The second installment of Robert Caro's "The Years of Lyndon Johnson" is, in essence, an exposé.
Robert Caro's almost singular focus on LBJ--he has spent over 40 years chronicling events of the 36th president's life--has resulted in Robert Caro himself becoming part of the story. He has been accused of bias and thinly veiled contempt, for going out of his way to make his subject a caricature and a spectacle for his readers. While I do not agree with such assessments, this volume is Exhibit A for Johnson apologists who prefer to view the 36th president through rose-colored glasses.
Caro is very careful to document Johnson’s monumental impact on the body politic and recognizes that he is a seminal figure in American history. There are noble achievements that are diligently fleshed out and contextualized for the reader in order for their remarkability to be noted. In the first volume (The Path to Power) he shows how Johnson transformed the lives of poor farmers in the Texas hill country by means of rural electrification. In the third volume (Master of the Senate-broken up into three volumes here on Audible) he shows how Johnson tamed the nearly ungovernable Senate to have the first civil rights legislation passed in nearly a century at that time. In the fourth volume he shows how Johnson was the one who made Kennedy’s idealism begin to have concrete legislative movement once the presidency devolved to him and he occupied the oval office. However, Caro freely admits to the reader in the second volume that the complex alternation of light and dark is not present during this segment of Johnson’s life. It’s all dark.
This volume is a story of Johnson’s time in the military (Johnson saw one day of actual combat and only as an observer); how Johnson used political influence to amass an immense fortune (when Johnson became president he may have been the richest man to do so up to that point); and how Johnson won the democratic primary for the open senate seat in 1948. In a one-party state as Texas was at that time, winning the primary was tantamount to winning the election. (I leave it to the listener to find out how he did that.) And, sadly, Johnson’s treatment of his wife, Lady Bird, is on full display here and will make the listener wince--often.
All that being said, this volume is so funny in spots I needed a tissue to wipe the tears from my eyes. There is a reason Caro has devoted most of his professional life writing about Lyndon Baines Johnson: he is a complex man, a larger-than-life figure, a man with an indomitable will to power, a man who wanted the presidency his entire life, a man who said, “If you do everything, you’ll win” and DID do everything. The roman orator Cicero wrote that no immoral act can be expedient. Johnson did NOT read Cicero…
Professor Fears does a fine job bringing to life the world of ancient Greece and illuminating the ideas, philosophies, and motives of some of the towering figures of ancient Greek history. Pericles, Socrates, Plutarch, Thucydides, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Pyrrhus, and Cleopatra are discussed among others. I was a bit bummed that Alexander the Great was only given one full lecture. The final lecture on Cleopatra was very interesting. I have been studying Roman history for years and found new material about Mark Anthony.
This course is overshadowed a bit by his "Famous Romans" course, but I don't think that is the professor's fault. Rome was vast, integrated (more or less) and operated on a time scale of centuries. It's stories are bound to be a bit more gripping and fascinating.
Hands down one of the most thrilling historical courses I've ever listened to. The description of the Second Punic War makes me wonder why Hollywood hasn't tackled it yet. The war with Hannibal shows just how close Rome came to being eradicated. Had Hannibal fully pressed his advantages Rome may have been a historical footnote and we'd all be speaking a Phoenician derivative.
The sections on Julius Caesar were also extremely well done. The course ends with the philosopher King, Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "Five Good Emperors". His decision regarding succession is given a strong rebuke by Professor Fears.
The first lecture is done in a style a little different from the rest, so let the course build up. Once Hannibal starts crossing those Alps, you'll be hooked!
The fourth installment of Robert Caro's majestic and sweeping biography of LBJ is a mammoth achievement and ranks favorably with all prior installments.
I stumbled onto the series a couple of years ago after seeing Robert Caro on a television program and began my exploration of the series with "Master of the Senate." Since the first two installments have not been made into audio books yet, I purchased "The Path to Power" & "Means of Ascent" on my Kindle and found both to be riveting.
For those of you who have gone thorough the entire series as I have, you know that LBJ's life contained periodic reversals. This installment chronicles the 3 years he spent in the most desolate wilderness of them all: The vice presidency.
