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Publisher's Summary

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 over and over again). Muhammad Ali was one of the 20th century's greatest radicals and most compelling figures. At his funeral in 2016, eulogists said Ali had transcended race and united the country, but they got it wrong. Race was the theme of Ali's life. He insisted that America come to grips with a Black man who wasn't afraid to speak out or break the rules. He didn't overcome racism. He called it out. "I am America," he once declared. "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." 

Ali went from being one of the most despised men in the country to one of the most beloved. But until now, he has never been the subject of a complete, unauthorized biography. Jonathan Eig, hailed by Ken Burns as one of America's master storytellers, breaks new ground and radically reshapes our understanding of the slippery figure who was Muhammad Ali. Eig had access to all the key people in Ali's life, including his three surviving wives and his managers. He also had access to thousands of pages of new FBI and Justice Department files as well dozens of hours of newly discovered audiotaped interviews from the 1960s. 

Jonathan Eig's Ali breaks bold new ground, revealing Ali in the complexity he deserves, shedding important new light on his politics and his neurological condition. Ali is a story about race, about a brutal sport, and about a fascinating man who shook up the world. 

©2017 Jonathan Eig (P)2017 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Ali

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  • Overall
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Left me Conflicted

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone.

And I say that never having followed (or, for that matter, been interested in, in the slightest] boxing

The language and story telling is clear; the story interesting; the narrator fine

BUT: ( a big but)

The longer it went on, the more I was struck by the contrast between the adulation that Ali produced, and the lifestyle which, absent the misplaced adoration we place on athletes, was really quite despicable in many ways. Yes, he was sometimes kind. Yes, he was a great [although arguably not THE GREATEST) boxer. But his behaviour lifestyle was almost 100% narcissistic, self absorbed, and hurtful to those who cared for him. He slept with constant women, often prostitutes, often teenagers, without any regard that the hurt this caused his first, second, and then third wife. He slept with women in the same hotel as his wife was staying, he slept with them in his own home when his children were on another floor. He didn't care. His own self-described lifestyle was "Wee! Me!!!". I guess such selfishness is excused if you're a good athlete. Despite earning over $50 million, he was in constant financial difficulties, something difficult to the stomach given how many millions of people don't even earn a percentile of that. His first wife was left in poverty,. his children competed for his attention with those who fawned over him.He thought being a father was too much of a restriction on his lifestyle. And on and on. Even the source of much of the adulation, his stand against racism, was inconsistent with calling Joe Frazier a "gorilla" or his use of the N-word with (on) him.

So the longer I listened, the greater the gap became between Ali the man and Ali the legend. The longer I listened, I thought the legend was without foundation.

I'm not saying this isn't a book worth buying. It is. It's an interesting story. I just didn't buy into the legend. Or, better put, the book reinforced that the "athlete as peacock" ( a phrase used in the book] is just that, peacock over a "real "human being

17 people found this helpful

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The greatest

This is one of my favorites reads this year. I’ve wanted to read about Ali since he passed away and I’m so glad I waited for this book. It’s well researched and covers Ali’s entire life and career. It doesn’t gloss over his faults or shy away from the controversaries. I think I would have enjoyed this as a book, but what really made it enjoyable was the narrator. He did a fantastic job of capturing the excitement around each fight and he brought Ali to life with his cadence when quoting Ali’s famous rhymes. Highly recommend this on audio. Well worth the time investment.
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2 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

This book tries to tear down Muhammed Ali by manipulating everything in a disapproving , disdaining way. Dismissing this smart, accomplished person as being arrogant and brainwashed. I don’t understand how NPR and Washington Post would say it is good when it seems racist against Muhammed Ali. Saying he only graduated High school as he was famous but then mentions he was the bottom of his class but still above 20 something others. Why were the other 20 kids ranked below him given a diploma then ? Why did the author announce that he was brainwashed into converting to Islam? This book is trying to demean a legend. I wish I had read all the reviews before purchasing instead of wasting my money on this.

