10 Great Books about the Greatest

Ali CoverMuhammad Ali inspired book after book of every kind—including Neil Liefer and Thomas Hauser’s epic Muhammad Ali, Memories, which landed him on the cover of Booklist in 1993. Here, we’ve turned to the archives to bring you 10 great titles about the Greatest for adults and young readers. The original Booklist reviews are excerpted—and linked—below.

For Adults

Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith

Two sports historians delve deeply into the little-known intricacies and tragic consequences of the close bond between the mentoring Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X and the young boxer Cassius Clay.

Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, by Mark Kram

Kram, who covered boxing for 11 years with Sports Illustrated, has written a fascinating blend of history and biography, portraying Ali and Frazier and their relationship to one another over the years.

King of the World David RemnickKing of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, by David Remnick

In this completely fresh and utterly compelling account of Ali’s early career, Remnick manages to capture what has largely eluded a host of other starstruck writers (Mailer, et al.): a balanced mix of the myth and the reality of Ali, a sense of how the gestalt of a nation in transition happened to land on the beautiful brown shoulders of a cocky young man from Louisville.

The Muhammad Ali Reader, edited by Gerald Early

An extraordinary array of essays written throughout boxing great Muhammad Ali’s career. The quality of the writing, the subtle nuances of the subject, and the wonderful chronological presentation will make this the definitive essay collection for Ali fans.

Sound and Fury Dave KindredSound and Fury: The Parallel Lives and Fateful Friendship of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell, by Dave Kindred

Their differences are glaring: Muslim and Jew, black and white, pretty and ugly. But look deeper, and their odd friendship makes sense: Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali shared loud mouths, humble beginnings, relentless ambition, and healthy egos. Even if the shelves are sagging with books about Ali, room should be made for this approachable, touching, and altogether fascinating buddy comedy.

For Kids

The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali, by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

In simple, clear, and lively text, Bolden introduces both Ali the fighter and Ali the activist. While this book acknowledges Ali as a controversial figure, it largely portrays him as a man who “loved people—all people.” That certainly wasn’t true, especially early on, but kids will respond to the message.

Greatest Walter Dean MyersThe Greatest: Muhammad Ali, by Walter Dean Myers

Myers tells the familiar story of Muhammad Ali’s life and career in such a way as to inspire a new generation of readers. This is finally a story about a black man of tremendous courage, the kind of universal story that needs a writer as talented as Myers to retell it for every generation.


Muhammad Ali: Boxing Legend, by Gregory N. Peters

It’s difficult to introduce such a monumental person in such a short book, but this respectful, accessible text offers a good place for readers to start. A concise, straightforward introduction to a sports legend.

I am the Greatest John MicklosMuhammad Ali: I Am the Greatest
, by John Micklos

Skillfully chosen photos, chapter notes, and suggested-reading lists complete these well-researched, wholly engaging introductions to iconoclastic individuals whose continual questioning of authority and conventional wisdom will hit home with teen readers.

Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali, by Charles R. Smith, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Smith and Collier takes an in-depth look at Ali’s life through 12 rhyming poems. Illustrating all this are Collier’s bold pictures. Mixing watercolor with cut-paper collage, they are among the best of his illustrious career, capturing both nuance and excitement.




About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

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