The best books about Lyndon B. Johnson

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Lyndon B. Johnson and why they recommend each book.

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The Passage of Power

By Robert A. Caro,

Book cover of The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

Imagine you’re Vice President Lyndon Johnson on Nov. 22, 1963. The Secret Service just hustled you into a secure room at the Dallas hospital where doctors are desperately trying to keep President John F. Kennedy alive after an assassination attempt. What’s going through your mind? If Kennedy dies, what are your next steps? Robert Caro found out. Pulitzer-winner Caro is the greatest historian of our lifetime—and a brilliant, accessible writer who makes it impossible to put down a 700-page nonfiction book. The Passage of Power is the fourth of a planned five-volume biography of Johnson, the man who helped turn Martin Luther King’s dream into reality, and then self-imploded with the Vietnam War. Caro’s final volume will be an instant best-seller.

The Passage of Power

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Passage of Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE, THE MARK LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE, THE AMERICAN HISTORY BOOK PRIZE

Book Four of Robert A. Caro’s monumental The Years of Lyndon Johnson displays all the narrative energy and illuminating insight that led the Times of London to acclaim it as “one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece.”

The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career—1958 to1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power…

Who am I?

I grew up in Massachusetts, which produced four presidents and untold presidential candidates including Mitt Romney, Mike Dukakis, John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren, and Gov. William Butler, who ran in 1884. My first career was as a newspaper reporter and editor, and I worked for papers in Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, and Washington state. I’ve dabbled in politics myself, working as a campaign press secretary for the late Washington Gov. Booth Gardner. Newspapers gave me an abiding hatred for adverbs, the passive voice, and bias in word selection. (No, historians shouldn’t use “patriot” in describing the Revolution’s American rebels, because loyalists and Indian nations were just as patriotic in their own minds.)


I wrote...

After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

By Don Glickstein,

Book cover of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

What is my book about?

The American Revolution was the United States’ first world war. It involved not just American rebels and England, but France, Holland, Spain, the Indian Kingdom of Mysore, Native American nations, and enslaved people. It was fought from the Arctic to South America, from South Africa to the Mediterranean. The war’s last battle was fought in India, where a Muslim co-belligerent of the American rebels battled the British. After Yorktown tells the story of the people and the war that continued long after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

A Political Education

By Harry McPherson,

Book cover of A Political Education: A Washington Memoir

Here’s Lyndon B. Johnson again. As a bright young lawyer, McPherson left Texas to work for a year with Johnson, thinking the experience might open his eyes—and a few doors—at the beginning of his legal career. McPherson stepped onto the rocket sled of politics and never stepped off. This grand old man of Washington paused mid-career to give us the ultimate learning-the-ropes memoir of life inside politics.

A Political Education

By Harry McPherson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Political Education as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This insider's view of Washington in the 1950s and 1960s, of the tumultuous presidency of Lyndon Johnson, and of the conflicts and factions of the president's staff has become a political classic since its original publication in 1972. In this reissue, Harry McPherson adds a new preface in which he reflects on changes in Washington since the Johnson era and on the lessons Bill Clinton could learn from the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.


Who am I?

A journalist and author for more than 40 years, I now write a twice-weekly opinion column for The Washington Post. Which is odd because I don’t have many opinions. What I do have is a lot of curiosity. One very durable question for me, which informed a couple of my books, is this: How does political power actually work in America? How does change happen?


I wrote...

Book cover of Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

What is my book about?

In telling the story of the 1911 factory fire at the Triangle Waist Co.—New York’s deadliest workplace disaster prior to 9/11—I tried to account for the profound effect of this event in a time when workers died on the job routinely. That turned out to be a rich and moving story of women’s rights, of labor organizing, of reformist zeal, and of gritty give-and-take inside a notorious political machine.

Personal History

By Katharine Graham,

Book cover of Personal History

Personal History is Katharine Graham’s memoir. She became the first female Fortune 500 CEO when she took over at The Washington Post. From having Warren Buffet as a mentor to presiding over The Washington Post during Watergate, her life was absolutely fascinating. There is so much to learn about leading, women’s empowerment, and how we show up at work through Graham’s journey. What makes this book unique, though, is that in addition to being a classic in the women’s leadership genre, it’s as juicy and riveting as your best suspense novel.

