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King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero
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King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,877 Ratings  ·  240 Reviews
There were mythic sports figures before him--Jack Johnson, Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio--but when Cassius Clay burst onto the sports scene from his native Louisville in the 1950s, he broke the mold. He changed the world of sports and went on to change the world itself. As Muhammad Ali, he would become the most recognized face on the planet. Ali was a transcendent ath ...more
Paperback, 330 pages
Published 2000 by Picador (first published 1998)
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Darwin8u
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up."
-- Muhammad Ali

description

Pre-Review Smack Talk:

I will review this sucker tomorrow. David Remnick better quake. I'm coming for this book. I read it from cover to cover. I know the words better than Remnick could hope to ever know it. Of course he wrote it, because the words ran from him. I know Remick's words better than his mamma knows him.

Tomorrow. Yes. I'll give this book till tomorrow. And then I'm coming. I'm coming wit
...more
Steve Kettmann
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
My S.F. Chronicle review from 1998:

David Remnick deserves a nod of thanks for, among other things, helping us associate the words ``King of the World'' with something other than a pop movie director so awash in Oscar-night self-congratulation that he seemed intent on drawing sniper fire.
Remnick, who is editor of the New Yorker, is a writer to watch, and he and the greatest sports figure of the century are an excellent match. Some will complain that this compact study of Cassius Clay's evolution
...more
Sean Wilson
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is my first David Remnick book and it certainly won't be my last. He writes with such fluidity and clear vision that every page is a delight to read.

This isn't really a pure biography on Muhammad Ali, rather, it is an insight into his early years leading to his championship fight (and rematch) with Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam, his match against Floyd Patterson and his views on the Vietnam war and eventual refusal to be drafted by the Army. Amongst all of this is also a fantastic h
...more
Thomas
Apr 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
majority of this book deals with the timeframe between Cassuis Clay's first heavyweight title fight against Sonny Liston, and the rematch between Liston and (now) Muhammad Ali. an instructive window into a time before Ali was an internationally-known sports icon, and before his refusal to be inducted into the US Army.

well-written, and an interesting window into a time BEFORE Ali was the most polarizing figure in sports. the evolution from being just a talented black boxer to racial lightening ro
...more
Samuel Bae
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
David Remnick's King of the World, tells the story of Cassius Clay, a boxing legend also known as Muhammad Ali, who faces America's segregated society and boxing politics while trying his best to become the greatest boxing champion of all time. The book is set in the U.S. during the mid and late 20th century, where the colored stand separated from the whites and boxing is a very popular source of entertainment. Surrounded by many problems, Muhammad Ali continued his path to be the greatest boxer ...more
Mike
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mike by: William

Liston is still rising
And the ref wears a frown,
For he can't start counting,
Till Sonny comes down.
Now Liston disappears from view.
The crowd is getting frantic,
But our radar stations have picked him up
He's somewhere over the Atlantic.
Who would have thought
When they came to the fight
That they'd witness the launching
Of a human satellite?


- excerpt from poem by Cassius Clay

Like Norman Mailer's The Fight, this book reminds me of the somewhat confusing fact that I like to read about boxing more than
...more
Steven Kent
Oh man did I love this book!

This book is the story of the rivalry between Ali and Sonny Liston. Yeah, yeah, everyone says it is about Ali because everyone idolizes Ali; but Liston gets equal treatment here.

So here's the deal. Today everyone talks as if they have always loved Ali, but back in the sixties, his Muslim beliefs scared people and his outspoken ways led many to hate him.

Then there was Sonny Liston, cold, menacing, the man with the largest hands of any heavyweight champion. Liston had k
...more
Carol Storm
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, thoughtful, vibrant, dynamic -- this is a biography truly worthy of its subject!
Eric_W
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
David Remnick is perhaps best known for his award-winning work on Russia since the collapse of Communism (Lenin's Tomb and Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia). His most recent book deals with Cassius Clay and his transformation into Mohammed Ali. "Boxing in America was born of slavery." Southern plantation owners would often pit their strongest slaves against each other, sometimes to near death. Frederick Douglass objected to the sport because he believed it "muffled the spirit of insur ...more
Patrick
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: americanhistory
A superb biography and history by a masterful writer. This book has been described as a biography of Muhammad Ali, but it's really much more than that.

