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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic and Essential Book on LBJ and his World, 5 May 2004
Although it would be impossible for a short review to really do justice to Caro's epic work on LBJ (of which this is only the first part), a reviewer can, at the very least, recommend it so strongly as to compel the reader to accept the recommendation. 'Path to Power' is a classic of modern literature; it is magnificent, and I compel you to read it.
Robert A. Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson (the first volume of it, at least - 'Path to Power' concludes in 1941, after Johnson's defeat in the Senate election) is characterised by a relentless expansiveness - entire chapters are given over to chronicling the lives of Lyndon Johnson's ancestors; to mapping the complex political landscape both Lyndon, and his father, Sam, were born into; to describing the difficult, labour-intensive existence of Hill County families in the years prior to full rural electrification; and to telling of people as diverse as Sam Rayburn , Alice Green, and the Brown Brothers. (Caro's chapter on Sam Rayburn is particularly good - a gem of biographical writing.)
For Caro, no topic is out of bounds, whether social or historical, psychological or behavioural, if its inclusion and discussion helps to make sense of the ambitious, complicated, tyrannical (and very human) Johnson. We read more about LBJ than we have ever read before, and Caro ensures - through fine writing and sharp, incisive insights - that we are engrossed as we read.
'Path to Power' is a long book, full of detail and texture, with much to reward the patient reader. Finishing it, you feel you have begun to understand a complex man and his complex times.
And it is addictive - the second volume, a little shorter, and the third volume, quite a bit longer, will be irresistible once the first has been digested.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars you may like Johnson less after this, but he still amazes, 3 July 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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I doubt that anyone has ever delved into a biography of anyone as deeply as Caro has done. This volume, which covers Johnson to his first failed Senate campaign (to an early talk radio host), is simply the most spellbinding and detailed bio I have ever read, utterly rivetting as Caro explores Texas and then national politics of a bygone era.

It is nothing short of the story of a political genius, who rose from nothing on his wits and energy and who had a good side and a dark side. You feel that the full complexity of the man is contained within, from his bombast and cowardice to his uncanny ability to cultivate power and use his office to advance himself. It is funny, sad, and the grandest political tableau that has ever been painted I think. YOu get wonderful flashes of his bravado and humor - "looks like old jumbo here needs a little exercise," he tells his brother when emerging from a shower - as well as insight into the issues and governmental methods of the time. There is love (a mistress), disappointment (his loss), abuse (his father and his aides, who had to meet with him while he was on the toilet, etc.), and true caring (for his constituents).

If there is any problem, it is that so many threads are unravelled that many of them have to be dropped midway, never to be taken up again. But then, that is what books should do: make you want to search for more. And it is projected to reach 5 volumes.

One of the best books I ever read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-faceted biography and interesting biography, 20 Mar 2013
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Mr. P. A. Gower (Altrincham, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This is the first book in Robert Caro's Magnus Opus 4 volume biography of President Lyndon Johnson. A weighty tome of 768 pages it covers Lyndon Johnson's early life, upbringing in the improvised backwoods of Texas, education at a lowly teachers training college, his work as a secretary to a congressman, then becoming a congressman himself before his first and unsuccessful attempt to get elected to the senate.

As a Brit, my knowledge of Johnson was limited to knowing that he was the President who replaced Kennedy and he actually introduced civil rights and the great society but got bogged down in the Vietnam War, which in part he inherited. From the outside it seemed as if history had dealt this Texan a raw deal. In Caro's book, however, Johnson appears to be a deeply complex and possible flawed character and I am reminded of the famous line on power from Plato's work: The Republic ‎"Those who seek power are not worthy of that power." Caro provides much material of his early life to encourage the reader to play amateur psychologist in wondering whether Johnson's single minded pursuit for power was possibly an attempt to control his environment having suffered through his father's fall from grace in Johnson's early life. My view of Johnson swung from highly distasteful to admiration at how he obsequiously courted older men as a `professional son,' engineered loyalty despite working underlings to nervous breakdowns but actually got things done on behalf of those he represented.

