The most recommended Muhammad Ali books

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6 authors created a book list connected to Muhammad Ali, and here are their favorite Muhammad Ali books.
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Book cover of Sports of Our Times

Ed Odeven Author Of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg

From my list on American sports journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a sports reporter since 1990, my never-ending passion for reading and studying the best sports journalism is captured in these five books. The art of column writing, while capturing the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the intricacies of every game under the sun, is celebrated in these books by David Halberstam, Paul Zimmerman, Red Smith, Dave Anderson, and Dave Kindred. My voracious reading of sports columns plus magazine profiles, online essays, and thousands of books, has given me a great appreciation for authors who capture the essence of competition and reveal the biggest and smallest examples of themes unique to teams and eras, iconoclasts and forgotten figures.

Ed's book list on American sports journalism

Ed Odeven Why did Ed love this book?

Published in 1979, Anderson’s collection of columns preserves seminal sports moments, primarily from that decade. Anderson’s on-deadline work for The New York Times revisits Hank Aaron’s 715th MLB home run, which broke Babe Ruth’s all-time record. He was in the right place at the right time for an interview with Negro Leagues pitching legend Satchel Paige in 1976, a column in which the old fireballer praised Slim Jones, Bob Feller, and Dizzy Dean as the “best pitches I ever saw.” Jimmy Connors, Joe Namath, Gordie Howe, Julius Erving, and Muhammad Ali are among the icons that Anderson highlights with exceptional portraiture, capturing Howe’s career as he approaches his 50th birthday. Anderson also produces a splendid profile of Wilt Chamberlain playing volleyball.

Like many of the premier sports journalists of the post-World War II era, Anderson traveled widely and covered prominent events throughout the United States and around the…

By Dave Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sports of Our Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean

C L Stambush Author Of Untethered: A Woman’s Search for Self on the Edge of India

From my list on solo travel memoirs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for proving women can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone they want! I’ve lived in, worked in, and explored more than 20 countries, traveling by foot, train, truck, bus, boat, camel, donkey cart, and motorcycle. I’m an award-winning creative nonfiction writer and a former National Motorcycle Instructor. My writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Far Eastern Economic Review, Travelers’ Tales, and more. I'm a Hedgebrook Writers’ Colony alumna and hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and a master’s degree in creative nonfiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Untethered: A Woman’s Search for Self on the Edge of India—A Travel Memoir is my first book.

C L's book list on solo travel memoirs

C L Stambush Why did C L love this book?

Talk about a woman taking on a challenge to prove she can do it! Tori Murden McClure sails across the Atlantic Ocean in a 23-foot wooden rowboat. This is an immersive read, in which I felt what she felt as she powers the boat by human strength. Despite no real human interaction once she is on the water, McClure brings her experiences to life (she has to start over after going 3,000 miles) by narrating the journey in such detail that I was there with her. I personally find the open ocean terrifying and was grateful to have the “experience” without having to actually experience it. 

By Tori Murden McClure,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Pearl in the Storm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When mapmakers of the distant past came to the end of the known world, they would inscribe 'Here There Be Sea Monsters.' When Tori McClure attempted to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean in a 23-foot plywood boat with no motor or sail, she had no comprehension of the size of the monsters she would find. In deep solitude and perilous conditions, McClure was a loner determined to prove what one person with a mission can do. When she is finally brought to her knees by the worst hurricane season in the history of the North Atlantic, she must signal…


Book cover of Him, Me, Muhammad Ali

Lamya H Author Of Hijab Butch Blues: A Memoir

From my list on queer and trans Muslim experiences.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a queer, nonbinary, Muslim, immigrant writer who has been reading their whole life and writing for part of it. I learned to write by reading–by devouring all kinds of books across different genres and paying attention to how words create feelings, worlds, and chronologies. I also learned to live by reading–I didn’t grow up with models of how to live a life that was true to my identities and so I read everything I could find about experiences that were adjacent to my own. The emergence of queer Muslim literature has been exciting to follow, and I try to read everything in the field.  

Lamya's book list on queer and trans Muslim experiences

Lamya H Why did Lamya love this book?

For me, this book of short stories is all about unforgettable characters: queer, Muslim on a spectrum between practicing and not, of various ethnic backgrounds. I love that the characters have complicated lives and make not easily understood decisions.

