Welcome to 'The books that shaped me' - a Good Housekeeping series in which authors talk us through the reads that stand out for them. This week, we're hearing from Andi Osho, a writer, actor, stand up comedian and film maker. She's appeared in shows including I May Destroy You, Holby, Curfew and Death In Paradise. Her debut novel, Asking For A Friend, is out now.
What impact have books had on you?
Like with most people, books were my escape. From childhood right into my 20s I devoured fiction - from all genres including fantasy, comedy, romance - I couldn’t get enough. Then I went through a phase of consuming all and every self-help book going. At that point, books became transformative, helping me understand myself and the things I was going through. Then I got very into non-fiction and learning about society through the eyes of people much wiser and worldly than me.
More recently, having ventured into writing myself, I’ve circled back and started enjoying fiction again. It’s reassuringly familiar but at the same time refreshing, especially given the diversity of voices we now have access to. So the impact books have had on me has continually evolved as I’ve got older. I’m wondering what’s next? I sense a lot of gardening books… as soon as I get my own garden!
The childhood book that’s stayed with you...
As a kid there was one book I read time and time again: Bears In the Night by Stan and Jan Berenstain. It's so simple – it only has 24 (different) words apparently and is simply about a group of bear cubs who steal out of their beds one night without their mother knowing a thing about it.
As a kid, I was always quite spirited and free-willed. I wanted to do things on my own and have my own way a lot of the time, much to my mother’s frustration so a story about little rascals making this midnight bid for freedom is right up my street.
But this book is also a metaphor about the relationship between kids and the safety our parents bring. The bears venture out into the world but the minute they get scared, they don’t scatter, or fight, they go straight back to the safety of home. Of mama. Isn’t that what we all do? I bought this for my niece. She’s a bit like I was as a kid so I hope she enjoys this book as much as I did.
Your favourite book of all time...
I really, really wanted my choice to be highbrow and "important" but the truth is one of my all-time faves is from the Asterix The Gaul series by R Goscinny and A Uderzo. In particular, I love Asterix and The Roman Agent. Even now, the memory of it still makes me smile.
The basic premise is that the Romans have made several failed attempts to conquer the Gauls and in this one, they despatch their new secret weapon, this weedy, little fella whose skill is disseminating lies. The Romans hope this will cause the Gauls to turn on each other.
I’ve read this story on multiple occasions and cried from laughter every time. But even though superficially, the series seems like just an amusing David and Goliath story, thematically, it’s also about friendship, community and in this instance, trust. I also love Uderzo, the illustrator, and his use of the form in the storytelling. For example, when this secret agent speaks, his speech bubble appears in increasingly vivid shades of green, the more egregious his lies become – which for some reason, works brilliantly on the page and is hilarious. This particular story also speaks to modern politics and how, often, it’s not violence that controls or conquers the people but the dissemination of lies.
The book you wish you’d written...
I love Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert because she has such a light yet deep approach to being a creative. Some books on the same topic can be quite worthy and serious but Big Magic is funny and frank, while being a really substantial read.
As someone who loves discussing creativity and has even started a podcast on the subject, I would love to have created this wonderful piece. I aspire to Gilbert’s level of honesty and authenticity in her work. Whether she’s documenting her personal experiences, as in Eat, Pray, Love or sharing insights on her creative processes, she’s always so real. That’s my goal with my work, to bring that same truth to it all but also that humour, be it in my books, my podcast or my acting.
The book you wish everyone would read...
Am I allowed two? The Time Management System by Thomas A Limoncelli and Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki. These two books completely changed my relationship with time and money and they are two areas in life that so many of us struggle with.
In my situation, I was squandering both but the moment I read these books, coincidentally around the same time, my attitude, and ultimately my life, changed.
Often, people don’t realise how much they’re haemorrhaging both these precious assets. I certainly didn’t but these books have the power to recalibrate our outlooks. Both were recommended to me by different people and I’m infinitely grateful - though I don’t think they realise the impact they had.
The book that got you through a hard time...
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran was lent to me by a friend and it could not have come at a better time. Perhaps they sensed I needed this. I remember reading it and being blown away by the countless insights and the wisdom packed into this tiny book.
Sometimes, when things get too much, a book that offers a bigger context to experience the world in can really shift our mood. My late 20s were quite a troubled time. I experienced my first bout of depression - at one point I was having constant nightmares and was feeling the fallout from childhood experiences - so this book came at just the right time to help calm my soul. And because it’s broken down into topics (marriage, love, time, death religion etc) it’s very dip-in-and-out-able, which I still do from time to time.
The book that uplifts you...
The Light Fantastic from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett is pure magic. I’m not even sure what prompted me to dive into these books but I loved them from the beginning. The Light Fantastic is so funny, it’s brimming with great characters and because it’s set in a fantasy world, is perfect escapism. I particularly loved Terry Pratchett’s brilliant way of parodying our myths and mythology, our history and society, taking a playful swipe at a different aspect in each book.
Alongside that, what I ultimately loved about The Light Fantastic was the friendship between the two main characters. It was difficult and beautiful. Though I cried tears of laughter as I read this book, by the end I was so moved. Wow. I think I might have to read it again! In life, friendships are some of our most significant relationships and are also a big part of my book, Asking For A Friend. That could be why I love The Light Fantastic so much.
Asking For A Friend by Andi Osho (HQ) is out now.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
In need of some positivity or not able to make it to the shops? Enjoy Good Housekeeping delivered directly to your door every month! Subscribe to Good Housekeeping magazine now.
You Might Also Like