7 Books from
MLK's Library

By Alec Bianco

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Since our inception, this quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has inspired, and continues to inspire, the CLT mission of reconnecting knowledge and virtue.

King ignited the minds of thousands because he himself was shaped by the authors and works he wrestled with in his education. Reading the classics and returning to an education centered around moral formation are integral to the CLT mission. As we celebrate the life and work of one of the greatest Americans, we want to take a look at the authors and texts that shaped his education. Below is a list of seven books that profoundly influenced King, and, for the same reasons that they inspired him, are included on the CLT Author Bank

  1. The Republic, by Plato. This extended dialogue on the nature of civic justice, knowledge, and the soul is one of the foundational documents of all Western philosophy.
  2. Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle. This masterful treatise on the virtues and the idea of the Golden Mean is one of the most influential books on ethics ever composed.
  3. The City of God, by St. Augustine of Hippo. The great African theologian’s meditation on the contrast between the just rule of the God and the dubious institutions of man appears prominently in King’s thought.
  4. Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas. The principal work of the “Angelic Doctor” has determined the course of all subsequent Catholic theology and divinity.
  5. The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli. This cynical satire of unscrupulous Renaissance statecraft has become a classic of biting political wit.
  6. The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. One of the foundational texts of the Enlightenment, this book helped form the ideals of representative democracy and thus of abolitionism.
  7. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. This compendious novel, set during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, deals frankly with the significance of personal choices and morals in a world beset by colossal issues like war, oppression, and poverty.
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