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Ali: A Life

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4.47  ·  Rating details ·  1,321 ratings  ·  206 reviews
The definitive biography of an American icon, from a New York Times best-selling author with unique access to Ali’s inner circle

He was the wittiest, the prettiest, the strongest, the bravest, and, of course, the greatest (as he told us himself). Muhammad Ali was one of the twentieth century’s most fantastic figures and arguably the most famous man on the planet.

But until now, hea New
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Kindle Edition, 640 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Tony It's not appropriate for a 13 year old, but it would be fine for a 14 year old. I read Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises when I was 14, the sex in it…moreIt's not appropriate for a 13 year old, but it would be fine for a 14 year old. I read Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises when I was 14, the sex in it helped me understand what I was in for. I wouldn't have been ready for it at 13. Lee's book is fantastic, a must read for everyone.(less)
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Rebecca
The first book I ever reviewed on my blog, nearly three years ago, happened to be Jonathan Eig’s The Birth of the Pill. It was the strength of the writing in that offbeat work of history, as well as rave reviews for this 2017 biography of Muhammad Ali (1942–2016), that led me to pick up a sport-themed book. I’m the furthest thing from a sports fan you could imagine, but I approached this as a book about a cultural icon and read it with a spirit of curiosity about how Eig would shape this life story a ...more
Lance
Not much needs to be said about the impact Muhammad Ali made on the sport of boxing, civil rights in the United States or the Muslim faith. There have been many books and articles written about the man on all of these topics and more. Now there is one source for inside information on Ali the man, Ali the boxer and Ali the spiritual figure – this outstanding biography written by Jonathan Eig.

Covering Ali’s entire life, from the childhood of Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky to his
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Fred Shaw
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You more than likely have heard of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, if nothing more than that he recently passed away. I was in high school in the 60’s when he won a gold medal in boxing in Rome at the summer Olympics, and when he won the heavyweight title by beating Sonny Liston. He was generally known then as a loud mouth, and many despised him for his “I am the Greatest of all tiiiiiimmmmmeeee” chant and his unorthodox boxing style. He was black and defiant. He refused to go to Viet Nam as a consci ...more
Michael Fineberg
This book is extraordinary for how well it conveys so many different things about 20th Century life in the United States; boxing, coming of age, race, Islam, marriage (and divorce and infidelity), social action, aging, and finally, the power of charisma and bravery. The writing is crisp and engaging, the subject matter(s) is fascinating and the pages just fly by.

I could say more, but read this book and then, let's talk.
Jeffrey Ruby
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't even like boxing and I still could not stop reading this book. I've read all of Jonathan Eig's books, and while his reporting and writing are always top-notch, ALI: A LIFE is his crowning achievement.

Part of that, of course, is due to the fact that Ali was a fascinating, infuriating, dynamic man. His life had unbelievable twists and turns—most of it at his own making—and he was in the middle of so much history during some of America's most turbulent decades.

But Eig doesn't g
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Barnabas Piper
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Complex. Fascinating. Scintillating. Charismatic. Despicable. Inspiring. All words that describe Ali. The book itself was good but not great - it bogged down with repetition at times. Over all, the character pulled it along into a captivating story.
Marco Etheridge
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Eig's "Ali: A Life" is a detailed and comprehensive biography. The book charts the life of heavy-weight boxer Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most famous athlete of the Twentieth Century. It is an arguable point, but Ali would have had an answer. He would say that he was the greatest of all time. Except that he would say "of allllll times.....!!" "Ali: A Life" was published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has a length of 640 pages.

