Best Books About Lyndon Johnson
Note: This page is still under construction. All links underlined in blue work as stated. Links in Black link to Amazon page with titles to multiple books on this President
This is the story of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country. The Path to Power reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and ambition that set LBJ apart. It follows him from the Hill Country to New Deal Washington, from his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut as Congressman, his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, at age 31, of the national power for which he hungered. In this book, we are brought as close as we have ever been to a true perception of political genius and the American political process.
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s classic life of Lyndon Johnson, who presided over the Great Society, the Vietnam War, and other defining moments the tumultuous 1960s, is a monument in political biography. From the moment the author, then a young woman from Harvard, first encountered President Johnson at a White House dance in the spring of 1967, she became fascinated by the man–his character, his enormous energy and drive, and his manner of wielding these gifts in an endless pursuit of power. As a member of his White House staff, she soon became his personal confidante, and in the years before his death he revealed himself to her as he did to no other.
It was during these years that all Johnson’s experience—from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine—came to fruition. Caro introduces the story with a dramatic account of the Senate itself: how Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had made it the center of governmental energy, the forum in which the great issues of the country were thrashed out. And how, by the time Johnson arrived, it had dwindled into a body that merely responded to executive initiatives, all but impervious to the forces of change. Caro anatomizes the genius for political strategy and tactics by which, in an institution that had made the seniority system all-powerful for a century and more, Johnson became Majority Leader after only a single term—the youngest and greatest Senate Leader in our history; how he manipulated the Senate’s hallowed rules and customs and the weaknesses and strengths of his colleagues to change the “unchangeable” Senate from a loose confederation of sovereign senators to a whirring legislative machine under his own iron-fisted control.
Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon Johnson, which began with the greatly acclaimed The Path to Power, also winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, continues — one of the richest, most intensive and most revealing examinations ever undertaken of an American President. In Means of Ascent the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer/historian, chronicler also of Robert Moses in The Power Broker, carries Johnson through his service in World War II and the foundation of his long-concealed fortune and the facts behind the myths he created about it. But the explosive heart of the book is Caro’s revelation of the true story of the fiercely contested 1948 senatorial election, for forty years shrouded in rumor, which Johnson had to win or face certain political death, and which he did win — by “the 87 votes that changed history.” Caro makes us witness to a momentous turning point in American politics: the tragic last stand of the old politics versus the new — the politics of issue versus the politics of image, mass manipulation, money and electronic dazzle.
The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and most triumphant period of his career—1958 to 1964. An unparalleled account of the battle between Johnson and John Kennedy for the 1960 presidential nomination, of the machinations behind Kennedy’s decision to offer Johnson the vice presidency, and of Johnson’s powerlessness and humiliation in that role. With the superlative skills of a master storyteller, Caro exposes the savage animosity between Johnson and Robert Kennedy, portraying one of America’s great political feuds.
Flawed Giant–the monumental concluding volume to Robert Dallek’s biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson–provides the most through, engrossing account ever published of Johnson’s years in the national spotlight. Drawing on hours of newly released White House tapes and dozens of interviews with people close to the President, Dallek reveals LBJ as a visionary leader who worked his will on Congress like no chief executive before or since, and also displays the depth of his private anguish as he became increasingly ensnared in Vietnam. Writing in a clear, thoughtful, and evenhanded style, Dallek reveals both the greatness and the tangled complexities of one of the most extravagant characters ever to ascend to the White House.
Now Dallek has condensed his two-volume masterpiece into what is surely the finest one-volume biography of Johnson available. Based on years of research in over 450 manuscript collections and oral histories, as well as numerous personal interviews, this biography follows Johnson, the “human dynamo,” from the Texas hill country to the White House. We see LBJ, in the House and the Senate, whirl his way through sixteen- and eighteen-hour days, talking, urging, demanding, reaching for influence and power, in an uncommonly successful congressional career. Then, in the White House, we see Johnson as the visionary leader who worked his will on Congress like no president before or since, enacting a range of crucial legislation, from Medicare and environmental protection to the most significant advances in civil rights for black Americans ever achieved. And we see the depth of Johnson’s private anguish as he became increasingly ensnared in Vietnam.
Califano takes us into the Oval Office as the decisions that irrevocably changed the United States were being crafted to create Johnson’s ambitious Great Society. He shows us LBJ’s commitment to economic and social revolution, and his willingness to do whatever it took to achieve his goals. Califano uncorks LBJ’s legislative genius and reveals the political guile it took to pass the laws in civil rights, poverty, immigration reform, health, education, environmental protection, consumer protection, the arts, and communications.
Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Cheifs of Staff and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by H. R. McMaster
Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning new analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly researched, based on recently released transcripts and personal accounts of crucial meetings, confrontations and decisions, it is the only book that fully re-creates what happened and why. It also pinpoints the policies and decisions that got the United States into the morass and reveals who made these decisions and the motives behind them, disproving the published theories of other historians and excuses of the participants.