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BOXING

Jonathan Eig’s research of Muhammed Ali’s life offers some surprises to listener/readers. One who grew up in the sixties will be reminded, entertained, and appalled by Eig’s biography of the greatest heavyweight fighter of all time.  Muhammed Ali, aka Cassius Clay, The Greatest, The Champ, The Louisville Lip, and less flattering nicknames, shows Ali lives up to every name noted in Eig’s biography of Muhammed Ali. A criticism one may have of Eig's detailed biography is its length. The last chapters dwell on Ali's deterioration as a boxer with more detail than necessary. It becomes too repetitive in its reification of a man's life who is ultimately only human.

Eig pulls no punches in his biography of Ali.  Ali was a flawed human being that treated women as property.  Ali entertained the world in his rise to fame.  Ali made the most of what he could be in the time he lived.  Ali was the greatest in some ways and the least in others.  He exemplified much of what many want to achieve but at a price few are willing to pay.

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Truly the greatest

This book didn’t shy away from Muhammad Ali‘s controversies and embraced his flaws. Muhammad Ali is known to be the greatest boxer of all time and even the best performer. The book begins with the story of his childhood and how he found his way in boxing. It is a roller coaster of emotions as you learn and listen to all the trials and tribulations he has done through. I have always adored the legacy of Mohammad Ali and being too young to ever have seen him in perform, This book does a perfect job of creating a vivid description in your head and all the things that were going on around him and it makes you feel like you were there.

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Well researched yet flawed

Jonathan Eig does his research, but I will make a point of emphasizing his flaw of focusing too much on Ali's flaws, and betraying a non-athlete's envy of athletic. excellence.

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I was surprised

This was a very good book I did not realize the life of mohammed Ali . There were times when I got mad they were times when I was excited I am glad that this was not just about his boxing career. I think Ali is an inspirational person

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Detailed - Beautiful Engaging

This is a wonderfully well written book on the life of Ali. This book gives a complete picture, it isn't a hatchet job or a sycophantic glowing portrait that ignores the troubling aspects. As a lifelong fan of Ali, I feel I have a much better understanding of his complete life. This is well written, researched, and gripping reading. We understand exactly why Ali is a national treasure, but also are reminded that there are no gods, even the best of us are human. Ali for all his humanity and compassion was abusive to women to a greater extent than I had previously known. Ali was such a champion of equality, but sadly that equality didn't extend to half the human population. Racism and sexism are entwined and are used to meet the same ends, but the NOI, which inspired and educated Ali about the oppression caused by racist structures, perpetuated the oppression of women, just as Christianity and other major religions do. I appreciate that this book gives the whole picture, because Ali was remarkable and inspiring in many ways. We can keep our appreciation for the good that people do and also look squarely at their faults. To be clear, this one issue is not a focus of the book, the book is comprehensive and covers the entire life of Ali. His courage, his wit, and his magic. This is a treasure of a book, and makes an excellent addition to a collection of works about Ali by Hauser, Remnick, Miller and Ali (as written by Durham). This is an engaging, informative, and moving account of an extraordinary life.

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The Greatest

loved this book! my only wish is, like Muhammads life it was longer.
loved the man, loved the fighter, loved the book.

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Exquisite, page turning bio of a complicated man

Unlike the countless other Muhammad Ali biographies, Jonathan Eig’s Ali doesn’t not mythologize the great boxing champion. Rather, it chooses to humanize him, dispelling many of the urban legends around Ali’s larger than life persona and depicting a man who was often at odds with his country and himself. Eig’s portrait of Ali is a complex one as it reveals the man’s many and sometimes disturbing flaws to go along with his historic athletic achievements. But even there Eig makes a strong case for closer inspection. Finally, we have a complete picture of Muhammad Ali. Somehow this deeper appreciation left me in even greater awe of the man.