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Publisher's Summary

From two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time National Book Award winner Robert A. Caro: a short, penetrating reflection on the evolution and workings of political power - for good and for ill.

In On Power, an Audible exclusive, the legendary historian Robert A. Caro reflects on what drew him as a young journalist to study political power and what his half century of reporting on New York City urban planner Robert Moses and President Lyndon Johnson has taught him about the inner workings of government and democracy.

Adapted by the author from two recent speeches and filled with thoughtful lessons and personal moments, On Power goes behind the scenes in the author's decades-long quest to understand how power works, often in ways he could have never imagined.

Listening to On Power, narrated with emotion and humor by Caro in his unmistakable New York accent, is like having a private audience with the author often hailed as our greatest living historian. Longtime fans of Caro's books, as well as those seeking a more personal introduction to his life and work, will be treated to his trademark wit and revelatory insight.

But more than anything, On Power is a timely reminder for those who want to better understand how power and government work.

In Caro's words: "Why political power? Because it shapes all of our lives. It shapes your life in ways that you might never think about. Every time a young man goes to college on a federal education bill passed by Lyndon Johnson, that's political power. And so is a young man dying in Vietnam. Every time an elderly person is able to afford an MRI, that's Medicare. That's political power. It affects your life in all sorts of ways. My books are an attempt to explain this power.... Because the more America understands about political power, the better informed our votes will be, and then, hopefully, the better our democracy should be."

©2017 Robert A. Caro, Inc. (P)2017 Audible, Inc.

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Could be called 'On Robert Caro'

Huge fan of Robert Caro's work - I was hoping this would be a quick take on the biggest lessons on power that he teased out in his masterpieces that I could share with people who would find the other books too long. It was mostly about Robert Caro's life and work processes, without much on his key observations on power. OK for fans like me, but probably not wide interest and definitely overpriced for a brief autobio.

47 of 50 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard
  • Huntsville, AL, USA
  • 05-11-17

Why how power is acquired and how it is used

This time Robert Caro does his usual excellent job of writing, but not to explain how other people think and work, but why he has chosen to do the work he has essentially given his life to. No one can summarize his work as well as Caro has. I certainly will not try. But I will say I have read his two books on LBJ and am now anxious to read his book about the power broker Robert Moses, as well his third LBJ book.

His work is better than fiction. To use a familiar phrase, you can't make this stuff up.

47 of 51 people found this review helpful

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Moving

The stories of the lives of the poor that Caro took the time to track down are poignant. This man exudes humanity and compassion. His telling of his life story moved me deeply.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Short with little substance

I was excited for this book when I heard it was released. I haven't been able to commit to Caro's other works but was looking forward to a summary of his insights in his own words. Unfortunately, it is more a very very brief summary of Caro's history writing the books. It was interesting to hear about his experience, but it was not long enough to hear enough to get much out of his experience researching the books nor does it really spend much time on his subjects, Moses and Johnson.

49 of 54 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 12-14-17

About Caro fascination with political power

On Power is a 102 minute discussion by biographer Robert Caro of his fascination with the topic of political power. Robert Caro spent most of his career writing the use of raw political power by NYC urban planner Robert Moses and about the political life of Lyndon B. Johnson with emphasis on his early years and his time in the US Senate. This short can be viewed either Caro's explanation of his fascination with political power or as an advertisement for his very substantial books. Frankly, I found the little book to be of insubstantial interest, but most reviewers disagree.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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middling

seems like a fairly short podcast rather than an actual book with new details. wait for a sale

31 of 34 people found this review helpful

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Simply extraordinary. A short masterpiece.

This is one of the greatest short pieces of non fiction memoir of its kind. And the fact that is is in Robert Caro's own voice makes it even more moving. It is part Robert Caro's first person memoir (and his long suffering wife Ina too) as well as the story of the inimitable dogged storytelling and reporting that has won him multiple Pulitzer Prizes. It is also a testament to his humanity and his reasons as to why he has spent a lifetime focused on these two biographical subjects because it is not just about power for its own sake but also because it is about power's effect on the powerless.

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

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How Caro came to write about Robert Moses & LBJ

For those interested in political power in America and devotees of Caro this one is a "must listen." To hear Caro talk about his work in his own voice gives this a special flavor. And I'm so glad this was done as an Audible exclusive. I only wish there was also a hard copy or Kindle companion edition available.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A few anecdotes but little in the way of revelation.

The author has a pleasant speaking voice but the book mostly feels like an advertisement for his Lyndon Johnson biography.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 12-12-17

A Personal Story of Exploring the Powerful

I confess: I haven’t read either of Robert Caro’s reputed master projects for the simple reason that they seem too long. He’s gotten famous for the biography of Lyndon Johnson that seems never to end. (He jokes here that he’s on volume five of a projected two-volume work.) And he made his name by calling on us to rethink the role of Robert Moses in remaking New York city and state.

I’d like to read them, especially the Moses since it touches so much on the way cities get remade and reimagined in what’s largely an ethnic context. Still, it just seems so imposing. I’m sure I’d appreciate it, but I also think it would take a long time to find the particulars I’m interested in within the larger story he’s telling in the book.

And that brings me to this “book.” I use the quotes only because it’s such a short work, in many ways just an extended essay. But, above all, it’s an introduction to Caro’s work and to his abiding interest: how does political power shape our America, and how does wealth shape and inflect that power?

If Caro never quite answers that question, I can cut him some slack. I don’t expect people to answer the question of “What’s the meaning of life” either. Instead, we get a top-tier mind wrestling with a subject worthy of it. We have a man with a simmering social conscience reflecting on what he’s learned over four decades of sifting through records that most people would lack the patience or imagination to deal with.

In this essay – and it really is an essay in the sense of being a work that finds its subject as it goes – Caro makes his work personal. He tells the amusing and inspiring story of how he migrated from investigative journalism into deep-dive biography, but he presents it as the consistent pursuit of the same impulse. Whether he’s commuting four hours a day (on highways that Moses constructed by crushing the powerless and bending to the powerful) for a first job or moving to Johnson’s Southern boyhood home for otherwise impossible to get material, he always looks to the ways some bully and some get bullied.

The star here is Caro’s voice. That’s magnified in the audiobook where he reads his own story in a great working-class New York accent, but it’s present in the prose, too. As a trained journalist, he never wastes words. As a man inspired to tell the tale of people who found themselves at the mercy of others, he tempers his outrage by reminding us of his own limits and by acknowledging that the work is so vast – so long, if you will – that he can’t let it consume him or his sense of humor.

This is a straightforward pleasure, and I come away from it feeling as if I have a new friend.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Roland
  • 07-18-17

Copernicus

Aside from being a brilliant sample from this great story. As I'm sure all the other reviews have mentioned.
What a voice!