The most recommended Martin Luther books

Who picked these books? Meet our 21 experts.

21 authors created a book list connected to Martin Luther, and here are their favorite Martin Luther books.
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Book cover of Parting the Waters

Jim Carrier Author Of A Traveler’s Guide to the Civil Rights Movement

From my list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement.

Who am I?

As a journalist who learned his craft on the job in the tumultuous 1960s, I happened to find myself living in states where racial history was being written. Reporting that story required me to understand why discrimination, poverty, and violence remained so deeply rooted in modern America. I wrote Ten Ways to Fight Hate, I made a movie about civil rights martyrs, and, after seeing people from around the world making a pilgrimage to the sites of the civil rights struggle, published my guidebook. Over the course of a 50-year career, I have written a million words. I am proudest of those that tried to right wrongs, and sometimes did.

Jim's book list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement

Jim Carrier Why did Jim love this book?

As I drove through the South researching my guidebook to civil rights sites, my back seat was filled with books. Atop the pile was Taylor Branch’s magisterial three-volume history – America in the King Years 1954-1968: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan’s Edge.

Though encyclopedic, Branch’s story-telling is riveting—weaving together personalities, legalities, strategies, and geography in a way that made me feel as if I were there witnessing history as it was made. Taylor’s detail, reflecting a journalist’s quest for who, what, where, when, how, and why, showed me that these stories could best be told, understood, and felt where they happened.

By Taylor Branch,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Parting the Waters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Parting the Waters, the first volume of his essential America in the King Years series, Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch gives a “compelling…masterfully told” (The Wall Street Journal) account of Martin Luther King’s early years and rise to greatness.

Hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American Civil Rights Movement, Parting the Waters is destined to endure for generations.

Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of…

Book cover of Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign

Thomas F. Jackson Author Of From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice

From my list on racial and economic justice movements in the US.

Who am I?

Growing up middle-class, white, progressive, and repeatedly exposed to the mediated crises and movements of the Sixties left me with a lifelong challenge of making sense of the American dilemma. My road was long and winding–a year in Barcelona as Spain struggled to emerge from autocracy; years organizing for the nuclear freeze and against apartheid; study under academics puzzling through the possibilities of nonviolent and democratic politics. My efforts culminated in the publication of a volume that won the Organization of American Historians Liberty Legacy Award, for the “best book by a historian on the civil rights struggle from the beginnings of the nation to the present.”

Thomas' book list on racial and economic justice movements in the US

Thomas F. Jackson Why did Thomas love this book?

When I read this book, I knew plenty about Martin Luther King’s ties to the labor movement. What I did not knowand what it took Honey twenty years to piece together—was an understanding of the 1,200 workers whose desperate straits and courageous creative nonviolence called King to Memphis in 1968. Honey uncovers the small triumphs hidden from view if we only look at the large tragedy of King’s assassination. Sanitation workers fought for safer working conditions, adequate wages, and trade union recognition from a city administration that literally treated them like garbage. A labor dispute transformed into a nonviolent community revolt. I remain in awe of the book’s richly textured portraits, among them Reverend Ralph Jackson, a peaceful protester brutalized by police, who forged a "campaign to end police brutality and improve housing, jobs, wages, and education across the city."

By Michael K. Honey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Going Down Jericho Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Memphis in 1968 was ruled by a paternalistic "plantation mentality" embodied in its good-old-boy mayor, Henry Loeb. Wretched conditions, abusive white supervisors, poor education, and low wages locked most black workers into poverty. Then two sanitation workers were chewed up like garbage in the back of a faulty truck, igniting a public employee strike that brought to a boil long-simmering issues of racial injustice.

With novelistic drama and rich scholarly detail, Michael Honey brings to life the magnetic characters who clashed on the Memphis battlefield: stalwart black workers; fiery black ministers; volatile, young, black-power advocates; idealistic organizers and tough-talking unionists;…

Book cover of The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paul Harvey Author Of Martin Luther King: A Religious Life

From my list on Martin Luther King, Jr..

Who am I?

I have spent my entire academic career researching and teaching about American religious history, particularly focusing on issues of race and religion. I am the author of numerous works on this topic, including The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in American History (co-authored with Edward J. Blum), and Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography. Finally, after thirty years of work, I challenged myself to write a short reader-friendly biography of King that would capture him as fully as possible, but in a brief book that would communicate to general readers the full measure of the man.

