Roman learned about the power broker when he first started to cover cities and infrastructure on the radio. This massive book is about 1200 pages long and is perhaps the most important and complete explanation of how cities are formed, how neighborhoods are destroyed, bridges are erected, roads are laid down, parks are designed. fortunes are made, lives are ruined, and power is amassed.
The Power Broker is a biography of Robert Moses, who built more structures and moved more earth than anyone in human history. And he did it without ever holding elected office. Outside of New York City, Robert Moses wasn’t exceptionally well known. Inside of New York, he was mostly accepted by the media as simply the man who built all those nice parks. But The Power Broker, which is subtitled Robert Moses and The Fall of New York, changed all that. It is a tour de force of journalism, history, and biography. Roman also argues it’s really fun to read and is strongly in contention for the best book ever written.
But there is something of a catch, which can hang readers up: the book is a daunting 1200 pages long. As influential and amazing as this bestseller is, many people who do have it simply own an unopened copy gathering dust on their bookshelf. But that is a crime because this book needs to be read or at least discussed at length on a podcast.
So we’re going to spend 2024 reading it together. We’re going to study it. We’re going to break it down. We’re going to revel in the genius of its author, Robert Caro. We’re going to shake our fists in the sky at Robert Moses. It is going to be amazing. And Roman will be joined in this endeavor by Elliott Kalan, co-host of the pioneering (and very funny) Flop House podcast as well as former head writer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He owns a signed copy of The Power Broker.
For this introductory episode, Roman and Elliot are joined by comedian, podcaster, late night television host, and absolute fanboy of author Robert Caro: Conan O’Brien. He jokes that “you should read the power broker because you will save so much money on your satellite or streaming service,” because, more seriously, “you will be enveloped by this incredible story … about how power works and what one person can do to completely change the face of an American city.” (To keep him company, be sure to listen to his show: Conan Needs a Friend.)
So if you have a copy of The Power Broker, pull it off the shelf. If you don’t have it, put it on your holiday wish list. We’re going to spend 2024 reading it together and talking about it with some of our favorite people. These will be extra monthly bonus episodes of 99% Invisible in which we’ll cover about 100 pages at a time, taking us all through the coming year. The first proper episode drops on January 19th, covering the introduction plus parts 1 and 2. It’s up to you if you want to read ahead or just listen along as we make our way through this epic tome. There’s no wrong way to tune in and enjoy.
And speaking of books and wish lists: if you haven’t already, be sure to get your copy of The 99% Invisible City, and a few for holiday gifts, too!