Reviews of America in the King Years

At Canaan’s Edge

“A thrilling book, marvelous in both its breadth and its detail. There is drama in every paragraph. . . . Amazing.”

– Anthony Lewis, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)

“With this final volume, “America in the King Years” becomes unsurpassed in the last 50 years of American biography. . . . A book that gradually reveals a large-scale vision of democracy as an act of hope thrown down like a gauntlet.”

– Charles Taylor, Salon.com

“Stunning. . . . It is the most difficult and downbeat of the three volumes . . . it also might be the best.”

– Benjamin Wallace-Wells, Washington Monthly

“Of all the books on all the ‘best’ lists, this is the one sure to be important 100 years from now.”

– Anne Stephenson, The Arizona Republic

“A worthy capstone to a remarkable series of historical works. . . . The King that Branch gives us is a hero indeed, but one of the best kind: a man who is deeply flawed yet dedicates his life to bettering himself and others.”

– Erik Spanberg, Christian Science Monitor

“A magnificent account of witness and sacrifice.”

– John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine

“Luminous . . . magisterial . . . There will be the inevitable comparisons to Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln and Shelby Foote’s The Civil War, two other masterworks that use the grand sweep of history to lay bare the nation’s soul.

– Kevin Boyle, Chicago Tribune

“Branch’s remarkable talent for amassing details and incorporating them into a swiftly paced narrative makes these books seem fresh, startling, and compelling.”

– Richard Nicholls, American Scholar

“Taylor Branch has become the most important narrator of America’s democratic aspirations. . . . a profound act of citizenship, scholarship, and storytelling as he brings those years to life and lets them speak their truth for the ages.”

– Timothy B. Tyson, The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)

“A moving and panoramic view of America during the last three years of the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. . . .At Canaan’s Edge is a deeply researched book that completes a superior narrative trilogy of America’s civil rights struggles between 1954 and 1968.”

– James T. Patterson, Washington Post Book World

Pillar of Fire

“As he did in Parting the Waters, Branch brings to these events both a passion for their detail and a recognition of their larger historical significance. By giving King such epic treatment, Branch implies that he was an epic hero. Was he? The great merit of Branch’s stunning accomplishment is to prove definitively that he was.”

– Alan Wolfe, The New York Times Book Review

Pillar of Fire is a magisterial history of one of the most tumultuous periods in postwar America. Branch’s storytelling is strong, his storytelling colorful. Reading Branch, it is easier to see why even the most remarkable revolutions are never complete. ”

– Jon Meacham, Newsweek

“…a powerful, surprising argument, never explicitly stated but implicitly clear, holding that the rebellions against the established order–which took their form in the civil-rights movement, the youth movement, the early stirrings of the women’s movement and the middle class’s changing self-definition through the 1960s–were inextricably linked…. It is Mr. Branch’s achievement to display how the civil-rights pressures and the Cold War pressures were intertwined.”

– David M. Shribman, The Wall Street Journal

“Following Parting the Waters, his magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Civil Rights years 1954-63, Branch’s second volume of a projected trilogy takes the story through the heady years that saw the Southern Freedom Rides, Congressional battles over the Civil Rights acts, the March on Washington, the Birmingham bombing, and the assassinations of John Kennedy, Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X. Once more, Branch’s national epic is knit together by the charismatic figure of Dr. King. We only think we know this story, which in Branch’s masterly version seems freshened and newly impressive, told without cant or cliche.”

– Library Journal

“By the time you have finished [Pillar of Fire], you feel almost as if you have relieved the era, not just read about it.”

– Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

Parting the Waters

“Right out of the pages of our lives… Compelling portraits, placed in the excitement of a period when oppressed and powerless people moving together changed themselves and their country profoundly and permanently.”

– Eleanor Holmes Norton, The New York Times Book Review

“Stunning… commands the attention of all who wish to understand the times in which they live.”

– J. Anthony Lukas
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Common Ground

“Branch has fit together all the pieces – the people, places, events – to show relationships, the larger picture we may have missed or forgotten. With this ordered, sweeping look at the movement and King, we are able to put things into perspective.”

– Patsy Sims, Chicago Sun Times

“Branch gives us a canvas as broad, varied and richly peopled as a medieval religious painting. Should be required reading for every black and white citizen of the state.”

– Garland Reeves, The Birmingham News

“In remarkable, meticulous detail, Branch provides us with the most complex and unsentimental version of King and his times yet produced.”

– Robert C. Maynard, The Washington Post Book World