Paul's book list on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paul Harvey Why did Paul love this book?

Rieder’s work is perhaps the single most interesting interpretation of King’s ability to thrive in very different rhetorical audiences, and explains his ability to communicate to so many different audiences at the same time. From King’s street talk in private to his SCLC colleagues, to his magnificent sermons to black church crowds, to his soaring oratory to more general public audiences, King code-shifted with ease and skill. No one captures this quality better than Rieder in this book.

By Jonathan Rieder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"You don't know me," Martin Luther King, Jr., once declared to those who criticized his denunciation of the Vietnam War, who wanted to confine him to the ghetto of "black" issues. Now, forty years after being felled by an assassin's bullet, it is still difficult to take the measure of the man: apostle of peace or angry prophet; sublime exponent of a beloved community or fiery Moses leading his people up from bondage; black preacher or translator of blackness to the white world? This book explores the extraordinary performances through which King played with all of these possibilities, and others…

Book cover of 12 Months of Leadership Insights: A Compendium of Leadership Lessons from 40 Leaders

Mark Beal Author Of ZEO: Introducing Gen Z – The New Generation Of Leaders

From Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Marketer Professor Keynote Speaker Generation Z Expert Mentor

Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Mark Beal Why did Mark love this book?

Dr. Richard Dool is a colleague of mine in the communication department of the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. He consistently publishes compelling and inspiring thought leadership content on leaders and effective and transformative leadership including 12 Months of Leadership Insights.

The book is organized by the birth months of leaders ranging from Maya Angelou and Mother Teresa to Walt Disney and Sir Richard Branson. The brilliance of the book is that you can open to any page and be inspired by the biography of a diverse group of leaders and learn from the leadership insights the author features and apply those insights to your own leadership no matter your career track.    

By Richard Dool,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 12 Months of Leadership Insights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to 12 Months of Leadership Insights, our compendium of the leadership insights of 40 leaders. We selected three leaders for each month based on their birth month and added in four bonus leaders. Our selected leaders are from an array of backgrounds, positions and eras. We went as far back as the United States Revolution with Hamilton and Jefferson to current leaders like Bezos, Ma, and Nooyi. We have political figures like Lincoln and Churchill, civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr and Cesar Chávez, business icons including Branson, Welch, and Gates, as well as leaders from other…

Book cover of The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000 Year History Told Through the Lives of Freedom's Greatest Champions

Johan Norberg Author Of Open: The Story of Human Progress

From my list on to make you grateful you live today.

Who am I?

I did not use to believe in human progress, but thought there must have been good old days behind us – until I studied history and understood that my ancestors did not live ecologically, they died ecologically, at an early age. Since then I’ve been obsessed with progress, what makes it possible and how we can spread it to more people. I am a historian of ideas from Sweden, the host of a video series on innovations in history, New and Improved, and the writer of many books on intellectual history and global economics, translated into more than 25 languages.

Johan's book list on to make you grateful you live today

Johan Norberg Why did Johan love this book?

To me, it seems like you have to become an optimist when you study history, because you understand the terrible circumstances that we have managed to get away from. But it doesn’t happen by itself. This is the story about some of the most important individuals who made that possible. Jim Powell portrays freedom fighters throughout history, from Cicero and Locke to Martin Luther King Jr and F A Hayek, and many less well-known names. But Powell does not just describe their ideas, but their lives, the communities that made them possible, their courage, and their doubts. It’s incredibly inspiring.

By James Powell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Triumph of Liberty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume contains the stories of men and women who have overcome great obstacles to give freedom to the world. Through the lives of 65 people, these stories cover the struggle to abolish slavery, stop wars, and overthrow tyrants, as well as the fight for human rights, religious toleration, individualism, the liberation of women and other such freedoms. The entries are based on biographies, diaries and interviews with scholars to provide an instructive narrative.

Book cover of The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word That Moved America

W. Jason Miller Author Of Origins of the Dream: Hughes's Poetry and King's Rhetoric

From my list on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his words.

Who am I?

