Some people worry about what other people would find in their closets or drawers if they died suddenly, and I worry about what books people would find on my shelves. Why does a grown woman own all four of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books?!
That threat of potential embarrassment is what keeps me reading different types of books to throw people off the scent. My actual reading preferences are really shockingly easy to predict. In a nutshell, I will like most books about art history, Italy, travel, and the UK… history, fiction, travel logs, whatever.
I really do try to limit my intake of certain types of books though. For that reason, I promised myself I wouldn’t jump on board with the Eat, Pray, Love craze when it was first published, and I successfully maintained my distance for four years. So what in the world possessed me to start the book years after deciding against it?
The ads for the movie. I was sucked in by Julia Roberts and pasta and beautiful scenery. It was too much, just sitting there in front of me on the TV screen. And as I suspected, I really do like the story. Me and a hundred million other people who like Julia Roberts and pasta and pretty places.
Around page forty, Elizabeth Gilbert (author and main character) is talking about her foray into life in Rome and the experience of learning to speak Italian. None of the people in her class have practical reasons to learn the language. They don’t need it for their jobs or to communicate with family or friends. They want to learn Italian simply because it’s beautiful and makes them feel wonderful. I wholeheartedly agree.
My foreign language studies weren’t ever very practical either. (Latin? Super handy in everyday life.) Italian was on that list, and I managed to reach the approximate proficiency level of an Italian two-year-old. I realized just how fluent I wasn’t when it took about an hour to communicate to shop owners that I needed to find a phone book. Apparently “book of phones” doesn’t mean anything. Despite my skill level, I managed to feel distinctly Italian every time words like “la stazione” came out of my mouth. “Famiglia” is a real favorite because of the weird way you’re supposed to pronounce the “gli.”
Long story short, there’s no avoiding what you really like.* I really like reading about Italy. Next on my list of books-I’ve-been-avoiding-but-know-I’ll-love are La Bella Lingua: My love affair with Italian, the world’s most enchanting language and Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian dog taught an American girl about love.
*I’m really ready to admit defeat on this one because it isn’t all that harmful to read what I want to read instead of what I should read. Sometimes I put up more of a fight for a good cause.