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Monday, August 01, 2011

Motherhood Mondays: The best book...

My lovelies, have you read the book Operating Instructions? I'm reading it right now, and it's quickly soaring to the top of my list of favorite books.

The brilliant Anne Lamott tells the story of her first year as a mother to a sweet chubby baby boy; she was single, 35 and a recovering alcoholic. Her honest, smart and up-roaringly hilarious descriptions of new motherhood--including both meltdowns and sacred moments--made me laugh out loud and tear up. I LOVED this book!

Have you read it? What did you think? (I just ordered her book Bird by Bird, too.) What other books are you reading? I'd love to hear!

P.S. One more Motherhood Monday post coming up...

111 comments:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read it, but would love to!

Leslie said...

I read it just last month. Love love love it.

Joanna Goddard said...

leslie, weren't you dying laughing? she is such a genius--and so wise and wonderful.

margaux said...

not yet, but it's on my list! another beautiful, beautiful book on the same topic is "the blue jay's dance" by louise erdrich. and i'm not even a mama yet!

Maggie said...

sounds pretty heartfelt. :)

Gemma said...

my sister, our mom , and i all read this book at the same time, and we talked about it non stop. wonderful.

margaux said...

sorry. had to share a quote from the blue jay's dance: "Any sublime effort has its dark moments. Perhaps, if anything, the meaning in this book for others may be this: Here is a job in which it is not unusual to be, at the same instant, wildly joyous and profoundly stressed."

Lindsey said...

One of my very favorite books!!! I adore it. xoxo

Diana Mieczan said...

Sounds like a great read. Totally going to check it out. Happy Monday, Joanna:)

Joanna Goddard said...

margaux, i love that!!

allison said...

YES! loved this book too! and you hit it on the head...it should totally be required reading for new parents/grandparents!!

Andrea Cajucom said...

My girlfriend gave it to me the day we came home from the hospital with our (then) two day old son. I read it every time I nursed him, which meant I finished it in about 3 days. It was a life saver and made me feel like it was ok to feel the way I did. :) I loved it! It is now a gift I will always give to people with newborns...

Anonymous said...

I like Anne Lamott but have not read this. I will sure do it. I also enjoyed Life among the savages by Shirley Jackson. So much fun!

pinkshirtsandcarwrecks said...

I love that book and I'm not even a mother! Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers - she's so funny and honest, writing all-out about her fears and insecurities and makes the reader feel not alone. Not often can an author be both hilarious and full of grace.

jamie said...

I love this book too, Joanna, however I have ran into a few mamas who thought I was a monster for enjoying it! Apparently they didn't have babies who cry :-)

Mehrsa said...

I read this after my first and laughed and cried all the way through it. She's hilarious!

Jackie Reitzes said...

Have you read Bird by Bird? My favorite book on writing ever-- think you'd like it, as a fellow writer :) Traveling mercies is lovely, too... i think if she started a religious cult i would follow ;)

Joanna Goddard said...

my friend loves anne lamott so much that she has a tattoo that says "bird by bird" (the title of one of anne's books) on her arm.

Anonymous said...

Love Anne Lamott! Love Operating Instructions! I devour anything she writes. Sadly, as the mother of a 6 year old and 3 year old, I don't do nearly as much reading as I would like. I have hope that I will one day read again! :)

jean goddard said...

I will have to read that to see what you new mothers go through these days!! Looks very interesting. :)

Carolynn Cecilia said...

I read it a few years ago and loved it. Lamont is great. My favorite of hers though is Bird by Bird. It's about writing and life, both of which I participate in.

kate said...

I have read this book approximately 5,000 times since receiving it as a graduation gift from college 15 years ago. It is a good life guide for any point in your life, but it definitely came off the shelf again the day I found out I was having a boy. I always find it somewhat crazy to think that little Sam is now, what, 22 years old?

Joanna Goddard said...

haha, anonymous, i'm with you on the slow pace of reading! i've been reading this book for 2 months now! :)

jenna said...

I’m not even a mom and I loved this one – couldn’t put it down, in total stitches. Anne Lamott is the best.

fidlerflute said...