Actually, it's a story about how three men (Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, and Cassius Clay who renamed himself Muhammad Ali) all responded in different ways to the identity choices African Americans faced as a result of the simultaneous civil rights and the black nationalist movements in the early 1960's. At times this book reads more like an ad
...more
Mitchell
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this has to be one of my favorite all-time sports biographies. The prose is pure butter: elegant, but also smooth and riveting. One does not need to be knowledgeable about the sport of boxing, nor a particular fan of boxing, to find this book entertaining and enlightening.

This book covers Ali's childhood through his Patterson/Liston fights. The book starts out by describing Patterson's and Liston's tough childhoods, and their rise to fame in the chaotic boxing world. Both of these opponents
...more
Monica
Remnick is a wonderful storyteller. This book is about the early years of Cassius Clay and his transition to Muhammed Ali. It tells the story of boxing prior to Ali and his early impact. Prior to Ali, organized crime had quite a grip on boxing. The story ends at Ali refusing to be drafted. This tale is also about racial inequality and one talented, handsome young athlete who found himself in a unique position to successfully rattle the status quo in boxing and in America. Too young to "know his ...more
Marc
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
While Muhammad Ali is the main focus, this lively book is in effect a triple biography of the three dominant heavyweight boxers of the first half of the 1960s: Ali, Floyd Patterson, and Sonny Liston, each of whom fought the other two once or twice between 1961 and 1965.

The first quarter of the book focuses on Patterson and Liston, their backgrounds, key events in their lives, and detailed accounts of their two matches, in 1962 and 1963. Then Ali arrives on the scene, and the narrative really pi
...more
Sam
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book tells Ali's story mostly from his middle-class childhood in Louisville through his refusal to fight for the US in Vietnam, and also brushes briefly over what happened later in his life, and the physical and mental toll his boxing took on him. It gives a complex picture, repeating and examining the legends and also recalling some of Ali's troubling beliefs. "A black man should be killed if he's messing with a white woman," he once said, according to this book. Remnick's writing is clean ...more
heidipj
Apr 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
I'm not a fan of boxing. But I guess I got sick of being in the pub and listening to men go on and on about about Muhammad Bloody Ali for hours. I mean all he did was biff people right?

Err no. I was probably lucky in picking up this book. There are probably a dozen biographies about Ali but this one is fabulous, I could hardly put it down. Did I mention that I wasn't a fan of boxing. I'm still not. But I'm now definitely a fan of Muhammad Ali. He is beautiful, he is a legend and he has helped s
...more
Bobby Bermea
Jun 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining, engrossing and refreshingly grounded in the humanity of not just Ali, but also Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston. So much has been written about Ali, there's a lot of ground that simply does not need to be covered again. By focusing his book on a specific moment in a blossoming myth, Remnick, with simple, elegant prose, paints a picture of a time and a hero and makes it clear that both would be very different without the other.
Jennifer
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am not really into sports but this book is really about one of America's most important historical figures. Ali was a testament to determination and self-preservation. Loved it.
Paul Billy-Bong-Gong
Jun 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
its not what you did its the way you did it. like the way he writes, intwinned with my way of thinking. whatever that says.
Kyle Crosby
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
*No Spoilers*
Character(s): Cassius Clay/Mohammad Ali=5. Remnick does an excellent job describing Mohammad's character in every little detail."He was beautiful again. He was fast,sleek,and twenty-two"(Remnick 20) this exemplify's Mohammad's image during his first fight and how he was at his prime. Mohammad Ali is one of my greatest role models so of course his character is the best. He stays true to himself all throughout his life; he never once doubts himself and believes from day one that he
...more
Andrew Martin
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Follows Ali's early career up through the Liston and Patterson fights, stopping with Vietnam and the draft. Along the way we're treated to first-rate capsule biographies of Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston. It is really a shame that we don't get book-length Remnick any more - the guy is a professional.

I'm not really sure how a book-length treatment of Ali ends up leaving out all the Frazier fights (the Fight of the Century? Thrilla in Manilla?) and the Foreman fight (Rumble in the Jungle? - I me
...more
Rick
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of the best books I've read on boxing and on one of my personal heroes, Muhammad Ali. Oddly, although written rather recently, the book covers a very short time frame in Ali's career - namely the time between his winning the gold medal at the Olympics and his being stripped of the heavyweight title for refusing to serve in the Army. If you don't know the story of Cassius Clay and his rise to fame as the black Muslim Muhammad Ali (and too many people don't), then this book is an awesome place ...more
David Hollingsworth
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book isn't a normal biography. It gives you the story of Muhammad Ali, but also gives you the story of the two previous heavyweight champions before him and puts them into the historical, cultural, and sociological context of their time and place in boxing history. It reads like a case study almost as much as it does a narrative.

