I am not a re-reader. I think that if I allowed my inherent nature to make of all of my decisions, I probably would be, on account of my insatiable need to absorb every last tidbit of (often irrelevant) information that I come across. But another, perhaps more pertinent part of my nature is, unfortunately, my unrelenting and sometimes suffocating fear of missing out. So many books, so little time, or, for the Gen Z’ers reading this, Book FOMO. If I re-read books, my taskmaster of a mind tells me, it detracts from what precious little time I have to read something new. Life is passing by so quickly, and even quicker if I factor in raising young children alongside my addiction to reading (and I would have to agree with Zadie Smith when she argued that addiction to reading is potentially as dangerous as other, better known addictions, because it can’t be sanctioned).

The only exception I made to this rule of not re-reading books was A Little Life. Quite frankly that book tore me to pieces and I needed to nurture the gaping hole it left in my heart by taking the time to crack its shell wide open in order to be able to fully appreciate its brilliance.

But then, last month, in the wake of the release of City of Girls, the new novel by my absolute biggest expander, Elizabeth Gilbert, and following her Sunday Times interview with Dolly Alderton, I decided to re-read Eat, Pray, Love, a book I’d first read ten years ago at the tender and impressionable age of twenty-five. The visceral urge to re-read it took me by surprise, especially as it prompted me to put down the book I was in the middle of, something I am rarely inclined to doing (shocker).

I remember enjoying Eat, Pray, Love the first time around, but this time, it has resonated so deeply, I would go so far as to say somatically, that I simply had to write about it.

Perhaps it’s the ‘being a grown-up’ now, the same age Gilbert was when she wrote it, and not the idealistic young woman in my mid-twenties who connected to it for all the wrong reasons, getting swept up in the romance and melodrama of it all without having an emphatic enough understanding of key themes she addresses, such as the very inner workings of a marriage, and the downright frustration that comes when the two arguing people who are experiencing the same situation end up with divergent stories.

Or perhaps the interview itself spurred in me the female rage Gilbert is so fervent about, a theme consistent for females in 2019 as #metoo dominates the headlines and social media, spearheading a game-changing movement and gut-wrenchingly sweeping through our souls and prompting us to reclaim our power, and women who a mere decade ago would have been labelled “unlikely heroine”, dazzle us with performances and writing that allow this rage to finally be expressed truthfully, without restraint and without ridicule. Cue: Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Now in my mid-thirties and with two children, I can truly say that reading Eat, Pray, Love again, has changed my life in a more profound way than simply planting the sensationalist idea of eating my way around Italy or dare I say it, finding myself in Bali (bah!).

Here are the reasons I believe everyone should re-read this book:


  • Firstly, I simply cannot continue without addressing the fact that the name Luca Spaghetti was a real name, that Gilbert clearly referred to him by both first and last name each time he was mentioned for the sheer pleasure of being able to say Luca Spaghetti over and over again, and that if eliciting laughs was her intent, she won, big-time, because I couldn’t help but laugh out loud each time I saw those names on the page. Aside from the discernible levity that simply saying Luca Spaghetti brings about, it also helped raise an interesting observation: that England really doesn’t have much ostensible culture when it comes to food. I realised this when I thought, okay, if this was an English person whose last name was a representation of one of the foods this country is most famous for, what would his name be? Other countries could compete in this game with a real chance of going for gold: Inga Meatball, Mehmet Kebab, Moshe Hummus, Hanz Bratwurst, Francoise Croissant, Vladimir Vodka… you get my drift. But England? John… FishNChips? Like Ned RockNRoll? Dave Beer-Battered-Cod? Maureen Fry-Up? Alan Black Pudding?  It was a fun game.
  • We all love a relatable protagonist. Cue our leading lady recounting the moment she prayed for the first time and it sounded something like: “Hello, God. How are you? I’m Liz. It’s nice to meet you.” As a woman in my mid-thirties who, very occasionally, in the midst of the blurred years of early motherhood, feels myself edging towards the brink of existential crisis, the question of how to pray is something I find myself ruminating over. Knowing that she asked the creator of the universe how He was today, but that she still ended up okay (more than okay, she’s a freaking gazillionaire and profoundly happy) assures me that my awkward attempts to reach God myself are perhaps not as outlandish as I may have thought. The sentence itself also took me right back to my childhood room at twelve years old, reading Judy Blume under my duvet, wondering if we could all start our prayers off with “Are you there, God? It’s me, Lauren.”
  • Gilbert’s honesty and relatability, along with the promise of a stellar story, are arguably what drew 13 million people to this book, but the ease in which humour spills from the creative cogs in her mind to the page – that’s what sets her apart from the rest. Luca Spaghetti aside, this following quote from early on in the book was what spearheaded my understanding that sarcasm would weave itself throughout the book as her primary expression of language, and that if there was at all a question of whether she was being serious or satirical at any given point, this quote assured you it would be the latter: “Of course, this district {of Rome} doesn’t quite have the sprawling grandeur of my old New York City neighbourhood, which over looked the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, but still…”


