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Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency Hardcover – March 13, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A readable, endlessly interesting look at the LBJ years.” Kirkus

“Updegrove’s valiant and interesting effort to reappraise the man and his presidency is both valuable and necessary.”Booklist

“ Lyndon Johnson was so big a figure that no one canvas can adequately capture him. Yet Mark K. Updegrove, the director of the Johnson Library and Museum, does remarkably well with one crisp phrase: ‘Flawed, yes, and not always good, but great.’ This is serious work, with a serious second look at . . . the flawed conventional wisdom about Johnson.” —Boston Globe

"Indomitable Will is an instant classic...Mark Updegrove's scholarly mastery of oral histories, original source documents, and presidential writings, combined with a flair for exquisite story telling make for a fascinating, can't-put-down, lust-for-more read." —New York Journal of Books

“This book throbs with voices from an era that proved to be a hinge of American history. Their recollections become a chorus of insight into Lyndon B. Johnson, the colossus of his time, whose personality, politics, and policies are getting a much deserved second look. No one should be more eager to hear these voices than Barack Obama, whose path to the White House was cleared by LBJ’s indomitable will.” —Bill Moyers
“I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand Lyndon Johnson and his presi­dency. It is an entertaining as well as an enlightening book.” —President Jimmy Carter
“Lyndon Johnson is the most underappreciated president of the twentieth century. The tragedy of Vietnam has long overshadowed his accomplishments in domestic affairs, especially on the subject of civil rights, where his positive influence was second only to Lincoln’s. Mark Upde­grove’s innovative examination of Johnson’s presidency marks an important step in setting the record straight.” —H.W. Brands, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Traitor to His Class and The First American
“In history there’s no substitute for being there—unless it’s hearing the candid insights, rev­elations, and occasional belly laugh from those who were. Thanks to Mark Updegrove and his battery of historical eyewitnesses, presented here, as LBJ himself would attest, “with the bark off,” we don’t simply relive the past . . . we experience one of America’s most colorful, polarizing, galvanizing, and, yes, entertaining public lives from the inside out. Whatever you think of Lyn­don Johnson, you’ll never see him in quite the same light after plunging into this compulsively readable group portrait.” —Richard Norton Smith, George Mason University, and author of Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation
“Seeing is believing and Mark Updegrove’s book gives the reader an intimate and gripping view of Lyndon Johnson in the president’s own words and the words of those who saw this unbeliev­able American original, Machiavellian and magnificent, wrestling opponents in the Congress and the nation to the mat as he passed civil-rights, anti-poverty, consumer, health, education, environmental, arts, and humanities legislation that has changed our nation to this day.” —Joseph A. Califano Jr., Lyndon Johnson’s chief domestic policy aide and secretary of health, education, and welfare in the Carter administration
“Mark Updegrove’s Indomitable Will superbly captures the always interesting Lyndon Johnson. Relying partly on Johnson’s voice, but mainly on the impressions and recollections of the many people who helped shape or observed his administration, the book re creates the great triumphs and frustrations of his presidency. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the sixties as a prelude to our times.” —Robert Dallek, author of Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961–1973 and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963

About the Author

MARK K. UPDEGROVE is the director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, and the author of Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who took Office in Times of Crisis and Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House. A sought-after com­mentator on matters relating to politics and the pres­idency, he has appeared on ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, NPR, NBC News, and PBS. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Evelyn, and their children, Charlie and Tallie.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307887719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307887719
  • ASIN: 0307887715
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chefdevergue VINE VOICE on February 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I did not realize initially that this was not a biography in the traditional sense, but a collection of passages from the many oral histories & interviews from the LBJ library. It is not a format I normally care for, and I was sure I would dislike this book. I have seen this tried before, and oftentimes the result is a worthless book, but this time it really works.

It probably helps that LBJ was complex beyond belief, and that the story of his presidency is an amazing combination of the inspiring & the tragic. His personality was so outsized and filled with contradiction that perhaps the best way to explain him is through his own words, and the words of those who knew him well.

Despite each page containing passages from sometimes as many as four different interviews, the book's narrative really moves at a brisk pace. It will take very little time at all to read it, and I found it almost impossible to put down at times.

I can tell, from the remarks about William Manchester & Bob Caro, that Updegrove feels that LBJ has been the victim of unfair bias on the part of some biographers & historians (I hesitate to use the word "historian" to describe Manchester --- but whatever), and is doing his part to help rehabilitate LBJ's historical reputation, or at least provide a sense of balance. Recommended!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In a typical biography the author filters the historical record to paint a picture of the subject. The biographer sifts through speeches, newspaper accounts, other histories and biographies, interviews and other material, but in the end it is an account filtered through the author's particular view of the subject and of history in general. This book is a bit different and was therefore not quite what I was expecting. The book consists largely of interviews, personal accounts and recorded phone conversations. I liked the book and in general feel that it did give an interesting picture of LBJ, allowing him to be pictured in the words of many who interacted with him, but since the author chose what to include there was some filtering of the presentation. It is also important to note that the author is the director of the LBJ Presidential Library, so he is far from being completely unbiased as far as LBJ is concerned. The book presents many views of LBJ, providing fodder for many different opinions of him. Readers that dislike him will find statements of his and comments by those who knew him that will support this view. Likewise, those who appreciate some of what he did will find support for that view. On balance I think, as one would expect from the Director of the LBJ Library, the book presents LBJ in a generally favorable light. The overriding view is, as the title states, of a man with an indomitable will.

The book is divided into 12 sections covering such topics as LBJ the man and his behavior as president, which includes separate sections covering how he got people to conform to his will, his response to criticism and most importantly events concerning the Vietnam War and the Great Society legislation.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having read all 3 volumes of Caro's LBJ books (4th soon to be released) and Dallek and Goodwin bios, I am quite familiar with the history/politics of LBJ. love him or hate him, he's a fascinating personality. The 'interview' presentation is fresh and interesting. For anyone who wants to start out learning about his personal life, presidency and politics in the house and senate, this is a great place to begin. It's a quick read and covers many facets of his political career and not a little 'gossip'. Sometimes I laughed out loud reading transcripts of his his phone conversations. The one with his tailor was hilarious and gave a good insight into his personality, While not the definitive work on LBJ, it gives an insight into the man that can only come from dialogue.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lyndon Baines Johnson was truly an equal opportunity president. He gave everybody a reason to hate him.

Conservatives hated his big government spending. Liberals hated his deepening U. S. involvement in Vietnam. Easterners hated his replacing the more charismatic John F. Kennedy. Southerners hated his trampling of States' Rights, and, often, of Jim Crow. Blacks hated how too many of their leaders and young men were killed on his watch. A lot of people just hated his bumptious, bullying personality, especially when they knew him well.

But not everyone hated LBJ, which is the point of this new book. A largely positive take on Johnson, written by the director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library Museum, it tries to dispel the harsher image of Johnson as presented by Arthur Schlesinger and particularly Robert A. Caro, whose fourth volume on Johnson is coming out this spring. Sure, Johnson could be mean and demanding, Mark K. Updegrove seems to allow, but he was harshest on himself and did a lot of good things worth honoring. This tack is largely supported by the words of scores of people, some interviewed by the author himself, others found on oral histories or even Johnson's White House tapes. Nearly all seem to like Johnson, and speak with sad surprise that his legacy is not brighter.

Does "Indomitable Will" succeed in its goal? Well, it moves fast, is readable, and the people interviewed certainly offer some compelling words about Johnson's title quality being used to good effect. Richard Goodwin, one of Johnson's key aides, recalls him pressing George Wallace, the anti-civil-rights governor of Alabama, to secure the safety of a march led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
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