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I Didn't Ask to Be Born (but I'm Glad I Was)

I Didn't Ask to Be Born (but I'm Glad I Was)

3.8 24
by Bill Cosby, George Booth (Illustrator)

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Charlie Chaplin. Groucho Marx. Richard Pryor.

Over the past century, few entertainers have achieved the legendary status of William H. Cosby Jr. His successes span five decades and virtually all media, remarkable accomplishments for a kid who emerged from humble beginnings in a Philly housing project.

And the world's most beloved funnyman is back with I


Charlie Chaplin. Groucho Marx. Richard Pryor.

Over the past century, few entertainers have achieved the legendary status of William H. Cosby Jr. His successes span five decades and virtually all media, remarkable accomplishments for a kid who emerged from humble beginnings in a Philly housing project.

And the world's most beloved funnyman is back with I DIDN'T ASK TO BE BORN, his first humor book since the best selling Cosbyology. Cosby brings us more of his wonderful and hilarious insights into the human condition.

Sample chapters include:

  • Missing Pages: Bill Cosby owns eight Bibles, all written in English. They were published at different times. One of them in 705. Another one was printed in 1709. One came over on the Santa Maria. They're all very old but none are autographed. One thing these Bibles have in common is the fact that he's convinced there are missing pages.

  • The Morphamization of Peanut Armhouse: When Peanut's mother calls him to dinner and he refuses to leave the softball field, a young Bill Cosby witnesses a sight that haunts him to this day.

  • If (But not by Rudyard Kipling): If Native Americans knew then what they know now, America would be quite a different place.

  • Too Late For Me But Perhaps Not For You: How Bill Cosby handles a teenage daughter who refuses to clean her room.

Cosby's millions of fans will be excited and delighted to pick up this truly brilliant book from a comedic legend.

Editorial Reviews

This is Bill Cosby's first humor book in a decade, but that doesn't mean that this beloved septuagenarian has slipped into obscurity. This talented stand-up comedian, stand-up guy has a 1.5 million Twitter followers and hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook and Myspace. I Didn't Ask to Be Born manifests Cosby's trademark observational humor, complete with character creations who rival Fat Albert, Mushmouth, and Weird Harold. The funnyman's gentle, grandfatherly persona helps make this long-requested follow-up to Cosbyology a pleasant package of giggles and sighs of agreement. (P.S. George Booth's light-hearted cartoons form the perfect accompaniment to Cosby's friendly wit.)

Publishers Weekly
Dealing with a defiant teen who refused to clean her room, claiming, "I didn't ask to be born," the 73-year-old Cosby replied, "Neither did I." In his first humor book since Cosbyology (2002) and his dietary digressions in I Am What I Ate (2003), Cosby's observational humor goes into high gear with clever commentaries on everything from erectile dysfunction and social networking to the Bible and bird feeders. He introduces new characters, Peanut Armhouse and Old Mother Harold, and he describes "the strangest flying thing I had ever seen": a blue jay, irritated by a squirrel on a bird feeder, gave it "a giant goosing." and the two went "airborne, with the blue jay's head and shoulders inside the orifice of the squirrel." A lengthy comical centerpiece about the Bible's missing pages is the book's best: "If I went to any of the seven networks and handed them Genesis and said, ‘This guy has written a spec outline for a new show,' they'd want to know where the characters are going to be in episode 89 and then pass on the whole project." Along with such topics as Native Americans, Cabbage Patch Dolls, and his love for the Universal horror films of the 1930s, he recalls events from his childhood and teen years, including his first date at age 15. George Booth's funny cartoon illustrations make a fine fit with these amusing essays, all written with the amiable and accessible lightweight lilt Cosby's eager readers expect. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Praise for I DIDN'T ASK TO BE BORN:"

This is a book with which everyone can identify on some level; it is humor at its best."—Library Journal, starred review"

George Booth's funny cartoon illustrations make a fine fit with these amusing essays, all written with the amiable and accessible lightweight lilt Cosby's eager readers expect."—Publishers Weekly"

The Cos again waxes funny on the commonplace happenings of life as we may know it."—Kirkus

