Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing

tags: writing

Robert Caro writes a very particular type of book. He hasn’t written that many, but they were (and are) huge and detailed.

He wrote a book called The Power Broker which was a 1,200 biography of the NYC city planner Robert Moses. Caro won a Pulitzer for that.

He won another Pulitzer for one of the installments of his five-book biography of Lyndon Johnson. Those books, when completed (he’s still working on Volume 5, in his 80s), will be over 5,000 pages.

These are the books Robert Caro writes. Not many people write books like this. Writing these books is a very specialized form of work.

In this book., Caro tries to explain how he does (did?) it. The book is a little odd – a significant part of it are just interviews from other places, reprinted in a book. Several other chapters appear to have been written expressly for the book.

It’s absolutely interesting. Not surprisingly, Caro is a great writer. But he’s explaining a process that virtually no one else will ever do. Is there anyone who has written books at the level that Caro has?

Does any of this transfer for other writing projects? …I don’t know, maybe? There’s some good advice in here about interviewing people and about the general gestalt of writing non-fiction. But this isn’t a procedural. Caro just tells stories, and it’s up to you to figure out what lessons you learn from it.

It’s a short book, and I can’t not recommend it, because if you like writing – or even reading – you’ll find it a very satisfying read. Just don’t expect it to be a handbook or guide to anything, because it’s not that kind of book.

Book Info