Personal History

By Katharine Graham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Personal History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As seen in the new movie The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep, here is the captivating, inside story of the woman who piloted the Washington Post during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of American media.

In this bestselling and widely acclaimed memoir, Katharine Graham, the woman who piloted the Washington Post through the scandals of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, tells her story - one that is extraordinary both for the events it encompasses and for the courage, candour and dignity of its telling.

Here is the awkward child who grew up…


Who am I?

Throughout my career, I’ve always been passionate about leveling the playing field for women. I do this through my writing, speaking, and investing. Much of my current work is informed by the 20 years I spent in corporate as both an executive and a mentor to hundreds of women. ​The books I’ve chosen for this list are written by women I admire and who espouse similar approaches to the way I lead and show up at work. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Embrace the Work, Love Your Career: A Guided Workbook for Realizing Your Career Goals with Clarity, Intention, and Confidence

By Fran Hauser,

Book cover of Embrace the Work, Love Your Career: A Guided Workbook for Realizing Your Career Goals with Clarity, Intention, and Confidence

What is my book about?

I came up with the idea for this guided workbook when I realized that women all around me were feeling stuck, and there wasn’t a practical yet inspiring resource to help them find clarity and achieve their career goals. The pandemic has driven so many women out of the workforce and left others questioning their paths. My hope is that through simple, inspiring, and actionable tools, Embrace the Work, Love Your Career will help women of all ages thrive in their careers and ultimately live the lives they want and deserve.

A White House Diary

By Lady Bird Johnson,

Book cover of A White House Diary

Lady Bird’s diary is worth reading no matter what you are studying. She is insightful, funny, and attentive to her unique perspective as First Lady. In terms of understanding Pat, the diary offers an outsider’s view from someone who understood Pat’s situation personally. The tidbits concerning their first post-election meeting and then subsequent visits provide evidence of Pat’s humor, humility, and kindness.

A White House Diary

By Lady Bird Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A White House Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available again in paperback--Lady Bird Johnson

Who am I?

I became a historian because I am nosy. I like to know what is going on in other people’s lives. I study politics because I am fascinated by power—who has it? How did they get it? I took up this project not knowing much about First Ladies or Pat Nixon. My quest to know more led to the correspondence between Pat and her closest friend. The letters in these files allowed me to hear Pat’s voice describe her life as a politician’s wife, as Second Lady, and as a regular citizen. I feel privileged to be able to share that with the world.


I wrote...

Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady

By Mary C. Brennan,

Book cover of Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady

What is my book about?

In 2003, I knew nothing about First Lady Pat Nixon except what I had seen on Saturday Night Live or read in Good Housekeeping. Then Kansas University Press invited me to write a book about her. What I learned over the course of the next years was that the woman the press dubbed “Plastic Pat” was smart and determined, with a wicked sense of humor. She might see the flaws in her family but would fight any outsider who noticed them. She could be tough as nails to the press who attacked her husband, but rarely failed to win over the hearts of people who met her in person. I did not always agree with her, but I came to respect her.

Book cover of America's Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama

This is an encyclopedia for anybody who wants to doublecheck the official version of events in US history starting from George Washington all the way through the presidencies of Nixon, the two Bushes, and Barak Obama. Investigative journalist Robert Parry worked for Associated Press and Newsweek on the Iran-Contra affair and spent years on the October Surprise, that cost President Jimmy Carter a second term. If you want to understand the role of the arms industry on US foreign policy since World War II, this is a great start. Or as President Eisenhower put it in his farewell address: “… we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

America's Stolen Narrative

By Robert Parry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America's Stolen Narrative as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Investigative reporter Robert Parry reframes key chapters of American history by exploring past events that still drive the U.S. political narrative – from why the Framers junked the Articles of Confederation in favor of the Constitution, to how the modern Republican Party embraced a win-at-all-cost ethos, to why the Democrats shy away from the hard work of accountability.

AMERICA’S STOLEN NARRATIVE takes you on a journey from America’s founding – and the plotting of George Washington and James Madison – to Richard Nixon’s sabotage of Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks, on to the Watergate scandal (showing how those two dark…

Who am I?

