Muhammad Ali became famous due to his successful boxing career. He was also an activist, family man, and philanthropist.
Our list of the 18 best Muhammad Ali books take you into the life of this famous sports figure. You'll learn about his childhood, historic boxing matches, his family, and so much more!
Written by: Muhammad Ali and Richard Durham, edited by Toni Morrison
Published: October 1st, 1975
In his autobiography, The Greatest: My Own Story, Muhammad Ali tells the story of his remarkable life. He recounts his journey from young boxer to international icon, describing in detail the challenges he faced and the victories he achieved. This intimate account provides a unique glimpse into the mind of one of the most extraordinary athletes of all time.
Whether recalling his epic battles with Joe Frazier at the “Thrilla in Manilla” or discussing his Malcolm X-inspired conversion to Islam, Ali offers a compelling and candid portrait of himself both inside and outside of the ring. With its frankness and humor, and that is written by the Greatest, it is an unforgettable read for fans of sports history and biography alike.
Written by: Jonathan Eig
Published: October 3rd, 2017
In Ali: A Life, Jonathan Eig tells the story of one of the most controversial and celebrated figures in history. Drawing on interviews with more than 250 people—including Muhammad Ali's widow, son, managers, doctors, and friends—Eig offers a stunningly intimate portrait of the boxer and Muslim icon.
From his earliest moments in the ring to his global crusade against racism and his epic boxing matches against Joe Frazier and George Foreman, Ali is revealed as a complex figure whose triumphs and failures reflected pressing issues of race, religion, politics, and culture. Tracing Ali’s life journey from a segregated childhood in Louisville to his exile in Africa to his comeback fights in Las Vegas, Eig shows how Ali became an emblem of America’s rebellion against standards and norms.
Written by: Muhammad Ali and Hana Yasmeen Ali
Published: November 16th, 2004
What does it mean to be alive? Philosophers and thinkers have asked this question for centuries, yet its answer remains a mystery. But perhaps the answer can be found in the journey of life itself. In his latest book, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey, world-renowned boxer and activist Muhammad Ali reflects on his life journey and the lessons he has learned along the way.
In this moving and insightful memoir, Ali shares his thoughts on everything from determination and perseverance to love and loss. Ali, and his daughter Hana, do a fantastic job looking at how he came from poverty, became the greatest boxer of his age, converted to Islam, refused to fight in Vietnam, and eventually was named a "Messenger of Peace" by the United Nations. You will be inspired as you will see that you can do so much more than what you think at this moment.
Written by: Hana Ali
Published: May 7th, 2019
Few names are more synonymous with boxing than Muhammad Ali. The Olympic gold medalist and a three-time heavyweight champion were known as much for his formidable fighting skills as he was for his outspokenness and bold confidence. His life was packed with controversy, tragedy, and triumph, but it was also filled with moments of great love, especially later in life as he worked to help people from all over the world.
One of the reasons this is such an essential book about Ali is that his daughter inherited it after he died. These included letters, photographs, and recordings that he did in the 1970s. It is also interesting to see some of the people who would visit him, ranging from Clint Eastwood to John Travolta. Published just weeks before what would have been Ali's 80th birthday, the book is a moving tribute to one of the most iconic figures in American history.
Written by: Muhammad Ali
Published: October 25th, 2016
This book is different from the others in that it is all photos and quotes from the greatest boxer of all time. This is one that you will want to look through time after time and see the true magnificence of Ali during his life.
Some quotes will motivate you, inspire you, and make you laugh like you couldn't imagine. Even though most people know that Ali usually spoke with pride about his accomplishments, he doesn't "pull any punches" when giving quotes about himself and others, many of which you will never have heard of before.
Written by: Randy Robert and Johnny Smith
Published: February 2nd, 2016
As two of the most influential and iconic African American figures of the 20th century, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X's friendship was always destined to be a complicated one. In his book Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, journalist Randy Roberts explores the deep bond between these two men, despite their very different backgrounds and ideologies.
Roberts provides an intimate look at this complex relationship by drawing extensive research and interviews with key players in their story, including declassified F.B.I. documents. This includes their highs and lows when Ali turned his back on Malcolm X because of criticizing Elijah Muhammad and the results of Ali’s life after the assassination of Malcolm. The result is a fascinating account of two larger-than-life personalities whose intertwined destinies forever changed the course of American history.
