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Publisher's Summary

With the same brilliant combination of humor and warmth she brought to best seller Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott gives us a smart, funny, and comforting chronicle of single motherhood. 

It’s not like she’s the only woman to ever have a baby. At 35. On her own. But Anne Lamott makes it all fresh in her now-classic account of how she and her son and numerous friends and neighbors and some strangers survived and thrived in that all-important first year. 

From finding out her baby is a boy (and getting used to the idea) to finding out her best friend and greatest supporter, Pam, will die of cancer (and not getting used to that idea), with a generous amount of wit and faith (but very little piousness), Lamott narrates the great and small events that make up a woman’s life. 

"Lamott has a conversational style that perfectly conveys her friendly, self-deprecating humor." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

"Lamott is a wonderfully lithe writer.... Anyone who has ever had a hard time facing a perfectly ordinary day will identify." (Chicago Tribune)

©1993 Anne Lamott (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A funny, self-mocking, vivid account by a gifted novelist and journalist." (The Washington Post)

"An enormous triumph.... Charming.... Powerful.... A gracious book, with dozens of lovingly drawn characters and a deep, infectious religiosity throughout. It is also funny." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Featured Article: The Best Audiobooks for Moms


Moms are some of the hardest working, most resourceful, and most amazing people on this planet. The audiobooks on this list show appreciation to all the moms of this world, from new moms to single moms, from moms with adult children to moms who have lost their children. Some of these books are fictional. Some are about self-improvement. Some are personal memoirs. If you're a mom or if you know a mom who needs a listen to boost her spirits, offer reassurance, or simply speak to her, you're sure to find the right one here.

What listeners say about Operating Instructions

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Funny. Uplifting.

Once again Anne LaMott delivers a terrific story of the first year of her baby sons life. Honest and spiritual.

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Absolutely adore this book and Anne

My wife and I are expecting our first baby. A boy :) this book brought laughter and tears and so many emotions to me as a soon to be mother. It also made me wish I could pop over to Anne’s house for a convo because I now feel like we are friends somehow. Thank you Anne for this amazing journal you’ve shared with the world

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Intolerable

I listened to the sample of this, then downloaded the full book bc I enjoyed what I’d heard so far. Unfortunately the book quickly takes a weird turn. It becomes extremely religious and extremely political very quickly, and I realized that I (like some of the other reviewers) would not like to be friends with the author. I found this book bc I loved “Waiting for Birdy” and one review said this was similar. Not the case for me. “Waiting for Birdy” was beautifully sentimental and entirely focused on the author’s experience of becoming a mother. “Operating Instructions” is more like the author’s diary, and includes her thoughts on any topic that floats into her mind. For me, this was unwelcome and seemed unfocused and oddly argumentative.

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  • Andrew Sharp
  • 05-30-20

My son is 2 and I was able to relate

This was an amazing journey. So much of her son's first year I was able to relate to still, even though my boy is over 2. I grieve for the the sad parts. Anne clearly had a lot of wise and loving people around her and her son.