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The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 16, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Few lives have been more zealously recorded in movies, photography and literature than Ali's. So it's fortunate that this book is not so much a memoir as a collection of the supreme athlete's spiritual contemplations. Structured as a series of minichapters on abstract virtues—love, friendship, peace, wisdom, understanding, respect, etc.—it consists of Ali's religious reflections, buttressed by personal anecdotes, Sufi parables, aphorisms, personal letters and poetry. What might be seen as mawkish or cloying from someone less universally beloved has real poignancy coming from boxing's brashest champion ("The Mouth" was one of his many nicknames), who is slowly being driven behind a wall of silence by Parkinson's. The book has the intensity of a deathbed confessional. Ali is settling his accounts, apologizing to Joe Frazier and Malcolm X for hurting them. But primarily he is giving advice to his many children, for whom he obviously feels an overwhelming love. (His daughter Hana addresses her love for her father directly in the book.) Besides Ali's love, readers will be struck by his remarkable faith. With the Black Muslims, he found not only an expression of his own pride in being black but also a personal relationship with Allah, which served as the wellspring for the remarkable courage he displayed both inside ("The Rumble in the Jungle") and outside (refusing the Vietnam draft) the ring. It's hard not to be moved by Ali's spirit. Photos.
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From Booklist

Who could have imagined the Muhammad Ali who first shook up the world writing a "Recipe for a Good Life" that includes "one teaspoon of patience" and "one dash of humility"? No tablespoons of trash talk or fiery rhetoric here--this disorganized pastiche of poems, meditations, Sufi stories, recollections, and advice is thoroughly softhearted, sometimes cloyingly so. There's not much in the way of boxing--when Ali writes of the run-up to his Olympic gold medal in Rome, for instance, it's only to reveal his fear of flying and to impress upon readers the importance of conquering one's fears. And the writing is, well, . . . not good ("Everything that God created was put here for a purpose. The sun has a purpose. The clouds have a purpose. Rain has a purpose." And on the list goes). But still, Ali's fans will learn a lot about the kinder, gentler man he has become. He even apologizes, in a moving poem, for taunting and ridiculing Joe Frazier. In the book's best poetic moment, Ali wonders, "Who would win the Rumble between the / Butterfly and the bee?" The butterfly wins here by TKO (technical knockout). John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 221 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743255690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743255691
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

A must read for all Ali fans.
Hunter
Ali says the way he judges if he's doing and good with his life is by asking himself if he would be happy with the way he lived today if he died tonight?
Adam R. Bosch
It takes you on a journey through the remarkable learnings of this great man and moves you to tears at some points.
Arjun Subramanian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Arjun Subramanian on November 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have always been curious about the man who calls himself Muhammad Ali. Curiousity then turned into fascination when I saw Will Smith's fantastic portrayal of Ali. And then finally, When I saw this book I felt the urge to read it.

The book is nothing short of fantastic. It takes you on a journey through the remarkable learnings of this great man and moves you to tears at some points. It's not a very intense read and as the publisher mentions, its more of a compilation of abstract values Ali has learned and picked up over his life. He talks about these values and peppers them with anectodes and incidents in his life.

Whatever you may think of this man, this books is as close to heart as it gets. I was touched by his honesty and and simple logic to life. It will show you a man who is a giant. A giant with the soul of a butterfly.

No matter who you are or where you are from or what you think of Ali, you can benefit from this book. If only to show you a side of Ali you never saw or (like me) be taken through a powerful journey, this book will be a great read for you.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Adam R. Bosch on March 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I was a big Muhammad Ali fan--not only of his boxing, but of his life--and found that I am a bigger fan for having read it.

There are great messages spread like little nuggets of knowledge throughout the book. Ali says the way he judges if he's doing and good with his life is by asking himself if he would be happy with the way he lived today if he died tonight? His life story is broken up with mini lessons from Sufi wisdom and other teachings that apply to his life.

