Revisiting ‘Eat, Pray, Love’: A ‘Transcendently Great Beach Book’

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  07.06.07 | 12:03 PM ET

imageNow that it’s locked into bestseller lists and Julia Roberts is making a movie out of it, Elizabeth Gilbert’s travel book “Eat, Pray, Love” is a bona fide cultural phenomenon. It’s a fixture on the World Hum Travel Zeitgeist, it’s the celebrity must-read of the moment and a go-to summer book recommendation. It’s also getting a second look from critics such as Slate’s Katie Roiphe, who calls “Eat, Pray, Love” “precisely the sort of inspirational story of one woman’s journey to recovery that I would never expect myself to pick up in a bookshop.” Yet she reads it, and likes it.

Roiphe writes:

When I picked up Eat, Pray, Love, with its pretty, inviting cover, I was reaching for a happy ending: There would be no book if Gilbert returned from her travels tanned but confused. The memoir lacks the ambiguity we associate with a more literary effort. It feels like there is something inherently trashy about reading for that redemption, for a happyish ending in a tropical place. But there is a rich and compelling strand here: a story of how Gilbert goes from a very serious depression to being basically all right that has nothing to do with pasta and gurus. How does one get better? If one has the stamina to narrate the process, to write frank and chatty postcards from this immensely difficult transition, then one is in fact putting rare and valuable information out into the world. And so I would say for summer, Eat, Pray, Love is a transcendently great beach book.

In his World Hum review—way back in February 2006—Frank Bures writes that “Eat, Pray, Love” will “leave you smiling in your liver.”

Related on World Hum:
* Next Up on Hollywood’s Travel Book Adaptation List: ‘Eat, Pray, Love’
* GQ: Literary Travel, Elizabeth Gilbert in France and How Not to Look Like an American Abroad
* Three Travel Books Crack Entertainment Weekly’s Nonfiction Books of the Year List

2 Comments for Revisiting ‘Eat, Pray, Love’: A ‘Transcendently Great Beach Book’

Julia Ross 07.06.07 | 10:51 PM ET

The “Eat, Pray, Love” juggernaut continues to confound me, especially when I read reviews that consistently brand the narrator “likeable.” Sorry, I just don’t get it. It read as self-indulgent to me.

Melissa Mellott 07.08.07 | 6:32 PM ET

Just a day before I left for my own 3 month journey in Tuscany, a friend recommended “Eat, Pray, Love”—I absolutely loved it and couldn’t put it down my first week in Siena Italy.  My life changing experience was much like what Gilbert speaks about in her book.  I’m so excited to hear there will be a movie about it.  I blogged about my adventures at

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