Book review: "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic  

Years ago, when Elizabeth Gilbert’s "Eat, Pray, Love" came out and everyone was obsessing over that book and then the movie, I, honestly, could not care less. I was far from being thirty-something, experiencing a mid-life crisis, or interested in a self-discovering journey across the world. More so, I was turned away by the title that sounded too "privileged, rich, devoted Christian, American" to me, when I was neither of those things.

I made assumptions about the author and her books and steered away from both.

Once “Big Magic” came out, it seemed as if it was everywhere: in stores, on people’s Instagram accounts, on recommendations lists. I was getting tired of being recommended the book by the author, who was so very much unlike me.

Finally, almost against my own will, I checked out a copy of “Big Magic” from the library. I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was all about. I won’t pretend that I didn’t ignore the book on my shelf for a few weeks until I finally picked it up.

Now let me be clear here. I am not a huge fan of non-fiction books - it is probably the only genre I would never voluntarily pick up to read. With “Big Magic”, I decided that I needed to read it if only to be able to tell people if asked, that I read it and hated it.

And then a strange thing happened.

I did not hate it. At all. The realization of that left me a bit stunned.

A decade ago, I was too young to sympathize with the author or the life hurdles she might have gone through at the time. Now, being same age as Elizabeth at the time of “Eat, Pray, Love” (which is referenced in “Big Magic” a lot), I found myself less opposed to the idea of reading about another woman’s journey and self-rediscovery.

“Big Magic” is both a self-help book and a memoir. It is a curious blend of things that Elizabeth discovered herself about her writing and creative process and the things she learned from others. Where I expected the book to be patronizing - it is written by the award-winning and bestselling author after all - it was very humble; where I expected it to be complicated, it was lighthearted in tone; where I thought I would hate it - I liked it enough to order my own copy.

I can’t call “Big Magic” revolutionary or eye-opening. It was, however, entertaining and inspiring in its way. I felt less alone, when I read about Elizabeth’s writing process, the ideas that come and go, and inspiration behind her books. How some of her works, however, do not do very well. How she also struggles with mental illnesses. How she had to make sacrifices in her life.

Suddenly, I could fully understand Elizabeth Gilbert, and it took me by surprise. It seems I had to grow up to appreciate her work.

I am looking forward to receiving my copy of “Big Magic” as I want to go through the book again and underline all of my favourite quotes. I picked up this book when I was not feeling well and needed some light reading, and it turned out that I needed to read “Big Magic”. I can’t claim that it pulled me out of my funk completely, but it certainly helped.

Even if you consider yourself to be the most uncreative person ever, I still recommend you read this book. If you hate memoirs - as I do - still read this book as it is not a dry recounting of past events but a lively and engaging story. If you scoff at self-help books - I will still suggest you give “Big Magic” a go, as this book is much better than many self-help books out there, especially if you consider yourself to at least somewhat creative.

I am very happy that I gave “Big Magic” a chance, even though it was initially for wrong reasons.


Rating: 3.5 stars


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