When Mike Tyson first took up reading in 1992, he would sit with a dictionary beside him and look up the words he didn’t know. And the boxer didn’t shy away from some seriously heavyweight titles — reading Voltaire, Tolstoy, Marx, Mao and Dumas, to name just a fraction of his wide-ranging, hard-hitting bookshelf.
Here, the former heavyweight champion lists his eight favourite titles. From a couple of classics to a stack of black literature and autobiographies, it’s a varied pool of paperbacks — with some shock entries and upsets along the sporting, cerebral way. Take a look…
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Tyson says: “This ancient collection of poems is regarded as the prototype to some of history’s most famous hero stories, such as that of Hercules. Literature of this ilk speaks to me because it transcends time, showcasing the flawed, arrogant nature of humanity and our endless quest for the impossible: immortality”.
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
Tyson says: “Written in the 16th century and renowned for being a ruthless manual for rulers, it is a timeless read due to its portrayal of how those in power can and will do whatever they can to stay in their position. It’s a great study and survey of how absolute power can corrupt”.
Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire by Shane White
Tyson says: “In school, we didn’t get taught about guys like Jeremiah G. Hamilton, a Haitian immigrant who became Wall Street’s first black millionaire. I was blown away the first time I learned about him and how he amassed a fortune that would be the equivalent to a quarter billion dollars today”.
Gene Keys: Embracing Your Higher Purpose by Richard Rudd
Tyson says: “This book explores our DNA in a way that is beyond scientific – that perhaps our “gene keys”, or inner language, are the map to our destiny. I go back to this book and my “gene key” profile and am always fascinated by the accuracy of the profile information”.
Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim
Tyson says: “In the impoverished neighbourhood that I grew up in, pimps and drug dealers were heroes, as they were the ones who had money. This memoir highlights the life of Iceberg Slim, a pimp, but one who was much more – he had a scholarly mind that made the most out of his situation”.
The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time, edited by David H. Lowenherz
Tyson says: “Something that I re-read whenever I’m in need of inspiration. No one is impervious to the clenches of love or the magnitude of sadness and sorrow that lost love can bring, and I’m always stimulated by the words of these great thinkers, leaders and authors who write about this timeless theme”.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Tyson says: “We all, at some point or another, try to justify doing something that may be unscrupulous, all to convince ourselves that once we get what we want, we will do good things. Yet, there is a karmic law at play – no deed, good or bad, goes without repercussions and this notion always intrigues me”.
A Black Women's History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross
Tyson says: “The voices and narratives of Black women in the United States are often falsely jumbled and stereotyped into one big collective – but this is a vast, multifaceted and layered resource. I read this book as a remind of my mother, her mother and our ancestors’ struggles, accomplishments, pride and culture”.