The Path to Power
The Years of Lyndon Johnson I
By Robert A. Caro
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679729457, 960pp.)
Publication Date: February 17, 1990
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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 Congressman, his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, at age 31, of the national power for which he hungered. In this book, we are brought as close as we have ever been to a true perception of political genius and the American political process.
Means of Ascent, Book Two of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, was a number one national best seller and, like The Path to Power, received the National Book Critics Circle Award.
For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, twice won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the National Book Award, the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best "exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist."
To create his first book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Caro spent seven years tracing and talking with hundreds of men and women who worked with, for, or against Robert Moses, including a score of his top aides. He examined mountains of files never open to the public. Everywhere acclaimed as a modern classic, The Power Broker was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest non-fiction books of the twentieth century. It is, according to David Halberstam, "Surely the greatest book ever written about a city." And The New York times Book Review said: "In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort."
To research The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Caro and his wife, Ina, moved from his native New York City to the Texas Hill Country and then to Washington, D.C., to live in the locales in which Johnson grew up and in which he built, while he was still young, his first political machine. He has spent years examining documents at the Johnson Library in Austin and interviewing men and women connected with Johnson's life, many of whom had never before been interviewed. The first volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, The Path to Power, was cited by The Washington Post as "proof that we live in a great age of biography... [a book] of radiant excellence... Caro's evocation of the Texas Hill Country, his elaboration of Johnson's unsleeping ambition, his understanding of how politics actually work, are—let it be said flat out—at the summit of American historical writing." Professor Henry F. Graff of Columbia University called the second volume, Means of Ascent, "brilliant. No review does justice to the drama of the story Caro is telling, which is nothing less than how present-day politics was born." And the London Times hailed volume three, Masters of the Senate, as "a masterpiece... Robert Caro has written on of the truly great political biographies of the modern age."
"Caro has a unique place among American political biographers," according to The Boston Globe. "He has become, in many ways, the standard by which his fellows are measured." And Nicholas von Hoffman wrote: "Caro has changed the art of political biography."
Caro graduated from Princeton University and later became a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He lives in New York City with his wife, Ina, an historian and writer.
The fourth volume in Robert Caro's monumental biography of Lyndon Johnson is The Passage of Power; it explores the period between 1958 and 1964 during which Johnson went from powerful Senate majority leader to powerless vice president to â�� suddenly â�� president of the United States. More at NPR.org
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In the second part of his interview, Steve Inskeep talks to author Robert Caro about the process he goes through in writing his biographies of Lyndon Baines Johnson. The Passage of Power is the fourth volume of Caro's massive biography of Johnson. More at NPR.org
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Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
"Proof that we live in a great age of biography . . . [a book] of radiant excellence . . . Caro's evocation of the Texas Hill Country, his elaboration of Johnson's unsleeping ambition, his understanding of how politics actually works are---let it be said flat out---at the summit of American historical writing." --Washington Post
"A monumental political saga . . . powerful and stirring. It's an overwhelming experience to read The Path to Power." --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
"Not only a historical but a literary event. An epic biography . . . A sweeping, richly detailed portrait . . . vivid [with] Caro's astonishing concern for the humanity of his characters. An awesome achievement." --Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek
"Stands at the pinnacle of the biographical art." --Donald R. Morris, Houston Post
"The major biography of recent years. Brilliant . . . Magisterial . . . Caro has given us an American life of compelling fascination. A benchmark beside which other biographies will be measured for some time to come." --Alden Whitman, Los Angeles Herald Examiner
"An ineradicable likeness of an American giant. Caro has brought to life a young man so believable and unforgettable that we can hear his heartbeat and touch him." --Henry F. Graff, Professor of History, Columbia University
" Epic. A brief review cannot convey the depth, range and detail of this fascinating story. Caro is a meticulous historian. Every page reflects his herculean efforts to break through the banalities and the falsehoods previously woven around the life of Lyndon Johnson . . . combines the social scientist's interest in power with the historian's concern with theme and context, the political scientist's interest in system, and the novelist's passion to reveal the inner workings of the personality and relate them to great human issues . . . A monument of interpretive biography." --Michael R. Beschloss, Chicago Sun-Times Book Week
"Splendid and moving. At this rate Caro's work will eventually acquire Gibbon-like dimensions, and Gibbon-like passion. . . . Caro is a phenomenon . . . an artful writer, with a remarkable power to evoke and characterize politicians, landscapes, relationships. This massive book is almost continually exciting." --Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times
"By every measure---depth of research, brilliance of conception, the seamless flow of the prose---it is a masterpiece of biography." --Dan Cryer, Newsday
"Extraordinary. A powerful, absorbing, at times awe-inspiring, and often deeply alarming story. A vivid picture of the emergence of one of this century's authentically great politicians." --Alan Brinkley, Boston Sunday Globe
"The book races at Johnson's own whirlwind pace. A tour de force that blends relentless detective work, polemical vigor and artful storytelling into the most compelling narrative of American political life since All the King's Men." --Henry Mayer, San Francisco Chronicle
"A landmark in American political biography. The definitive life of LBJ. Caro has written a Johnson biography that is richer and fuller and may well be one of the freshest and most revealing studies ever written about a major historical figure." --Steve Neal, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"A masterful narrative on a grand scale, a fascinating portrait of LBJ's activities set against a fully drawn canvas of life in the Texas hill country. By far the most significant Johnson book to appear." --Library Journal
"No mere political biography. Caro is on the way to becoming our finest fine-tooth-comb historian." --Jack Goodman, Salt Lake Tribune
"Magnificent. For understanding our recent past and the men and policies that brought the country to its present condition and aimed us toward whatever our future is to be, it's an immensely important work." --Bryan Woolley, Dallas Times Herald
"A brilliant and necessary book. There are whole and fascinating areas in Johnson's life that no one else discovered." --Merle Miller, front page, Chicago Tribune Book World
"This is a watershed book. Caro writes with sweek and passion. From the first sentence I was hooked. All other biographies of Johnson pale in comparison." -- Joseph P. Lash
"Engrossing and revealing. This fascinating, immensely long and highly readable book is the fullest account we have--and are ever likely to have--of the early years of LBJ." --David Herbert Donald, front page, NY Times Book Review
"A superb and unique biography...Meticulous in research, grand in scale, this is a major work that will remain a tower of its kind."-- Barbara Tuchman