As Johnson's career progressed, I found it interesting the interplay of Johnson generating work under the Roosevelt's New Deal for Texan companies, then those companies sponsoring Johnson and helping him gain more power to then get bigger contracts for those companies. It also made me wonder in the current economic/political climate the danger of such a cycle repeating itself of governments awarding contracts/work etc. to get the economy growing but the whole cycle being distorted by the potential for corruption. I had not appreciated how corrupt the US political system was such a relatively short time ago. It is a big slab of the book which I should have done justice as a holiday read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant; but where is Johnson?, 6 Jun 2012
By 
Banjaxed (Dundalk / New York) - See all my reviews
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There is no doubt about it that this a masterful biography. If you want to delve deeply into a world of an individual then this is it. A few things bother me, one; Johnson is absent and Caro puts premium on the opinion, (good or bad), of everyone on Johnson's life,except Johnson. This makes the entire narrative a third person one, which gives tremendous power to Caro himself as author. Two; as in the Powerbroker, he often builds up to knock down, and more than once, (e.g. his college election) he is has the objectivity of the prosecutor. This leads to the third problem I have with it, Caro's view of politics (as with the Powerbroker), is often painfully idealistic. However, all that aside, this a wonderful read, a fascinating story that is brilliantly told. Often his journalistic skills come to the fore in creating a vivid background for the reader, whether it be Hill County or Congress, that would have been impossible to imagine for the reader in less skilled hands. It is hard to see how this book will ever go out of print. Caro is the narrator and Johnson the character; its bias, bizarrely, will prevent it from being dated. Better, more informative and definitely more satisfying to read than most fiction. (PS: Watch out for Caro's obssession about Johnson's ears).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read., 23 July 2006
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I bought this book as a result of an article in the "Times" a few years ago in which it said that this was a masterpiece of biography. It has laid unread for four years as the subject didn't really grab me. I have now read it and can truly endorse what others have said. A fascinating biography, this first part of a four part series charts the family background of Johnson and follows its subject up to the death of FDR in 1947. A monster of a man, extremely unlikeable, yet this is a compelling read. Caro paints a faschinating picture of a man of little if no principles, driven by a need to control those about him and achieve power and yet still achieving great things for the desparately poor people of the Texan Hill Country from which he sprang. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, even if you have no interest in US politics, read it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best biography I have ever read, 5 July 2014
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This is the best biography I have ever read. Not just LBJ, but all sorts of details from the working lives of women in corrugated iron homesteads to the difference electrification made to farming folk in 1930s rural Texas were just fascinating reading. I quite like politics, but even those who don't would surely find the story of LBJ's early life a great read the way Mr. Caro tells it. It was an extraordainary roller coaster - at times I really loathed LBJ, and thinking "Can this man get any lower?" and then I started really pulling for him as he actually does deliver things (like the electrification above) for his constiuents (and then back to the former emotion as he follows triumph up with another shabby deal). All in all, it was a sobering read on the way we run our society, and why men like LBJ get to the top. Does the good they do outweigh the terrible things they do to advance up the greasy pole? I am not sure how to answer that, but after bringing 1920s and 1930s Texas to life in a way I would not have thought possible, this book has left me serioulsy thinking about how we get the politicians we deserve in a democratic society, and I think it would challenge any other reader in the same (very exicting) way too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and in depth account of Lyndon Johnson's formative years., 1 May 2014
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Although the early sections may be considered unnecessarily long-winded by some, they set a proper foundation of Caro's portrait of the young LBJ.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I cannot recommend this highly enough, 11 Mar 2014
This is a wonderful book. Johnson would be a compelling enough subject in a run-of-the-mill biographer's hands but the depths to which he is explored by Mr Caro turn him into some sort of archetype. To understand him, as Mr Caro gives us a chance to, is to gain insight into what it might take to win in politics. Do not be surprised if Johnson's antics leave you nauseated at times. I am immensely grateful to the author. His book is a privilege to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely compelling!, 2 Aug 2013
By 
M. T. Foy (Greater Manchester) - See all my reviews
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This book is one that I have been going to read for many years and I finally bought it, and I'm so glad that I did. It is one of the finest biographies that I have ever read and a revealing insight into the early years of LBJ. Caro is concerned for his readers to understand where LBJ comes from and the formative issues that made such a complex character. As a British reader too, it's good to have such a clear description of the hill country, Texan and Washington politics, which all puts the LBJ into sharper focus. I found this book so gripping I was almost reading it as a novel as characters were developed and the plot unravelled. And all this against the background of detailed and thorough research.

I can't recommend this book enough, buy it and read it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars a great biography of Lyndon Johnson's first 31 years, 16 Feb 2013
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This book starts with some of Lyndon Johnson's ancestors (Johnsons - impractical dreamers; Buntons - tempered dreams with doing what's necessary to succeed in life); moves into a discussion of the Hill Country (fascinating vignette of depleting natural resources); then onto Johnson's family and his early life (always needed to be the centre of attention; if he couldn't lead, he wouldn't play); his relationship with his parents (especially his father whom he idolised when his father was doing very well in life and with whom he fought tooth and nail when he failed in business); his leaving home a couple of times; life at college (he was unpopular but found a way to power for the first time); in politics (on the staff of a local Congressman; and his political campaigns).

The picture that emerges is rich, complex and detailed. Johnson got things done - he brought electricity to the Texas Hill Country (against the odds - people named their children after him - he had transformed their lives); and he seems through a later invention to have pretty much turned the 1940 Congressional elections in favour of the Democrats. But there's always a dark side - he has no clearly discernible principles (he seems like a model liberal to FDR but to hate the New Deal to his Texas big business backers - for whom he wins government contracts, and from whom he funds his campaigns). He will do whatever it takes to win power.

The years of research that inform this first volume of the biography are clear on every page. It's impossible really to question Caro's narrative or most of his judgements (he seems harsher on Johnson here than in Volume 4 - by which time he seems to have decided that Johnson did have some political beliefs - they were just extremely well hidden until he became President, for the most part). Only one aspect of Johnson's life I'd have liked to know more about - his increasingly frequent hospitalisations seem to be linked to brief depressive episodes. They aren't, however, quite treated as that - Caro makes clear that they are partly psychological - but doesn't delve into just what's going on at these times in Johnson's internal world.

It's a great read, though, and I'd very strongly recommend it to others.
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