Birds Art Life

Birds Art Life

by Kyo Maclear
  • english-from-canada
  • memoir

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. For Vladimir Nabokov, it was butterflies. For John Cage, it was mushrooms. For Sylvia Plath, it was bees. Each of these artists took time away from their work to become observers of natural phenomena.

In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a local Toronto musician with an equally captivating side passion — he had recently lost his heart to birds. Curious about what prompted this young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature, Kyo decides to follow him for a year and find out. A distilled, crystal-like companion to H Is for Hawk, this memoir celebrates the particular madness of loving and chasing after birds in a big city. Intimate and philosophical, moving with ease between the granular and the grand view, it celebrates the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open, and explores what happens when you apply the core lessons of birding to other aspects of life. In one sense, this is a book about disconnection — how our passions can buckle under the demands and emotions of daily life — and about reconnection: how the act of seeking passion and beauty in small ways can lead us to discover our most satisfying life. On a deeper level, it takes up the questions of how we are shaped and nurtured by our parallel passions, and how we might come to cherish not only the world's pristine natural places but also the blemished urban spaces where most of us live.

Birds Art Life follows two artists on a yearlong adventure that is at once a meditation on the nature of creativity and a quest for a good and meaningful life..


Kyo Maclear, author

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. Kyo holds an Honors B.A. in Fine Art and Art History and an M.A. in Cultural Studies from the University of Toronto, and is currently a doctoral student at York University, where she holds a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. She is the author of two acclaimed novels for adults, The Letter Opener and Stray Love, and numerous beloved books for children, including Julia, Child and The Liszts. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages, published in over twenty countries, and garnered nominations from the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards, the First Novel Award, the National Magazine Awards, among other honours. Kyo lives in Toronto where she shares a home with two sons, two cats, a musician, and a truckload of books.


  • Readers will find a universality in Maclear’s experiences, along with countless passages worthy of returning to time and time again. At a time when the world feels like it’s unravelling on a grand scale, when the daily news so often feels dire, Birds Art Life acts as a source of much-needed solace. - The Globe and Mail Link to review
  • With the quirky, imaginative "Birds Art Life" — part memoir, part scrapbook, part meditation — Maclear has flown the coop. I perched with her, happily charmed, for hours. This is a wondrous little book about ‘being a little lost.’ - The New York Times Link to review


  • Shortlisted, 2017 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Westwood Creative Artists



rights sold: English (Canada: Doubleday - Penguin Random House), China (simplified: CITIC), China (complex: Gusa), Russia (AdMarginem), Spain (Ariel), UK & Commonwealth (Fourth Estate - HarperCollins), US (Scribner - Simon & Schuster)

rights available: World

Additional Information

number of pages: 272

publication date: 01/17/2017

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book