Ali speaks with great depth about his relationship with God and elaborates his thoughts on the role of religion in our lives. One of his great messages is a message of tolerance (he says no one religion is better than the other and they all have the same basic messages, to love our fellow humans).

And while this book is not written with the hand of a literary pro, that might be what's best about it. It's a simple read from a complex man. The book is moving and worth a little time and thought.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This beautiful summary of Ali's life is not just a gift to his kids but to all of America as well. In his own simple words, Ali shares with us his greatest triumphs and his worse agonies. It is all done with the same Ali, verve, upbeat spirit, and of course with smatterings of his homespun poetry. It is a superb collection of wisdom and witticisms that greatly enriches all who read them. The arc of the amplitude of his life is breathtakingly wide in scope. And I am fortunate in having had the good luck to have met him on three different occasions, and to have been touched by his style, grace and confidence on many others. All have been memorable experiences for me personally.

Some of the things he shares in this short volume come as a surprise even to me, one who kept up with his career almost religiously. For instance, I never knew that the Nation of Islam was against his refusal to go to Vietnam, and that he was expelled from the sect as a result of it? Nor did I know that he was refused a seat in a Louisville restaurant in 1960 while holding both the key to the city and while wearing his Olympic Gold Medal? Nor did I even know that he had actually denounced Malcolm X and "sided" with Elijah Muhammad in the feud between his two spiritual leaders: the feud that ended in Malcolm's death? Nor did I know that he was a Sunni Moslem? Or that he had thrown his Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio River?

Although the book only reflects it indirectly, Ali is proof, that, whether black or white, we are all still part of the "American racial holocaust": A part of the Big American racial lie. The truths that Ali could not reveal directly in this book is common knowledge to all the world, that:

America hated Ali the same way it hated Dr.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By William D. Tompkins on March 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Some of the treasures of this book are the apologies Muhammed makes to certainpeople he feels that he hurt in his lifetime. I won't give them away here to spoil it, but they are pretty surprising. Also quite interesting is Ali's ranking of his toughest fights. Surprisingly--Kenny Norton's name does not make the list.

The physical layput of the book is very interesting. The pages alternalte betwwen parch paper and tradtional book pages. The chapter layouts are disjointed but make for interesting visual as you read.

One one criticism is that the flow of the book is a bit disjointed at times so that you dont know where Ali is going with the flow of the chapters. maybe that was done on purpose, but I found it a little off kilter at times.

The graphics in the book have the look and feel of the 'SHROUD OF JESUS' imprint.

Read this book if you are looking for inspiration from a man who could have sounded bitter about his life but chose to meet the challenge head on and live life to the fullest
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kupedawg on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I chose to read The Soul of a Butterfly by Muhammad Ali with Hana Yasmeen Ali because I am a big Muhammad Ali fan. I have enjoyed many pieces of his work from Muhammad's fights, stand-up comedy, poems, to his movies and interviews. This story tells stories about Muhammad's boxing career and also his personal life with his family and friends. Ali likes to describe the hardship of the segregation going on while he was still a young man. Muhammad tells a story of when he had just won the Olympic Gold Medal and came back to the United States and how the medal still didn't get him accepted in the U.S. due to his ethnicity. Muhammad also describes how his family life was when he was growing up and how his family always stuck together even through the tough times.
Muhammad Ali has won 12 awards throughout his lifetime almost all of them involving the sport of boxing. Ali's style of writing is a softer spoken and caring human being rather than his obnoxious and cocky attitude while he was in the ring fighting or in interviews. Ali's book is a biography of his life. Muhammad wanted to reach out to everyone in this book, not only his fans. Ali's purpose of his biography was to tell the loving side of himself and not have everyone only think of him as a boxer. The title fits perfectly with this story not only did Ali want to show his soft side, but he also wrote a poem that describes a butterfly. This is where I imagine he got his idea of a title. Muhammad and Hana Ali really jump around in this biography each chapter describes a different event which keeps the book interesting. The cover of the book is a picture of Muhammad presently and in the background it shows a poster of himself in his boxing days.
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