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

4.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,779 Ratings  ·  505 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 April 23rd 2002)
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
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
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
Frank Stein
Dec 10, 2015 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 19, 2009 Leslie rated it really liked it
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
Oct 29, 2014 Max rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 26, 2012 Mh rated it it was amazing
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,
Sep 12, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
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 liked it
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
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
Jul 08, 2013 Sue rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 19, 2010 Jessica rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 28, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 16, 2007 Steven rated it it was amazing
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
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
Hugh Ashton
May 03, 2014 Hugh Ashton 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
Jan 30, 2015 Chris 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
Mar 08, 2016 Terry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
By the end of this third volume of Robert Caro's exploration of the character, motivations, cunning, and accomplishments of Lyndon Johnson, Caro reveals his admiration for Johnson's singular success in securing the passage of the first significant, effective civil rights legislation since 1875. Perhaps to make that accomplishment more dramatic (or just because he wants to be honest), Caro details every wart and moral flaw in Johnson's character and path to power: dishonesty to the extreme of ill ...more
Feb 17, 2016 AT rated it it was amazing
Like the volumes that precede it, Master of the Senate is a vivid portrait of LBJ and an amazingly thorough piece of scholarship. Amidst the moments of great drama (election results, passage of landmark legislation, a near-fatal heart attack), it's Caro's facility with small, seemingly insignificant anecdotes that really strengthens the narrative--Senator-elect Johnson bullying a capitol police officer for a good parking space, Lady Bird and Lucy stranded at the ranch during a flood, LBJ forcing ...more
Roxanne Russell
Jul 30, 2014 Roxanne Russell rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing
Another masterpiece! Although I loved this book, I preferred the first two volumes, mostly because "Master of the Senate" gets into the nitty-gritty of getting legislation passed instead of focusing on Johnson's journey. I loved reading about Johnson's ridiculously shameless campaigning and there isn't more than a few sentences in this book about them because he's an established Master of the Senate almost from page one. However, even an anti-wonk like myself enjoyed learning about how Lyndon pu ...more
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
Aug 14, 2015 Osborneinri rated it it was amazing
Remarkable biography in its scope and depth. This is the third in Caro's four volume biography of LBJ. I had to stop reading after Caro's second volume because I found LBJ to be so odious a politician. This volume captures the time period during which LBJ's evolution into a leader on civil rights begins to occur. Still hard to comprehend how such a vile, thin-skinned, racist, self-serving pol becomes THE guy to end 100 years of segregation and jump-start true progress forward.
Vikas Erraballi
Jan 14, 2016 Vikas Erraballi rated it it was amazing
I started to write a review of this book, and then Lyndon Johnson's voice interrupted me -

"Writing a review about a presidential biography is a lot like pissing down your leg, it may seem hot to you, but it never does to anyone else. It'll be as useless as tits on a bull.

And you know about as much about politics as an old maid knows about fucking. Your arguments wouldn't be stronger than a popcorn fart."

So I decided not to.
Aug 15, 2010 Vicky rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 23, 2014 Melody rated it really liked it
So much of this book is about Johnson's tricks in the Senate to get whatever bill through that worked best for his career. That can get mighty tedious. Suddenly it dawned on my. My God - Frank from house of cards must be based on LBJ! Googled and confirmed!

The timeline and description of the events leading up to the passage of the civil rights legislation is one of the best I've ever seen. So much cruelty it is hard to imagine. Not much different from times of slavery if you ask me. Maybe worse.
Norman Cohen
Mar 14, 2015 Norman Cohen rated it really liked it
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
Jun 28, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
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.
Kelly McCubbin
Nov 02, 2015 Kelly McCubbin rated it really liked it
It's hard to know where to start with this. It's my least favorite of the series thus far, but that is to say that it is one of the more difficult of pieces of one of the masterpieces of biography ever. So take it in context. It's far more complicated (not to mention hefty) and lacks some of the melodramatic pop of the previous two volumes. To say that Caro describes a far more complicated situation in a far more complicated and subtle way, however, is no real criticism at all.
What this book see
Dan Downing
Sep 08, 2015 Dan Downing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert A. Caro has written a longer book---the one volume portrait of Robert Moses, New York's public works and legislative draftsman par excellence. But Lyndon B. Johnson has consumed the bulk of Caro's working life. This is Volume 3 of the four published so far. The plan is one more....we wait and hope.
Here is the essence of LBJ; here is the explanation of how he went into the Senate as a freshman Senator, traditionally only a step above a page boy, and took the reins of power.
In describing th
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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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“Decades of the seniority rule had conferred influence in the Senate not on men who broke new ground but on men who were careful not to.” 2 likes
“At Boston University, where the Reverend King had been studying for his Ph.D., the faculty, impressed by him, had urged him to become an academic, but, although attracted by that prospect, he rejected it in favor of a southern pastorship; “That’s where I’m needed,” he told his wife, Coretta. He was to discount his role in the Montgomery boycott. “I just happened to be there,” he was to say. “There comes a time when time itself is ready for a change.” 1 likes
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