Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream
By Doris Kearns Goodwin
- Release Date: 2015-08-04
- Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream Doris Kearns Goodwin Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars
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User reviews about this book
Team of Rivals by Ms. Goodwin is one of the best history books I've ever read. The Bully Pulpit, also by Ms. Goodwin, was a disappointment.
But this "biography" of Lyndon Johnson is truly awful. I have the benefit of having read Robert Caro's biography of Johnson and therefore know many of the ways that Ms. Goodwin's version is simply wrong. For example, Johnson's election as head of the student body in college, and his election as the Speaker of the "Little Congress," were both the result of out-and-out cheating on Johnson's part. Indeed, Johnson cheated in almost every election in which he ever participated, and not by a little, by a lot. For a would-be biographer to miss his cheating is a big deal.
Ms. Goodwin spoke with Johnson extensively when he was old and she was a very young woman. Perhaps as a result, the book reads more like stenography than biography. I can imagine a young Ms. Goodwin believing that Johnson was really confiding in her. But if you know Johnson, you know that he wasn't confiding in her at all. He was giving his version of history and playing on her psychological weaknesses to make her believe him. Far too often, she takes his stories at face value when she should be taking them with a whole shaker of salt.
We are left with a sanitized, one-dimensional version of Johnson's life, one that bears only a faint resemblance to actual events.
Lyndon Johnson was a fascinating, great man. Ms. Goodwin does both her subject and her readers a great disservice with this book.