I was researching the assassination of Sweden’s Prime Minister Olof Palme when I came across the private archive of author Stieg Larsson. After eight years of research, my book The Man Who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin was published, which shines new light on the conspiracy behind the unsolved murder. The book has been translated into 27 languages. My first book Gripen by Prague exposes corruption by Saab and BAe in connection with the sale of supersonic jet fighters to the Czech Republic. In the aftermath of the book, police investigations were opened in seven countries including the US and the UK.


I wrote...

The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson's Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin

By Jan Stocklassa,

Book cover of The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson's Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin

What is my book about?

When Stieg Larsson died, the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had been working on a true mystery that out-twisted his Millennium novels: the assassination on February 28, 1986, of Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister. It was the first time in history that a head of state had been murdered without a clue who'd done it--and on a Stockholm street at point-blank range.

Internationally known for his fictional villains, Larsson was well acquainted with their real-life counterparts and documented extremist activities throughout the world. For years he'd been amassing evidence that linked their terrorist acts to what he called "one of the most astounding murder cases" he'd ever covered. Larsson's archive was forgotten until journalist Jan Stocklassa was given exclusive access to the author's secret project.

In The Man Who Played with Fire, Stocklassa collects the pieces of Larsson's true-crime puzzle to follow the trail of intrigue, espionage, and conspiracy begun by one of the world's most famous thriller writers. Together they set out to solve a mystery that no one else could.

A Walk in Wildflower Park

By Bella Osborne,

Book cover of A Walk in Wildflower Park

This is so much more than the cosy romance the cover and title promise. It’s a wonderful story bursting with friendship, office politics, drama, and mystery. When Anna’s loser of a fiancé gets cold feet, focusing on her career as a project manager seems a safe way to move on. But when two unwelcome faces join her workplace, Anna’s suddenly got a lot on her plate – and that’s before the mysterious texts start appearing from a guy who calls himself C.

Anna would be a guest at my dinner table because she feels like a kindred spirit. Like me, she’s driven and ambitious, as well as someone who doesn’t take any nonsense – and she’s good fun. I could definitely see us sharing and comparing office horror stories over a few G&Ts. 

A Walk in Wildflower Park

By Bella Osborne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Walk in Wildflower Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Walk in Wildflower Park was originally published as a four-part serial. This is the complete story in one package.

'Pure escapism - full of wit, warmth, humour, and a moving look at the friendships and relationships that make us all tick.' Debbie Johnson, bestselling author of The Comfort Food Cafe series

Life's not always a walk in the park...

Anna thought she'd found The One - until he broke off their engagement exactly a year before their wedding day. Hoping new surroundings will do her the world of good, she moves in to a place of her own on…


Who am I?

I spent my twenties mostly devouring women’s fiction and romance novels with female leads, but I also stepped outside my preferred genre. Being a strong lead doesn’t necessarily mean saving the world or doing something heroic (though obviously that helps!), it’s about strength of character, being real, and being able to fight on when things get difficult. I always dreamt of being an author, but only started writing properly when I developed a debilitating long-term health condition. I used writing to support my rehabilitation and this led to me finally achieving that dream – so in a way, I see myself as a strong female lead in my own story. 


I wrote...

Take a Moment

By Nina Kaye,

Book cover of Take a Moment

What is my book about?

Take a Moment is inspired by my own experience of living with a life-limiting illness. Though my main character’s health situation and story are fictional, her experiences are drawn from my own: losing my independence, being treated differently, and facing professional barriers. Like me, she’s resilient and works hard to find her own way forward.

Here’s a short blurb: when a shock diagnosis derails Alex’s life plans, she faces a new and unpleasant reality. Leaving her fiancé and job behind, she moves from Glasgow to Birmingham to live life on her terms. Alex won’t let her illness define her, but will a fresh start bring happiness and new love?

