Four Books for Martin Luther King Day

01/17/2011 09:32 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, is one of those days that's easier to see as simply another beach, ski, or TV sports weekend. But it really is our loss if we don't stop for a moment and recognize each of these holidays' deeper meanings and seize the opportunity to reflect on how we can finish the unfinished business of uniting our country and moving our democracy forward.

Here are some books to read during the MLK Day holiday:

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton: Written by the daughter of Andrew Young, this children's book offers an intimate and inspiring story about growing up in the civil rights struggle of the 1960's amidst Dr. King and his top lieutenants.

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King and James M. Washington: This is a great collection of his best and most accessible writings. It allows pre-teens through adult readers to get a deeper understanding of what he stood for and the urgency of the cause of ending segregation and hastening racial healing. It's great for readers to know about the "I Have a Dream" speech, but they should also know more of his work. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is a good one to start with. It reminds us to recognize the humanity that connects all of us and rise to the level of courage the moment demands.

The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives by Shankar Vedantam: This book, by a Washington Post science writer, is all about implicit bias -- including unconscious racism -- and how it shapes our lives and our world, as well as compromises even our most strategic decisions.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander: America has five percent of the world's people, and 25 percent of its prisoners. This book demonstrates how the phenomenon of over incarceration has its roots in America's history of racial subjugation, and helps maintain a social order too similar to that which Dr. King gave his life helping us to overcome.

Cross-Posted from the Wall Street Journal Online