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 about Lyndon Johnson to read some 3000 small-print pages about him. I was especially not interested in the first book, which after 800 pages only takes him up to age 33.
So it turns out that it may be the second greatest non-fiction book I've ever read.
"Words won't come to describe how Lyndon acted toward the faculty-how kowtowing he was, how suck-assing he was, how brown-nosing he was." THAT is the sort of quote you read presidential biographies before, and after interviewing everybody, I mean everybody, Caro shows that Lyndon Johnson must have been the suck-assingist person to ever attain high political office in this country. He was also a complete freak and a political mastermind, who managed, for instance, to turn a small social club at South West Texas Teacher's College into a secret society and mini-political machine that controlled campus jobs, grants, and dates. But the book would almost be worthwhile if Johnson never did another thing, because it also gives such perfect descriptions of so many different, and now vanished, social worlds, from the impoverished Texas Hill Country, to old Texas state politics, to a small teachers college, to an isolated Mexican town, and to 1930s DC.
I'll admit I'm taking a break before diving into the next one, but I might just start obnoxiously pushing this book on people too.