I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Open Road Media on August 4th 2015
Genres: American Government, Biography & Autobiography, Executive Branch, Political Science, Presidents & Heads of State
An engrossing biography of President Lyndon Johnson from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Team of Rivals Hailed by the New York Times as “the most penetrating, fascinating political biography I have ever read,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s extraordinary and insightful book draws from meticulous research in addition to the author’s time spent working at the White House from 1967 to 1969. After Lyndon Johnson’s term ended, Goodwin remained his confidante and assisted in the preparation of his memoir. In Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream she traces the 36th president’s life from childhood to his early days in politics, and from his leadership of the Senate to his presidency, analyzing his dramatic years in the White House, including both his historic domestic triumphs and his failures in Vietnam. Drawn from personal anecdotes and candid conversation with Johnson, Goodwin paints a rich and complicated portrait of one of our nation’s most compelling politicians.
The following review was written by my husband, editor, and fellow bibliophile, Mike:
I have always been a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin. I went to a lecture that she gave when I was in college; I have always enjoyed her TV appearances; I have read her books. I have joked to my wife that I could just sit and listen to Goodwin talk for hours on end and never be bored.
I never had the opportunity to read her first book, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, originally released in 1976, and rereleased in 1991. I had read about the book and how it came to be. I knew it provided a unique perspective on Johnson due to Goodwin’s access to Johnson during the end of his presidency and his retirement (to help him with his memoirs). I was finally given the chance to read it when it was released as an e-book in August of 2015.
Simply put, I was not disappointed. While I wish it had provided a bit more detail on some of the historical events that involved Johnson, it did prove to be an interesting psychological study. This was due to the author’s access to Johnson. He opened up to Goodwin during the memoirs project more than he had to any other journalist or writer. I also always think it is interesting to read someone’s first book after having read all of his or her other books to see how their writing style changed or evolved.
It takes years or decades to make a proper assessment of a president. That has to be kept in mind while reading this book, due to the fact that it was released only 3 years after his death.
Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream is a good companion piece to Robert A. Caro’s epic Johnson biography series. Both provide great insight into Johnson’s rise to power as U.S. Senate Majority Leader, his frustrations as Vice-President, and his assumption of the presidency following JFK’s assassination. The multivolume Caro biography goes into more detail, but Goodwin’s book has Johnson’s first hand account.
Any fan of presidential history, or any of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s previous works will be interested to read this book.