Birds Art Life

A Year of Observation

Birds Art Life

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

When it comes to birds, Kyo Maclear isn’t seeking the exotic. Rather she discovers joy in the seasonal birds that find their way into view in city parks and harbors, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Maclear looks to the small, the steady, the slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that leave room for contemplation.

A distilled, crystal-like companion to H is for Hawk, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in the urban environment and explores what happens when the core lessons of birding are applied to other aspects of art and life. Moving with ease between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, this is a deeply personal year-long inquiry into big themes: love, waiting, regrets, endings. If Birds Art Life was sprung from Maclear’s sense of disconnection, her passions faltering under the strain of daily existence, this book is ultimately about the value of reconnection—and how the act of seeking engagement and beauty in small ways can lead us to discover our most satisfying and meaningful lives.
  • Scribner | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501154201 | 
  • January 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Birds Art Life includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. We hope that these questions will enrich your reading group’s conversation and your experience of the book.


Birds Art Life is a beautifully crafted meditation on the search for beauty, meaning, and creative inspiration in the stillness of the natural world. Seeking an antidote to stress and grief, Kyo Maclear joins a musician on his weekly birding tours of the city parks and harbors of Toronto, learning, over the course of a year, to approach other aspects of her life through a more delicate, forgiving lens. Blending memoir, nature writing, and cultural commentary, Maclear plumbs the universal questions that frame the human experience. How can we draw emotional nourishment from nature? Why, in an ever-expanding world, should we hold tight to smallness? What is the function of creative expression during times of anguish and loss? By seeking beauty in the small things, Maclear shows us a path towards a more meaningful, compassionate, and fulfilling way of being in the world.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Birds Art Life is structured by season. Why do you think Maclear chose this as an organizing principle? How does the rhythm of the natural world mirror the cyclical turns of our interior lives?

2. Maclear writes about stress and solitude see more

About the Author

Kyo Maclear

Kyo Maclear is a novelist, essayist, and children’s author. She was born in London, England, and moved to Toronto at the age of four. Her writing has appeared in The Millions, The Volta, The Guardian, and The Globe and Mail, among other publications. Kyo lives in Toronto where she shares a home with two sons, two cats, and a musician. For more information, please visit or