I love that the characters struggle against, with, and towards their identities. And: it’s really funny!  

By Randa Jarrar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Him, Me, Muhammad Ali as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning novelist Randa Jarrar's new story collection moves seamlessly between realism and fable, history and the present, capturing the lives of Muslim women and men across myriad geographies and circumstances. With acerbic wit, deep tenderness, and boundless imagination, Jarrar brings to life a memorable cast of characters, many of them "accidental transients"—a term for migratory birds who have gone astray—seeking their circuitous routes back home. Fierce and feeling, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali is a testament to survival in the face of love, loss, and displacement.

Randa Jarrar is the author of a highly successful novel, A Map of Home, which…


Book cover of Sound and Fury: Two Powerful Lives, One Fateful Friendship

Ed Odeven Author Of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg

From my list on American sports journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a sports reporter since 1990, my never-ending passion for reading and studying the best sports journalism is captured in these five books. The art of column writing, while capturing the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the intricacies of every game under the sun, is celebrated in these books by David Halberstam, Paul Zimmerman, Red Smith, Dave Anderson, and Dave Kindred. My voracious reading of sports columns plus magazine profiles, online essays, and thousands of books, has given me a great appreciation for authors who capture the essence of competition and reveal the biggest and smallest examples of themes unique to teams and eras, iconoclasts and forgotten figures.

Ed's book list on American sports journalism

Ed Odeven Why did Ed love this book?

In this dual biography about the nexus of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell’s cultural significance and friendship, the backdrop of their seemingly omnipresent place on the American and global media landscape in the 1960s and ‘70s is explored with great detail in the paths they forged, individually and collectively. Kindred does his homework in finding rich anecdotes from the boxer and broadcaster’s upbringings in Louisville and New York City, respectively. What’s more, there are recurring details about their interactions before, during, and after many of Ali’s biggest fights. It’s a fascinating character study of larger-than-life personalities with massive egos, as well as Cosell’s support of Ali’s right to oppose the Vietnam War. The alternating focus on Ali and Cosell gives Kindred a flexible format to deliver a literary knockout.

It is a rare gift to have the ability to tell the life stories of two iconic figures in the same…

By Dave Kindred,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sound and Fury as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell were must-see TV long before that phrase became ubiquitous. Individually interesting, together they were mesmerizing. They were profoundly different -- young and old, black and white, a Muslim and a Jew, Ali barely literate and Cosell an editor of his university's law review. Yet they had in common forces that made them unforgettable: Both were, above all, performers who covered up their deep personal insecurities by demanding -- loudly and often -- public acclaim. Theirs was an extraordinary alliance that produced drama, comedy, controversy, and a mutual respect that helped shape both men's lives.

Dave…


Book cover of There You Have it: The Life, Legacy, and Legend of Howard Cosell

Jeffrey S. Gurock Author Of Marty Glickman: The Life of an American Jewish Sports Legend

From my list on American Jews and sports.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of American Jewish history who has written extensively on how sports have impacted the lives of American Jews. I have been especially interested in how the acceptance or rejection of Jews in the sports arena has underscored that group’s place within this country’s society. I have been likewise intrigued by how the call of athleticism has challenged their ethnic and religious identity. The saga of Marty Glickman, a story of adversity and triumph, speaks boldly to critical issues that this minority group has faced.

Jeffrey's book list on American Jews and sports

Jeffrey S. Gurock Why did Jeffrey love this book?

From the 1950s-1980s, the irascible, controversial Howard Cosell was among the most watched and listened to sportscasters.

Bloom effectively chronicles his life from his youth in Brooklyn to his emergence as the announcer everyone loved to hate. I was also pleased that he is sensitive to Cosell’s identity as a Jew with particular focus on how his views of his own ethnic-religious background changed after the murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games.


By John Bloom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There You Have it as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first full-length biography of the lawyer-turned-sports journalist whose brash style and penchant for social commentary changed the way American sporting events are reported. Perhaps best known for his close relationship with the world champion boxer Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell became a celebrity in his own right during the 1960s and 1970s-the bombastic, controversial, instantly recognizable sportscaster everyone "loved to hate."

