Before I became jaded and cynical (read: old), I actually cared about politics and politicians. I convinced myself that it was important to engage with Big Ideas; to understand the ideological arguments for and against pretty much everything; to be a civic-minded citizen and all that. What can I say? I was young.
Among all the biographies, histories, memoirs, and philosophical treatises I read back then, there are relatively few I’d recommend today. If pressed, I’d probably put Whittaker Chambers’s Witness near the top of that rather short list, along with maybe a couple of titles by William F. Buckley, Jr.
But for sheer storytelling mastery, nobody beats Robert Caro. Nobody. Case in point: I devoured the first installment of his multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson – and I had zero interest in the subject. Still don’t, really. Am I going to read the remaining three books (or four, if he manages to finish the final volume)? Damn right I am.
Anyway, in the latest issue of the New Yorker, Caro reveals what it takes to be a good investigative reporter – and, in a roundabout way, why his books make for such compelling reading.