Muhammad Ali: A Reading List

No other subject is, for the writer, so intensely personal as boxing. To write about boxing is to write about oneself — however elliptically, and unintentionally. And to write about boxing is to be forced to contemplate not only boxing, but the perimeters of civilization — what it is, or should be, to be “human.”

That’s Joyce Carol Oates, in the preface to her book On Boxing. Replace ‘write’ with ‘read’, and it sums up the reason I’ve been obsessed with boxing literature since my teens. What follows is a somewhat ordered reading list on Ali, as accompaniment to a tribute that will be published on Rediff Monday.


In Memoriam: A collection of tributes on the passing of Ali

Gary Smith on the twilight of a champion

Mark Kram on the hangers-on that brought Ali to a Parkinsons’-riddled twilight

Thomas Hauser on the importance of Ali

David Remnick’s obituary of Ali

Rohit Brijnath on Ali and his legacy

Sandeep Dwivedi on what our sportsmen could learn from Ali, but will not

Supriya Nair on Ali’s place in our world

Ben Bradlee on the softer side of Ali

CP Surendran on what Ali meant to him

Tim Laden on the legacy Ali leaves behind

Dave Zirin on how Ali’s battles against racism and war is our battle too

Michael Ezra on Ali’s failed diplomatic career

Alex Haley interviews Ali for Playboy, circa 1964

The Playboy interview with Ali, circa 1975

Gay Talese on Ali’s trip to Havana 

Davis Miller’s storied piece, My Dinner with Ali, in full

Bryan Curtis on how Ali lit up the sportswriters of his time

Robert Lipsyte in the NYT on the man who was the child in all of us

Dick Schaap on the early evolution of Ali

Irwin Shaw on Ali and his crisis of conscience

Joyce Carol Oates on Ali and the cruelty of boxing

Charles Pierce for Sports Illustrated on the man whose many contradictions mirrored the country he fought in, and against

Bob Greene on the lion in winter

Collection: The best Ali stories from Esquire

Collection: Great Ali stories rounded up by New York mag

Mike Marquesee on Ali, the dissident icon

Darrell Foster, who coached Will Smith to play Ali, on the art and craft of the legendary boxer

Sean O’Hagan on Ali — the film, the man, the legend

Roger Ebert on watching Rocky II with Ali

On how Ali stopped a man from jumping to his death

Hugh McIllvaney’s requiem for Ali, Frazier, and the sport of boxing itself

Kelefah Saneh on boxing after Ali

John Eligon on why The Greatest is the greatest


Murray Kempton on the first Ali-Liston fight and the changing of the guard

Sean Ingle on Ali-Liston and the making of a champion

Norman Mailer’s ‘Ego’, on the first Ali-Frazier fight

Mark Kram on the iconic Thrilla in Manilla

Thomas Hauser on Ali-Frazier #3

Kevin Mitchell commemorates the most iconic of boxing bouts

Hugh McIllvaney meets up with Ali, just hours after the Rumble in the Jungle

Hugh McIllvaney reports on Ali’s defeat of Leon Spinks to win a third title

Andy Bull on the saddest fight of Ali’s career

PS: This is an immediate but by no means exhaustive, list. If you come across interesting reads, please add below, in comments. I’ll do a companion post on Ali — and boxing-themed — books tomorrow.






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