To commemorate Martin Luther King Day 2012, we solicited recommendations from various Brooklyn independent booksellers on what to read in celebration of this January holiday. (See Complete Guide to MLK Events in Brooklyn)
1. Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers (Flatbush)
150 Campus Road, near Brooklyn College
The Brooklyn outpost of the much beloved New York City bookstore Shakespeare & Co. is a friendly, helpful city corner bookstore that serves Brooklyn College and also community readers. In honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Kaitlyn Krieg recommends books authored by Dr. King himself:
- "The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.," by Martin Luther King Jr.
- "Thou, Dear God," a book of prayers by Martin Luther King
2. Babbo's Books: (Windsor Terrace)Babbo's Books
242 Prospect Park West, Windsor Terrace
Leonora Stein is the owner of the Babbo Bookstore, a neighborhood shop founded in 2006 that sells "new and used books for everyone." Her first recommendation was the acclaimed 2010 nonfiction book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," by Rebecca Skloot. While not a civil rights book per se, she is taken with the story of how one poor black woman's genetic material was exploited by medical researchers and the scientific, personal and ethical issues that raises.
Babbo's also recommends:
- For young kids: "Martin's Big Words," by Doreen Rappaport.
- For older kids: "Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activist Tell Their Own Stories," edited by Ellen Levine.
- Another adult book: "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration," by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson.
3. Community Bookstore of Park Slope: (Park Slope)Community Bookstore of Park Slope
143 7th Ave in Park Slope
Some recommendations from the venerable Community Bookstore of Park Slope include classics in Dr. Kings own words, a recent acclaimed history of Dr. King's life, and also a children's book published in 2012. They include:
- ""Parting the Waters," by Taylor Branch.
- "Why We Can't Wait," by Martin Luther King Jr.
- "I Have a Dream," by M Martin Luther King Jr.
- "A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr," by Martin Luther King Jr.
- "Stars in the Shadows: The Negro League All-Star Game of 1934," by Charles R. Smith Jr., for children.
4. P.S. Bookshop (DUMBO)
76 Front Street in DUMBO (between Corner of Washington & Front)
Staff of this spacious bookstore selected books "by African-American artists/writers whose work is either (a) frequently requested, (b) hard to find, and (c) local." To wit:
- Frequently requested: "Kindred," by Octavia Butler, "one of the few African-American women science-fiction/fantasy writers, and one who used the genre to address contemporary issues of race, class, and sexuality." (See Charlie Rose interview.)
- Hard to find: "Freedom: A Fable," by Kara Elizabeth Walker, "a limited edition pop-up artist's book which looks like a children's book but is actually about a female slave who, post-emancipation, finds freedom a more troubled and difficult state than expected."
- Local: "Devil in a Blue Dress," by crime writer Walter Mosley, "about a black World War II vet who becomes a private eye in late 1940s Los Angeles -- ended up on the big screen with Denzel Washington as the lead. He lives in DUMBO and his signed first editions are always in demand."
5. Unnameable Books: (Prospect Heights)
600 Vanderbilt Ave., in Prospect Heights (between Dean St & St Marks Avenues)
Adam Tobin, owner of this new-and-used neighborhood bookstore — which he describes as a general bookstore "with a literary bent" — recommends nonfiction with a political and sociological angle:
- "Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination," by Alondra Nelson.
- "The New Jim Crow,"by Michelle Alexander, winner of NAACP Outstanding Non-Fiction Literary Award 2011.
- "Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II," by Douglas Blackmon.
- "Zong!," by M. NourbeSe Philip and published by the Wesleyan Poetry Series. This is a book of contemporary poetry about a historic slave ship on which a shocking — and mercenary — murder takes place.
6. Brooklyn Public Library BlogIn 2011, a blogger for the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch in Grand Army Plaza recommended reading the actual words of Dr. King. "Why not read actual speeches by fascinating figures such as Malcolm X and John F. Kennedy, or an in-depth look at the pivotal events in Dr. King’s life that forever altered history? " Available at the Brooklyn Public Library:
- "Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Dream of Hope," by Alice Fleming.
- "The Civil Rights Reader: American Literature from Jim Crow to Reconciliation," edited by Julie Buckner Armstrong and Amy Schmidt.
- "Martin Luther King Jr. ,"(10 Days Series) by David Colbert.
- "Living through the Civil Rights Movement," edited by Charles George.
7. AND...Of course, many booksellers also mentioned the controversial yet nonetheless best selling tome,
- Malcolm X Biography,"by Manning Marable, published in 2011.
- Dr. King's "I Havea Dream Speech".