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Publisher's Summary

An essential volume for generations of writers young and old, Bird by Bird is a modern classic. This 25th anniversary edition will continue to spark creative minds for years to come.  

For a quarter century, more than a million readers and listeners - scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities - have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, bighearted, homespun advice. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom passed down from Anne’s father - also a writer - in the iconic passage that gives the book its title: 

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

©2019 Anne Lamott (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Superb writing advice...hilarious, helpful and provocative." (New York Times Book Review)

"A warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer's world and its  treacherous swamps." (Los Angeles Times

"One of the funniest books on writing ever published.” (The Christian Science Monitor)

"A gift to all of  us mortals who write or ever wanted to write...sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise, and alternately cranky and kind - a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing now, while we still can." (Seattle Times

What listeners say about Bird by Bird

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Rhythm of Writing

There is something about her writing. Weeks after finishing this title, all I can remember is the rhythm of words. “Still, I believe in lists and I believe in taking notes, and I believe in index cards for doing both. … I actually have one writer friend—whom I think I will probably be getting rid of soon—who said to me recently that if you don’t remember it when you get home, it probably wasn’t that important. And I felt eight years old again, with something important to say that had suddenly hopped down one of the rabbit holes in my mind, while an adult nearby was saying priggishly, ‘Well! It must not have been very important then.’” Like this small excerpt, funny, sensitive, and most encouraging.

9 people found this helpful

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Essenital for every writer

"Bird By Bird" isn't about the craft of writing as much as it as about what it means (and what it takes) to be a writer. Lamott doesn't walk you through adverbs, structure, language, or any other essentials writers must have in their toolboxes. If you want someone to sit down, and talk to you about the technicals of writing for six-plus hours, this is not the book for you. And, that is why I LOVED it.

Instead, Lamott shares truths about the shared experience of writing and being a writer. Throughout, she seeks to reassure the wary would-be writer that what they're feeling, thinking, and/or experiencing is 100% normal. Lamott talks candidly about her own career, personal life, and inspirations (and let downs) that it's easy to relate to her experiences. She's accessible and sympathetic to her fellow writers. And, Lamott never talks down to her listeners/readers.

This book will give some amazing insights into how to write, but it will not teach you how to do it. Instead, it offers something more unique and far more valuable in my opinion; and that is the discovery of what it really means to label yourself a "writer".

A must-read.

8 people found this helpful

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The Truth is breathtaking

I have used what what she has told me to write what is hidding within the folds of the ungoverned mind of mind. This has been an eye opener for me. Thank you Ann.

3 people found this helpful

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Want to know what writing is like?

A book by a writer for writers about writing.. Can not go past this definition.

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great writing motivator

really enjoyed the humor. it helped me so get started on my own writing without fear.

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Excellent Book On Writing

Anne Lamont has written an amazing book of great ideas mixed with interesting stories to keep your attention. Highly recommended.

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I couldn't finish

Writer assumes listener will have the same feelings as she does by making much of the narrative in second person. It is exhausting to listen to all these neurotic insecurities she assumes everyone has, and I couldn't relate to the "you will sit down and this and that will go threw your head." Had she told the story as her own, I would have been able to find the relatable bits and pieces and take an interest in contrasting view point. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish the book.

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Susan was great at 1.5 speed

I'm trying to read as many books on the craft as I can this year.

Bird by Bird is a Chicago favorite, so many people say it's a book that changed their life.

It was not for me, but I understand the value in its style. Idk how this will come across but this felt extremely feminine. It spoke a lot about insecurities, I didn't relate to. But from that perspective it did help me understand a portion of my female writing friends.

One secret it gave up seemingly unintentionally is that most writers go through a process of needing to write about what they know and what's on their heart to write - however publishable work comes from the idea of adding value to the world.

Who needs your writing? Who is your audience? Who benefits? Think of audience along all the steps, the beta reader, the agent, the publisher/editor and the audience.

The other pearl of wisdom that I felt was touched on subtextualy was... A work doesn't have to be good to be worthwhile. The process is important. She says it somewhat explicitly when talking about those that write for their grandchildren.

Anyway. The book is great, all the other reviews are correct, it is a unique perspective and inside look, the prose is pretty and you'll find it helpful. You'll enjoy the pace and voice.

But it is not save the cat. It is not writing fiction. It's not an engineering manual. And that's exactly why it's so popular.

2 people found this helpful

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A Must-Read for Writers

Super fun to listen to and laugh at yourself while laughing with/at the author about the struggles of being and trying to be a writer. Valuable insights and reminders of what you’re trying to do, why you’re doing it and how to keep doing it. I loved it!

2 people found this helpful

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Really wanted to like this

This book came highly recommended by a few people in my writer's group so I was expecting it be be full of basic but sound advice for people who are still trying to navigate the writing process. I found part one of the book to be useful and validating with a good amount of advice and reassurance that it is normal to struggle.

The last two-thirds of the book, however, were difficult to get through. When the advice ran dry and the book turned into basically the same personal story in different settings over and over again, I started to notice that the narrator's voice, which I first found snappy and charming, started to get annoying. I kept my ears peeled for more good advice, but it never came. I ended up listening to the rest on a higher speed just to get through it.

I think it's also worth noting that the author has an archaic perspective on disability and race that was very difficult for me to listen to, and others may feel similarly. Bottom line: if you're a newish writer and have some audible credits to burn it may be worth your while to purchase this book. I plan to re-listen to the first section and take notes on the advice I found valuable so I never have to listen to the book again.

1 person found this helpful