If you are considering reading this book based on the comments of this page, you will find the following:
1) At this moment, 471 people have taken the time to write a review about it.
2) Out of those 471 readers, 308 gave it 5 stars, and 71 gave it 4 stars.
3) Many of those readers (including myself) identify this book as one of those which can actually change your life, or open your mind to a new way of thinking. Not every book in this world receives that type of comment.
However, there are 41 comments that give this book just one star. The sad part of this is that those bad comments are always marked as the "most useful". I feel sorrow for those who did not read this book based on the anger and bad judgement of the negative reviewers. They really missed something valuable.
Most of the negative reviews come from three kinds of people:
1) Arrogant snobs, who always care more about the form than about the content; people who adore what they don't understand and call "children reading" anything that their minds can really process. They like to consider themselves separated from what they call "the masses", or "the shallow people", but in reality their are the shallowest of all. They are looking for fancy words and constructions, not for interesting questions. When you tell to one of this persons "Run! Save your life!" they don't pay attention to you. They analyze if "Save your life" could be expressed in a more elegant manner. While they think of that, the avalanche comes over their heads.
2) Phsicologysts or other counselors, who want to save you from going crazy after you read the book. They think that you will throw away your whole life under the influence of this book. They don't realize that the book actually promotes serenity, wisdom, balance and moderation. "The Alchemist" does not talk about leaving everything to pursue your dreams. It just says that you should have dreams, and make moves towards them. To this type of reviewer I recommend to read again the part about the spoon with oil in the castle.
3) People without imagination, who take things literally. Persons who strongly believe that God made the world in six days and slept on Sunday. This type of person says that "The Alchemist" associates "meaning" with "wealth". Nothing could be more wrong! The "treasure" is just a metaphore, and actually what matters is the trip, not the result. These reviewers concentrate their attention in things like "the treasure is just some gold", "he falls in love with a woman the first time they meet" or "the story talks about elixirs of life and phylosophical stones". They don't realize that this book is about the meaning of life, about the complexity of things that look simple, about the way our universe is built and all its parts are connected. The key concepts of the book are:
a) Every life has meaning. Each of us is the star of a story that is worth living.
b) There are messages everywhere. There is a logic behing everything. If you open your eyes, you will see interesting things in simple events or objects that others would ignore.
c) The standards of our society fill our souls with fear. They make us believe that we have to follow known patterns. They make us feel small, isolated and meaningless, but each of us has a place in the universe, and a function to acomplish.
d) Balance is essential in life. If you leave everything behind, thinking that God or "the universe" is going to give you everything, life will prove you wrong; but if you stay where you are and don't pursue your dreams, you will not live at all.
Out of the negative reviews, there is one that I respect very much. It says something like "if you like this book, you deserve it". This book is what you want to make of it. If you are looking for the shape of the words or for an explicit confirmation of your beliefs, you will be disappointed. If you read this book with an open mind, you will enjoy it.