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M L Swift's Progressive Book Club - Bird by Bird

This is the first meeting of M. L. Swift’s Progressive Book Club. Basically, participants sign up on the Linky list, read the designated book, and post their thoughts the third Wednesday of the month. Then we visit other participants and discuss our reviews. 

For more info about the group, click here.

This month, we're discussing Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, a popular book among writers. First I'll give you the description, then follow that with my review.

"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.'"


My review . . . if you can call it that.

I debated what to post today, but then I decided honesty is the best policy. 
I hope I don't offend the author or anyone in the club.

It's not that I have a bad review to post. I don't have a review, period. I never got a chance to read the book.

After signing up for ML's hop, I went to Amazon to buy a Kindle copy of Bird By Bird and discovered that the price was $11.99—more than the $10.41 paperback! Well, dang. I paused and considered what to do. 

Maybe I'm cheap, but I don't like paying more than about $5.00 for an ebook. I will pay more for fiction by authors whose writing I like and trust or for a good book on the craft; but that's where the problem lies, my definition of a 'good' book on the craft.

When it comes to books on writing, I like them chock full of specific advice. A sprinkling of the authors thoughts, reminiscences and pep talks are okay, but I want details—lists and diagrams and before-and-after examples that spell out the concepts out for me. Apparently this book isn't one of those.

After reading reviews like 'Funny, inspiring and wise--but get your craft elsewhere,' 'Instructive memoirs,' and 'Insightful and humorous, but also annoying' (which all basically said the same thing), I was unwilling to pay the going price for an ebook that has little actual craft advice and is more of a comedic attitude adjustment.

Still wanting to properly participate in ML's club, I went to the website of my local library and requested a copy of the book be sent to my branch. 

I'm still waiting.

So, I guess that's it. I would have gladly read Bird By Bird, but I can't get my hands on a copy for a price I'm willing to pay. Sorry if I ruffled any feathers.

I can assure you that my PBC post next month will be much better. I've already bought and read Blake Snyder's Save The Cat.


Now it's your turn. 
*holds up tomato shield*
Go ahead. Vilify me in the comments. 


  1. I won't pay over ten bucks for an eBook either, so I understand!

  2. Yep, I understand, too. I read the book last year, couldn't get a library copy this time round, and although I enjoyed it, I can live without buying it and reading it again. Good for you for posting.

  3. I love it. Pure honesty and also shows what we face as writers, the decisions we have to make with our time and money. Kudos to you for writing it up like that. I truly do LOVE IT. One of the best non-reviews I've ever read.

    I appreciate your commitment to the group, so much so that you even wrote something up at all. It was excellent, and shows that even with the best intentions, we can't do it all.

    Thanks, Melissa!

    1. I appreciate that, ML.

      I'm chuckling right now, though. The Library just called and notified me that my book is ready for pick up. Maybe I'll read it after all. ;)

  4. I'm frugal as well when it comes to buying ebooks. I wanted to purchase this book awhile ago because so many writers I know raved about, but halted when I saw the price and the mixed reviews online. So, like you, I'm on the waiting list at the library.

  5. Hi Melissa-- I'm so like that too. Unless I KNOW the book is a very useful one I want to keep around, I refuse to pay a lot for it. I got my copy at a used book sale (Along with Stephen King's, "On Writing" and Annie Dillard's "Writing Life"--- twas a blissful book day for me.) I would say this book is more about feeling inspired and encouraged than getting some kind of nitty-gritty writing advice and specifics. It feeds the soul more than the intellect.

  6. I agree with you on the $5 ebook limit unless it's an author I trust and there is no other cheaper alternative!
    And yeah, I'd have to say that, even with great writing advice, it's not a nuts and bolts how-to book. So I hope when you do read it, it's not disappointing!

    Thanks for your honesty and a great non-review review! I look forward to reading your post next month too! :)

  7. Not everyone loved it. Your allow. We don't want everyone in the book club to agree with each other. That would be boring.

  8. Melissa, I can sympathize! I hardly ever buy books anymore. And I will agree that BBB is not a nuts-and-bolts kind of book (though you may gather from my review/discussion that I don't actually consider that sort of thing all that helpful and get much more out of Lamott's inspiration and the way she grants permission to be imperfect, psychotic, and often downright evil, as long as you also sit down and write).

    Go ahead and read it, since the library finally came through for you. If you hate it after 30 pages, go ahead and stop. Feel free to blame me for the wasted time. I have teens; I'm used to it being my fault and won't even notice :p

  9. As you know, I didn't think the book was worth that price anyway! I completely agree with you, over $5 is a lot for an e-book, I'll maybe go up to $7.99 if it's a big name author and I'd go up to $10 for an e-book for a great writing manual with lots of exercises. Save the Cat is a good one, I've read it before, but will re-read it for the next challenge.

  10. i know how you feel, i was shocked too. but i never took any writing courses so i spent some money on the paperback. i like paper better anyway. i ordered save the cat & a novel too and got free shipping =)

    craft is conveying believable moving stories and i think she showed us how to do that. she also gave examples from her classes & workshops. i feel i got my money's worth, esp with the discussion of the bc!

  11. well, I couldn't get my claws on that book either. That's why I had to sign out of the club. I also thought it was way too expensive, spare the reviews. I like your honesty, hahaha.

  12. I'm not in the Progressive Book Club (yet ... I'm curious enough to check it out) but I agree with you about the high priced e-books. I understand there are costs associated with those as well, but to me it feels nervy to ask upwards of $5 for a book that exists only as ones and zeros on my computer.
    It has helped me to appreciate the local library a whole lot more, though!

  13. Hey,

    I haven't read the other comments (I seldom do - is that bad?) but I appreciate your honesty and if it were my book, I'd tell you myself.

    $11 for an ebook does seem expensive, but I'm not published yet, so what do I know :)

  14. I'd be happy to send you my copy, Melissa, no charge. It's in pristine condition. I never finished it. Didn't like it. At all. My review here: I'll PM you my contact info on Facebook.


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