Lost audio reels, archived poetry drafts, personal interviews, and undeveloped photograph negatives spark my compulsive curiosity to tell stories about language that people have never heard. Uncovering what is hidden has led to a digital project dedicated to Martin Luther King’s first “I Have a Dream” speech, a museum exhibit based on never-before-seen images of an 1,800 person KKK march staged in opposition to a King appearance in 1966, and an intimate interview with Dorothy Cotton about her memories of Dr. King. Of my three books, I have written a recent biography, Langston Hughes: Critical Lives. Part of my current research details the poet’s collaborative relationship with jazz singer Nina Simone.  

W.'s book list on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his words

W. Jason Miller Why did W. love this book?

This surprisingly approachable book is written by a genuine expert in the field. Well before I reached the end, I knew every landmark trait of the preacher would be fully covered. Where other authors such as Michael K. Honey cover King’s relationship to the labor movement with true aplomb, Lischer takes me deeper into the language where I live. Here cadence, delivery, and poetry are explored as expressive modes that empower real listeners to act. This book reminds us that inspiration was required as much as strategy when it came to moving the nation closer to its ideals.     

By Richard Lischer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Preacher King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is a commonplace that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a spellbinding orator, and it is evident that he honed these skills in the pulpit, in his capacity as a Baptist minister. Until now, however, there has been no full-scale study of King as a preacher. This long-awaited study, drawing on tape-recordings and transcriptions of unpublished sermons, and interviews with King's parishioners and colleagues, promises to remedy that lack. Preaching to congregations was
never something King had "on the side," or dabbled in when he wasn't busy being a "civil rights activist," Lischer shows. Not only was preaching integral…

Book cover of Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing

Benjamin Giroux Author Of I Am Odd, I Am New

From my list on debut children's books of 2021.

Who am I?

Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure to work with amazing authors who, like me, have debut children's books that were released in 2021. These books range in topics, from overcoming your fears to transgender to history, to cute rats that will let your imagination run wild. Being a kid myself, my parents read every night to me. These are books that like mine, are filled with representation that was lacking in those books that were read to me.

Benjamin's book list on debut children's books of 2021

Benjamin Giroux Why did Benjamin love this book?

This book will not only teach you history about different people from diverse backgrounds, it will give you tips on how to write so that you can start changing the world with your own words. This book is a great bedtime book so that your children can learn about some of history's great writers.

By Rochelle Melander, Melina Ontiveros (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mightier Than the Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Throughout history, people have picked up their pens and wielded their words--transforming their lives, their communities, and beyond. Now it's your turn! Representing a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, Mightier Than the Sword connects over forty inspiring biographies with life-changing writing activities and tips, showing readers just how much their own words can make a difference. Readers will explore nature with Rachel Carson, experience the beginning of the Reformation with Martin Luther, champion women's rights with Sojourner Truth, and many more. These richly illustrated stories of inspiring speechmakers, scientists, explorers, authors, poets, activists, and even other kids and young…

Book cover of Sentences and Paragraphs

Natalie Canavor Author Of Business Writing for Dummies

From my list on writing persuasive messages that win what you want.

Who am I?

Early in my career I landed a job as a magazine editor. Shazam! I could publish my own articles! But I discovered that I actually had no idea how to write anything interesting, English major though I’d been. So I began to figure out what makes writing work. Over decades as a journalist, corporate communicator, and consultant, I did learn. I also saw colleagues miss their best opportunities, even screw up their lives, by writing badly—unpersuasively. And a mission was born: to share the tools and techniques of powerful communication. I’ve created dozens of workshops for businesspeople and professionals, taught graduate students, and now happily author books jammed with practical advice. 

Natalie's book list on writing persuasive messages that win what you want

Natalie Canavor Why did Natalie love this book?

Where does persuasive writing start? Whether you’re writing fiction, journalism, or a business message, good sentences are the key. Write good sentences and you write well in all fields. Bad sentences doom your writing. This tight 76-page book shows how to achieve simple, clear sentences, and at the same time build in power and even drama. Euchner moves on to cover paragraphs: how to find the focus of each and create logical, one-idea units. This is the book I wish I’d been given somewhere along the line in school, or later—it would have saved me a lot of trial-and-error! Like Euchner, I believe you need not study grammar rules to write well—that route has always put me to sleep.

