At Discover Books, our mission is to “Let the Stories Live on.” So, it should be no surprise that stories, specifically the stories of remarkable people, are the focus of 2022’s reading challenge.
Each month, we’ll introduce someone with an extraordinary story and build a reading chain that takes you on a voyage of discovery. One book will link to another and then another as you explore some of the most incredible stories ever told.
As you read along, you’ll learn about amazing people, the ideas and events that shaped their lives, and the history of their time. You’ll be delighted and enlightened by the monthly book selections, and we guarantee that each “chain” will leave you asking for more.
Are you ready for a new reading challenge? Let’s make 2022 a year of discovery!
January Book Chain: Martin Luther King, Jr.
In January, we collectively take a moment to honor Martin Luther King, Jr, a revolutionary civil rights reformer whose influence and legacy continue to reverberate today. Dr. King put values of faith, forgiveness, brotherhood, and love at the center of his efforts to bring a peaceful end to segregation and racism.
His prolific powerful speeches rang out with pleas for all people, regardless of race to join together to resist oppression and confront injustice. Perhaps no one defines the civil rights era as profoundly as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our reading chain challenge begins with the life of MLK as recounted by himself and biographers. We’ll discover collections of his personal writings and speeches so you can get to know him better by reading his own words.
From there, we’ll explore the ideas that influenced Dr. King. You can read for yourself the works of Thoreau and Gandhi that touched MLK’s spirit and propelled him towards speaking out boldly and peacefully. Finally, we’ll share additional books that shed light on the movement and the time.
It’s time to discover Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Clayborne Carson, 2001
Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, personally selected Dr. Carson to compile and edit her husband’s writings into an autobiography. Since Dr. King did not have the opportunity to write his autobiography, this book is the closest we can get.
The author used a comprehensive collection of Dr. King’s personal writings and recordings, many of which were made public for this book, to compile an account of MLK’s life in MLK’s words. In the end, it’s the story of an average American who confronted injustice and changed the world.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch wrote a three-volume history chronicling the life of Martin Luther King, Jr, and the social landscape surrounding his life. These books are more than a biography. They’re an epic history of his life and the age in which he lived.
Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63
The first volume in the trilogy is the story of MLK’s rise to prominence. It begins with his first speech at age 25 and ends with the assassination of JFK in 1963. Discover how the civil rights movement began, the motivations and struggles of the main characters, and the events that set the stage for change.
Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65
1963 – 1965 are the zenith of the civil rights movement, and this book takes you straight to its heart. You’ll read about events such as the death of Medger Evers, the March on Washington, various voter registration drives, and King’s selection as a Novel Peace Prize winner. King’s leadership shines during these years.
At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68
During his final years, King held fast to his non-violent principles even as people and events around him became increasingly violent. U.S Troops landed in Vietnam, bloody protests rocked Selma, AL, and riots broke out in Los Angeles. Amidst this chaos and unrest, King held non-violent war protests, widened his fight against poverty, and continued his calls for peace. This final volume in the trilogy describes King’s last hours in the Lorraine Motel. It humanizes a man who can often seem like a larger-than-life icon.
Dr. King’s books, essays, and speeches are possibly the best way to understand the man behind the movement. Many of his writings are available, and we encourage you to seek them out. The following selections are his first and last books.
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1958
Stride Toward Freedom is Dr. King’s first book. It tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the event that more than any other, marked the beginning of the civil rights movement. He describes the racial conditions present in Montgomery, AL, surrounding the boycott and the roles different individuals and groups played in organizing and sustaining the movement. From the moment Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to 13 months later, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional, Dr. King and the Montgomery Improvement Association worked tirelessly to coordinate a non-violent mass protest against segregation and racism.
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
Martin Luther King, Jr, 1967, republished in 2010 by the King Legacy
Dr. King wrote this, his final book, on a personal retreat in Jamaica in 1967. The essays unfold his dreams, sometimes prophetic, for America’s future. Hope is his overriding message.
Even after nearly 50 years, you’ll marvel at how society continues to struggle with the same issues; the universal need for better jobs, better housing, and better education hasn’t changed since he penned these words.
Dr. King was a studious man. He graduated with a B.A. in sociology from Morehouse, a B.A. in divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in systemic theology from Boston University. He read widely and was influenced by many great writers and thinkers.
As a theologian, possibly his greatest influences were The Holy Bible and Jesus Christ. Thoreau and Gandhi influenced his thinking significantly.
On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
Henry David Thoreau, 1848
Dr. King read this essay while studying at Morehouse College. Mr. Thoreau’s views on non-violent resistance prompted the young Dr. King to consider whether citizens had a duty to rebel against segregation and what that rebellion could and should look like.
Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action
Dennis Dalton, 2012
It’s easy to write a book about Gandhi; after all, he published over 90 volumes of his writing. So source material is abundant.
Dr. Dalton draws on the many words of Gandhi plus other contemporary sources, including adversaries and rivals, to give a balanced account of Gandhi’s philosophy. Gandhi profoundly influenced Martin Luther King, Jr., and King traveled to India to learn more firsthand.
The final chapter of this book discusses Gandhi’s legacy in America and how his impact on MLK and other leaders shaped race relations and the civil rights movement in the United States.
An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America
Andrew Young, 2008
This is a perspective of the civil rights movement shared by Andrew Young, one of the most prominent African American leaders in the United States.
During seminal campaigns, Mr. Young worked with Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This book is a riveting reflection on some of the most dramatic historical moments.
The author provides honest insights into all sides of the debate. When you’re finished with this book, you’ll understand the movement and why it remains a struggle today.
Mississippi Eyes: The Story and Photography of the Southern Documentary Project
Matt Herron, 2014
Mississippi Eyes proves a picture is worth a thousand words. The photos and stories in this book document the experiences of five photographers working on the Southern Documentary Project in the summer of 1964. Their photos capture everything about the segregated south, including the poverty, the violence, and the social change as segregation began to give way to social justice. The images and stories compiled by Matt Herron will leave you speechless and marveling at the countless unsung heroes who stood up.
Take a Deeper Dive into Martin Luther King Jr. Today
The story of Martin Luther King, Jr. is unforgettable. It’s the kind of story capable of changing how we see the world and our role in it. These are the stories that live on in great books.
At Discover Books, you’ll find books about Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movements, and many others. Say “Yes! I want to learn more!” by adding one or more of these titles to your cart today.
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Shop now at Discoverbooks.com and discover something or someone new! To see last year’s book challenge, Read Through The Decades, click here.