascent and The Path to Power, but this third volume was definitely the best of the three. Here, Caro focuses on Lyndon Johnson during the Senate years from 1949, when he first entered the Senate, until 1960 when he was elected Vice President. Caro continues to portray Johnson as an extremely complex individual. One side of the man was a Machiavellian bully intent on furthering his own interests through the tra ...more
Make no mistake: Lyndon Baines Johnson was a stone cold, LEGISLATIVE ANIMAL. His accomplishments, maneuvering, and overall dominance as a tactician are all the more remarkable when you consider the regular, alternating fits of paralysis and tantruming that have unfortunately come to characterize the modern day, pitiful excuse for the United States Senate we've inherited. Caro's knowledge, both of the institution and of the man himself, is clearly comprehensive, but what I loved about "Master of ...more
I'm not actually finished with this very large, third book in the series. I'm taking a hiatus. I read the other 2 and started the 3rd in too short a time span. It has changed everything I thought I knew or felt about LBJ. I'm still waiting for the part about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For that act alone, he always seemed like a hero. Especially after reading the Taylor Branch series about America during the King years. But now that I've come to know Johnson (through Caro's word ...more
Dave Gaston
Another big book I’m going to miss all summer long (thank God there are 3 in the series!!). Stacked up against two of my favorites on Johnson ("Taking Charge" and "Reaching For Glory” by Michael Beshloss) Caro’s "Master" is the clear winner. Perhaps it was Caro's writing style, somehow he just got to the heart of the man. It could also have been the life events of Johnson. LBJ was at his strutting-cock prime in the Senate and this book captured the sweet spot of his career. Caro brings it all ba ...more
Norman Cohen
I spent the last year reading all four volumes of Caro's biography of LBJ. The first book sets into motion Johnson's intense hunger and ambition, and illustrates his motivation using the stories of his college years and early career I public service. The second book describes his low points as a young congressman. But it's the third volume where LBJ finds his place: the U.S. Senate, which he describes as being of a size that is "just right." But the immediate relevance of this book lies in the w ...more
Just getting started on this volume but the opening chapters on the history of the US Senate alone are worth the read.

And at the finish I have to say the last third about pushing a voting rights bill through the sausage maker read like a suspense novel.
Que reste-il à dire sur la série de Robert Caro sur Lyndon B. Johnson ? Peut-être pas grande chose. Reconnue comme le plus ambitieux et le plus profond de tous les biographies des hommes politiques, Caro a, peut-être, déjà écrit le meilleur livre (tome 3) en 2002 des 5 tomes prévus. La recette est classique et consiste á écrire une biographie comme si c’était un polar un thriller avec un langage grandiose et poétique.
Les 12 années au Senat étaient le meilleur part de la vie de LBJ où il a démon
Elizabeth Sulzby
I had read Caro's The Passage to Power which focuses on Johnson's rise to the Vice Presidency and his first 100+ days after taking over the Presidency after John F. Kennedy's assassination. I wanted to come back to read this earlier book about his years in the Senate and how he learned to wield power to get legislation done. In Passage to Power Caro depicted how Johnson tried to tell the Kennedy Brothers how to get their civil rights legislation passed and how they ignored and sidelined Johnson. ...more
So... this is probably the best political history book I've read, and just for context, I've read my fair share. You should read this book. But you should start with Robert Caro's first book in the series, The Path to Power. Really, go now, I'll wait.

That this series was decades in the making is evident by the first couple hundred pages of this weighty tome - a lengthy mini-history of the first 150 years of the Senate, pre-Lyndon Johnson. Why do we care? It's all to set you, the reader, up to ap
Everyone likes this book for good reason. There's probably not a more detailed, comprehensive study of the American political world than this one. Get ready for some detailed descriptions of Senate maneuvers! Yeehaw!

Many great reflections on power, too. Some of the most intriguing scenes are were canny, even genius, politicians like FDR, Richard Russel, and LBJ deluded themselves about the extent of their power. Never having tasted defeat, they naively assumed they could do whatever they put the
There is one volume of this extraordinary six-volume work yet to be published and it seems impossible to isolate any one of them for specific praise: this is simply the most engrossing, labyrinthine, elegant, penetrating and visionary work of American history that I have ever read.

This is not only the story of one brilliant, devious, driven, complicated and ruthless man, but no more nor less than an autopsy of the origins of modern American politics. It is also a dissection of the organs of gov
Jonathan Kranz
Look, Caro is a national treasure. In this book, as in others, Caro gives us a bone-deep exploration of POWER: what it is, how it is obtained, how it's applied. As such, his books rank up there with Machiavelli and De Tocqueville for their richness of political insight. In this, the third volume of his biography of LBJ, Caro focuses on his subject's senate years -- and that's both its strength and its weakness.

It's a strength, in that close observation of the senate parallels close observation o
The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody of itself and an obstacle that for decades had blocked desperately needed liberal legislation. Caro shows how Johnson’s brilli ...more
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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)
  • Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #2)
  • The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #4)
The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #1) 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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“Senator Harding, who declared in his inaugural address that “We seek no part in directing the destinies of the world.” 0 likes
“This man who in the pursuit of his aims could be so utterly ruthless—who would let nothing stand in his way; who, in the pursuit, deceived, and betrayed and cheated—would be deceiving and betraying and cheating on behalf of something other than himself: specifically, on behalf of the sixteen million Americans whose skins were dark. All through Lyndon Johnson’s political life—as” 0 likes
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