Written by: Thomas Hauser
Published: January 1st, 1991
When Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016, the world mourned the loss of not only one of the greatest athletes of all time but also a powerful advocate for social justice and religious tolerance. Sportswriter Thomas Hauser offers a comprehensive account of "The Greatest's" life and career in his new book, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times.
From Ali's childhood in Kentucky to winning the Gold Medal in the 1960's Olympics to his three epic bouts against Joe Frazier to his exile from boxing after refusing induction into the U.S. Army, you will learn so much about this remarkable man. Then his conversion to Islam and having his championships taken away from him because of his political stances, and then finally to becoming an international hero for peace, dealing with Parkinson's, and how he never gave up no matter the odds against him.
Hauser documents every step of Ali's remarkable journey and includes previously unseen photos from the family. This book is essential reading for any fan of sports history or biography.
Written by: David Remnick
Published: October 22nd, 1999
David Remnick is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and all of his talents show through in this incredible biography of the greatest boxer who ever lived. Remnick shows how this young kid, who many judged, and thought was too narcissistic, became a sensation when he took down the reigning champion Sonny Liston in six rounds. Unlike other biographies on the list, Remnick explores how Ali decided not to take money from the mobsters, how the announcers would have preferred Sonny Liston or Joe Louis since they weren’t so willing to promote themselves, and more.
Remnick also goes into his political movements against the war in Vietnam, his conversion to Islam and when he took the name of Muhammad Ali instead of the “slave name” of Cassius Clay, and his meetings with people like Norman Mailer. This book shows how Ali wasn't afraid of anyone who stood in his way, no matter how important they thought they were because he was an individual and individualistic.
Written by: Michael Parkinson
Published: November 24th, 2016
This book by Michael Parkinson is based on the four primary interviews he did with Ali from 1971 to 1981. In it, he confronts Ali with some of his more horrible comments about women, intermarriage, the "white devil," and other lies pushed by Elijah Muhammad. He also delves into Ali's viewpoints on Joe Louis, Sonny Liston, and other fighters and how their upbringing possibly allowed them to be controlled by the mob.
Other parts of this book focus on his life, as with many other biographies here, but the most exciting features are the interviews
Written by: Rahaman Ali and Jim Brown
Published: October 17th, 2019
What makes this biography so important? It is said that there are two types of people in this world: those who are Muhammad Ali fans and those who are not. There is no in-between. Born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, the boxer turned social activist was known for his powerful punches inside the ring and his outspoken views outside of it. His life was filled with controversy but also outstanding achievements. It was written by Ali's brother and had viewpoints that only a brother could experience and explain to others.
In My Brother, Muhammad Ali: The Definitive Biography, Rahman Ali tells the story of his brother's incredible journey from a young boy full of dreams to one of the most renowned athletes and public figures in history. This intimate portrait provides an insider's view of the man behind the legend.
Written by: Mark Kram Jr.
Published: May 22nd, 2001
In the early 1970s, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier embarked on one of the most bitter feuds in sports history. The two boxers, both champions in their own right, fought three legendary bouts dubbed the "Thrilla in Manila." While their first match is remembered mainly for Ali's stunning upset victory, the subsequent two bouts are overshadowed by the immense animosity between the two fighters.
To this day, no one can say for sure what sparked their rivalry – but it's clear that neither man ever forgot who had bested them in the ring. As Ali once said: "It was like death. Closest thing to dying that I know of." With a quote like that, you know this will be a powerful exploration of this relationship and hatred between Ali and Frazier.
Written by: M. Prefontaine
Published: June 7th, 2016
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Muhammad Ali was one of the most iconic athletes in history, and his quotes are just as memorable. The Greatest: The Quotes of Muhammad Ali is a book that celebrates his life and teachings. Filled with insightful and inspiring words, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to be inspired by one of the greatest sports minds of all time.
Whether you're looking for motivation or just want to learn more about Ali, this book has something for you. We love that these aren't just his well-known quotes, but ones he's said that focus on love, respect, and what he had learned throughout his life. Trust us, and you'll be using these quotes in conversations with friends after you read them.
