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His Life and Times

About The Book

The first major biography of an American icon, comedian Bill Cosby. Based on extensive research and in-depth interviews with Cosby and more than sixty of his closest friends and associates, it is a frank, fun and fascinating account of his life and historic legacy.

Far from the gentle worlds of his routines or TV shows, Cosby grew up in a Philadelphia housing project, the son of an alcoholic, largely absent father and a loving but overworked mother. With novelistic detail, award winning journalist Mark Whitaker tells the story of how, after dropping out of high school, Cosby turned his life around by joining the Navy, talking his way into college, and seizing his first breaks as a stand-up comedian.

Published on the 30th anniversary of The Cosby Show, the book reveals the behind-the-scenes story of that groundbreaking sitcom as well as Cosby’s bestselling albums, breakout role on I Spy, and pioneering place in children’s TV. But it also deals with professional setbacks and personal dramas, from an affair that sparked public scandal to the murder of his only son, and the private influence of his wife of fifty years, Camille Cosby.

Whitaker explores the roots of Cosby’s controversial stands on race, as well as “the Cosby effect” that helped pave the way for a black president. For any fan of Bill Cosby’s work, and any student of American television, comedy, or social history, Cosby: His Life and Times is an essential read.

About The Author

© Jennifer S. Altman

Mark Whitaker is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir My Long Trip Home, and Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance. The former managing editor of CNN Worldwide, he was previously the Washington bureau chief for NBC News and a reporter and editor at Newsweek, where he rose to become the first African American leader of a national newsweekly.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 16, 2014)
  • Length: 544 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451697995

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Raves and Reviews

“A smart, revealing biography of an iconic American funnyman. . . . A fascinating look at a complicated genius.”

– People

“Whitaker’s wonderfully thorough biography of America’s most accom­plished comedian provides context and depth as he analyzes Bill Cosby’s work.”

– New York Times Book Review

Fluid, admiring, packed with detail and anecdotes.”

– Wall Street Journal

“Invaluable . . . Whitaker makes a convincing argument that issues of race and politics have preoccupied Cosby throughout his life.”

– New Yorker

“Whitaker’s clear-eyed, fair-minded and deftly written book takes up all the momentous stops of Cosby’s life’s journey . . . by allowing us to see Cosby’s tumultuous life in full, Whitaker’s book makes it possible to imagine Bill Cosby being regarded as one of the first prophets of what optimists of all colors believe will someday be a “post-racial America.”


“Absorbing . . . makes a persuasive case for Cosby as a groundbreaking comic and a quiet but far-ranging pioneer of black advancement.”

– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Readable, thoughtful life of the brilliant comedian and . . . an eye-opening book and a pleasure to read.”

– Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Provides an in-depth look at the triumphs and tragedies of a man who has kept America laughing for decades.”

– New York Daily News

“This is a compelling look at a man who has had a major impact on American race relations and television and whose “Cosby effect” helped prime the nation for its first black president.”

– Booklist (starred review)

“An insightful, well-researched exploration . . . a generous portrayal of a complicated yet ultimately compassionate man.”

– Minneapolis Star Tribune

Editor’s Picks

– Ebony

“Written with the entertainer’s cooperation, it is admiring but not fawning, honest but not lancing, with a narrative drive that matches the soaring arc of Cosby’s career . . . [Whitaker] has a masterly command of detail . . . a must-read for the comedian’s fans, and a book that will reward anyone interested in comedy, television or the wellsprings of popular culture.”

– Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A solid, well-researched reminder of Cosby’s impact on the pop-culture landscape.”

– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Cosby: His Life and Times tells a quintessentially American tale of adversity and triumph, influence, betrayal and—yes—lots and lots of laughter.”

– Boston Globe

“The book is at its strongest when the author puts Cosby’s comedy and to education into a broad social and cultural context.”

– Washington Post

“The biography examines the non-comedic side of Bill Cosby, and features interviews with 60 of his closest friends and associates. The author calls Cosby ‘entertainment’s Jackie Robinson, smashing racial barriers and teaching hard truths to the black community.’”

– Sacramento Bee

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