Raised in Brooklyn in a middle-class Jewish family, Cosell carried with him a deeply ingrained sense of social justice. Yet early on he abandoned plans for a legal career to become a pioneer in sports broadcasting, first…


Book cover of The Distance

Michiel Heyns Author Of A Poor Season for Whales

From my list on by Africans that don’t have much to say about Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an African author, I find that my books end up on the ‘African fiction’ shelf in the bookstore, which can be a disadvantage if my novel is, say, about Henry James or the Trojan War, both of which I've written novels about. As a lecturer in English literature, I've become acquainted with a vast and varied array of literature. So, whereas of course there are many wonderful African novels that deal with specifically African themes, I think the label African novel can be constricting and commercially disadvantageous. Many African novelists see themselves as part of a larger community, and their novels reflect that perspective, even though they are nominally set in Africa.

Michiel's book list on by Africans that don’t have much to say about Africa

Michiel Heyns Why did Michiel love this book?

Taking stock of my selections, I realise that they are all to some degree autobiographical or semi-autobiographical. Just why I am attracted to this genre I don’t know: perhaps I am fascinated by the technical challenge of finding a narrative voice that is both personal and detached, of impersonalising emotions that could easily just be self-indulgent. Humour is often useful here, and Vladislavics’s novel is richly humorous, in its (lightly fictionalised) account of a culturally challenging boyhood in Pretoria, at the time the whitest and most conservative city in South Africa (interestingly, also the setting for Galgut’s The Promise). Young Joe, the stand-in for the author has, apart from an addiction to reading, a consuming interest in Muhammed Ali, and has kept a scrapbook of every newspaper item he could find relating to the great boxer. The bookworm-boxing addict is entirely engaging, as brought to life by a master…

By Ivan Vladislavic,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Distance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1970, a Pretoria schoolboy, Joe, becomes obsessed with Muhammad Ali. He begins collecting daily newspaper clippings about him, a passion that grows into an archive of scrapbooks. Forty years later, when Joe has become a writer, these scrapbooks become the foundation for a memoir of his childhood. When he calls upon his brother, Branko, for help uncovering their shared past, meaning comes into view in the spaces between then and now, growing up and growing old, speaking out and keeping silent.


Book cover of The Fight

Robert J. Begiebing Author Of Norman Mailer at 100: Conversations, Correlations, Confrontations

From my list on reading Norman Mailer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of English Emeritus at Southern New Hampshire University and author of ten books, including fiction, criticism, memoir, and collected journalism. I was also an inaugural faculty member in the writing workshops at the Norman Mailer Center in Provincetown, MA. I first got into Mailer in the 1970s after reading The Naked and the Dead and Cannibals and ChristiansI ended up writing my doctoral dissertation on Mailer, which became my first book, Acts of Regeneration. My second book, Toward A New Synthesis, examined Mailer along with John Fowles and John Gardner as writers who adopted some of the techniques of post-modernism but kept their work firmly tethered to ethical issues.  

Robert's book list on reading Norman Mailer

Robert J. Begiebing Why did Robert love this book?

One of the best sports books ever written? Judge for yourself, but I think it is certainly among the best. Even if you don’t like boxing or martial arts, you’ll enjoy this eminently readable book about “the rumble in the jungle” in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, two heroic athletes in conflict. Although there are moments of self-deprecating humor and Mailer’s usual philosophical concerns, Mailer focuses squarely on the two athletes, their training camps and trainers, the people around them, and the experience of being in Africa. And then of course there is the fight itself, described in vivid and inventive detail that I found is as riveting to other readers as it is to me. The philosophical/metaphysical concerns here are part and parcel of those Mailer developed through his sixty years as a writer, but they are introduced in an easily digestible style and seem to me…

By Norman Mailer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of the major innovators of New Journalism, Norman Mailer's The Fight is the real-life story of a clash between two of the world's greatest boxers, both in and out of the ring, published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Norman Mailer's The Fight focuses on the 1974 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in Kinshasa, Zaire. Muhammad Ali met George Foreman in the ring. Foreman's genius employed silence, serenity and cunning. He had never been defeated. His hands were his instrument, and 'he kept them in his pockets the way a hunter lays his rifle back into its velvet case'. Together the…