Library Journal
A better subtitle for this book would be But I Digress. Written in the same fashion as Cosby's highly successful Cosbyology, his latest is a welcome collection of irresistibly funny observations and reminiscences. He writes the way he performs his stand-up comedy—he rambles on but keeps you interested to see whether he eventually returns to his original topic (he does, with his usual finesse). Cosby's storytelling covers his experiences parenting as well as his own childhood memories growing up in Philadelphia in the 1940s; a tirade about the once-popular Cabbage Patch dolls; and his hilarious thoughts on what it must have been like in the Old West (circling the wagons in under eight seconds takes practice!). In the delightful tongue-in-cheek tradition of Mark Twain, Cosby gives his view of what Adam and Eve must have experienced as the world's first husband and wife. VERDICT This is a book with which everyone can identify on some level; it is humor at its best. Highly recommended.—Richard A. Dickey, Washington, DC

Product Details

Center Street
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 5.64(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt

I Didn't Ask to Be Born

(But I'm Glad I Was)
By Bill Cosby

Center Street

Copyright © 2011 Bill Cosby
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780892969203


Ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to read is a perfect example of the perfect guest on a talk show. At the time of this interview, I believed strongly that I had found the format for the rest of my career. The ratings would prove me wrong, I’m sorry to say.

However, after thousands of hours of interviews of human beings who have something unusual in their lives—don’t we all—this young lady, with her southern accent and completely natural delivery, represents the most perfect guest and the most enjoyable. Not narcissistic. Not arrogant. Just the most fantastic guest.

And so I am proud to present to you my most perfect moment as a television talk show host. (I leave out the game show part because I think that’s what caused the cancellation.)

Bill Cosby: Marcia Brody. Marcia Brody: Hello. Bill Cosby: How are you? Marcia Brody: I’m fine. Bill Cosby: Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. Marcia Brody: That’s right. Bill Cosby: Born? Marcia Brody: No, I’m originally from North, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: That’s what I thought. Yeah, I don’t know too many people from Cheltenham that talk like that. Marcia Brody: Well, I lived over twenty-five years down south. Bill Cosby: What was the name of the place? Marcia Brody: North. Bill Cosby: Nowith? Marcia Brody: No. N-o-r-t-h. North. It’s in South Carolina. In South Carolina, it’s a little town called Due West. And North— Bill Cosby: Wait, wait, slow down. In what—North Carolina? Marcia Brody: No, South Carolina. In South Carolina, there’s a little town called Due West. And North is ninety miles southeast of Due West. That’s right. North is south of the capital, Columbia. You understand? Bill Cosby: I was doing fine until you came out here. Then you started talking and I got lost. And I’m not in a car and I didn’t care to go anywhere. Now you have me someplace I have no idea where I am. I’m in the town North south of Due West. Marcia Brody: No, no. Bill Cosby: Well, where am I? Marcia Brody: It’s North, comma, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: In North South Carolina. Marcia Brody: North, comma, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: Comma is the name? Marcia Brody: No, no! You put a comma in between North and South Carolina. Bill Cosby: I’m in the state of South Carolina… Marcia Brody: Right, right. Bill Cosby: But I’m in a city called North? Marcia Brody: It’s not a city; it’s a town. Bill Cosby: A town. Okay, let me ask you this. Where is the railroad? Marcia Brody: Oh, the railroad is right in the middle of the town. Bill Cosby: That’s right. Now, stop there. Now, where are the black people? Marcia Brody: I don’t know. I mean they’re all around, I guess. I don’t know. Bill Cosby: They’re not all around. They’re either on this side of the track or that side of the track. Are we Due North or southwest? Marcia Brody: You’re in North. Bill Cosby: I’m in North. Marcia Brody: Right, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: Here we go again. Marcia Brody: Anyway… Bill Cosby: No, there’s no anyway. I’m sitting in my car and I’m lost. I want to find my people. And you’re trying to give me directions. Now, okay, let’s put it this way. Where is the river? Marcia Brody: Which river? Bill Cosby: Is there an East River? Marcia Brody: I don’t know. Bill Cosby: Is there a West River? Marcia Brody: I don’t even know where the river is. Bill Cosby: Now I know how you wound up in Cheltenham. Marcia Brody: Anyway, I come from a family of seven children and five of us are living and we’re all grandparents. So we all like to know what’s happening with everybody else. So I put out a family paper three times a year. Bill Cosby: Do you have a sports column? Marcia Brody: No, but you’ll be the headlines on my next paper. Oh, my goodness! Yeah! Bill Cosby: Why don’t you just send them the video? Marcia Brody: What video? What kind of video? Bill Cosby: The video of this show. You make a video of it. Marcia Brody: I don’t have a video of it. Bill Cosby: No. You’re correct. We don’t have one yet. Marcia Brody: Yeah. What? Are you making one? Bill Cosby: Yeah. I’m going to make a video for you. And then you can— Marcia Brody: Oh. Well, I have three sisters in South Carolina and I have a brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: You got a pen? Marcia Brody: Three sisters in South Carolina. A brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: What part of South Carolina? Marcia Brody: One’s in Charleston. One’s in Beaufort. One’s in Bishopville. Then I have a brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: What part? Marcia Brody: Oxford. You want to send it… you want to send it to all my nieces and nephews? Bill Cosby: No, no, it’s too many of them. I’m not sending to the grandchildren either. See, I’ll just make it up for the ones in Charleston, Beaufort, and Bishop. Marcia Brody: Bishopville. Bill Cosby: Okay. Marcia Brody: And don’t forget my brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: No, Oxford, I got that. Marcia Brody: Okay, then how about my son in New Jersey? He lives near Trenton. Bill Cosby: How did you get somebody in New Jersey? Marcia Brody: Oh, he’s the one that made me the grandmother. Bill Cosby: Ah! How do you like that? Marcia Brody: Oh, it’s nice. Really is nice. Bill Cosby: They drop the baby off? Marcia Brody: Where?

