Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Book description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An essential volume for generations of writers young and old. The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this modern classic will continue to spark creative minds for years to come. Anne Lamott is "a warm, generous, and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps"…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

14 authors picked Bird by Bird as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I recommend this book because I have found that creativity is on its own wavelength, and some days I have to work harder than others to find its harmonious rhythm. Some days the flow state is easy to glide on, and other days I find myself creating impractical methods to achieve the same results. This was until I discovered this book.

Lamont suggests breaking up the tasks into bite-size pieces and giving your whole self to the smaller tasks at hand. My confidence increases with each completed smaller task, and I end up having an enjoyable day.

I'm grateful Lamont…

This is one of my favorite books on writing, and I re-read it this summer when I needed some inspiration to give me the kick in the pants I needed to finish a project I was working on. 

I feel like Lamott writes down all the things the rest of us are too afraid to say. She addresses things like self-doubt, procrastination, fear, and jealousy with such honesty and humor that it had me laughing out loud.

On top of this, she gives such wonderful advice on writing (giving yourself permission to write crummy first drafts is my favorite) that…

Anne is the first one to tell you that writing is hard. And often, what you write as a first draft is terrible…and an essential step.

She helps take away the overwhelm by having you focus on one step at a time. It’s a lot easier to write knowing improving your work is part of the journey…vs expecting perfection at the onset. This is the essential writing book for new and experienced writers.

Each time I read it, I remind myself of something new and explore a new angle in my writing practice. This is a must-have for the creative…

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

Book cover of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Editor Francophile Minnesotan Once and forever Brooklynite

Janet's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This memoir chronicles the lives of three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. The story begins in 1992 in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn as the author reads a notebook written by her grandmother nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year search to find her grandmother’s journals and uncover the hidden interior lives of her mother and grandmother.

Her adventures take her to a variety of locations, from a small town in Iowa to New York, Washington, London, and Paris—and finally to a little village in France, where she is finally able to write the book that will tell her own story, intertwined with the stories of her mother and grandmother.

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

What is this book about?

This story, about three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel, begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother. In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, the author comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was…


Bird by Bird is Anne Lamott's guide on how to achieve your dream of becoming a writer.

She offers sound advice and her personal perspective on how to improve your writing and, at the same time, enhance your life. Lamott effortlessly guides aspiring writers through conceptualizing what they want to say, writing a “shitty first draft,” and polishing off their work for publication. I read it every single year.  

Some writing books are about craft. Others are about the life of the writer. This influential and popular book brings those two modes together. 

No writer writes the perfect story, one perfect word at a time. In writing, perfect is the enemy of good. Since imperfection is necessary, it also becomes desirable.

Never be discouraged by early problems in a text. It is a cognitive distortion to think that “shitty first drafts” – to use Anne Lamott’s earthy term – make you a shitty writer. With experience, you will learn that such early writing is not sculpture, but clay, the…

From Roy's list on writing and why they matter.

I and many other writers think of this book based on the title alone.

There is more to the book that the title, of course, but it is the clue to the meat of the book, which is, and I am paraphrasing: writing is hard to do, so take it one step at a time, sentence by sentence, word by word, bird by bird.

Lamott’s practical writing advice is filled with stories about writing. She is witty and funny and above all, practical. Because writing is difficult, she shines the light on that elephant in the writing room.

Part memoir…

From Landis' list on the writing life.

Lamott recalls when her ten-year-old brother put off a three-month project on birds until the night before it was due. She describes him as immobilized. Their father sagely advised, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Although these soothing words were indisputably not directed towards me, I cannot overstate how regularly they calm me in moments of thinly disguised hysteria. The metaphor is brilliant, plus I adore birds. Lamott frequently reminds the reader how quality writing requires—demands—full attention. So does deep reading. So does deep living. While this book is primarily about writing, it is equally about…

From Devora's list on to singletask what matters most.

No writer, whether aiming for publication or personal reflection, should be without this classic (and classically entertaining) guide that is guaranteed to inspire the writer to put her butt in the chair and to accept the truth that all first drafts are shitty. Honestly, Bird by Bird is one of the first ones that made me believe I could write. Anne Lamott also helped me learn to not take it all so seriously with her notion that we humans “are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are,” in contrast to sheep lice, who she says “do…

From G.'s list on to get you writing.

This classic book is a gentle guide to the art of writing and, I believe, the art of recovery. Bird by Bird... Step by Step.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace," she writes, "only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

Anne Lamott's books are all about grace. Searching. Finding. Being found. Telling the truth. And laughter, often belly-shakingly raucous, which loosens up the tension-filled striving for perfection and control. "Laughter is carbonated holiness,” she writes, four words with such deep, tender power that I want to leap…

I have used this modern classic in my writing classes and students find it both helpful and enjoyable. While only a single chapter is devoted exclusively to dialogue-writing, Lamott's homespun advice and conversational tone wrap her dialogue-writing advice around other story elements such as plotting and characterization so dialogue becomes part of an integrated story rather than saddled with irrelevancy. There's practical advice here on getting started, on joining a writer's group, and on coping with writer's block.

From William's list on writing provocative, dramatic dialogue.

Want books like Bird by Bird?

Our community of 9,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like Bird by Bird.

Browse books like Bird by Bird

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in birds, writer's block, and birdwatching?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about birds, writer's block, and birdwatching.

Birds Explore 162 books about birds
Writer's Block Explore 23 books about writer's block
Birdwatching Explore 32 books about birdwatching