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Paperback Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson II Book

ISBN: 067973371X

ISBN13: 9780679733713

Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson II

(Book #2 in the The Years of Lyndon Johnson Series)

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Book Overview

In Means of Ascent, Book Two of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro brings alive Lyndon Johnson in his wilderness years.

Here, Johnson's almost mythic personality--part genius, part behemoth, at once hotly emotional and icily calculating--is seen at its most nakedly ambitious. This multifaceted book carries the President-to-be from the aftermath of his devastating defeat in his 1941 campaign for the Senate-the despair...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Excellent, better than the first

There are a lot of reviews on this site that criticize Caro for making Means of Ascent a seperate volume, saying that there isn't enough here for a standalone book, that he rehashes too much. After finishing the book, however, I think nothing could be further from the truth. Let me explain. The first book provides the essential context and builds LBJ up, allowing the reader to see the burgeoning of his political power and domineering personality. But it is in the second book, when he is driven to the absolute brink, when he "had to win" in the "all or nothing" 1948 Senatorial race vs. Coke Stevenson that his unique character bursts into full, dazzling bloom. It is this ratcheting up that makes this volume so necessary. Caro's brilliant depiction of the epic battle between LBJ and Stevenson is like something out of Shakespeare, American-style. We have on one side, LBJ, who in a lot of ways is the dark version of the American story: a poor boy who rose from nothing by any means necessary, selling himself (often lying) and working himself (and everyone around him) to the absolute bone in order to get ahead; someone who gave everything he had in order to get the ultimate prize (and took unlawfully what he didn't earn). On the other side, in the almost too good to be true character of rancher-statesman Coke Stevenson, is much of what we cherish about the American character: self-reliance, hard work, dedication to principle, humbleness, duty. In this clash of the new vs. the old, of Johnson's do anything, say anything brand of media driven, money fueled politics (sound familiar?) against Coke's principled campaign in which issues and the real positions of the candidate actually mattered, we know who eventually won and the consequences such a victory had, but we can't help but wish that maybe the old way could have had one last hurrah. And that maybe the age of substance-less, meaningless politics that LBJ ushered in with his 1948 race could have been postponed a few years. You get the feeling that perhaps Caro feels the same way...but I digress. Whether you agree with his implied politics or not, in Means of Ascent, it is unarguably clear that Caro has written an unparalleled legal and political thriller. Reading what actually happened in that fateful race between Johnson and Stevenson, I had to continually remind my self that YES, this REALLY DID happen in AMERICA just 50 years ago! The outright stealing of votes, the legal maneuvering, the armed showdowns between Mexican bandits and Texas Rangers (!!!) all seems like something out of some Third World banana republic, but it all happened, right here in America! And the final courtoom scenes will absolutely enthrall you, better than anything Grisham has ever written, for sure. In the end, by reading this book not only will you learn what really happeend in the 1948 Senate election and how the current brand of media based politics came about, but you'll get a glimpse into the rather undemo

fascinating and revealing

The story of Lyndon Johnson's narrow victory in the 48 Texas Democratic primary proves that truth is stranger than fiction. Caro, who clearly is conflicted between his admiration of LBJ's political genius and leadership qualities and revulsion at his amorality, writes this drama as if it were a novel, and indeed it reads like one, with larger than life characters (my favorite being Frank Hamer, the old Texas Ranger) and remarkable twists and turns and a climax that is better than anything even the most skilled novelist could make up. If you thought the Florida election was interesting and had its ups and downs, it pales compared to the drama and legal battles that result in LBJ's winning (stealing, to be more precise) the Texas primary. Fascinating and compelling political reading, remarkably well researched and written (much of it based on first hand accounts of the events).

Gripping intensity of the best detective novel

Robert Caro portrays Johnson as a compulsive liar with a need to prevaricate and steal that could make a politician cringe. I believe that the domestic program of Lyndon Johnson, civil rights legislation in particular, makes him one of the great US Presidents - even after reading this book. Given the disparity in these views of Johnson, it is remarkable that I found "Ascent to Power" compelling reading.Caro's book is extensively researched and written with a gripping intensity worthy of the best detective novel. His work gave me an insight that went beyond politics to that of human nature, the drive to power and impact that one individual could have on the course of the 20th century.My greatest regret - Volume 3 in this biography is years behind schedule. Robert, stop the foolin' around and finish that book!


I love this series. I perused this site to see if anyone knew when the third volume would be out. No one did, so I e-mailed Randon House. Their response: "Robert A. Caro is hard at work on the last part of Volume Three of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, in which he shows how Johnson mastered the United States Senate as no one else has before or since. You know the amount of research Caro does, how he leaves no stone or paper unturned in his insistence on getting every fact and detail absolutely correct in his life of LBJ and his history of America in the 20th century. And you know what a great writer he is. Such research and writing take time, and we have not as yet set a publication date."
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