When Lyndon Johnson succeeded to the presidency amidst national tragedy, he took on not only the burdens of the office but the weight of the Kennedy myth—a blend of style, youth, romance, and political charm. Yet Johnson was John Kennedy’s very opposite in upbringing, manner, and temperament. Big, boisterous, intimidating, and expressive, he grew up in a land of dirt roads, bare feet, outhouses, and oil lamps while Kennedy was being raised in a sophisticated urban setting of wealth and status. In the White House, Johnson was to be haunted by the myth of Camelot. In this intimate personal and political history based on exhaustive new research, Paul Henggeler chronicles Johnson’s frustrating struggle with John and Robert Kennedy. LBJ saw in them both opportunities and threats. Towards John he felt affection and respect, and often drew upon the Kennedy legacy in his conduct of the presidency. But he feared Robert as the living embodiment of that legacy and as a man determined to dethrone him. Drawing upon thousands of fresh documents as well as published sources, Mr. Henggeler has constructed a fascinating and revealing account of personalities and politics which produced dramatic upheaval at the highest levels of government.
In November of 1964, as Lyndon Johnson celebrated his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater, the government of South Vietnam lay in a shambles. Ambassador Maxwell Taylor described it as a country beset by “chronic factionalism, civilian-military suspicion and distrust, absence of national spirit and motivation, lack of cohesion in the social structure, lack of experience in the conduct of government.” Virtually no one in the Johnson Administration believed that Saigon could defeat the communist insurgency–and yet by July of 1965, a mere nine months later, they would lock the United States on a path toward massive military intervention which would ultimately destroy Johnson’s presidency and polarize the American people.
In this major study, a noted expert on the war brings a needed objectivity to these debates by examining dispassionately how and why President Lyndon Johnson and his administration conducted the war as they did. Drawing on a wealth of newly released documents from the LBJ Library, including the Tom Johnson notes from the influential Tuesday Lunch Group, George Herring discusses the concept of limited war and how it affected President Johnson’s decision making, Johnson’s relations with his military commanders, the administration’s pacification program of 1965-1967, the management of public opinion, and the “fighting while negotiating” strategy pursued after the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Few figures in American history are as compelling and complex as Lyndon Baines Johnson, who established himself as the master of the U.S. Senate in the 1950s and succeeded John F. Kennedy in the White House after Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963.
Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was the most ambitious and controversial American reform effort since the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt. Conceived in a time of prosperity rather than devastating depression, it sought to forge a consensus that rested on ideals rather than harsh economic realities. In this narrative analysis, John Andrew examines the underlying ideas and principal objectives of Great Society legislation in the areas of civil rights, poverty, health, education, urban life, and consumer issues―legislation that addressed some of the most important and complex problems facing American society in the mid-1960s. These efforts in some way touched the lives of most Americans. But, as Mr. Andrew points out, LBJ’s consensus could persist only by avoiding divisive issues. As times changed and the economy deteriorated, the mood of the nation shifted, and the ideals of the mid-sixties collapsed in the face of ideological and political polarization. In the end, as Mr. Andrew shows, much of the Great Society failed along with the idealism that had sparked it. Yet the issues it addressed proved so intractable that the search for solutions continues to generate political controversy even today.
Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy loathed each other. Their antagonism, propelled by clashing personalities, contrasting views, and a deep, abiding animosity, would drive them to a bitterness so deep that even civil conversation was often impossible. Played out against the backdrop of the turbulent 1960s, theirs was a monumental political battle that would shape federal policy, fracture the Democratic party, and have a lasting effect on the politics of our times.
The only US President to record his private conversations from his first day in office, Lyndon Johnson ordered that the tapes be locked in a vault until at least the year 2023. But now they have been unsealed to provide a close look at a President taking power, from John F. Kennedy’s murder to Johnson’s campaign for a landslide victory. Here transcribed, edited, set in context and annotated by a professional historian, the tapes offer insight into how Johnston used power by flattering, provoking and twisting the arms of dominant personalities such as Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. They also illuminate Johnson’s changing relationships with his wife and the rest of his family, with Jacqueline Kennedy, with ex-Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, and with members of the Cabinet and White House staff.
This pioneering assessment of all significant aspects of the Johnson presidency is the first book-length appraisal by a professional historian to cover all issues, decisions, and developments of consequence—from foreign affairs, Vietnam, and the space race to the Great Society, civil rights, and the war on poverty—during the span of Johnson’s five years in office. At a time when unflattering portraits of Johnson’s distinctive personal and governmental style prevail, this volume presents a full, thoughtful, and balanced evaluation of the administration’s achievements and failures.
The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell, and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Robert Mann
Drawing on rich archival materials and on interviews with participants and witnesses, a dramatic, behind-the-scenes story of the legislative battles to legally establish American civil and voting rights presents the intrigue, compromises, friendships, and rivalries of three powerful men.