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.
©1981, 1982 Robert A. Caro, Inc. (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
I had resisted reading a biography of Lyndon Johnston partly because I instinctively disliked him, my knowledge of him having come mainly from books about JFK. When the two are
compared, Johnston always seemed the lesser man, a large, loud, burly Texan who resented JFK's presidency and schemed against him. Having read so many excellent and positive reviews of Robert A Caro, and being interested in the mid 20th century setting, I decided to give it a go. I'm so glad I did. I can't honestly say I now like Johnston, but the character who emerges from Caro's flowing narrative and Grover Gardner's impeccable and utterly listenable to narration is so complex, compelling and interesting that I cannot wait to start the next volume. Johnston may not have been likeable, but there is no doubt that he was clever, ambitious, manipulative and so phenomenally capable that he drove himself to heights no one could ever have imagined.
Absolutely: it casts an extraordinary light on the whole period of the late 50s and early 60s, through its focus on Lyndon Johnson's troubled journey to the Presidency of the USA, and it does so in an utterly compelling way.
It is Shakesperian in its focus on the hunger for power, and the emotions that go with the struggle to achieve it.
Never listened to this reader before, but I think he is superb for the demands of this very, very long book.
The Desire for Power
I now look forward to reading the other volumes of Caro's biography of LBJ.
Robert A. Caro’s detailed biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson, up to his loss of the 1941 senatorial election is also a social history of Texas as it evolved during Johnson’s life. Through interviews with associates and relatives of this secretive man, Caro has built up a picture, which though not pretty, is absolutely fascinating. Thorough research has provided conclusive evidence of LBJ’s relentless pursuit of his goals - ultimately the presidency of the United States, though this part of the bio does not take us so far. The description of Texas itself is integral to the narrative. This is no dry biography, but a complete picture of the man, the landscape that shaped him and the society he helped to shape. The vivid recreations of personal interactions evoke a strong, if not always likeable personality. Caro’s intelligent reading ensures enjoyment of the listening experience. I was surprised at how I was impelled to listen at every available opportunity until I had finished this lengthy political analysis.
Excellently narrated by Grover Gardner who handles Caro's amazing prose perfectly.
Master of the senate, the passage of power
The detailed account of Johnson first campaign for the congress
The first volume of the greatest political biography (and social history) I've ever read. Like LBJ himself Caro takes care of every detail and does absolutely everything to bring us the most compelling portrait of this frantically ambitious, ruthless man. Hard to listen to and mesmerizing at the same time. Highly recommended.
"The Best of all Biographies"
It's hard to imagine a better book. I was so enamored with Master and Passage that I listened to them twice. The first 120 pages of Master should be required reading in high school classes.
Mr Gardner is the one and only narrator who makes this work. Perfect timing, perfect voice.
I literately waited 10 years for Caro/Gardner to make this happen and I'm thrilled they did it. I've listened to over 200 audio books and the Caro/Gardner combo is unsurpassed. "5 star" stuff is easy to think but this one makes it true.
Riveting, dramatic, instructive. The story really is riveting. The initial description of the Hill Country in Texas is so fantastic, petic, dramatic, revealing, evocative, and rich, that I have gone back several times to listen to it . And I will do so again.
The description of Lyndon's childhood, his fathers travails, rise, and demise and the effect on the family and the boy, are utterly unmatched in contrast and drama. Finally, the way Lyndon copes with it all, using his bright and dark sides to get ahead, ingeniously in both, is very instructive. I believe one can learn as much if not more from the 80% successes than the 100% successes, because their moral or other failings make them come alive more and even a sleazy scheme should be learned from, in that it took drive and courage to perform it, and THAT is never a bad trait to have.
Mr. Sam, Lyndon's dad, is a very powerful and tragic figure and as he falls from grace, and we witness it by painstaking degrees, we develop a love for this character that makes us think of him long after the book is done. I find myself wondering what would have happened if he hadn't done that last unadvisable thing, made that last unsound investment....could he have swung back from failure?...
I won't give away the plot by giving a thorough description. It feels like a novel eventhough it isn't..so I know it's silly but I think you should have the pleasure of discovering it yourself.
Lyndon was courting a young lady and her dad didn't think Lyndon a suitable husband for his daughter. the way he tried to humiliate Lyndon is very dramatic. And the way Lyndon got back at him and the family years later, even more so.
It made my eyes go wide and it made me shake my head and it moved me.
Totally get this, you won't regret it! Also, read The Power Broker
Some time ago I listened to the last ( so far) in this series "Passage to Power". THAT is a good book! So much so, I always had in the back in my mind to listen to the others. But- 60-120 hours or whatever it will end up being??? However, Gardner is superb as an narrator ( I've listened to him multiple times) so for my New Years resolution I thought I would undertake. The first book goes only to 1941, Johnson's term as a congressman, and I was apprehensive - 40 hours just to get that far? Well - it was fascinating. Every step of the way. Deeper and more compelling than the majority ( if not all) of biographies I have read, and I read this genre a lot.
I cannot speak highly enough of the combination of Caro/Gardner. I have immediately downloaded Book 2 without hesitation
It is a long haul, but thoroughly enjoyable so far.
