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Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  24,253 ratings  ·  1,803 reviews
The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with apl ...more
Paperback, 251 pages
Published March 8th 2005 by Anchor (first published April 27th 1993)
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Rachel Bash
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I teach at Creighton University, and so (like most instructors) was appalled when Lamott was "disinvited," but never more than after I read this book. It's been a long time since I've laughed out loud while reading a book, and longer since a book has provoked guffaws (seriously, hearty laughter) AND reflection, revelation, and grief. "Honest" is a perfect word to describe this book, which bravely (I think) puts out there the concept that being a mother isn't always being 100% in love with your c ...more
Skylar Burris
Anne Lamott is the epitome of the vitriolic, hateful liberal. The catch is that she actually seems to realize it. Throughout Operating Instructions, one finds scatterings of an understanding that there’s something not quite consistent about preaching love, mercy, and non-judgmentalism while simultaneously ripping apart Republicans as a group, actively training one’s child to revile them, and comparing them to the greatest of evils. She actually gets that there’s something not quite right about r ...more
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: new parents who are losing their minds
This is the best parenting book ever! Right when you feel like you have hit the wall, Anne Lammott makes it OK to feel all the frustrations and pain as well as the awe and overwhelming love for your little offspring. When my second child refused to sleep more than 2 hours at a time for 3, count em, 3 months while I was working full time...I bought every book about getting your child to sleep that I could find. I finally called in sick, sent my kid to day care, and read this entire book in one da ...more
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents, pregnant couples
A friend of mine gave me a copy of this book while I was pregnant, and he never knew what a favor he truly did for me.

Anne Lamott writes all the gritty details of the thoughts that go through any sleep deprived parent's mind, but we aren't ever brave enough to admit them, sometimes not even to ourselves.

Having already read about some crazy lady (Anne Lamott) wondering if she could leave her baby out in the cold and see if that whole "survival of the fittest" thing would work out, I was far more
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Hold your hats, folks. I’m about to get all “over-the-top” in this review.

I needed this book right now, with all it’s one-lines that make me laugh out loud. You should have seen me last evening, lying in the grass outside my church (it was only in the 70s yesterday, and today, with a light breeze - perfect grass lying weather) and laughing like a maniac. I’m sure all the Amish people who came by in their buggies must have thought I was nuts.

So this book is the journal that Lamott kept during her
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This is not an empowering book. This is a let-me-feel-sorry-for-myself kind of book. At some point, it has become hip and "good writing" to use profanity and say shocking things like "I hate my baby". While I acknowledge that feeling overwhelmed is very real for some mothers, especially those without a partner (myself included in the latter category), reading "Operating Instructions" gave me a dark feeling, somewhat akin to the feeling that reading Dostoevsky causes (minus the mastery of the pro ...more
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a great, lovely book about having a newborn. I had a blast reading it because I don’t have a newborn anymore (a three & a half-year-old is a whole other flavor of getting your ass kicked) & it’s easy to have fond feelings about G's babyhood that are based on totally false recollections. "Remember when we could just set him on the couch & he couldn't go anywhere? Remember when he took two whole naps a day? Ah, such good times." I am an idiot. I was so constantly exhausted that my skeleton ...more
Ann G. Daniels
Oh how I wish I had read this book when my children were babies! Then perhaps I would have realized I was not alone in finding new motherhood so hard while loving my children so unbearably much. Annie Lamott just nails it.
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Even if you have never been a parent, your kids have grown up, read this for the sheer pleasure of it.
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read this after reading Some Assembly Required & hating it. Reviewers swore up & down that even if I thought Anne Lamott was an ape-shit mother-in-law, I'd like her as a mom. So I gave her writing a second chance. I do not like her at all. In fact, I dislike her more than I did before reading this.

In theory, I should like her. Like me, she is a female writer, a mother, a liberal, a Christian. Every negative review I found for this book was someone complaining about her political & religious vi
Karen Backe
Jun 23, 2008 rated it liked it
a few things were laugh-outloud-funny, a lot of things were kind of ridiculous. Having a new little dude ourselves, certainly there were moments and events I could relate to, but the self-absorbed self-deprecating thing got really tiresome for me. Also, yes, I get it, you belong to a predominately black church; move on.
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
My friend Michelle lent me this book after we were talking about feminist books about motherhood. I haven’t read anything by Lamott before, but after reading this one I definitely want to read more of her books, both fiction and nonfiction.

She has a book about writing called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life that sounds interesting; I might look it up. Operating Instructions is presented in the form of a journal, excerpted from the personal journal she kept during her first ye
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was an Anne Lamott book that I had skipped for years and years, figuring I wouldn't appreciate it until I was a mom. Well, I'm glad I waited. I definitely wouldn't have appreciated it as much if I hadn't been able to connect with the motherhood thing.

As much as I loved this book, I feel like it was written for a person like me: a liberal, slightly neurotic, spiritual mom. If you're not all four of these things, you might end up hating this book a little bit, or maybe even a lot.

One thing I
Eva Marie
I should have reviewed this when I quit the book but instead I waited so long so I may forget some of what I wanted to say. I do remember this though, Lamott borderline disgusts me. If she bothered me just a smidgen more I'd be thoroughly disgusted with her person.
When you pick up this book you tend to think it's about her son's first year of life right? You know, the whole "Journal of My Son's First Year" in the title and all. Well... no.
It's a hidden agenda for her political rants. And that
Feb 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emily by: Melisa, Amy, Noelle, Carrie, etc., etc., etc.
Just finished this one this morning. This was the kind of book that I resisted because everyone else kept telling me to read it. Also, because I'm writing a lot, I was afraid I'd start writing like Lamott and BINGO! I am. Anyhow, that said, I'm glad I've read it. The end is very sad, sadder because it is true. Reading it also fulfilled that promise that you'll think about your own new motherhood and think: "At least I'm not Anne Lamott." I was going to give the book three stars instead of four b ...more
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've loved Anne Lamott since Bird by Bird. So this book was sort of a catching up with her life as an unexpected mother. She is now a grandmother, chronicled in another book. She is fun to read, although the self-deprecation gets a bit much sometimes. She's the girl you were friends with in middle school and high school. ...more
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Sometimes I really hate this site. This is easily the third or fourth time this month I have written a multiple-page review only to have it deleted when I click on the "save" button. Sigh. Let me begin again...

