Books: The Making of Landslide Lyndon

MEANS OF ASCENT by Robert A. Caro; Knopf; 506 pages; $24.95

Good histories bestow suspense on foregone conclusions. Such works manage to override knowledge about how things turned out; they do so by recapturing the tensions and uncertainties of the participants while the outcome was in doubt. That Lyndon Baines Johnson, for example, became the 36th President will surprise no one now. But readers of Robert Caro's Means of Ascent are in for a white-knuckle, hair-raising tale that could have ended in any of a dozen different ways, with L.B.J. in the White House the longest shot of all. This is...

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