Bestselling biographer Jonathan Eig discusses his ‘Ali: A Life’ on podcast

Author: Ted Fox

cover art for With a Side of Knowledge podcast, featuring a plated Notre Dame waffle in the background behind the show's name and two dialogue bubbles in the foreground

With a Side of Knowledge is a podcast produced by the Office of the Provost at the University of Notre Dame. It brings listeners informal interviews with fascinating scholars and professionals from both Notre Dame and elsewhere that take place over brunch.

The 15th episode of the show’s third season, “On Muhammad Ali and a Knockout Biography,” was released Thursday, Mar. 19, and features Jonathan Eig, the author of five books, including New York Times-bestselling biographies of Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and most recently, Muhammad Ali. Filmmaker Ken Burns has described him as a “master storyteller.”

Back in February, Eig and host Ted Fox met up at a diner called Stella’s, one of the author’s favorite spots in Chicago, to talk about Ali: A Life, which Eig published with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017. In addition to winning the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, the book was named biography of the year by the British newspaper The Times, one of the 10 best non-fiction books of the year by The Wall Street Journal, and one of The New York Times’ notable books of the year. It was also a finalist for an NAACP Image Award and received a whole host of other honors too numerous to list. Author Joyce Carol Oates called it “an epic of a biography.”

Eig and Fox covered both Ali the boxer and Ali the icon, discussing everything from his trash-talking and what made him such a great fighter to his relationship with the Nation of Islam and what he’s meant in and to the broader culture since bursting onto the scene in the 1960s. They also spent some time on the process of researching and writing the book, including the painful parts, as well as what Eig asked Muhammad Ali when he finally got the chance.

You can visit to learn more about With a Side of Knowledge, which is available through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher or by searching “With a Side of Knowledge” in your favorite podcast app.

You can also listen to the episode with Eig using the player below.