I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a book about creativity and it’s unscientific to say the least.
It’s the self-help book like Eat, Pray, Love isn’t.
As a quick detour, it’s probably worth mentioning Gilbert’s crazy success. I’m always uncertain how to speak about Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a book that’s easy to label, and easy to complain about. It’s also brilliant marketing. It’s divisive. Some people resonate with it as a story of a woman coming to terms with herself after a divorce. With others it’s the courage to chase a dream. Others it’s a portrayal of privilege and self-absorption.
For me it’s a story about decision making.
Whether you see it as a curse or a delight, Eat, Pray, Love’s spell changes how you see Elizabeth Gilbert’s other works. I gave a sceptic my copy of The Signature of All Things to read as a dare and to make a point. My friend admitted surprise. Big Magic however, where some of the ideas are about as believable as fairy dust, is unapologetically not serious literature.
It’s a self-help book with a pink cover and no references in the back.
It talks about belief.
So I wrote it off. I’m a serious person, and thoroughly educated in the art of scientific thinking.
Then I was recommended and then lent it, by a physicist.
So I started reading, and reached the section called ‘enchantment’ which is a little too fanciful for my tastes, but the writing was pretty, at times funny and immensely easy to absorb, so I persisted. The book felt like a guilty pleasure. Something I was aware that people more intelligent than me might roll their eyes at, which would feel like they were mocking me for my reading choices and make me question my taste.
Insecurities abound. I neither need permission nor validation. Which is exactly what the book is actually about. It’s the story of owning the freedom to make what you want to make and loving it regardless. It’s a simple message and maybe it’s easy to mock the simplicity or naivety of it.
What’s more, I can’t help but link it in my mind to Murakami’s What I Think About When I Think About Running. Both are books about belief and perseverance and a pure and healthy love of writing.
Turns out I was surprised after all.
What books have you judged by the cover and been pleasantly surprised by?