Written by: Howard L. Bingham
Published: January 24th, 2000
On April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted into the United States Army and was subsequently arrested. This ignited a legal battle that would last more than five years and thrust Ali into the spotlight as one of the most controversial public figures of his time.
In Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. the United States of America, Michael Ezra tells the story of Ali's refusal to serve in Vietnam and how it forever changed our understanding of civil liberties in America. Drawing on interviews with key players in the case, as well as previously unpublished court transcripts, Ezra provides a compelling account of one man's courageous stand against an unjust government.
Written by: Ishmael Reed
Published: July 15th, 2015
No one could have predicted Muhammad Ali's meteoric rise in the world of boxing. With a style as ferocious as it was graceful, Ali quickly became one of the most well-known and beloved athletes on the planet. His life was full of incredible moments—both in and outside of the ring. Now, all of Ali's most extraordinary stories are collected in one riveting volume for the first time. This biography is remarkable because Reed makes sure to get as many different views as possible from people who knew the man so that it is in-depth and completely balanced.
The Complete Muhammad Ali tells his story from beginning to end, with never-before-seen photos and reminiscences from those who knew him best. If you're a fan of Ali or just interested in the remarkable story of a true American icon, then this is essential reading.
Written by: Tim Shanahan
Published: May 10th, 2016
Very few people know the name of Tim Shanahan, but he was one of Muhammad Ali’s closest friends for many decades. Shanahan, who is from Chicago, worked with athletes to talk to underprivileged youths. Ali happened to live in Chicago, and Shanahan asked for his help. Ali agreed but went further: He asked Shanahan to come to his house, and they began a 40-year friendship. During this time, Shanahan would learn all about intimate and exciting parts of Ali's life, such as when they were hanging out with Elvis Presley, Andy Warhol, and Michael Jackson (who showed them his strange doll collection).
Being around Ali for so many years, Shanahan was able to see so much more than the usual biographer. Some of the fun parts are when he learns how to box and then actually spars with Ali one time…and one time only. It is beautiful to see their relationship blossom and change through the years.
Written by: Playboy
Published: November 6th, 2012
Back in the day, Playboy was known as a magazine with nude women posing in it. However, it was much more than that, as it often was at the forefront of battles for women's rights, LGBTQI freedom, and support of the First Amendment. It also had many famous authors and writers, such as Saul Bellow, Anne Sexton, Kur Vonnegut, and others writing articles for it during its time.
Because of it being respected in the literary world, Muhammad Ali was interviewed, and these are two of his best. The first interview was done in October 1964 and then the second in November 1975. To read Ali's words without being censored or interrupted are fantastic as you get an authentic feel for him and his life. As you can see, this is a concise read and yet definitely worth your time.
Written by: Muhammad Ali and George Lois
Published: October 1st, 2006
One could make the statement that Ali was the master of “rap” before rap music became mainstream. This book is a classic collection of 300 or so of his best witticisms and anecdotes from throughout his life. Some of them are well-known while others will surprise you because they aren't as famous. The beauty of this book is that they are also accompanied by photos and graphics of the Greatest in it. Once you are done reading this, you'll have the ability to rip apart anyone who tries to mess with you using these hilarious quotes. Any fan of Ali will love this book because it is so simple and yet so perfect.
Written by: Dave Hannigan
Published: August 2nd, 2016
This book fittingly is the last on the list. It was a fight that nobody wanted to see. While it seems he was starting to battle Parkinson's disease, the aging Muhammad Ali was taking on a young upstart in Trevor Berbick. Even though everyone knew it would be a disaster, it was held on December 11, 1981, in Nassau, Bahamas. However, that is only where the story should have ended. Why? Because the beginning is so much worse and depressing for the man who used to "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee."
This ranges from Ali’s beat down by Larry Holmes in 1980, the fight being held in the Bahamas because it wouldn’t be sanctioned anywhere else, to a cowbell being used to start and end the rounds, and so much more. It was an utter disgrace, but Ali wanted to prove that he was still the greatest.
Realizing that he was utterly out of his depth and his talents were gone, he slid onto a chair, slumped over, and stated simply, "It's over. It's over."