Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

Bird by Bird is my new bible. Not just for writing, but for life – it is my favorite work of nonfiction so far. Stephen King’s On Writing impressed me, but Anne Lamott’s book had me tearing up and laughing at the same time. Her self-deprecating sense of humor and her harsh yet realistic approach to writing won me over. If I could, I would throw this book at every student at my college studying English or Creative Writing. Lamott tackles topics ranging from the neurotic mentality of writing to the woes and joys of publishing; I would recommend Bird by Bird to literally everyone, especially to those who possess even a remote interest in the writing life. Here are a couple of passages that portray her voice and wisdom, the first pertaining to books and the second concerning perfectionism:

“Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Read this book. You will not regret it.

*also, if you’re interested in my thoughts on A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood or Defending Jacob by William Landay, you can check them out here and here respectively


Filed under 5 stars, Book Reviews, Books

10 responses to “Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

  1. Bird by Bird is by far one of my favorite nonfiction books. Great post!

  2. King’s writing manual is like a tool box, Lamott’s is like a box of crayons. It colored my view of stories and writing for years (they say as if they have actually been alive all that long?), and is still the book I go back to when I need to have my life or my writing affirmed. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, man.

  3. Interesting! I love that viewpoint: Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. So true… 🙂 We can pull things apart too easily and massacre their genius, if we’re not careful. I’ll certainly look out for this one and mention it to my writing friends!

    • Annie, you’re right – there comes a point when we should either just let go, accept the imperfections inherent within our work, and have fun. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. Have just read it – and just like you; I love it!
    I haven’t read King yet, but I have read other writers on writing, and to my mind no one really matches Lamott – with the exception of Annie Dillard.

    • Ah yes, Annie Dillard is definitely a character. Lamott creates a standard that’s hard to live up to, so I don’t blame you for not finding anyone quite as good as her yet. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  5. Wow, it had you laughing and tearing up? I really should read this book, it’s been recommended to me since college. But you know, I’ve had On Writing since its publication and still haven’t gotten around to reading that, either. 😛

    I’m glad to hear it’s such a worthwhile book, though! It’s lovely when non-fiction that is touted as a guide of sorts ends up being more than what you expected.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Because you’re so busy I don’t blame you for not getting around to Bird by Bird yet Wendy, but it will definitely help you to reevaluate your perspective on writing. I agree that non-fiction that transcends that of an instruction manual is always a pleasant surprise. Thank you for reading and commenting. (:

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