Book & Product Reviews · Philosophy

The Alchemist – Book Review

I decided to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because of so many recommendations I encountered in my reading and possibly from something I saw on YouTube. As with the majority of my reviews I am not going to spoil the book for you by giving you a blow by blow commentary, but focus more on what I perceive as the reasons you should consider reading it.

Book Quality

Before I provide a brief summary of the book I wanted to discuss the physical aspects of the hard cover version I read. Overall the book is very high quality from the cover, quality of the pages, and type. The size of the book is just right 8 1/2 inches high and about 6 inches wide. As mentioned the type quality is pretty good and probably about 11 pitch making the 176 pages easy to read. This version of the book by Paulo Coelho  (Author), was published by HarperCollins translated by Alan R. Clarke, can be found at Amazon costing a bit more than $22 USD and strangely enough the same book in paperback was $27 USD. The author Paulo Coelho has written many books; more about him in the section About the Author below. Buy the hardcover version, the Alan R. Clarke translation; you won’t regret it.

Summary

To start out with The Alchemist was written as a fictional story first, more specifically it is the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago that is on a journey to follow his dreams. His adventures take him far from his home where he meets a number of very interesting characters, and during his travels he experiences a number of personal revelations. While this is a good story, the book has several themes, which are intended to be teaching moments. Some of those key themes include:

  • Our propensity to give up on dreams and call it fate
  • When you want something bad enough the universe conspires to help you achieve it (Law of Attraction)
  • Faith and the importance of religion
  • The importance of pursuing your dreams
  • Omens as a guide on your journey through life
  • How following your dreams is about what you become
  • Life, conflict, and death

This book is only 176 pages long, so something you could read in a day or two. There are some interesting, almost mystical characters that the boy encounters during his adventure. At the end of the book there is an Epilogue and a brief section about our author.

Recommendation

I really enjoyed reading this book and think it lives up to the hype that I had heard about it. I feel that it belongs on this blog site as it is inspirational, has some fairly profound messages, and is fun read. The author paints a picture of this fantastical journey for our hero Santiago. It is really a story about personal growth and the attainment of your dreams.

As often happens to us from time to time we need some inspiration to to either begin or continue following our dreams, The Alchemist can provide that to you. I read the book over a couple of days and couldn’t put it down. In addition to enjoying a good story, I also found inspiration in the numerous not so subtle messages conveyed by the author.

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph I am hesitant to go into the plot, explaining this story in a lot of detail as especially in this case of this book, it would ruin it for you. Reading is about discovery and this story flows and builds upon itself, and if you know all the characters and how it turns out, well then you just won’t enjoy it as much. With that said, if you need a little kick in the ass to start following your dreams, then I would highly recommend The Alchemist.

Note: If you enjoy The Alchemist and I think you will, there is a companion book called Warrior of the Light that I have yet to read, but it is next up for me from the Paulo Coelho library. Here is a little overview from a page on Amazon:

Warrior of the Light is a timeless and inspirational companion to The Alchemist—an international bestseller that has beguiled millions of readers around the world. Every short passage invites us to live out our dreams, to embrace the uncertainty of life, and to rise to our own unique destiny. In his inimitable style, Paulo Coelho helps bring out the Warrior of the Light within each of us. He shows readers how to embark upon the way of the Warrior: the one who appreciates the miracle of being alive, the one who accepts failure, and the one whose quest leads to fulfillment and joy.

Namaste

About the Author

Paulo Coelho de Souza born 24 August 1947) is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002. His novel The Alchemist became an international best-seller and he has published 28 more books since then.

Biography

Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and attended a Jesuit school. At 17, Coelho’s parents committed him to a mental institution from which he escaped three times before being released at the age of 20. Coelho later remarked that “It wasn’t that they wanted to hurt me, but they didn’t know what to do… They did not do that to destroy me, they did that to save me.” At his parents’ wishes, Coelho enrolled in law school and abandoned his dream of becoming a writer. One year later, he dropped out and lived life as a hippie, traveling through South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe and started using drugs in the 1960s.

Upon his return to Brazil, Coelho worked as a songwriter, composing lyrics for Elis Regina, Rita Lee, and Brazilian icon Raul Seixas. Composing with Raul led to Coelho being associated with magic and occultism, due to the content of some songs. He is often accused that these songs were rip-offs of foreign songs not well known in Brazil at the time. In 1974, by his account, he was arrested for “subversive” activities and tortured by the ruling military government, who had taken power ten years earlier and viewed his lyrics as left-wing and dangerous. Coelho also worked as an actor, journalist and theatre director before pursuing his writing career.

Coelho married artist Christina Oiticica in 1980. Together they had previously spent half the year in Rio de Janeiro and the other half in a country house in the Pyrenees Mountains of France, but now the couple reside permanently in Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1986 Coelho walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. On the path, he had a spiritual awakening, which he described autobiographically in The Pilgrimage. In an interview, Coelho stated “[In 1986], I was very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water – to use the metaphor in The Alchemist, I was working, I had a person whom I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer.” Coelho would leave his lucrative career as a songwriter and pursue writing full-time.

The Pilgrim – Story of Paulo Coelho is the international title for the biographical film Não Pare na Pista, a co-production between Brazil’s Drama Films and the Spanish Babel Films, in which the younger and older Coelho are played by two different actors. One of the producers, Iôna de Macêdo, told Screen International: “The film tells the story of a man who has a dream. It’s a little like Alice in Wonderland – he’s someone who is too big for his house.” The film, shot in Portuguese, had its premiere in Brazilian theaters in 2014 and was internationally distributed in 2015.

Read more about the author and a complete list of his books: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Coelho

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