"Jonathan Eig’s masterful new biography of the champ is both captivating and highly relevant to the current discussions on race in America. The author’s comprehensive research included more than 500 interviews with more than 200 people from the boxer’s life, and material from recently discovered audio interviews with Ali."Read More
Until yesterday's publication of "Ali: A Life," there was no life of Muhammad Ali, no comprehensive account of the man who called himself -- and came to be called -- "The Greatest." Now, where once yawned a vacuum, there now stands a cinderblock, the product of 400 interviews conducted over five years of archival research and shoe-leather detective work. The Ali who emerges from Eig's biography is not the saint so many have made him out to be, but rather a figure whose humanity is earthy, complicated, fallible and thus, in these pages, restored.Read More
Each blow echoes on the pages of Jonathan Eig’s relentless, image-altering biography “Ali: A Life,” ushering its charismatic but confounding subject toward the silence, illness and exile that preceded his death last year at 74. Though replete with tales of race, religion, war protest, sex, marital turmoil and skulduggery, this book is, more than anything else, an indictment of boxing. The cumulative damage of Ali’s boxing career is a terrible and haunting thing to read about, and it becomes all the more so when you remind yourself that Mr. Eig’s subject is one of American sports’ most beloved figures, not some luckless tomato can.Read More
… Eig takes the story much further, providing fascinating details on Ali’s childhood and, later, on his career as a boxer, both the well-documented triumphs but also the gradual diminution of his skills, which led to the embarrassing last fights and, eventually, to the brain damage and Parkinson’s that defined Ali’s later years. (Eig even provides a running count of all the punches Ali took in his career, a toll that increased exponentially toward the end.) And yet, after his unsparing recounting of Ali’s bad decisions and moments of cruelty to loved ones and opponents, Eig finds enduring humanity in Ali’s lighting of the Olympic torch shortly before his death and in his many acts of spontaneous kindness, noting that somehow he had “always remained warm and genuine, a man of sincere feeling and wit.” A fine biography of one of the twentieth-century’s defining figures.Read More
"Ali" is a big, fat, entertaining and illuminating read.
Much of the story of Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay Jr.) is widely known. Some of us remember his life unfolding on television; others grew familiar with him when he lit the Olympic Torch in 1996, his arm trembling from Parkinson's. There have been many biographies, full and partial, including one published in May.
What makes Eig's book stand out is its broad scope, its detailed reportage and its lively, cinematic writing.Read More
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.Read More
Jonathan Eig’s “Ali: A Life” is the first comprehensive biography worthy of this titanic figure. The author of acclaimed books on Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, Eig weaves together Ali’s athletic feats, cultural significance and personal journey. Fortified by hundreds of revealing interviews, “Ali” vigorously narrates the story of the man who transformed the landscape of race and sports.Read More
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.Read More
This hefty biography may be the deepest dive yet into the life of Muhammad Ali — “the son of an uneducated sign painter [who] became the most famous man in the world,” as Eig puts it. The author, now working on an Ali documentary with Ken Burns, captures the enigmatic boxer and activist from his youthful days as Cassius Clay in the Jim Crow South to his years as “the Greatest” and his later battle with Parkinson’s disease.Read More
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016), the recently departed, self-styled greatest, gets an appropriately outsized—and first-rate—biography. Ali, who began boxing as a professional nearly 60 years ago, was not exposed to much in the way of literature early on; he complained that his own supposed autobiography "made me look like a fool" and added that, after all, he'd "never read a book in my life." However, as Wall Street Journal contributor Eig (The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, 2014, etc.) makes clear, Ali was possessed of a certain kind of poetic genius on top of a gift for self-appreciation to which layers of legend would be added. As an instance of that mythologizing, it is certain that when facing the draft in 1966, Ali said, "I ain't got no quarrel with the Viet Cong"—but the more commonly quoted rejoinder, "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger," was added on, something that African-American protestors had said of the Vietnam War before Ali's number came up. In charting Ali's life, which was marked by plenty of personal difficulty but by a relatively comfortable upbringing, Eig observes that he seldom shied from controversy but, though reviled by some for becoming a Black Muslim and for some of his well-aired public statements, was also widely recognized for his talent. The opponent he beat in his first professional fight as an 18-year-old Cassius Clay, a West Virginia police chief, said, "He's a very good boxer for a kid; best I've met for a boy just starting out." Other opponents would have similarly high regard, though not without talking a lot of smack. Eig does a fine job of covering all the bases, and though the book is occasionally overwritten, it's only out of enthusiasm for his undeniably great subject, about whom the author is now working with Ken Burns to develop a documentary. An exemplary life of an exemplary man who, despite a few missteps, deserves to be remembered long into the future.Read More
"A warm, compelling portrait of a winsomely enduring man. Eig's richly impressive roster of interviews informs an authoritatively critical biography that is always both punchy and sure-footed."—David J. Garrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bearing the Cross and Rising Star.Read More
"Finally Muhammad Ali has a biography as big, complex, and memorable as the man himself—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, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Custer's Trials and The First TycoonRead More
"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 story teller. 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 20th 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, New York Times best-selling biographer of Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle.Read More
Ali is a tour de force! It is an independent, insightful and masterful assessment of ‘The Greatest!’ Eig’s biography puts flesh and bone on Ali’s fuller humanity. It is a must read for sports fans, boxing fans, students of American history, culture and religion.”--Dr. Randal Maurice Jelks, professor of American Studies and African American Studies, University of Kansas.Read More
“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 20th century America." David Maraniss, Pulitzer-prize winning author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi.Read More
“A monumental study the scope of which has not been matched. An utterly absorbing and richly detailed account of the most charismatic and controversial athlete of the 20th century.”—Mike Silver, author of The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science.Read More
"Jonathan Eig has proved conclusively that he knows how to get at the stories of larger-than-life individuals. Now he takes on—superbly—the largest of those large: Muhammad Ali. Eig presents the whole life from corner-to-corner. 'The Greatest' has found his chronicler.”—Seth Abraham, former president HBO Sports.Read More