The Path to Power

By Robert A. Caro,

Book cover of The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson I

Great biographers never ignore the warts, and Lyndon Johnson—the subject of Robert Caro’s masterful quartet of biographies—had plenty of them. For starters, LBJ mishandled the war in Vietnam, for which history will never forgive him. But Johnson was also a stunning contradiction—a rural Texas conservative who did more for urban society than anyone in modern history—and an absolute force of nature. I served as a White House Fellow under him in 1966-67. Close to Johnson, you could sense his nobility.

The Path to Power

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Path to Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest biography of our era ... Essential reading for those who want to comprehend power and politics' The Times

Robert A. Caro's legendary, multi-award-winning biography of US President Lyndon Johnson is a uniquely riveting and revelatory account of power, political genius and the shaping of twentieth-century America.

This first instalment tells of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country, revealing in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy and ambition that set LBJ apart. It charts his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut…


Who am I?

I’m a man who has led two lives. The first was as a junk dealer’s son from Buffalo, New York, who worked his tail off in school, won a full scholarship to Columbia University in 1958, and began dreaming of entering politics and someday becoming governor of New York State. The second life arrived suddenly during the third semester of my junior year when blindness seemed to rob me of my dreams. It didn’t, and along with dear friends and a loving family, these biographies have played a central role in keeping my dreams alive.


I wrote...

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: How Daring Dreams and Unyielding Friendship Turned One Man's Blindness into an Extraordinary Vision for Life

By Sanford D. Greenberg,

Book cover of Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: How Daring Dreams and Unyielding Friendship Turned One Man's Blindness into an Extraordinary Vision for Life

What is my book about?

It’s a memoir built around a tragic event—the day in February 1961 when a Detroit surgeon blinded me ironically to save my eyes—but it is far from a tragic tale. My future wife, Sue, my college roommate Art Garfunkel, and others got me back on my feet and helped me find my way from there. Today, I consider myself, as did Lou Gehrig in his distress, “the luckiest man in the world.” That’s the story I tell, in part to understand my own life and in part to encourage others. It's also available in a Young Adult edition.

The Gay Place

By Billy Lee Brammer,

Book cover of The Gay Place

Brammer’s novel has resonated throughout my career, warning of almost inevitable disillusionment with a political powerhouse. Brammer had served as a top aide to Lyndon Johnson, on whom he based Arthur Fenstemaker, a star as bright as Penn Warren’s Willie Stark. The Gay Place spoke to me even more directly, focusing on minor politicos and their ambitions, frailties, and humanity. And the book drove home, through a pervading sadness, the anomie that rises from disillusionment. Brammer’s “Flea Circus” metaphor continues to amuse and bum me.

The Gay Place

By Billy Lee Brammer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gay Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in Texas, The Gay Place consists of three interlocking novels, each with a different protagonist-a member of the state legislature, the state's junior senator, and the governor's press secretary. The governor himself, Arthur Fenstemaker, a master politician, infinitely canny and seductive, remains the dominant figure throughout.

Billy Lee Brammer-who served on Lyndon Johnson's staff-gives us here "the excitement of a political carnival: the sideshows, the freaks, and the ghoulish comedy atmosphere" (Saturday Review).

Originally published in 1961, The Gay Place is at once a cult classic and a major American novel.


Who am I?

Political power has intrigued me since I read Macbeth and Machiavelli in high school – how to acquire it, wield it, and keep it, and how it seduces and ultimately corrupts. Political bosses fascinated me – Svengalis who built empires, often through charisma, populism, and ruthlessness. I began writing about politics as a newspaper reporter, then ran press shops for lawmakers and candidates, including a presidential campaign; co-wrote three nonfiction books with senators, including a former majority leader; then turned to writing fiction, a passion since boyhood, largely under the theme “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  


I wrote...

The Accomplice

By Charles Robbins,

Book cover of The Accomplice

What is my book about?

An eager young politico finds himself on the rise only to discover the perilous costs of success. Henry Hatten wangles a job as communications director for a senator’s presidential campaign and vows to shuck his ethical qualms after pulling a political punch that may have cost his last boss a governorship. Then the presidential campaign’s depths of greed emerge. Led by a ruthless chairman and filled with warring aides, hired thugs, fractious union bosses, and snooping reporters, the new gig turns out to be rife with the kind of politics Henry had so fervently sought to banish. When someone close to the campaign is murdered, Henry can no longer turn a blind eye or walk away.