There are several distinct narratives liv
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Joel Berg
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can’t understand the U.S. in the 60’s and 70’s, unless you understand the role of Ali. And you can’t understand the role of Ali, unless you read this brilliantly written, immaculately-researched book. The book manages to be both action-packed and full of broad, important themes (race, how athletes get brutalized for money, etc. ) that prompt deep thought. Given the national debate today of the role of athletes in politics, this book is more needed than ever. And it’s is a heck of a lot of fu ...more
Styron Powers
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This Muhammad Ali book is the “GOAT”, of Ali books! This was my eight book on Muhammad Ali. Ali, remains the ONLY athlete, I personally consider my hero. The other seven books, very well discuss his life as a boxer, just as the Will Smith, movie did. Jonathan Eig, painted the picture of the person. From his birth, the early racial prejudices faced. His decision making that made him once hated and later respected and loved. The author painted the good, bad, ugly and greatness of the man. If you a ...more
John
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: main
Muhammad Ali was, by far, the greatest sports figure of the 20th century. His is a personality that no one will ever be able to "figure out" entirely. He was simultaneously thrilling, charming, disappointing, and malicious. But he was the greatest pugilist of all time(s), and his accomplishments speak for themselves.
This biography by Jonathan Eig is a knockout punch. For sure, no other author has been able to capture Ali in so complete a way as Eig. The depth of the research is very impres
...more
Erin
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So. Dang. Good. Ali is a wonderfully complicated and fascinating character. One of the great Black heroes of the 20th century. I recommend the audiobook.
Kerry Pickens
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
I started reading this book, and could not put it down. The author captured the enthusiast nature of Ali's personality and rise to fame, as well as the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement.
Joe O'Donnell
Given that he is easily one of the most famous, most charismatic figures of the twentieth century, it would almost be a perverse achievement to write a dull book about Muhammad Ali. But Jonathan Eig - whose “Ali: A Life” sets out to be the definitive biography of Muhammad Ali, from his upbringing in Kentucky in the 1940s until his death in 2016 - is following in illustrious literary footsteps here. Such literary giants as Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, and George Plimpton and such skilled bio ...more
Adrian
This book will probably stand as the authoritative biography. It is of the works I've read on the great fighter the most critical. Ali's relationships with the Nation of Islam and women are fully scoped. In neither does he come out unscathed. Eig is clear that that Ali forsaked his friendship with Malcolm X when it was clear that Elijah Muhammad had more power. There is much in here on Ali's womanizing which was rampant and extremely hurtful to his wives and children. Eig uses statistics of punc ...more
Raymond
There are biographies, and then there are books like Ali. Jonathan Eig perfectly captures everything about Muhammad Ali's ascent to becoming the greatest boxer the world had ever seen, as well as the most famous and polarizing figure ever recorded in history. It also captures his decline, his faults, his ambitions, his good heart, his pure soul, and his inability to ever resist temptation, which was perhaps his biggest flaw and the one that contributed most to the arc of his life.

Ali
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Faraaz
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, thoroughly researched and in depth account. However your are left wanting more of Ali's life beyond his boxing career and public persona. The book does cover his marriages, relationships, children but not more than what we already know. Ali's towering and expansive personality can be overwhelming and you can never have enough but one is left wanting to know more about the contradictions in his relationships. Would have been nice to have more from Veronica, Lonnie and Belinda along wit ...more
Rubina
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic account of a brilliant life.
RINA | booksofthemuggleborn
My Rating 4/5 stars!!

It was lengthy but gripping. It's amazing to see an insight into one of the (or as some say "The Greatest") boxer of all time and the life he had led. The struggles, the high and lows, and the impact he's made not only in the boxing industry - but also to the entire world.

There's a reason why he was loved by many, why he was considered as someone to look up to, and why he was one of a kind. He was a powerful fighter both in and out of the ring, and it
...more
Cmp
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, sports, boxing
This was a lackluster biography. It was an easy and pleasant enough read, but not a particularly rewarding one. Its main failing was the absence of any overarching premise about Ali as a person, as a boxer, or regarding his legacy within both his sport and American culture. As such, there’s no real point to the book, leaving it to exist as a simple narrative of Ali’s life for the uninitiated.

Though it adopts a refreshingly more critical “warts-and-all” view of its subject than hagio
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Mourisham Jose
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Epic! An absolute knockout!!!!!
Robert Sparrenberger
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of the best biographies I’ve ever read. It reads like a Greek tragedy with Ali’s fatal flaw being that he could never say no to anyone. His fans, women, promoters, the president, etc.