I read this during the first few weeks of motherhood as I was battling sleep deprivation, shingles, and learning how to breastfeed. I really just wanted it all to end and couldn't understand why people didn't tell you how awful it could be. This book saved me just because I new that there were others out there that struggled, too. And, even though Anne appeared to be suffering from postpartum depression, she still came out of it in the end, loving her new little boyfriend.

Karen Travels said...

Ordering this RIGHT now...I will be a single momma at 34 to a boy too!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip. THis looks like a great read!

heather said...

I first read this book while I was pregnant, and then reread it again when my daughter was born. I think I referred to it more often than my Dr Sears babybook, just as a check that this too was normal, and then that this too shall pass, and let's just laugh about it in the meantime. I still think of her discription of her son's hand as a starfish, somehow I've always held onto that image as part of the beauty of a newborn baby.

sumslay said...

I just looked her up, and it turns out little Sam is a father now!!! I'll have to check her out. I love humorous, semi-autobiographical writers. Nothing's more entertaining than life and recognizing that it's never perfect.

Janna said...

I am not a mother, nor will I be one in the near future, but I get such joy from reading all of these motherhood posts!

Lindsay said...

I love it, too. :) I started it when I was pregnant and still digesting what it meant that I was going to be a mother...and am almost ashamed to admit that I'm not done with it yet and Josephine is 8 1/2 months old. I loved it so much that I didn't want to rush it. ;)

Kacie @ A Collection of Passions said...

I'm thrilled about this recommendation. I am adding it to my list right now!

Kacie
http://www.acollectionofpassions.blogspot.com/

shelley said...

Anne Lamott was recommended to me in a writing class that I took last winter. I happened to find Operating Instructions on a shelf at a consignment store a few weeks after the class ended; for 50 cents -I bought it. Love it!!

I wish I had this book as my 'baby bible' when I was a single mom raising my daughters!

I laughed a lot at every real-life event and cringed at the raw, honest emotion, but mostly... I smiled and reminisced because I could so easily relate!

Nancey said...

The. Most. Wonderful. Book. ever. I read it while I was home with a new baby and had not a clue as to why I wanted to jump out of the window half the time! I didn't and that was 7 years ago. She makes you feel like you're completely normal. I love Anne Lamott, required reading in my book!

Taylor {The Proposal Enthusiast} said...

I'm not quite on the path to motherhood yet. But I'll have to write this down for future reference. But I am reading the Hunger Games series right now in preparation for the moving coming out and they are amazing. A very easy but entertaining read.

asiajane said...

I loved that book-- such a great read!

Anonymous said...

I was given the book a year ago when I had my daughter. I had never heard of the book (now almost 20 years old). I felt like I had a hilarious friend going through new motherhood with me. She put to words everything I was feeling. Highly recommend it.

leathergal said...

It's on my request list a the library! I'm currently reading two awesome books: Room by Emma Donoghue and The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels-A love story by Ree Drummond (both awesome!)

Gabriela said...

I havent read this book, but her other novels are great! I would recommend them all.

Caroline said...

Sounds like a great read! I will have to check it out with #2. The book that saved me with my daughter (now 2) was Circle of Moms. Sounds like this book, but also offers really sound, sane advice on things like how to get your baby to sleep through the night. Highly, highly recommend!

Jhope said...

I read it soooo many yrs before I had my girl, and it really stuck w me. She is a wonderful story teller!

Caroline said...

Not Circle of Moms (there's mommy brain), but A Mother's Circle! Sorry.

Joanna Goddard said...

haha, caroline, thank you for the tip!! xo

Wallace said...

I haven't read this one, but I've read a few of her others. She's such a beautiful author; incredibly relatable and honest! One of my favorite essayists. She also writes for Salon if you're interested in more of her work.

beth said...

i haven't read this one, but have read all of her other books. i always end up devouring them; anne is one of my absolute favorite authors. i've been saving 'operating instructions' for the day i'm a momma, though. :)

Joanna Goddard said...

ps. i can't believe the book was written so long ago -- i'm just realizing that now from reading these comments. amazing + shocking! the book is timeless.

Joanna Goddard said...

oh, thank you, wallace! am going to check out her writing now.

Maiz Connolly said...