I love this book. I love this author. I love the honesty of this approach. I love a parent that doesn't buy into the idea that a good parent keeps their damned mouth shut.

I love the viewpoint from a parent of a cholicy child (even if her child did start sleeping through the night fairly e
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've read most every book of Anne's now and without question I can say this one is my favorite. I started reading it at such an appropriate time, given that I myself was a first-time mom at home with a 5-week-old child. (and am typing this review one-handed with said child sleeping in my other arm).

Which is why I fell in love with so many of Anne's hilarious recollections of being in the trenches of new motherhood. On her son's colic at the one month mark: "The exhaustion, the sleep deprivation,
Tremendously funny, warm, and full of hope. Anne Lamott’s winsome, honest approach to motherhood (especially as a single mother) is inspirational without being cheesy or cheap. She infuses a deep sense of grace, toward herself and others, and her spirit is a rare gift. Highly recommended to any parents or people pondering parenthood.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
It took me about a year to read this book. It is filled with so many familiar moments and milestones, described so accurately. She spends quite a bit of time crying over Bush (Sr.!) and mentions Donald Trump. History repeats itself so frequently. Also, it takes place in 1989 so as soon as I got excited about the World Series I got so worried about the earthquake.
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
In Anne Lamott's OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS: A JOURNAL OF MY SON'S FIRST YEAR, you find phrases and sentences that give your false teeth some delicious, chewable morsels and poke a few neurons in your brain and jump-start the battery in your pacemaker. Reading it, however, did not make me miss my adult children's childhoods. It did prompt me to add the I-Should-Have-Kept-a-More-Detailed-Record-of-Those-Days folder to my Regrets file. Those days were, in many ways, magical; and I believe, as Lamott m ...more
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-authors, memoir
I picked this up at the used bookstore 2 days ago, having always heard about it. I'm not a parent and intend not to be one, but I read all sorts of memoirs about things I intend to not do, so I figured why not. And I'm thrilled I did, because I loved this book!

It was a very fast read. And for once I don't only mean that I whipped through the pages very quickly (3 hours). I mean it was fast-paced and I felt like I had to speed-read to keep up. It was an interesting feeling, being whipped through
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
I thought this book was alright. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but a new or about-to-be-new parent. I certainly don't think it's the best book Anne Lamott has ever written. I liked Bird by Bird and a couple of her novels a lot better than this.

It's written as if it really were Lamott's journal, and maybe that's true. But I didn't like the structure because it jumped around between different subjects and moods too much.

I only gave it two stars mostly because I was uncomfortable about the way
Brooke romney
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it
What's great about this book? The writing, the writing, the writing. Her fabulous humor, her honest portrayal of the first year of being a mother, her honesty about her baby not having a father, her grief at her friend's diagnosis, the way she hysterically talks about Republicans, the support so many give her, and especially her true deep belief in a loving God (though it completely contrasts with who she is) and watching her faith ebb and flow.

What is not so good? The language...too often, and
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
After stopping reading because I'd started when I first got pregnant and stopped when I had my first miscarriage (who needs someone exuding pure love and delight about their baby when you've just lost yours), I finally picked this up today almost two years later to decide about getting rid of it. My place was still marked, so I polished it off this afternoon. It was a good read, but is so very baby-centric that you should only read it if you are a new mother yourself, pregnant at a safe late sta ...more
Oct 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
My lust for books that are about motherhood has led me to "Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year" by Anne Lamott. This book chronicles the experience of Anne's first year as a new mother. A single mother. Anne wries boldly. Possibly because she did not intend to publish her personal journal. However, I am glad that she did. Her innermost thoughts are right there on the page. Thoughts that all new mothers have but none will admit to. Anne admits these thoughts. She deliciously ...more
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
I can see why some would consider this the original mommy blog. She fits the genre perfectly but was writing about 20 years before it really took off. Which means her writing is fresh, honest, witty, and at times, TMI.

On a personal level...

As a mother, I could really relate to her emotions as they ran the gamut from adoration to exhaustion.

As a Christian, I could really relate to her dependance on Jesus and her faith to get through just about everything.

As a personality, I could hardly relate
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Anne Lamott is such a lovely writer. How could you not help but love this book? Only she could turn the mundane parts of life with a baby into poetry. While it's been awhile since I've had a little baby around, I could relate so much to this book. Lamott really captures the emotions you get during that first year with a baby--the intense love, the boredom, the anxiety, the frustration, the fatigue, the infatuation, the excitement. I laughed, I reminisced, and I empathized the whole way through t ...more
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book pretty much saved my life twenty years ago, when I had a difficult baby. I love Anne Lamott and I definitely felt, if SHE can do it, so can I! :-)
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of Lamott's early non-fiction books, and one of the best. ...more
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Anne Lamott is an author of several novels and works of non-fiction. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, her non-fiction works are largely autobiographical, with strong doses of self-deprecating humor and covering such subjects as alcoholism, single motherhood, and Christianity. She appeals to her fans because of her sense of humor, her deeply felt insights, and her outspoken views on topics such ...more

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