By Charles Euchner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sentences and Paragraphs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ernest Hemingway one remarked that the ultimate challenge of writing is to produce "one true sentence." If you can write one great sentence, you can write two, three, and more great sentences. If you can write many great sentences, line after line, you can master any writing project from a school paper to a published book.

So: Can you craft “one true sentence,” again and again?

Sentences and Paragraphs, by Charles Euchner, is the completely updated best-selling and most authoritative book available on the essential two units of writing. Building on the foundation of The Golden Rule of Writing, Charles…

Book cover of Fools Rush In

Tom Schreck Author Of The Vegas Knockout

From my list on mysteries with a message.

Who am I?

I’ve worked and taught in the field of human services for over 40 years. Helping people and creating nurturing communities isn’t always what it appears. It is mired in hypocrisy, inefficiency, and neglect and the people looking for help are often their own worst enemies. Still, there is something inherently good just in trying to reach out to the vulnerable and fight the injustice that surrounds us. Sometimes that fight is figurative and sometimes it is literal. I am also a black belt-trained martial artist, a boxer, and a world championship professional boxing official. I love the dichotomy of helping people and knowing how to fight.

Tom's book list on mysteries with a message

Tom Schreck Why did Tom love this book?

This is a fun series. It starts off in the 50s in small-town Iowa with most of the small-time innocence that you’d imagine but Gorman likes to take a different look. He leads us through the era’s less-than-shining moments while we get to relive the 50s and early sixties.

In this one, a young Black civil rights worker turns up dead. Along the way, we learn about racism and the subtle forms it can take and how it can poison a whole community.

In the end, things are not what they seemed but it doesn’t change the facts about America during this era.

Message—People are people and fighting ignorance and hate is all our responsibility.

By Ed Gorman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fools Rush In as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In America's heartland, Sam seeks justice for a black college student who's found dead in a car trunk at the drive-in, while thousands gather in the nation's capital for the March on Washington with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Book cover of A Call to Heroism: Renewing America's Vision of Greatness

Andrew Bernstein Author Of Heroes, Legends, Champions: Why Heroism Matters

From my list on celebrating heroes and heroism.

Who am I?

I am a kid from Brooklyn who is, and always has been, an inveterate hero worshiper. In a world that is generally mad and too often violent, I have weaned myself on the lives of heroes. I may lack their prowess, but I have striven for their dedication to excellence. I have published numerous books, including The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic, and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire. But it is my recent book that crowns a lifetime of thinking about heroes. What is their nature? What factors in the world give rise to the possibility—and the necessity—of heroes? How do we rationally define the concept “hero”? These are the questions my book addresses and seeks to answer.

Andrew's book list on celebrating heroes and heroism

Andrew Bernstein Why did Andrew love this book?

Peter Gibbon has, at an emotional level, a magnificent capacity to admire heroes.  He provides snippets of many heroes’ lives and he savors their accomplishments. One of the most effective aspects of his book is his rejection of the modern anti-hero mentality that disparages heroes. “Biography today is rarely about greatness,” he writes. “At best, it displays a dispassionate balance. More often, it focuses on failure…and weakness and unveils the intimate life—slighting artistic accomplishment, scientific discovery, and political achievement. At worst, contemporary biographers self-righteously excoriate any hint of impurity, prejudice, sexism, or hypocrisy.” 

Unfortunately, a la many authors on the topic, he offers no rigorous definition of “hero” or “heroism.” He says: The definition of hero remains subjective. What is extraordinary can be debated. Courage is in the eye of the beholder. Greatness of soul is elusive.” Nevertheless, there is great value in his spirited accounts of numerous heroes.

By Peter H. Gibbon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Call to Heroism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In A Call to Heroism, Peter Gibbon argues that the heroes we honor are the embodiment of the ideals that America was founded on: liberty, justice, and tolerance chief among them. Because the very concept of heroism has come under threat in our cynical media age, Gibbon believes that we must forge a new understanding of what it means to be a hero to fortify our ideals as we engage our present challenges and face those that lay ahead. Gibbon examines the types of heroes that we have celebrated throughout our history, and along the way, he contemplates the meanings…