Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Review: Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear

Published: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Scribner
Received: purchased through Life's Library subscription
Read from October 9 to November 24, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A writer’s search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads her to birds in this meditation on creativity and life – a field guide to things small and significant.

In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a musician with a passion for birds. Curious about what had prompted a young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature she decided to follow him for a year to find out.

Observing two artists through seasonal shifts and migrations, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in a big city, and explores what happens when the principles of birdwatching are applied to other aspects of art and life. It looks at the ecology of urban spaces and the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open. Far from seeking the exotic, Kyo discovers joy in the birds she spots in city parks and harbours, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Kyo begins to look to the small, steady, slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that give way to contemplation.

Moving between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, Birds Art Life asks how we are shaped and nurtured by our passions, and how we might come to love and protect not only the world’s natural places but also the challenging urban spaces where so many of us live.


Birds Art Life has probably been the quietest, most contemplative book I've read all year. It has a tone and pace that I don't typically gravitate towards in books, but since this was a Life's Library pick, I was going to give it a shot. Life's Library doesn't usually let me down, and that was true this time too.

This book is a memoir that takes place over a year, with each chapter representing a month. The author befriends a bird watching musician after deciding that she wants to try bird watching herself. What follows is a lot of reflection on birds, art, and the author's life, hence the title.

I wasn't on the edge of my seat while reading Birds Art Life, but reading it was an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

If you want a fast-paced book, this probably won't be the one for you, but if you're looking for something reflective and slow-paced, this is a great choice.

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