The writing itself is very well done. Remnick has a talent for balancing personal drama, social dynamics, and historical narratives to create a book that is as enga
...more
Mark Desrosiers
Aug 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Unfortunately, there isn't very much information here that you haven't already read in Thomas Hauser's Ali biography or (even better) Nick Tosches' The Devil and Sonny Liston. Remnick's mastery of post-journalese narrative does make the book a decent, quick read. But I grimaced every time Remnick deliberately tried to take Ali down a peg or two (ha ha ha Cassius Clay buying a parachute on the plane trip to Rome; for shame, Ali was a total womanizer). Not that I think Ali is beyond criticism: it' ...more
Tom Gase
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really well researched book by David Remnick on Muhammad Ali and his rise to fame as Cassius Clay and his first fight against Sonny Liston. This book, unlike what I thought, does not focus on Ali's entire life, but instead just a period from 1960 to around 1966. The main focus is Ali's two fights with Liston (one as Clay) including the second fight that features possibly the best photograph of the last century in sports (trust me, you've seen it). My problem with the book is it takes a little to ...more
Evanston Public  Library
Remnick opens the story on February 25, 1964, when Muhammad Ali was twenty-two and about to face the fierce heavyweight champion Sonny Liston: "for the first and last time in his life, [Ali] was afraid." It's a shrewd distillation of a historic moment. Not many expected Ali to win--just as not many expected him to become arguably the dominant personality of late twentieth-century America.

In his youth, Ali [then Cassius Clay] wasn't out to show the world "a new kind of black man," but Remnick pow
...more
haetmonger
Feb 03, 2011 rated it liked it
a good, quick read. remnick's writing style has changed since he wrote this in '98 -- it feels like a more novelistic at parts than the stuff in the bridge and his more recent stuff in the new yorker, but that worked just for fine me.

one point of interest for others who have read the book: remnick insists that ali wrote much of his trademark doggerel by himself, including a 32-liner called "song of myself". this seemed unlikely to me (the whitman reference was a pretty good tip-off), and some qu
...more
Inry
May 21, 2008 rated it liked it
I recently read Ali one of the best boxers that ever lived. This book was a really good book because it talks about Ali’s whole life, how he started fighting and how he goes through hard times.
Ali was one of the best boxers that ever lived that’s one of the reasons why I life this book. Its hard to believe that he won all those fights in his whole career he only lost 3 fights out of like fifty or more fight and most of them were all ko’s. It incredible how much money he won over his it time, it
...more
Paula
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Most of you know I love sports. I was never into boxing but always curious. There are a ton of Ali bios out there but I chose this one for two reasons:

First, David Remnick is a fabulous writer--hence the Pulitzer. But secondly, his talent with this book really lies within the way he approaches the athlete. You'd be surprised that the first couple chapters are not about Ali at all. In fact, he is hardly mentioned in the entire first section. Instead, the chapters are devoted to other key boxers d
...more
Saf
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tbb-2010, non-fiction
Focusses around the two fights Ali fought against Sonny Liston but the scope of this book is wide enough that all the other issues of the time are tackled too. Remnick does a good job of placing the reader in the time and place when boxing and historic events intertwined and the resulting narrative is informative, intelligent and entertaining.

(Blah, blah that sounds too serious.) If you know nothing about boxing or Ali this is a probably a good place to start as it exposes the racism, hatred, co
...more
Caitlin
Sep 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I liked this more for the picture it paints of the boxing world and african american history than out of any admiration for muhammad ali.
Remnick starts by telling the stories of Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston, and how the press depicted them as good negro/bad negro..setting the scene for the explosive appearance of Ali. The discussion of civil rights, african american history, the role of the sports press and Ali's embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood are all fascinating. Oh, and the mob's contr
...more
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King of the world by David Remnick 1 11 Apr 27, 2014 05:54PM  
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David Remnick (born October 29, 1958) is an American journalist, writer, and magazine editor. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book Lenin s Tomb The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker magazine since 1998. He was named Editor of the Year by Advertising Age in 2000. Before joining The New Yorker, Remnick was a reporter and the Moscow correspondent for Th ...more
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