By December 27, 2007 0 Comments Read More →

Eat, Pray, Love

My book group relies on the Washington Center for the Book’s Book Group Collection for our books each month.  This way group members don’t have to buy the book or get on a hold queue.  It’s a great list and a great service, no doubt about it.  But hundreds of other Seattle-area book groups are vying for the same titles, and the new and popular titles are booked a year out.   

So my group was very excited to be reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love.  The day that we discussed it, the author was on Oprah again no less. How on top of it were we! 

As thrilled as I was to be discussing such a popular book, I wasn’t sure how discussable it would be.  But it turned out to be one of our best discussions in some time.  There was a lot to talk about and everyone’s contributions were thoughtful and considerate.  (There is nothing worse than having the smooth out an ego-contest of the “I can’t believe that you liked this book” variety, or any other such personal attack.) 

The author’s potentially controversial views about God were not of issue in my group. Many readers appreciated how up front the author was about her views.  Of course, some of the conversation came around to whether a reader liked or disliked the author (this always happens with memoirs—well, and for characters in fiction, too), but from there a number of other topics grew.   

One reader said that when she read about the author’s spiritual retreat in
India, it calmed her down.  She found herself walking slower, breathing differently; she found peace in the author’s search for peace.  Other readers expressed that some of their troubles with the book and the author might be generational which provoked some discussion about women today as well as the memoir form (was the author self-indulgent, etc., etc.).  

A topic I would have liked to delve into more deeply was why this particular book is so popular right now.  The Oprah program that aired later that day was one in which readers whose lives had been positively effected by the book shared their stories.  It would have been interesting to discuss the book in that context.  Why does a certain book capture the popular imagination?  No doubt Oprah holds a huge sway.  But what else?  Why this book and not another?  Discuss!

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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