And so there you have it. The perfect onetime conversation. And I say “onetime conversation” because I don’t know what other subjects she could discuss if we brought her back. And, in fact, nobody said—maybe because the show didn’t last that long—we’ve got to have her back on the show. Then she would come back and it would be a nightmare because she would not be as wonderful as before. What she did the first time created an unbeatable mark, whether you’re high-jumping or doing the limbo.

But I do believe it is great that we did this one thing together.


Those of you who are from, like, zero up to about forty-five years old, I’m going to tell you a story that happened in the fifties. It’s about a girl named Bernadette Johnson. But I want you to know I’m not bragging.

When old people start to talk about “their time,” there is a tendency for young people to doze. And young people always say:

That was before my time.

But I just want young people to know we’re not bragging about what we had to do in those days. You’re not bragging when you talk about having to walk five miles in eight-foot snowdrifts. There’s nobody on the face of the earth born who woke up knowing that he or she had to walk five miles in eight feet of snow, with no shoes, who said:

Oh goody! I’ll have something to tell young people.

No, you don’t do that. You say the same thing anybody else would say:

Why me?

And your parents say:

Because I had you.

Now, when I was a kid, there was no law protecting us from old people. Let me put it to you this way. There was no saying:

Well, he’s having a bad day.

There was no psychologist, no psychiatrist, that anybody paid attention to, because crazy people didn’t want to be crazy. See, crazy people get mad if you say they’re crazy. They didn’t want you to know they were crazy, so they were always trying to hide the fact that they were crazy. But everybody knew they were crazy.

Now, when I reminisce about the forties, I repeat, I am not bragging. I’m just relating my experience growing up and looking back on it today. It would be the same if Charles Lindbergh sat here to talk about his flight across the Atlantic in a single-engine plane. He’s not bragging; he’s telling the truth. He would’ve loved to have had a twin-engine jet, with instruments, and radar, and all of that, so he could’ve gone to sleep.

When I was thirteen, there was a girl, many girls, actually, and they always seemed to be armed with some kind of question I wasn’t ready for. One girl, she was just gorgeous. So I went up to her. Now, in those days you would go up to a girl and ask:

Would you like to go out with me?

You didn’t need to do much more than that. Just walk up and say:

Would you like to go out with me?

We were thirteen so she would just say yes or no. Even if she said yes, you weren’t going to do much, because girls were taught to make the male behave. If you tried anything, they’d say:


It was like Olympic boxing.


Yes, okay.

And our job was to try to sneak up on her, so that she didn’t really think we were touching or anything. But she would still say:


And you would stop.

So I went up to this one girl and said, “Would you like to go out with me?”

And she said, “Why do you want to go out with me?”

I said the only thing I was armed with:

“Because I love you.”