20 Years in the Secret Service

By Rufus W. Youngblood,

Book cover of 20 Years in the Secret Service: My Life with Five Presidents

This is an excellent memoir of a Secret Service Agent that served under five presidents, from Truman to Nixon. Youngblood provides great stories about working with President Johnson; he also spends a lot of time on the assassination of President Kennedy. I worked closely for over eight years with the Secret Service, and Rufus Youngblood had an outstanding reputation and was held in the highest esteem.

20 Years in the Secret Service

By Rufus W. Youngblood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 20 Years in the Secret Service as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When shots rang out in Dallas on November 22, 1963, U.S. Secret Service Agent Rufus W. Youngblood immediately lunged over the seat of the vice president's car and bravely used his body to shield Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Faced with the unknown, Youngblood maintained this protective position as they sped toward Parkland Hospital. Throughout that fateful day, he vigilantly remained by LBJ's side to ensure his safety.

This candid memoir includes Youngblood's first-hand account of the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath, as well as highlights from his twenty-year career in the Secret Service during which he protected Presidents Truman,…

Who am I?

During my twenty-nine nears in the federal government, I maintained a Top Secret clearance while being a CIO, Chief Architect, & Director of various things with the White House, US Congress, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice, where I served in a senior management role for the National Security Division, the agency responsible for serving as the liaison between the Attorney General and the Intelligence Community. Today, my passion is writing about my White House experiences, in both fiction and non-fiction.


I wrote...

White House Usher: Stories from the Inside

By Christopher Beauregard Emery,

Book cover of White House Usher: Stories from the Inside

What is my book about?

White House Usher: Stories from the Inside was published in October 2017, with a Second Edition released December 2020. The book is a memoir detailing the authors time managing the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. 

Foreword written by former First Lady Barbara Bush.

The Year of the People

By Eugene J. McCarthy,

Book cover of The Year of the People

I very nearly put an LBJ or RFK book here, but there’s a greater chance you haven’t heard or may have forgotten Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy’s well-written account of his 1968 political campaign. McCarthy’s insightful memoir gives 21st-century readers a window back into that year of endless drama and conflict. It will also cause some to compare the book’s place in history with Senator Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution. “1968,” wrote McCarthy, “was the year in which the people, in so far as the system and the process would permit, asserted themselves and demonstrated their willingness to make hard political judgments and to take full responsibility for those judgments. And in so doing they acted with more spirit and commitment than did many political leaders.”

The Year of the People

By Eugene J. McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Year of the People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is the story of one year, told by the man whose candidacy gave people a symbol and a voice. Senator Eugene J. McCarthy helped to create the new politics with a campaign run on issues, rather than personalities; a candidate seeking not to enlarge his personal power but to restore power to the people, especially those whose opinions often seemed to be in the minority. He had the courage to challenge the traditional system - including his party, the President and his policies - and in the process swept a new spirit, a new vitality, and a new…

Who am I?

I’m a literary historian and I love reconstructing times in the past with enough factual detail that a reader feels as if they are there with the characters, side-by-side. I didn’t start this way. In fact, I wrote fiction for over a decade. It was only after writing eight atrocious, tension-less, now-in-a-box novels that I realized the books I enjoyed reading most were in the history and biography sections of a bookstore. Still, I was undeniably affected by my years in the trenches of fiction writing. As you may see from my choices, I love reading material from writers attempting to check the pulse of the country at that time. 


I wrote...

One Week in America: The 1968 Notre Dame Literary Festival and a Changing Nation

By Patrick Parr,

Book cover of One Week in America: The 1968 Notre Dame Literary Festival and a Changing Nation

What is my book about?

The major players in this story are names that just about every American has heard of: Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King Jr., Norman Mailer, Lyndon B. Johnson, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, William F. Buckley Jr. For one chaotic week in 1968, college students, talented authors, and presidential candidates grappled with major events. The result was one of the most historic literary festivals of the twentieth century.

One Week in America is a day-by-day narrative of the 1968 Notre Dame Sophomore Literary Festival and the national events that grabbed the spotlight that April week.

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