Single Sundays: Death of a King by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year (from Goodreads):
A revealing and dramatic chronicle of the twelve months leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination

Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King’s life, revealing the minister’s trials and tribulations — denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few — all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy.

Smiley’s DEATH OF A KING paints a portrait of a leader and visionary in a narrative different from all that have come before. Here is an exceptional glimpse into King’s life — one that adds both nuance and gravitas to his legacy as an American hero.


One of my personal goals when it comes to my reading habits in this coming year is to read more non-fiction books. I tend to stick to my romances or young adult novels but I love learning about new subjects and I love to watch documentaries. So why I don’t read more non-fiction is beyond me: I suppose it is for the fact that I could watch something about a topic and get the visual effects that I need as a visual learner. However, I watch a lot of John Stewart’s Daily Show and more often than not he has on an author and I end up finishing the interview and seeing if the book is available at my library so I can read it.

I will be the first to admit I don’t know all that much about Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), which is why I wanted to read this book. I studied his “I Have a Dream” speech in my university English class about Rebels and I know the general gist of what he did in the Civil Rights Movement but nothing else really. So I was interested in learning more about him, especially with his work after the initial Civil Rights Movement began.

While the book is easy to read and people/things are explained in easy to understand language; it was hard for me to get into the flow of the writing. I haven’t read any biography books that aren’t autobiographies, so maybe this is a common practice, but it seemed a little fictional at times given that the author was writing how MLK was feeling at that particular time. How does he know that really? I’m sure he talked to people who were with MLK and did his research but it seemed really presumptive to me and I had a hard time getting past that. I suppose that is what happens with biographies but for someone who isn’t use to that, it is a big change and makes it a little difficult to process things.

What I did enjoy was learning about what was going on historically. And when the Smiley wasn’t trying to tell me how MLK was personally feeling and instead focused on the historical events and their implications, I was drawn into the story so much more.

One thing that really surprised me about reading this book was the fact that the struggles people faced in 1967-1968 are very similar to issues that we (at least in North America) still face today, such as racism, war and unemployment. Which is what Smiley was explaining on The Daily Show and how we should take to heart some of MLK’s messages as they still apply today (like focusing on national issues like unemployment and not so much on international issues). I think it’s easy for some of us to forget that these issues are happening depending on where you live. I know I am guilty of it and this book reminded me of that.

While MLK is an interesting person to read about and I liked learning more about him as a person and not just as a social advocate; I really want to read more about his wife Coretta. I would love to read a biography/memoir about her life because it seems so interesting to me. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for one.


This is my first book about Martin Luther King Jr. so I’m not really sure how it compares to others. However, I think those who want to learn more about him in his last year of life and his work with the Vietnam war but want a condensed, easy to read way of doing that will enjoy this book.

Rating: 3.5/5
Would I Recommend this Book to a Friend: If they really wanted to know about MLK I would suggest this.

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, American History, Social Justice
Recommended for: 20+
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: Third Person


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