Thomas Hauser’s Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times was one of the most influential books I have read. So many times I found myself thinking about people, politics, government, society, racism, sexism, or ableism.
While I typically don’t enjoy biographies, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times was a true exception. Of all the people that have ever lived, Muhammad Ali is one of the people I would most like to meet.
One of the best parts of this book is the honesty with which it considers Ali’s life. It doesn’t focus all of its attention on his courageous stance against war, his amazing boxing career, and his too rare humanitarian efforts. The book doesn’t shy away from his rampant womanizing, his terrible business decisions, his cruel, unfair criticism of Joe Frazier, or his tendency to being taken advantage of by so many.
This book is worth a read because it paints an honest picture of Ali. It credits him for his commitment to his religion, and his political and boxing courage. It recognizes some of the truly wonderful things he did to make so many lives a bit happier. But it shows in vivid detail the personal failings of Ali. It wants us to consider the complexities of people and how it’s not nearly as easy to put them in neat little boxes.
But the thing I most took from the book were the thoughts I had about so many aspects of society. Too often, people try to avoid actual history and what it says about humanity. The life and times of Muhammad Ali offers us the chance to consider many uncomfortable truths. If you’re like me, some of that consideration will challenge you to ask how you can do better?
When a book is both inspiring and uncomfortable, the book is worth a read. When that book is about a uniquely special person, the person is worth admiring.
Obviously, some of what Muhammad Ali did was cruel. Some of what he did was wonderful. Much of what he did changed the world. What an amazing life!