In Bustle’s series The Book I’ll Never Forget, celebrities, influencers, changemakers, and more reveal the books they’ve read that have made a lasting impact on them, and why. For Bustle's Rule Breakers issue, we asked City Of Girls author Elizabeth Gilbert to reveal the five must-reads that shaped her most — so you can add them do your TBR pile, too.
"Happiness is the consequence of personal effort," author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Eat Pray Love. "You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it." In her quest for direction, happiness, and mind-blowing pizza, Gilbert left behind her marriage, her job, and her life in the United States to travel the world. If you're also looking for a chance to reinvent but you don't want to take a drastic leap of faith, you might find purpose in these five books recommended by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Gilbert's journey hasn't exactly been conventional. Following a divorce, she used a $200,000 publisher advance to travel the world, rethink her plans, and write what would become Eat Pray Love. She's been a household name ever since. (Never forget: Julia Roberts played her in the movie version of Eat Pray Love.) The book resonated so deeply with so many people because it tapped into something universal: The desire to find pleasure, peace, and balance in life, especially when everything feels turned upside down.
Gilbert's most recent book, the novel City of Girls, is a glamorous tale of love, sex, and ambition in the theater world of 1940s New York City, and like Eat Pray Love and much of her work, it's all about the desire to find one's truest path in life, no matter how messy the journey.
It's clear that Gilbert knows a little something about path to purpose — and about daring to be yourself. That's why Bustle asked her for the five books that have shaped her, influenced her, and made her into the person she is today. Here's what she said:
Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön
Gilbert says, "This is a wonderful, clear-minded, big-hearted book about meditation that is just perfect for beginners. I read this for the first time almost 20 years ago, when I was beginning my own spiritual practices, and Chodron’s teachings have never left me. Also, she’s funny, which is what you want in a monk."
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
"I love this book with all my heart."
Gilbert says, "Originally published in 1943, this is the unknown memoir that I wish every creative and passionate woman would read. Hathaway was afflicted with severe spinal tuberculosis as a child, and spent most of her childhood pinned to a board by heavy weights, so that her back would grow straight. The treatment didn’t work, but the solitude and isolation of her childhood fostered an outrageously creative mind; she literally had to invent a universe for herself to live in. Later in life, she became an artist, and stubbornly independent, despite her handicap. Hathaway is one of my creative heroes, and I love this book with all my heart."
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Gilbert says, "Finnish author Tove Jansson was best known as a children’s book author, but this small, gorgeous, thrilling book is a novel for adults. It’s about childhood though — based on the feral summers that Jansson spent with her ferociously strong grandmother on a small island in the Gulf of Finland. There is nothing sentimental about childhood in Jansson’s world. Her heroine, 6-year-old Sophia, is a misbehaving wild thing... but so is her grandmother. The result is a splendid tale of what happens when two females of very different generations (but very similar temperaments) are allowed to be free and alone in nature."
The Gift — Poems by Hafiz, Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Gilbert says, "These stirring poems, originally written by a 14th century Persian mystic, get me closer to the divine, and more immediately, than anything in the world. Hafiz wrote like Whitman centuries before Whitman was born — celebrating the body, the spirit, nature, mystery, sensuality, love, and transcendence. (In fact, I have long suspected that Whitman was a reincarnation of Hafiz!) Open to any page to be transported into magic."
Who Would You Be Without Your Story? by Byron Katie
Gilbert says, "No teacher has changed my life (meaning: my mind) more effectively than Byron Katie. In a deceptively simple process called 'The Work,' Katie teaches her students how to sit in meditative inquiry with their most stress-inducing thoughts and beliefs, gently asking of each thought these four questions: 'Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react when you believe that it’s true? And who would you be without that belief?' Katie’s work has quite literally turned around so many stressful stories for me, and has radically changed all my relationships — most especially with myself."