King: A Life, the first major biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 30 years, is an expansive and intricately drawn portrait of the civil rights icon. David J. Garrow, the author of the 1986 MLK biography Bearing the Cross, wrote that this 688-page tome is “a great leap forward in our biographical understanding” of the legendary activist. This is because Jonathan Eig, who has also published best-selling biographies of Muhammad Ali and Lou Gehrig, was able to access recently declassified FBI files—White House telephone transcripts, letters, and other special documents—that fill in the gaps of King’s story as it relates to America’s history for the first time. But Eig is more interested in the man than in the myth or legend he would become. He writes of King’s loving relationship with his wife, Coretta Scott King, but doesn’t ignore his moral failings as a husband. Through his exhaustive research, Eig presents King as a fully realized and flawed human being. —Shannon Carlin
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