Okay, that's next on my list! I loved reading about being a new mother when I first became one myself. I read a book called "The Newborn Mother" while nursing my first, and although the book was dated and not super-memorable, the one thing that really stuck with me was this: some of the mothers interviewed in the first few months of motherhood described the most awful and intense feelings, and then six months later they said, "Oh, really? Did I say that?"

Jenny said...

I haven't read it for years and years, but I loved it!

ellen said...

I read it years ago and loved it. I've since read most of her books. She's amazing.

Sadie Kaufman said...

I read it while lying in bed recovering from the birth of my daughter. I was a hilarious and very moving read. I recommend it to all new moms for sure!

Providential said...

you must read Hard Laughter! it is her best!!! although Operating Instructions had me pee my pants a few times. xo

Julia's Bookbag said...

I almost threw up from laughing at this book -- I walked around for a solid 2 weeks quoting it!! She wrote down on paper the things I was thinking inside my head.

Heidi @ Sweet Birdie's Nest said...

Ooh, I loved Bird by Bird. Can't wait to grab this one, too. I love anyone who gives an honest take on motherhood.

Millie Wamsted said...

I LOVED this book! This and "Great with Child" by Beth Ann Fennelly kept me sane after the birth of my first child.

SwoozieQ75 said...

About to start trying on #2 - will hold off reading until (fingers crossed) I am blessed with the next one.

Not on topic of motherhood - but just finished The Keep by Jennifer Egan, and read Look At Me and Visit From The Goon Squad before that - LOVE her.

K said...

I LOVE Anne Lamott. So funny and insightful. I haven't read anything by her since high school, but I should dip back in to her...Thanks for reminding me!

Follow Your Own Way said...

i love anne lamott. what a beautiful mind.

Ali said...

I'll check that one out next. Right now I'm listening to on audio (during the day) and reading (at night) Wendy Mogel's "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee". It's just full of sound, unpretentious advice for raising a brave, independent, loving, unspoiled child. She uses the time-tested lessons of parenting as laid out in the Jewish Bible as a guide. Full of good advice to help you stay unanxious and create a close family unit with well-adjusted children. After that article in the Atlantic came out a couple weeks ago, everyone started recommending this one to me and I'm glad I checked it out! It's really great!

Callista said...

I just read the book FNo Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene. It's about her family's trials and tribulations through the adoption of four (or was it five?) children. I had exactly the same reaction to it that you had to Operating Instructions. I cried regularly, laughed constantly, and by the end it joined the ranks of my favorite books. I would highly recommend reading it. Although I'm not a parent myself, her stories and questions about what it means to be a family are universally relatable.

Dana@TheSundaySweet said...

Hi Joanna! I just sent you an email about my online bake sale for the OC Walk to Remember that is going on today. I hope you can help! Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Bird By Bird is wonderful!

Lavender and Lilies said...

I need to read it. I have never heard of it!

Anonymous said...

Anne Lamott is awesome. You should read Traveling Mercies too! Also, here's an interview of her which is long but really great, of course: http://youtu.be/PhP5GmybvPM

Emma said...

I love this book. Lamott is one of my favorite writers. I can't recommend her non-fiction highly enough.

Michelle {lovely little things} said...

I haven't read it yet, but I really enjoyed "Bird by Bird."

Chelsea@BucketsAndBunches said...

This sounds so good! Is it weird to buy a book about motherhood when you are still in the dreaming of a future baby stage?

Anna Alter said...

I read this a few months after my baby was born last fall, such a great book! I love the passage where she talks about how motherhood has effected her writing, that her need to achieve has changed. It was comforting to know I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

Mary Beth said...

This is one of my all time favorite books and I consider it Anne Lamott's masterwork. So real and wonderfully funny and down to earth. I've read it several times, I love it so much . . .

Shannon said...

Operating Instructions is so wonderful.
Another great book that offers a very down to earth parenting story is "Waiting for Birdy" by Catherine Newman. Her writing is so warm and hilarious and real. She also has a blog where she's detailed a lot of her parenting adventures (now that her kids are older she's focused more on cooking and has lots of great recipes!)

Jennifer Rose Cox said...

Check out My Mother Wears Combat Boots written by Jessica Mills http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Wears-Combat-Boots-Parenting/dp/1904859720 if you haven't already. Its one of those few parenting books that makes you feel sane and competent in your parenting while making you giggle at how silly it all is.

