top of page

BUY THE BOOK           B&N        BOOKS A MILLION        INDIEBOUND       



Now out in paperback!


An "Best Book of the Month" for December 2014

One of 9 books recommended as great holiday gifts by the New York Times

Longlisted for the 2014 PEN Biography Prize


"Sharply observed...riveting."              "A pop-culture masterpiece."        

TIME Magazine                                      Cleveland Plain Dealer


"[A] gripping read....The only book you need on its subject."

The Sunday Times (UK)


"An always-fascinating, sometimes horrifying look at the catastrophes and cunning that formed one of our most wicked, smartest comic minds.”

Patton Oswalt, comedian and author of Silver Screen Fiend


 "A book that breaks new ground....Details the amazing way Richard found his way out of the life for which he seemed destined and into the world of the performing arts."

The New York Times


"Absorbing, incisive....With skill and insight, Saul shows how both the best and the worst of Pryor could merge into a great body of work unmatched by anyone who was ever paid to make people laugh." (Four out of four stars)

USA Today 


"A fascinating, exhilarating read. It makes the worlds Pryor inhabited, and Pryor himself, come alive with a thrilling intensity. I didn't want to put the book down and couldn't wait to get back to it." 

Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay


Becoming Richard Pryor offers a keen portrait of the trailblazing comedian, tracing his rough journey from a childhood spent in the red-light district of Peoria, Illinois to his arrival in the 1970s as the "funniest man on the planet" and one of Hollywood's most unlikely and unforgettable stars.


Pryor was at once a great truth-teller and a great fabulator. Becoming Richard Pryor reveals that, while Pryor made himself a legend with his own account of his life onstage, the full truth of that life is more bracing still.  



A digital companion to Becoming Richard Pryor, showcasing over 200 primary documents related to Pryor's formative years in Peoria, Illinois.

Introducing Richard Pryor's Peoria,

a short film on Pryor and his hometown

Named by Slate as one of the top 5 digital history projects of 2014

More Praise for Becoming Richard Pryor

A compulsively readable book that sets a new gold standard for American biography. 

Debby Applegate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography


Pryor has had the good fortune to fall into the hands of a writer with the smarts to understand both his greatness and his madness. A first-rate biography.

Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls


Scott Saul's superb storytelling is a perfect match for his subject—he keeps you mesmerized, laughing, crying, stunned, hungry, and, above all, surprised.

Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original


Becoming Richard Pryor captures Pryor at his most vital, in and out of drug addiction and all too brief marriages, while testing the limits of comedy with brutal honesty and candor....Terrific.

The Daily Beast


Insightful and expansive, Scott Saul's remarkable biography of the now legendary comic chronicles how a sensitive, brilliant man with a hardscrabble past mined his personal life for American entertainment, revolutionizing stand-up along the way.

Playboy ("This Winter's Best Books")


Scott Saul has contributed to The New York TimesHarper's Magazine, The Nation, and other publications. He teaches American history and literature at UC-Berkeley, where he is a Professor of English. 


For review copies, author appearances or any other inquiries, please contact Scott Saul at

Historian and writer


bottom of page