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Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson - Vol. 3 (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #3)

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  11,979 Ratings  ·  587 Reviews
Book Three of Robert A. Caro’s monumental work, The Years of Lyndon Johnson—the most admired and riveting political biography of our era—which began with the best-selling and prizewinning The Path to Power and Means of Ascent.

Master of the Senate carries Lyndon Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United St
Published March 29th 2002 by Random House Audio
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Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Otis Chandler
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Otis by: Patrick Brown
Best book of the series, and best book about American history that I think I've read. Now we are getting to the drama and corruption at an interesting scale - the US Senate. And the portrait we have of Johnson is fascinating.

Lyndon Johnson was just simply power hungry. He had no principles of note, no things he was on a mission to do - except to hold as much power as he could. But he was brilliant at reading people, knowing what they wanted, and finding ways to horse-trade in his huge and growi
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

Whew! What a relief. Only two more volumes to go.
Frank Stein
Sep 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 how he did it, what horse-trades he had to make, what motions he would
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
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
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
This is THE book of 2016. It literally took 11 months for me to read it. It is another of Caro's magnificent depictions of power.

Johnson longed for power and he used every means to get it. Once gotten, he used his power for all it was worth either for the good of the country but more likely for the advancement of LBJ.

Caro's research is detailed and embraces every aspect of the high points of Johnson's Senate career. The single chapter on the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act shows Johnson's
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aaron Million
Another masterpiece from Robert Caro! The longest book (thus far) in the series, this covers Johnson's years in the Senate (1949-1961). Mainly, Caro focuses on the period from 1949 up to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1957. During this time, Caro shows how Johnson rapidly accumulated power, becoming Minority Leader in 1953 while still a freshman Senator and only 44 years old. Johnson then bullied his way into being chosen as the Democrats' Majority Leader when they retook control of the ...more
Jared Gaby-Biegel
Really, really good. If you don't have time to read all 1040 pages of it, I'd recommend just reading Parts 1 and 5 which are extremely thorough histories of the US Senate and the Civil Rights movement during the 1950's.
Susan O
Master of the Senate is the third book in Caro’s brilliant biography of Lyndon B Johnson. It was just as beautifully written as the first two volumes, but much larger in scope. Not necessarily in the time period covered, but in the background detail needed to truly understand Johnson’s role in the Senate and how he transformed it. It is not an overstatement to say that Johnson became a “master of the Senate.”

Throughout Caro's series on The Years of Lyndon Johnson, he presents a man with conflict
This is the third of the four volumes of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson and the one which won a second Pulitzer Prize for Caro. It deals with Johnson's time in the Senate from 1949 until the election of 1960. Worth the price of admission alone, are the first few chapters which give a succinct but comprehensive history of the United States Senate from its inception until Johnson's elevation to Majority Leader. Caro describes the Founders' original intent in creating this Body to be ...more
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think biographies get any better than this. The depth of Caro's research and skill of narrative writing is so impressive and awesome...

One of the best books I've read, it sheds so much light on the politics of Capitol Hill back in the 40s and 50s. Caro is so good with bringing the whole era to life, breathing life into all the wily and not so wily politicians, the evil big money corporate businessman (Caro doesn't mind letting you know how he feels about people!), the scheming lawyers, n
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
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
Christopher Saunders
The third of Robert Caro's voluminous Lyndon Johnson chronicles, cMaster of the Senate covers his years as Senate Majority Leader in the '50s. For the first time, I occasionally found Caro's orotund, digressive prose a bit tedious, especially in the endless prologue on the history of the Senate. Nonetheless, the meat of the book makes it well worth plowing through the slower passages, as Caro captures Johnson's evolution both as politician and man. Caro spends a lot of time chronicling Johnson's ...more
Steve Majerus-Collins
I found myself wondering why Robert Caro, a man of immense skill and deep understanding, chose to focus so much of his own life to this ongoing study of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson wasn't, after all, a man inherently worthy of this kind of detailed exploration of his life and deeds. And yet Caro saw that in LBJ's odd rise there is a starker picture of what the pursuit of power really means -- what it takes and how it's done by a master -- that somehow makes more clear how our democracy actually func ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Richard Moss
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Weighing in at over 1,000 pages, the third volume of Robert Caro's definitive biography of Lyndon Johnson, is probably not for the casual reader.

But if you're interested in the art of politics, the history of civil rights and the fascinating, contradictory and compelling man that was LBJ, it's essential.

Master of the Senate would work if you haven't read the first two volumes but readers of them will certainly have become familiar with our central character - he's a cheating, lying, money-grabbi
Hugh Ashton
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Greg Earhart
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This is probably my favorite book of all time. Anybody with any sort of interest in politics really should read it. Rereading this at this time with everything that is currently going on in politics kicked it up a notch for me. The biggest theme in the book is about pragmatism vs idealism and it really makes me think about Hillary vs Bernie. LBJ was a great example of both everything rotten about politics and everything great. He was slimy and corrupt, he treated people poorly, he was nakedly am ...more
Peter Goodman

“The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate,” by Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 2002). At 1,400 pages (not counting the “debts” to those who helped, and the pages of notes), this is the Gargantua of the series. “The Passage of Power,” vol 4, is a mere 768. There are no superlatives super enough to fully express the scope, breadth, depth, power, intelligence and impact of this book---of the entire monumental biography. It’s hard to quickly summarize what Caro is doing here without seeming glib or
Holt Dwyer
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A monumental work, and yet only one of four volumes, about the life of Lyndon Johnson. It covers Johnson's tenure in the Senate, during which time he rose to become the youngest Minority Leader and then Majority Leader in history, rocketing upwards through a body traditionally governed by strict rules of seniority, by shamelessly ingratiating himself with Southern leader Richard Russell and using an investigative committee to draw attention to himself through the production of sensationalist fea ...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)

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“The most important thing a man has to tell you is what he’s not telling you,” he said. “The most important thing he has to say is what he’s trying not to say.” 3 likes
“Then Lyndon Johnson came to Jim Rowe’s office again, to plead with him, crying real tears as he sat doubled over, his face in his hands. “He wept. ‘I’m going to die. You’re an old friend. I thought you were my friend and you don’t care that I’m going to die. It’s just selfish of you, typically selfish.’ ” Finally Rowe said, “ ‘Oh, goddamn it, all right’ ”—and then “as soon as Lyndon got what he wanted,” Rowe was forcibly reminded why he had been determined not to join his staff. The moment the words were out of Rowe’s mouth, Johnson straightened up, and his tone changed instantly from one of pleading to one of cold command. “Just remember,” he said. “I make the decisions. You don’t.” 2 likes
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