K8 said...

joanna, this was an important post. thank you so much for providing this kind of thoughtful content!

Sylvia Louise said...

Bird by Bird is awesome and will give your writing self the kick that it needs! Traveling Mercies is also wonderful. Thanks for the heads up on this new book from Lamott!

Sew Succulent said...

I read this book no fewer than 10 times my son's first year, mostly while trying to convince him to nurse (a nightmarish process). Anne Lamott really about saved my life.

I love, love her book Plan B as well. If you can get the book on tape and listen to her read it, all the better. And, many of her essays are on Salon.com.

BTW, just finished The History of Love. I was undone. Thank you so much for the recommendation.

Catherine Masi said...

It is a sweet and oftentimes boldly honest book. I think I read it a bit of years ago when I was in my early twenties... and I didn't have children then (or now, I guess, for that matter!). A few people told me, "You have to have a child to enjoy this book." I think you just have to read good writing to enjoy a book. Which it is...( and I did!) So glad you love it.

Dilem*mama said...

I read this right after I had my first son. Now, ten years later, my tummy still lies next to me in bed like a puppy sometimes. ;-)

Nichol said...

I love Anne Lamott. I had the pleasuring of meeting her at one of her book readings last year. She was just as witty and gracious as you'd imagine her to be.
I agree with other commenters- both Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies are wonderful books !

Brooke said...

Read it back in college and I loved it. It inspired me once again 2 years ago when I decided to give up drinking when we started trying for a baby.

Lisa said...

Read it when my now 16 year old was in his first year. I love , love ,loved it and found myself in tears of laughter. Lamott's honesty is refreshing. I went on to read HArd Laughter. Greatly enjoying your posts.

Marisa said...

Joanna, you absolutely MUST read "Waiting for Birdy" by Catherine Newman next. This book saved my sanity as a new mother and I literally press it in the hand of every pregnant friend I have. It is hilarious! I read it out loud to my husband on our babymoon. :) You will love it.

erin@lovesome said...

Oh yes, Operating Instructions! It was almost twelve years ago when I discovered it, inhaled it while nursing my first son. It was the first book I read as a new mother that made me feel less alone. Like I had found someone-FINALLY! Who was telling the truth about those early days of motherhood. I now give it as a baby shower gift whenever I can!

free online train games said...

I read it just , i love it.

blue milk said...

One of my all time favourite books ever about the reality of motherhood - just beautiful and wretched, also.

Anne Enright's book on her first year or two in motherhood is brilliant, too. Also, Rachel Cusk's.

Kate Chaux said...

I have read it, along with almost everything Anne Lamott has written. She is my favorite writer and storyteller (great Salon.com articles as well!).

Courtney said...

This book is sweet and honest. Anne Lamont is one of my favorite authors.

Consider the Lilies said...

Operating Instructions is my gift of choice for anyone having a new baby, especially their first. Bird by Bird is a wonderful book about the writing process, but you really want to follow up with Traveling Mercies as Toby gets older. I love the honesty in her non-fiction books. You walk away feeling like you are really okay in spite of your doubts when you finish reading her books.

Mango Ink said...

anne lamott is amazing! i have read Grace (Eventually) and Plan B: Further thoughts on Faith. so so good! and freeing. thank you for posting! i am inspired to read others.

Brigitta Ryan {duo} said...

Anne is my favourite author. You will love Bird By Bird. I also recommend Travelling Mercies: Thoughts on Faith, even if you aren't inclined to read a book on faith, each chapter is filled with wonderful (and teary) stories from her life.

Ps I'm saving Operating Instructions for when I'm pregnant.

Brigitta Ryan {duo} said...

Also! She was on The Colbert Report once. Funny!

Kim Nunley said...

Love that book and I don't even have a child yet. :)

dreamday said...

i just finished reading "bird by bird" last night. one of the best books i've ever read about living an honest life. all night i was writing letters in my mind to anne lamott... i couldn't go to sleep my mind was so wrapped around her message.

Tina said...

I received this book as a gift when I was pregnant with Tyler. I haven't had the chance to read it though. I'm entrigued though.

emkat28 said...

Bird by Bird is an excellent book! You will enjoy it. It was assigned reading for one of my college lit classes and I thought it was excellent.

