The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
167 pages
HarperCollins, 2006
Genre: Fiction, philosophy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I’ve read this book every year for the past nine years.


Reviewed by Indiana

Sometimes fiction stays in its pages and only comes to life when it’s read. But some fiction spreads like wildfire, well beyond the pages it’s told on and into the hearts and minds of millions.

The later is the type of fiction The Alchemist has turned into.

For the past decade or so, it seems like the story just gets bigger and bigger every year, spreading to different countries, different cultures.

The Alchemist is both a work of adventurous fiction and a melding of philosophies.

A shepherd boy named Santiago discovers what his Personal Legend in a dream one night. He learns he must go to the pyramids of Egypt to find his treasure and fulfill his Personal Legend (or his life goal).

Along the way, he is meets thieves, kings, dreamers, camel drivers, want-to-be alchemists, the love of his life, and The Alchemist.

The Alchemist knows how to make gold and how to make the philosopher’s stone (just like Nicholas Flamel), but more importantly, he understands Santiago’s Personal Legend and how to help Santiago fulfill it.

Little adages are woven throughout the book: “And, when you want something all the universe conspires to help you achieve it,” and “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Due to just how highly read this book has been over the years, people tend to feel strongly about it. They seem to really connect with it and love it or hate it and think it’s absolute drivel.

While I understand either perspective, I think the value of this book is found in the timing. Just like I can read a book this year that I hated four years ago and love it this year, it’s all about when you read The Alchemist.

I first read it when I was around 14-years-old. It’s a time when you’re trying to figure out who you are and how you should be (if you should even feel like you should be a certain way). I found certain nuggets of truth in it that I’ve held onto throughout the years.

For example, Coelho’s messages about finding your personal goals and listening to the world around you can be helpful when you’re feeling lost.

Reading it this time around, I had a harder time connecting with it and applying it to my life, but I don’t think that makes the book any less good. It just wasn’t quite the right time for me to read it.

For those who have read it, did it click with you or were you not able to get into it?

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