Dear Dr. King,
This is a very special Martin Luther King Jr. Day day for me—mostly because it would have been a very special day for you. Because today, January 15th, is not just Martin Luther King Day: it’s also your birthday.
I hope you would have enjoyed it. You would have been 89 years old today (getting up there!), but I hope that wherever you are, you know that your message is still fresh and relevant in our minds.
I hope you know that people are more conscious than ever, not only of what you’ve done, but also what your words will continue to do for all of us.
I hope you know that, best of all, people continue to be inspired not just by you, but in every which manner, finding a flock of their own as they reach for the sky seeking your dream.
I hope you know that.
In the spirit of your famous dream speech, I asked a handful of the Jet team which inspiring books speak to them and ignite change within them. Happy MLK Day.
Some people have thought of breaking barriers:
Black Boy by Richard Wright
“This book inspired me at an early age to be the dream because it’s a candid retelling of growing up black but not wanting life to be black or white. Richard forges a path of his own that was unacceptable to his societies and showed that individuality is an act of rebellion and change on its own.” – Rebecca Chin
Kindred by Octavia Butler
“What I admire most about Octavia Butler is how seamlessly she can mend black narratives with science fiction. Kindred is a very popular time traveling story that revolves around slavery and racial tension. I’m not aware of many Black Science Fiction Writers out there so she definitely stands out to me.” – Fola Ade-Banjo
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
“One of my favorite stories from childhood. I’m picking it because it taught me that no matter who you are or what you look like, you are the master of your own destiny. Having the support of friends who love and believe in you makes the journey that much easier, but all you need is one. Don’t let others tell you you’re bacon.” – Laura Macchiarola
Some people have learned how to accept that they are already their best selves:
Quiet by Susan Cain
“Before Susan Cain I didn’t even know that introverts existed, let alone that I am one. I used to be self-conscious of what I thought was a lack of social skills, but Quiet taught me that my introvertedness is actually a good thing. It allows me to be more empathetic, observant, and creative. Because of this book, I’ve accepted who I am and am always learning how to turn my ‘quirks’ into strengths.” – Emily LaBarge
Outliers by Malcom Gladwell
“Outliers is an inspiring book because it forces us to think about the complex weaving of experiences that makes a person successful.” – Graeme Richardson
Some people have seen social context in a brand new light:
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
“While it’s a work of fiction, Things Fall Apart paints a picture of the intersection between two cultures, told from a point of view that we rarely see, that feels very real. It shows the consequences of ethnocentrism, colonialism, and, to put it politely, cultural misunderstanding at an individual and community level in a way that feels simultaneously historical and relevant.” – Geoff Banker
Naming Nature by Carol Kaesuk Yoon
This is a book about unity… though fish. It’s a science book about how amazingly, all over the world, fish and other animals are named and thought of similarly: that no matter where you go, fish are somehow, intrinsically still called fish (even though, scientifically speaking, fish aren’t a group). There’s a simple, fundamental comfort I take in seeing that togetherness in humanity—that somewhere, deep inside, in a not-so-fishy way, we all have that same wonder in being.” – Matthew Blackburn
Some people have found a new visionary (did I mention our 1st black President!?) to learn from:
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
“The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama was the first political essay/book I ever read that was focused on unifying and bringing people together by finding a thoughtful common ground, and not by pushing one ideology or worldview. Personally, I had always been a “hopeful” believer that people are more good than evil, and are actually closer in their views (regardless of political party) than the political system allows. But – until his book – I had never seen somebody boldly articulate these visions, plus he did much much more. Politics without cynicism – imagine that.” – Andrew Gasper
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
“What’s particularly inspiring about “Dreams from My Father” is how it reminds me that finding one’s purpose in life is not a straight path. By tackling big themes such as racism and family, Barack Obama guides the reader through how every obstacle, challenge and failure has informed various aspects of his life and it has inspired me to connect the dots between my own personal history and life path.” – Temi Odimayo
And, don’t worry, we still learn from you too. All the time.
Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson
What are your favorite inspirational books? Let us know!