  • To detract totally from what I just said, she did, to be fair, take the meditation and yoga very seriously, and her delicate way of describing to us the true purpose of yoga – a way to strengthen our bodies to be able to sit in the stillness of deep meditation for hours on end – is a welcome reminder for those of us who have gone a step too far in westernising yoga and see it as merely another tool – alongside our Kardashian-approved slimming teas – to get us to a place where we vaguely resemble Nicole Richie circa 2008. The meditation itself is what we are aiming for, with the result of it being a way to, in Gilbert’s words, disentangle us from the heart-breaking inability, as humans, to sustain contentment. A sentence that is brilliantly succinct and yet somehow still discerning enough to compel us to re-evaluate how, indeed, to sustain our contentment, by realising that no amount of Kardashian merch or other consumerist drivel will make us happy; that’s down to us alone.
  • She so honestly and unashamedly speaks about her struggles to reach a meditative state. When the monk at the Ashram who she confided in kindly replied, “It’s a pity you’re the only person in the history of the world who ever had this problem,” it gave millions of people who have the same frustrations with meditation, an insight into the fact that they are not the only ones, that it is totally normal, and that persevering will reap benefits. Her friend, Richard from Texas, reminded her that “as long as you sit down with the pure intention to meditate, what happens next is none of your business. So why are you judging your experience?” It’s these seemingly insignificant morsels of wisdom that, one by one and very quietly, can change a person’s entire way of approaching a practice which could, as it did for Gilbert, enhance our lives beyond our current, unenlightened comprehension.


  • And as I’ve mentioned Richard from Texas, I must give him the credit he so rightly deserves and afford him as much space here as Luca Spaghetti was given. A rags-to-riches, found-himself-despite-all-adversity, yet-still-hilariously-funny guy – a prophet-disguised-as-drug-dealer type – whose humour and yogic philosophies carry the book for the short time he’s in it. I want a Richard from Texas. I want him in the form of a jack-in-the-box where I can wind him out each time I feel the need to be motivated. The hilarious one-liners and thought-provoking spiritual guidance he offers Liz, make you stop and look up from the book, to take the time to ponder and absorb his sagacious doctrines. “Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be” is a quote I’ll forever use now (it’s written down in my notes on my phone). His lessons are so compelling that you almost expect Gilbert to do that amateur novelist thing at the end of the book (in this case the section he’s in), where he turns out to just be a figment of her imagination, or, in keeping with the theme, God. But he’s not. He’s Richard from Texas; the sort of multi-faceted, captivating character a novelist hopes one day to dream up. (I’ve taken notes.)
  • Parts of the book that are seemingly insignificant and over within a couple of pages themselves offer magnificently profound lessons. One of my favourite examples of this is the story of the dairy farmer from Ireland who she met at the Ashram. The dairy farmer (who remains nameless) talks to his father, himself a dairy farmer from rural Ireland, about his journey towards spirituality and the discoveries he’s made from the long months of journeying inwards with the help of sacred, ancient Vedic scriptures. When he tells his father how crucial it is that we all journey within to find ourselves and to study ancient traditions to ‘quiet our minds’, his father’s response is, “I have a quiet mind already, son.” My God, this is profound on so many levels. We may have read Kafka and the Bhagavad Gita, but the dairy farmer who’d never left his farm in County Cork, actually never had to leave his dairy farm in County Cork. He knew peace. Some people are lucky like that, and their reluctance to learn anything new or travel far and wide sometimes just means that, though they may not even realise it themselves, they are far closer to reaching divinity than those of us who meditate every day trying so hard to achieve something that to Dairy Farmer Snr. comes so easily. A lesson to hold off on the judgement.
  • Good writers often make an effort to observe seemingly inconsequential situations and people. The rest of us tend not to do this, and we may be missing a trick because it means that we perhaps miss out on realising the impact some people may have on our lives. Nearly every person Gilbert met on her journey offered an important life-lesson for her, and all these lessons joined together, one by one, played an integral part in her healing process. Richard from Texas, the dairy farmer from Ireland, the poet / plumber from New Zealand, Yudhi who was exiled from America back to Bali – and that’s without mentioning the people she set out to learn from. You’d be forgiven for thinking she’d made this all up to provide her with the innards she knew as a writer she needed to make a great story. But, knowing that they are real – and we’ll just have to take her word for it – just gives us another bead in the japa mala of belief about fate. Liz came across the right people to teach her the exact lessons she needed to learn at each integral part of her journey, so why can’t the same happen for all of us? Here’s the punch-line: it does.

