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LBJ: Architect of American Ambition Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 1, 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Why, after major works by Robert A. Caro and Robert Dallek, do we need another biography of Lyndon B. Johnson? The answer is that Johnson was so complex that every new biographer willing to do the tough spadework of original research discovers fresh layers of Johnsonian reality to explain, new psychological and political corridors to explore. Such is the case with this excellent new work by University of Arkansas historian Woods (Fulbright, a Biography). Woods finds Johnson's key motivation to be largely altruistic, emerging from righteous outrage over the poverty and racism he'd witnessed while growing up in Texas. Woods serves up a Johnson who is less cynical, less self-serving and more heroic and tragic than the man portrayed elsewhere. Woods's Johnson is a man who saw his greatest personal ambitions realized with the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964, and the Great Society programs. Not inappropriately, Woods concludes his eloquent and riveting account by quoting Ralph Ellison, who noted that Johnson, spurned at the end of his life by both liberals and conservatives, would "have to settle for being recognized as the greatest American President for the poor and for the Negroes, but that, as I see it, is a very great honor indeed." 16 pages of b&w photos. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Joining the two top LBJ biographies, multivolume affairs by Robert Dallek and Robert Caro, Woods' single volume evenhandedly condenses the complexities and controversies associated with the thirty-sixth president of the U.S. LBJ's legacies, such as Vietnam and the Great Society, lie beyond Woods' ambit, but within it are Johnson's family, social, and political background, which inclined him toward expansive and expensive efforts in foreign and domestic policy. Raised in the populist tradition, LBJ cut his political teeth as an all-out New Dealer. But he shrewdly knew that the ambitions he harbored for himself and American society would never be realized without placating conservatives of various kinds--economic, segregationist, or anticommunist. In this fact of Johnson's political life, which induced some to perceive him as a malodorous wheeler-dealer, Woods detects a remarkable consistency, an inwardly liberal LBJ whose outwardly moderate politics were an expression of his mastery of political calculus. Then there's the volatile LBJ, prone to self-pity, aggressiveness, and insensitivity. Woods illustrates this aspect of LBJ's personality most effectively through his relationship with Lady Bird, to whom he accorded respect, trust, and repetitive infidelity. Thorough, astute, and readable. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684834588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684834580
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.7 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,441,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Informative and absorbing, "LBJ: Architect of American Ambition" is certainly one of the best bios I've read in a while. Woods' narration, though somewhat uneven at times, never loses focus on the long reach of Johnson's ambition, which is apparent from his boyhood to the halls of Congress, and throughout his controversial presidency. Not content with only explaining his forceful and often manipulative methods, Woods allows the reader to dive into LBJ's mind to explore the (largely) altruistic motivations behind his eccentric, almost schizophrenic behaviors.

Heralding over an era that he envisioned as a continuation of FDR's New Deal, LBJ's dreams came crashing under the events of the tumultuous 60s; that of Vietnam and urban riots. To paraphrase a comment once made by the father of a friend of mine, no political figure fit the mold of a Shakespearean Tragedy as LBJ did.

While I agree that the editing was most certainly shoddy and that Woods' standing as a historian gives him little room to allow such careless mistakes, I must respectfully contend that the book should not suffer anything more than a 2-star deduction as other reviewers have done. Save for situations in which an author is purposefully misleading or misconstruing the facts to push foward an agenda, such errors seem more benign in nature, and as such, context should be the focus. Should I use this book as a source for a future paper and/or project, I'll be sure to take note to double-check for accuracy; but as a more casual reader looking for a book to bring this character to life, I found that Woods' overall style accomplished that objective.

This book tells his story in a way that is sympathetic to his cause, but unflinching in revealing Johnson's flaws in more ways than one. With such a larger-than-life character as its subject, I can only hope a revised edition is not too far ahead in the future.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, let me say that this book is well written and never dull. It is also a fairly objective view of LBJ, very welcome after Caro's multi-volumes of character assassination. The frustrating part of the book, however, is a barrage of incorrect facts, leading to the question of whether anyone actually edited this book. Lister Hill is repeatedly identified as a senator form Florida (he represented Alabama), Huey Long is described, in a very famous episode, as helping Hattie Carraway get elected to the Governorship of Arkansas (she was running for and was elected to the Senate) and Douglas MacArthur is described as a "young brigadier general" at the time he routed the "bonus" army from Washington. He was actually the 52 year old chief of staff of the U.S. Army at this time, holding four star rank.
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Format: Hardcover
As one who believes Lyndon Baines Johnson was an effective, significant president. I looked forward to reading this book. Many of the books that have been written about President Johnson tend to focus on his shortcomings. I believe that while Vietnam is the "elephant in the room" that will forever be a part of his legacy (in a negative sense), it is important to remember that Johnson was a remarkable political leader. He led the United States Senate like no one did before him or anyone has since. Robert Caro's Master of the Senate covers Johnson's 12 years in the Senate and ranks along T. Harry Williams Huey Long as one of the finest books ever written about modern American politics. As president, Johnson provided the leadership that resulted in Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, federal funding of education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Randall Woods provides a sympathetic and highly readable biography of LBJ. However, his work is marred by a litany of sloppy factual errors that are to say the least, distracting. Early on, Woods refers to Jackie Kennedy's green blood stained dress. The dress was pink. He refers to Alabama Senator John Stennis. John Stennis represented Mississippi. Woods states that Frank Lausche reprented Indiana in the United States Senate. Lausche represented Ohio. The book locates the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy at the Embassy Hotel. In reality, the assassination took place at the Ambassador Hotel. Albert Jenner is listed as being a senator from Indiana, when in fact, the senator in question was named William. It is not uncommon to find one or two errors in a book from time to time. However...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author has unearthed a large amount of information, as you would expect from a professional historian and academic. And he wishes to share a lot of it with the reader. His style is flat, clear and in the tradition of some of the better Wikipedia entries. If you are fond of reading histories by David McCullough, think of this as the anti-McCullough. Long paragraphs full of detailed information, and a very long book. Minimal amount of interpretation, synthesis and story-telling. Tough-sledding if, like me, you had the impression from Caro's books that LBJ was an unsavory man whose lack of courage and honor kept him from ending the war when he knew he should. There is a tidal wave of information here, data overload. Not sure what the point is, though. A more thoughtful, interpretative, argumentative approach would have been far better. Do we really need to know everything he did on so many days?
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