"My summer with Lyndon"
It took me the entire summer of 2014 to complete Robert Caro’s four volume set on Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). That’s over 160 hours of listening engagement and six downloads (“Master of the Senate” is sold in three separate sections to swindle the listener). However, like a lays potato chip, you can’t stop at one volume. Caro’s critically acclaimed masterwork is a contender for the greatest biography ever put to paper. I was actually saddened to complete the series as I found myself yearning for the release of the 5th and final volume.
Caro’s LBJ series is best described as a micro analysis of about amassing and exercising of power over others. For most of the work, the reader will learn how through duplicitous and manipulative means, LBJ acquired and wielded power. The 36th President displayed an innate motivation and skill that drove him to outwork and outthink his opponents. His drive for power is evident from the earliest years growing up in poverty in near Johnson City, Texas. Caro’s ability to describe the early life LBJ is done so expertly that the reader becomes totally engrossed in the story. Caro descriptions of LBJ’s childhood, economics conditions of South Texas, and socio economic conditions are full of passion and entertainment.
As a listener, you should know within 10-minutes of listening to the introduction if “Path to Power” is the right choice for you. Caro starts each book in the series with an overview. I found these introductions riveting and knew within a few minutes that I selected a winner. The LBJ series is also narrated by Grover Gardener, who is my opinion the very best audible reader in the business.
This is a fascinating story of a complex and conflicted man. Does an excellent job of describing Johnson's early life without resorting to pop psychology. Johnson is a much more interesting character than I had previously suspected and this series fills a hole in my understanding of the man and his times.
My only criticism is that there is far too much overlap between this book and the next in the series Means of Ascent. Both are very worthy books on their own, but it felt like perhaps 20% of Means of Ascent is directly copied from this book. Same stories, same wording. It seems as though Robert Caro literally copied and pasted big sections into the 2nd book. Still very worthwhile, but the 2nd book becomes tedious in this regard. I am saving a lower rating for the 2nd book because of this.
Grover Gardner is one of my all time favorite readers. This book is no exception.
"An impeccable biography"
The first of 4 comprehensive works (with a fifth to come) on the topic, this may be one of the most compelling biographies on any American president - and it's certainly the go-to source for the life of Lyndon Johnson. Grover Gardner's perfect narration makes for a listen that is as entertaining as it is enlightening.
"Excellent biography, excellent narration"
It's up there
So well researched, so well written.
Ha, no - one might die.
Never hated a main character in a biography so much, but can't turn away from the train wreck. Now on to part II!
"Best Biography I have heard, Reads like a novel."
This book demonstrates that a persons life is a combination of his family upbringing, his environment, his drive to succeed, AND that incalculable factor of LUCK, things happening at a time that will benefit or hurt one's life journey.
The author examines not only the person, but his parents AND their parents. He brings out the flavor of the poor hill country of Texas and the people who tried to survive in a hostile environment.
Very easy to listen to his expressive mellow voice
Incredibly detailed story of the making of a remarkable leader.
I cant wait for someone to make a movie of this book.Absolutely riviting tale of a man coming from nowhere, with a childhood that seemed to lead to a life of physical toil to a man who is acnolodged to be a great president of the U.S.
"The Pulsing History of LBJ's Early Years"
"...if Lyndon Johnson was not a reader of books, he was a reader of men--a reader with a rare ability to see into their souls."
-- Robert A Caro, The Path to Power
If the next three (and the final, yet to be written book) are as polished and well-researched as this one, this may end up being the definitive biography of any president. I loved Morris' Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy. It and Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton were nearly tied in my affection and esteem as my favorite political biographies. This one just jumped ahead.
Caro writes as well about place and people as John McPhee. He seems to possess all the qualities you want in an academic and popular historian. I bought these novels years ago. They sat collecting dust behind me and haunted me, but I was afraid to pick them up. They are just damn intimidating. Not just their thickness, but also the heft. The books are dense and heavy. So, each time I turned to read them, I imagined some immense mountain I would need to climb. But Caro's narrative is so easy, so fascinating, so compelling that the mountain practically pulls you up. After the first chapter I had a hard time putting this beast down.
"“If you can’t come into a room & tell right away.."
“If you can’t come into a room and tell right away who is for you and who is against you, you have no business in politics.”
I knew when I undertook this project of reading the four part biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson that I was in for a long haul. What I wasn't sure of? Whether it would be agony or ecstacy! I'm happy to report that it is the latter.
Mr. Caro does not write a whitewashed version of LBJ's life but it's not a hatchet job either. He puts all the flaws and good that Mr. Johnson did from his birth until FDR's death.
The good about Mr. Johnson was his identifying with the poor people in the state of Texas. He was born fairly poor and I believe that is why his drive to succeed was so strong. He loved his mother and had a love/hate relationship with his father. He was a workaholic and expected his people to do the same.
The bad was pretty overwhelming. He was ruthless and would do anything to win, that meant spying on his friends and reporting back to the President. He gained control of all the money for the Democratic Party in one election and used it to help his friends and get rid of his enemies. He was a lousy husband in my opinion.
I believe the time I took to read this first book is time well spent. I will take a break before reading the next one.
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