Wide Lawns said...

Oh I can't wait to read this. It's going straight on my Kindle for this weekend's vacation reading. I love Bird by Bird and use parts of it for teaching my creative writing classes. It's one of the very best books on writing there is.

kelsey said...

Bird by Bird is on my Top Ten Teacher books! She is outrageously witty and a wonderful writer. I teach middle school language arts and frequently use her ideas in my classroom. Good stuff!

Erin said...

Read it. Love her!

Liz said...

Joanna,
Anne Lamott is a favorite in my family. Gabe, my husband, uses Bird by Bird when he teaches English Comp classes and I love her fiction just as well, especially Crooked Little Heart and Blue Shoe.
Enjoy!

2 by Design said...

I'm a huge Anne Lamott fan, and yet I've never read this book! Now that I'm spending every waking moment worrying about/watching/obsessing over my 3-week old son, it's jumped to the top of my reading list. I'm sure it will take at least a year to get through it at this point, but anything I can do to make me feel slightly less out of my head is worth it! On my reading list now? "Let's Panic About Babies." Typical.

Amy said...

i loved that book! especially since i read it when my son was only a few months old. definitely helped me feel not alone in the new baby craziness.

Susanna Carrillo said...

I have read it 3 times! The last time was when I brought my second baby home...I read it in the wee hours of the morning. I needed to know I was not alone in that hard hard stage of newborness.... With no sleep and trying so hard to breastfeed... Feeling a bit crazy & disconnected....remember? Anne Lamott truly helped & comforted me during those first few weeks with my new baby being. Love her & all her work. Traveling Mercies is another must read.

Trish said...

Love that book! I read it years before I was pregnant with my son and then re-read it when I found out I was having a boy. Particularly loved those images of her sleeping in the living room with baby and cat. There is something very soothing and sweet about those early days with a newborn that she captures so beautifully.

Bridget McNulty said...

Bird by Bird is the best book I've ever read on writing... ever!

Allegra said...

This is one of my favorite books (along with 'Bird by Bird'). I gave it as a gift to all my friends who were new moms. I was part of the cult of Anne Lamott 10 years ago, and read all her books then. However, I just realized that I did not read it myself (again) when I became a mom 2.5 years ago! Must rectify that immediately! will be great to read it again with the perspective of being a mother.

Casey Craig Art said...

Joanna, if you haven't already read it, I highly recommend "A Question of Balance: Artists and Writers on Motherhood." This is interviews with several well-known writers and artists about how they handled their art/writing and their roles as moms.

When my first son was born I read it repeatedly looking for some secret about how to do it all. It's a great read, but (spoiler alert) there is no secret. They had family or friends or nannies or daycare. We do what we can to strike a balance, but we can only do so much with a precious baby in our arms...and that's okay.

addie anne said...

I don't even have kids and I have read this book twice. Anne Lamott is my favorite. I've read all her books way more than once.

My Name is Cox said...

joanna - first off, i love what you're saing in these motherhood posts. it is a wealth of information, especially for a new mom like me. i'm curious...do you have any book recommendations from a man/father's perspective. i am a big reader but my husband is not, so i know he is not going to be into reading a parenting book written by a mother (although mom's typically know best). just wondering if you had any ideas...

thank you!!

Hil said...

I've read Bird by Bird but not Operating Instructions. I love her witty no nonsense, direct humor! I also admire her writing style. I actually read Bird by Bird for a writing class I took and it was really helpful. Enjoy it!

hilaryanne said...

"Bird by Bird" is so great. I have read it three times in the last five years. Also, if you love Bird by Bird you will likely appreciate Annie Dillard's "An American Childhood"

Catherine said...

I am in the middle of Bird by Bird. Lovely book. You'll really enjoy it! You should hear her speak if she does a reading in NY. I missed her in Seattle and am kicking myself!

Nomadic D. said...

I haven't read it, but bird by bird is one of my favorite books on writing ever. I love her!

http://nomadic-d.blogspot.com/

tellmeastoryjosie said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I loved it. Just linked to your review:

http://tellmeastoryjosie.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/reading-list-operating-instructions/

I'm curious to see how it feels the same or different the second time around . . .

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