Daniel Webster is reported to have said when the Whig Party offered him the chance to be vice president, "I do not propose to be buried until I am dead." LBJ???after he bungled securing the 1960 nomination and JFK mopped the floor with him???made a different calculation; to friends who wondered why on earth he would trade the second most powerful post in the land (senate majority leader) for the vice presidency he said, "seven of them got to be president without even being elected."
For 3 years LBJ was ignored, insulted, and treated with thinly veiled contempt by the Kennedy group???particularly by Robert F. Kennedy who DETESTED Lyndon Johnson. Newspaper headlines began asking, "Whatever Happened to LBJ?" His genius for legislation went untapped and Kennedy's domestic program was floundering.
Then it happened...
Half the book covers a roughly 7 week period of time. The coverage of the assassination is the summit of "history as thriller" and finds few if any equals.
For conspiracy theory buffs, sorry, but Caro does not give credence to the idea LBJ was involved. Caro has chronicled just about every fault Johnson has from the megalomaniacal to the scatological, but murder isn't one of them.
Grover Gardner, as another reviewer already mentioned, was the only possible choice for this book. He lends it his usual gravity and precision. Why Caro hasn't contracted him to record the first two books in the series, I don't know. "Means of Ascent" was so funny in places I needed a tissue by my side to wipe the tears.
Caro's penchant for exhaustive research has meant that he has taken over 35 years to produce four books. The man is now 75 and he still has all of Johnson's election and Vietnam to cover. Let's hope his health holds out and he finishes the job.
The story and narration were superb and the plot was engrossing. After listening to about 60+ nonfiction books I have started to dip my toes into fiction--particularly science fiction. I remember listening to a classmate give a review of this book in a high school English class and decided to use one of the 'ol two credits on this one. Smart decision. Even though I knew the ending before I hit the play button, the journey--as any good book reveals--is more important that mere facts.
The ending will hit you.
Amy Chua has come under a lot of fire for this book. I think most of the people decrying her as an abusive parent are basing their claims on the distorted synopsis done by The Wall Street journal article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." (The title wasn't Chua's choice.)
This book is written with a lot of humor and brutal honesty. It gives the reader much to think about. I don't agree with everything Chua says and definitely feel she could have dialed it back a bit, but she raises important issues every parent must face. Every kid has 24 hours each day to use, should they use it texting for 4 hours a day? Watching TV for 6 hours? Playing stupid Facebook games for hours on end? Blasting enemy soldiers into gobs of goo on their Playstation 3s or Xboxes?
While there is a lot of space between letting your kid be a "typical" American and being a Tiger Mother, the USA's dismal education record says more parents need to be as engaged as Amy Chua.
This title came to my attention while listening to the excellent podcast, "The History of Rome." This is a fine & concise primer that gives the listener an overview of the issues & men surrounding Caesar's assasination. It is rich in facts & tidbits and I learned much that I hadn't heard or read before. The author spends a lot of time leading his listeners to that fateful day in March, but then seems to rush a bit towards the end as he reports on the fate of the participants in the murder. After listening to this book I suggest you then download, "Augustus: The Life of the First Emperor."
This book provides a well-researched and well-rounded look at the state of fishing by examining four principal edible fish. This is NOT an environmental screed that says we should all be vegetarians and leave the ocean alone; rather it is a sensible, sober look at the ocean's problems and what the practical solutions are.
The narrator is PERFECT. In some audible books I feel the narrators try a little too hard to do other voices and accents, but this narrator nails it. When you get to the section on Tuna and hear the 9/11 anecdote, you'll fully appreciate this narrator's range.
This book is well written and gives a rounded history of the company. However, as has been noted by other reviewers, Kilpatrick may be a little too close to Zuckerberg to assess him objectively. This book is essentially an "official" history of Facebook.
And, yes, Kilpatrick should NOT have narrated his own book. He needs to know you're not supposed to sniff, breathe loudly, or cough when doing a professional narration. I think he states in the appended interview by Randi Zuckerberg that he only spent a day or two recording the book. Go with a pro next time...
This is a fascinating book but it contains numerous sections of densely packed profanity. I know there are two schools of thought on this, to include crude profanity or not to. However, I found the straightforward reporting (sans the macho quotes from overamped venture capitalists) to be engrossing. But hearing an F-bomb every few minutes was too jarring and I reluctantly had to abandon ship.
This book is not safe to listen to with kids in the car with you...
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