A superb portrait that elevates Lady Bird’s stature as one of the most accomplished first ladies of the 20th century.



A welcome revisionist study of Lady Bird Johnson’s roles and accomplishments within her husband’s administration. In the past 50 years, there have been several notable biographies of LBJ, yet only recently has first lady Claudia Alta "Lady Bird” Johnson (1912-2007) received meaningful attention for her influential role. Sweig, a nonresident senior research fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, casts a wider lens around Lady Bird’s public persona and personal life, especially the White House years. The author covers a lot of ground, from when the Johnsons were prematurely thrust into their roles following the assassination of JFK and individually struggled to gain their own distinction in the shadow of the star-powered Camelot era up through when LBJ left office after his first full term. Sweig deftly constructs a complex and admiring portrait of Lady Bird as a hardworking, intuitive, and highly intelligent political strategist who served as a vital bolstering force behind LBJ’s political ambitions. Despite his insecurities, mood swings, and health concerns, she actively sought to advance her own urgently felt causes. At the time, her environmental endeavors were superficially labeled as “beautification,” yet her aim was far more expansive. “Beneath the surface of the beautification efforts she promoted,” writes the author, “were deeper, structural dimensions to the urban crisis that connected to hous­ing, industrial pollution, race, and economic inequality.” Drawing extensively from Lady Bird’s White House diary—after transcription, 123 hours of content (a portion of the transcript became a bestseller when published by Johnson in 1970)—Sweig provides an engrossing, well-researched narrative that offers useful historical context about the prevailing issues of the day. The Johnsons’ unified efforts successfully advanced an impressive number of social reform policies, yet their accomplishments were increasingly overshadowed by the weight of the Vietnam War, which dramatically escalated during LBJ’s tenure. A superb portrait that elevates Lady Bird’s stature as one of the most accomplished first ladies of the 20th century.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9590-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?