And I did. I did love her. I really did. That’s why I told her I loved her.

She asked me, “What is love?”

Now, this is a thirteen-year-old girl, asking me “What is love?” I’m not prepared. I just thought I would use the highest form of a feeling for her and she would “go out with me.” What’s wrong with her? Asking me “What is love?”

“It means that I love you,” I finally said.

“But what is love?”

“I just love you.”

And I was getting mad at her. I don’t love her anymore. Never mind. You ask all these questions, man.

When I turned fourteen, there was another girl. She was beautiful. One of the really great-looking ones, and like all the great-looking girls, she had an ugly friend. So you had to talk to the ugly friend first and get permission to talk to the great-looking one. Eventually I got past the ugly friend and was able to talk to the great-looking one, and the first thing I said to her was “I would like to go out with you.”

She said—very nicely, I remember—she said, “I would like for this to be platonic.”


Excerpted from I Didn't Ask to Be Born by Bill Cosby Copyright © 2011 by Bill Cosby. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

BILL COSBY is an American entertainer, comedian, actor, producer, author, educator, musician, and activist. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he earned a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts.

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I Didn't Ask to Be Born: (But I'm Glad I Was) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
This novel is hysterical, to sum it up in one word. It will be hard to write a review without giving anything integral to the hilarity of the novel away. The reader gets to see a younger Bill Cosby, who is funny even at a young age. He instills his natural personality into this fairly short nonfiction book. Bill Cosby literally anticipates what the other person would say to him, say, in a talk show and manages to provide funny one liners. The first chapter of the book opens with a conversation between him and who he calls the "perfect talk show guest." They go back and forth about a simple, silly topic-a town called North in South Carolina...leading to much confusion. He then moves on to even funnier memories, closing with a story about his grandchildren and the ever elusive Santa Claus. There are little illustrations scattered throughout the book, right where they will be the funniest. This book is recommended to teens/young adults/adults alike.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again Mr. Cosby shared his humor of the many antics that only children can do through their imagination. Indeed, many memories came to the surface with our mothers calling us, making horses out of brooms, and other ways that were playful without technology or violence. Just imagain, no iPad, iPod, and no computer or T.V. Just a radio that would create your own vision of the characters telling the stories. How time has flown by, and I wonder if we are better off with all the "things" we have, than a child's imagination. I doubt it! If you question my thinking, ask a "kid" to make a baseball?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of Cosby's since the day's of buck-buck. It is so refreshing to be able to pick up a book listed as comedy and not have to put up with the vulgarity that many comedians today use to get a laugh.
Fan4SFGiants More than 1 year ago
Another Literary Masterpiece By Bill Cosby! I Don't Know Why I Was Born is another literary masterpiece by Bill Cosby! Bill Cosby's explanations of romance in the black housing projects of Philadelphia are simply  hilariously discussed here. I Don't Know Why I Was Born is a must read for any Cosby fan!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am fairly certain that is a Nook error. I have been having stuff like that pop up everywhere. Bill is more than just educated; it takes a true genius to come up and KEEP coming up with great, intelligent humour. And don't you DARE insult America's greatest comedian again.
MaxBet More than 1 year ago
This was a light, humorous read that was easily finished on a cross-country flight. HOWEVER, grammatical errors in professionally published material drive me crazy! THE WORD "IT'S" IS A CONTRACTION FOR "IT IS!" THE POSSESSIVE FORM OF THE WORD "IT" IS "ITS" - NO APOSTROPHE! Bill, you are an educated man. You should know this.
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I have read most of Cosby's books but this one was a waste of time and money
OOSABookClub More than 1 year ago
Bill Cosby’s “I Didn’t Ask to Be Born (But I’m Glad I Was)” is life as everyone experiences it but few take time to note it. How we perceive our circumstances has value as a learning tool if we are able to find humor in some of the things that are ‘hard pills to take’ when originally experienced. This book is something that makes you laugh out loud because only you can know what you are laughing about. Cosby gives us circumstances that make us remember our own characters, situations, and events while imputing humor in what may have been a serious, sobering thing when first experienced. This is an idea compendium to read while on a flight, on a bus, waiting in line or anywhere where the passage of time is moot but necessary as it is guaranteed to deliver you to your destination in good spirits and uplifted. Reviewed by: Gail