Five Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Reading to explore and celebrate the life — and extend the legacy — of the great civil rights leader.


A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.

Collected in this volume of more than 700 pages are the sermons, speeches, interviews, and other writings (including the unforgettable “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the stirring “I Have a Dream” oration) that defined the aspiration, message, and visionary eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why We Can’t Wait
By Martin Luther King, Jr.

The nonviolent protests led by Martin Luther King, Jr., in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 proved to be a defining moment for the dreams and strivings of the Civil Rights movement. This book provides King’s own account of the Birmingham marches and sit-ins as well as his broader meditations on the struggle for equality.

The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement
By Taylor Branch

The magisterial “America in the King Years” series — a three-volume chronicle of the civil rights movenent that kicked off with the Pulitzer-winning Parting the Waters — gets a brilliantly condensed treatment in this new book. Taylor Branch retells this epic story of suffering and heroism through eighteen turning points on the road to equal rights. There may be no more essential book on the era than this one.

Bearing the Cross
By David J. Garrow

The most comprehensive book on the life of Dr. King and the context of his achievements, this 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winner draws on over 700 interviews with King’s associates as well as his private papers. It portrays a complex man whose human frailties only magnified the power of his faith and the grandeur of his undertakings.

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [CDs]

The printed word has a hard time doing justice to King’s extraordinary eloquence. Fortunately, the galvanizing combination of his voice and his message lives on in the original recordings of his sermons and speeches. The most famous, including “I Have A Dream,” are collected with many others in this monumental 7-CD set.