Ali: A Life (Paperback)
The definitive biography of Muhammed Ali as seen in the film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon on PBS.
Winner of the 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing and Winner of The Times Sports Biography of the Year
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay in racially segregated Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a sign painter and a housekeeper. He went on to become a heavyweight boxer with a dazzling mix of power and speed, a warrior for racial pride, a comedian, a preacher, a poet, a draft resister, an actor, and a lover. Millions hated him when he changed his religion, changed his name, and refused to fight in the Vietnam War. He fought his way back, winning hearts, but at great cost.
Jonathan Eig, hailed by Ken Burns as one of America’s master storytellers, sheds important new light on Ali’s politics, religion, personal life, and neurological condition through unprecedented access to all the key people in Ali’s life, more than 500 interviews and thousands of pages of previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department files and audiotaped interviews from the 1960s. Ali: A Life is a story about America, about race, about a brutal sport, and about a courageous man who shook up the world.
“As Muhammad Ali’s life was an epic of a life so Ali: A Life is an epic of a biography . . . pages in succession its narrative reads like a novel—a suspenseful novel with a cast of vivid characters.” – Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times Book Review
About the Author
JONATHAN EIG is the author of four critically acclaimed books, two of them New York Times bestsellers. He was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Monsey, New York. Eig is a former staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, and he remains a contributing writer there. He has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, the Washington Post, and other publications. He has appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and in two Ken Burns films for PBS. He is currently working with Burns to develop a documentary on Muhammad Ali. He lives in Chicago, IL.
A New York Times Bestseller and Notable Book of 2018
Winner of the 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing
Winner of The Times Sports Biography of the Year
“This richly researched, sympathetic yet unsparing portrait of a controversial figure for whom the personal and the political dramatically fused could not come at a more appropriate time in our beleaguered American history. As Muhammad Ali’s life was an epic of a life so “Ali: A Life” is an epic of a biography…pages in succession its narrative reads like a novel — a suspenseful novel with a cast of vivid characters.” –Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times Book Review
“The first comprehensive biography worthy of this titanic figure.” —Washington Post
“Stunning . . . Eig's brilliant, exhaustive book is the biography the champ deserves.” —NPR.org
“Eig's revelatory bio traces the late boxer's path from pariah to national treasure.” —People
“Drawing on interviews with Muhammad Ali’s friends, family, and colleagues—as well as recently discovered recordings from the 1960s and extensive FBI files—Eig tells the life story of the legendary boxer, political radical, and hero in all its complexity.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Jonathan Eig’s masterful new biography of the champ is both captivating and highly relevant to the current discussions on race in America . . . Eig’s boxing descriptions are taut and lively . . . He presents boxing in all of its majesty and violence . . . Muhammad Ali was one of the most compelling figures in the 20th century, and Eig does ample justice to capturing his extraordinary and enduring legacy.” —Seattle Times
“'Ali' is a big, fat, entertaining and illuminating read . . . What makes Eig's book stand out is its broad scope, its detailed reportage and its lively, cinematic writing.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Exhaustive and engaging.” —Boston Globe
“Eig’s book is a fine read on the great boxer’s life, taking him on as he was and always seeking the truth that hits closest to bone. It covers the tumultuous middle, and then the oddly sanitized and bland second half of the American Century, an era in which Muhammad Ali was among the biggest and brightest players on the stage — living a life that, far from signifying nothing, will in its outrageous grandeur and stunning humanity, stand the test of time.” —Chicago Review of Books
“Eig never loses grasp of the basic humanity of his subject, allowing Ali the man to take center stage from Ali the legend. Locked on that purpose, Eig delivers a biography that reflects his subject well—complex but straightforward, human but legendary.” —Chapter 16
“Finally Muhammad Ali has a biography as big, complex, and memorable as the man himself—or as close as any book can come. From panoramic views of Ali’s place in racial, political, and cultural conflicts, to gripping accounts of his fights, to vivid close-ups of his outsized personality and relationships based on new sources, Ali will fascinate you from beginning to end.” —T. J. Stiles, author of Custer's Trials and The First Tycoon
“Some people want to grow up to be an astronaut. Or maybe even president. Or heavyweight champion of the world. I always wanted to be a storyteller. The hardest story to tell is one that’s been told and told well before. In Ali, Jonathan Eig, a fearless reporter, as relentless on his turf as Muhammad Ali ever was within the ring, has taken on one of twentieth-century America’s biggest, baddest, most important stories and told it bigger and badder than it’s ever been told before. Ali: A Life floats like a butterfly and stings likes a bee. Stop the fight. It’s over. Eig in a knockout.”—Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax and The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood
“Ali is a marvelous biography—deeply reported, illuminating, dripping with detail chapter after chapter—in every way worthy of one of the great figures of twentieth-century America.” —David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi
“Finally, after so many works focusing on this fight or that, the whole man, the whole life, is presented here. And what a revelation it is—to be able to see how this remarkable man was shaped by his world, and how that world was, in turn, profoundly influenced by this exceptional and complicated kid from Louisville. Bravo!” —Ken Burns