Profound Life Lessons

  • Perhaps one of the most vital lessons we can take from in this book is what she learnt from falling head-over-heels in love with the person she believed to be her soulmate, only to have her heart broken, all when she was in her most vulnerable state to begin with. We’ve all been there, and we can all – in our rational minds and in retrospect – acknowledge the fact that there will be lessons to learn, but when drowning in the midst of the agony that is romantic heartbreak, we rarely recognise these lessons cognitively, then proceed do the inner work needed to be able to walk away from the experience wiser and rebuilt. As Richard from Texas told Liz, “David’s purpose was to make you love so much that it shakes you up.” This kind of infatuation-based love tears your ego apart and makes you hit rock bottom, from whence you then have to build yourself back up, almost from new, and this is when we can then find ourselves, discover our true purpose, something we never would have thought to take the time out of our busy lives to do had things not got so utterly unbearable. Unbearable is where failure is acknowledged, and where healing can begin, finally allowing the door to success to open. The unrequited love that hurts more than anything ever did, sometimes – and often shockingly – even more than the death of a family member, gives us the kind of opportunity to learn things about ourselves that we never even would have scratched the surface of, which in turn can – as it did for Gilbert – change our lives profoundly. And that is a gift.
  • When she spoke to herself, asking her heart to infuse her soul with compassion, it reminded me of the importance of being compassionate with myself, something I fear few of us do. She listened out for her inner voice, perhaps the voice of divinity, and acknowledged the answers. And, in her search for God, her one-liners were simply sensational: “I want God to play in my blood-stream the way sunlight amuses itself on water.”
  • “You should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead.” We never get to know who her guru is, but that one line is a game-changer to those of us who have a tendency toward melancholy and self-pity. It’s one to keep on a Post-It on the bathroom mirror.
  • “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort,” a sentiment echoed by experts in the field of quantum physics such as Joe Dispenza, Bruce Lipton and Wayne Dyer, and also by Ketut Liyer, the Balinese medicine man who inspired Elizabeth Gilbert to spend four months in Bali in search of answers, whose age was thought to be somewhere between 65-120 and who, despite never leaving the island of Bali, understood without dispute that we have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of our own blessings. That it’s easy enough to pray when in crisis, but to pray and give thanks when the crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments. “Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
  • Of course, the sealing process for the book itself was the fact that, despite this not being a romcom and actually happening, she really does find love at the end. And we know now that it lasted nearly a decade. So just slightly more convincing than Love Island…


Essentially (and sorry for the spoiler), the premise of the book is Balance. From being utterly at the mercy of the senses to being ensconced in deep devotional practice. For those of us leading modern lives where connection, personal growth and mindfulness are still important to us, knowing that we can also allow ourselves to revel in the physical senses that we have, as humans, been blessed with, but still attain a level of spiritual devotion, is, I believe, what Elizabeth Gilbert set out to learn herself, and what she taught us all in the process.

Re-reading Eat, Pray, Love has encouraged me to relax a little on my rules and allow myself to enjoy re-reading other books that I loved – in itself another lesson.

Please send over your favourite re-reads or books that you would love to re-read!

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