Friday, January 11, 2019

Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

My book for December was Master of the Senate by Robert Caro. For Christmas in 2017, Drew gave me The Passage of Power, the fourth book in Caro's planned five book biography of Lyndon Johnson. I decided to buy the first book and start at the beginning. I finished the first volume [The Path to Power] in March and the second volume [Means of Ascent] in May. This is the third volume. This book fits into my long term project to read books about all of the presidents.

The book was released on April 23, 2002. It won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, the 2002 National Book Award for Nonfiction, the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, and the 2002 D.B. Hardeman Prize.

In this third volume, Master of the Senate, Caro chronicles Johnson's rapid ascent in United States Congress, including his tenure as Senate majority leader. Like the first two books, Caro does a deep dive into supporting parts of the story to provide context. For example, the first 100 plus pages of the book examine the history of the Senate! Other tangential areas that the author covers deeply include Richard Russel, Leland Olds and the Federal Power Commission, Hells Canyon and the civil rights struggles of the 1950s.

With Johnson's eyes on running for President, the books does a particularly deep dive into his battle to pass a landmark civil rights bill through Congress without it tearing apart his party. Even in the 1950s, the attitude of the southern bloc of the Democratic party towards civil rights was mired in the early 19th century... Although its scope was limited, the ensuing Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first such legislation since the Reconstruction era.

I appreciated the book. At more than 1,100 pages, it is a load. It don't recommend it as a stand alone book. You need to start with volume one of Caro's biography of Johnson.

A footnote. I have always prided myself on finishing at least one book a month. This marks the second time in more than twenty-five years that I have fallen short of that goal. In the fall of 2016 when I started a new job and was more than a little off my feed, it took me four months to work my way through Hamilton. Due to the length of the book and some craziness at work in November, it took me three months to work my way through Master of the Senate.

No comments:

Post a Comment