The writing is excellent and the fight descriptions make you feel like you are ringside. I want to watch some of the fights now that I’ve read the inside scoop of what was happening and see if it matches what the author described.

So many other people move in and out of his life that I knew the name but not the
...more
Margaret
A fascinating book, my second book by this author. I didn't particularly like the arrogance of Mohammed Ali back in the day but I grew to understand him more and the author convinced me to appreciate Ali's talent and tenacity. The world of boxing is interesting to me and the author definitely increased my interest.
Csparrenberger
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am old enough to remember much of what this book covers. If you are older, this book is a great trip down memory lane. If you are younger, it is a great introduction to one of sports greatest figures. Very well written and holds your attention like glue. Highly recommended.
Samuel
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Muhammad Ali was larger than life, and I too was swept up in the collective, national mourning when he passed away two years ago in 2016. Perhaps my earliest *specific* memory regarding sports on television was when Ali lit the Olympic torch in Atlanta in 1996. I remember, probably my father, recall virtual tall-tale stories about his "rope-a-dope" technique and his epically-named bouts including "the Rumble in the Jungle" and "the Thrilla in Manila." Jonathan Eig's biography definitely investig ...more
Jeffrey
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
First of all the book: well written narrative bio of Ali. I liked that it was even handed for the most part. The author told the bad along with the good. The author was obviously a fan and occasionally let that overtake his analysis, but thankfully this was not too frequent and brief so it did not detract too much. Recommended.

I have mixed emotions about Ali. One of the chapter titles summed it up nicely I thought, "He's human, like us"

(view spoiler)

In a nutshell, I think Ali had great charisma and a talent for boxing. History has shown that charisma is a powerful force.

Is he the best heavyweight boxer of all time? I'm not a boxing expert and not really a fan so I don't know. Most lists say he is. Not sure if that is true or if he proclaimed it so often people believe it is true. I did notice that the latest ESPN list has Joe Louis at the top.

I did bristle at the "Greatest athlete of the 20th Century" proclamation. Just opinion, but not in my top five.
...more
Susan O
Even coming from a family which doesn't watch boxing, you can't have grown up in the 60s and 70s without knowing the name of Cassius Clay, that he changed it to Muhammad Ali, and that he was hugely popular and controversial. In spite of this, I knew little of his life except some of the big names he fought, and of course the moving event when he lit the Olympic torch in Atlanta. Eig does a brilliant job filling in the moments in Ali's life, the fights, marriages, infidelities, his conversion to ...more
Tony
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those truly gripping biographies. I'll admit, perhaps, some bias, being a huge Muhammad Ali fan and admirer, but regardless, this is one thoroughly-researched life story. I always say that the best bios are those that somehow manage to make the reader feel like he/she is along for the ride, "the ride" being the subject's life. This one does that. We learn about Ali beginning with his family history, pre-dating the birth of young Cassius Clay. From there the book tells, in great d ...more
Phil
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb piece of research and fine writing style made Ali come alive in a way I had not read before, especially the later years. Such was Eig's access to nearly every living person important in the champ's life that he was in the Scottsdale, Arizona, hospital room when Ali died. I can't wait to see his collaboration with Ken Burns for their film doc on this beloved figure.
Jhawkinson
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More comprehensive than Remnick’s “When We Were Kings”, this captured the good and bad sides of Ali. There was more of an emphasis on his deterioration (late 70s) because of what is now known about CTE. Inspiring and heartbreaking, Ali’s story encapsulates what is wonderful and what is terrible about America.
Bob Peru
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
not a hagiography. a warts and all well-written account of a true world icon.
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Jonathan Eig is the author of five books, three of them New York Times best sellers. He is a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal. His most recent book is "Ali: A Life," hailed as an "epic" by Joyce Carol Oates in her New York Times review. His previous books are: "Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig;" "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season;" "Get Capone;" and ...more
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“I am America,” Clay will proudly declare. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me” 2 likes
“Ali was everything everybody wanted their child to be, except some ignorant-ass white folks, and they don’t count” 2 likes
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