on June 12, 2016
I read this book because it receives a lot of hype. I was disappointed. It seems this book was written for a non-skeptical audience. If you are at all a rationalist and/or skeptic, I'd suggest you stay away, unless you want to enjoy a half-decent, easy to read, work of fiction.
I have all the respect for this books and for those who have received some sort of benefit from it. For me personally, however, it left way too many unanswered questions. This concept of "heart" is ubiquitous in fiction, so you really aren't adding anything to the collective human consciousness by advocating for the reader to follow their heart.
A lot of the hype around this book makes it seem like a transformational self-help book. I'm not sure if that was the authors intention. If it was, then I think this book deserves 2/5 stars, because I don't think it convinces anyone with a critical mind that the "heart" is worth following unconditionally-- let alone, even establish what this concept of "heart" is so that one could know how to follow it well. My "heart" (or what I think of as my "heart") has had many different ill-conceived and some well-conceived dreams and fantasies-- which ones was I suppose to follow? I still have dreams today-- in fact, multiple ones. Is it really advisable to follow any dream my "heart" desires without developing a skeptical attitude about the outcomes? How am I suppose to distinguish which ones are sensible and really in the best interests of myself and others? If you haven't noticed... I sincerely wanted to convinced by The Alchemist and integrate it's lesson of following your "heart" into my life's philosophy. It would make life much easier. However, Mr. Coelho simply failed to anticipate and answer even half my critical questions.
Now, if Mr. Coelho's intention was to write a good story, well then I'd rate the book 3.5/5 stars. It was easy to read and served as a good diversion-- not really mind-blowing or exciting though. Hopefully, this review will help some people who come to books like this with a mindset similar to my own.
on June 3, 2010
"The Alchemist' was written in Portuguese and translated into 56 languages. It has been heralded as a modern day classic. It is an allegorical novel written by Paula Coelho and is one of the best selling books in history.
It is a story about Santiago a shepherd boy who has a dream of finding treasure and unlike most people Santiago decides to sell his sheep and pursue his dream of finding the treasure. He is encouraged by Melchizedek and is given seer stones to help him on his journey.
Santiago does not immediately find his treasure, it becomes a work in progress and along the way he meets many people, he falls in love, and he faces war. One of the many people he meets is an alchemist who helps him finally fulfill his dream. "My Heart Is Afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.' Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams."
This book is written simply and preaches the message that we should fulfill our destiny (visions of Star Wars pops into my head). There are numerous bible references, Melchizedek just being one of them and Santiago is compared to Joseph, the one with the coat of many colours.
I like others had great expectations for this book and I was disappointed. It is not a worthless book, there is a profound message of following your dreams, but it is so obvious and in your face that it almost seems annoying. Maybe in this fast paced world we live in, with all the action and fighting constantly surrounding us in media and in books that when something simple comes forward we look at it in disdain...just a random thought.
on May 8, 2004
The Alchemist is what I would call an in between book. It has strong new Age undertones with its fantasy aspects mixed with a self-oriented view of the world rather than a truly spiritual approach. In addition, it is a book with some worth. It has a basic message which attempts to divert the modern human being from the overtly mechanistic and reductionistic trend he/she is currently confined within and push them out into the lived world. The world of passion, art and the spirit. This is a current need. However, it does this in a way which does not actually practice what it preaches. This is not a truly spiritual book and should not be seen as such. It is a book in the vein of "The Celestine Prophecy" which, being a kind of offspring of "The Alchemist", tries the same thing again with little success. One way to express this is in the following way: The Alchemist takes a drop of water from a massive ocean and calls the drop the ocean rather allowing the drop to lead to the ocean in a very subtle indirect path. Only in such an ineffable approach with the merest hint in the right direction can the truth of existence be experienced.
Nonetheless "The Alchemist" is an entertaining book as fiction and can be enjoyed wholeheartedly as fiction. Read it and enjoy yourself. For God's sake don't take it seriously.
on December 13, 2003
The Prologue from the book, The Alchemist...
The Alchemist picked up a book that someone in
the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages,
he found a story about Narcissus.
The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth
who daily knelt beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty.
He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell
into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower
was born, which was called the narcissus.
But this was not how the author of the book ended the
He said that when Narcissus died, the Goddesses of the
Forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh
water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.
"Why do you weep?" the Goddesses asked.
"I weep for Narcissus," the lake replied.
"Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus," they
said, "for though we always pursued him in the forest, you
alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand."
"But..... was Narcissus beautiful?" the lake asked.
"Who better than you to know that?" the Goddesses said
in wonder, "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each
day to contemplate himself!!"
The lake was silent for some time.
Finally it said:
"I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus
was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my
banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty
"What a lovely story," the alchemist thought.
on November 24, 2003
Last year, a student of mine declared this to be a favourite book. I asked to borrow it... someday. You see, I always have so many books sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. And this one is such a slim volume; I figured, 'How long could it possibly take me to read it? Best to save it for sometime when I can whip through it quickly, and have no other books to worry about.'
Fast forward to this year. I still hadn't read it! So finally, we both got our acts together, and I borrowed _The Alchemist_, which I read, as I predicted, very quickly.
It's both simple and thoughtful at the same time, a quality it shares with another fable, _The Little Prince_. As in St Exupery's book, the innocence of the protagonist is both endearing and bewildering. His quest to live out his dreams and his potential takes on mythical and metaphysical overtones - sometimes overly amorphous for my tastes. Yet the ending recalls the homely simplicity of the lesson Dorothy learns at the end of _The Wizard of Oz_.
It didn't thrill or thoroughly absorb me, but I can easily understand why the student who lent me this novel returns to it again and again whenever she wants to reassert her sense of wonder and optimism.
on November 28, 2002
Paulo Coelho has become one of the most popular writers worldwide. He has written 9 novels and "The Alquemist" is his second title. Written in a spur of inspiration which lasted two weeks, this novel alone has sold over 46,000,000 copies an has been translated into 55 languages. Because of its optimistic message, its simplicity of meaning and language it is easily read, quite popular amongst youngsters, all together accounting for its status as a bestseller.
It is a fable in which a young boy by the name of Santiago is called to go in search of his "Personal Myth." It is a journey of exploration, of self-discovery, narrated in a language of symbolism, dreams, and mysticism. The message Paulo Coelho wishes to share with his readers is that everyone should be able to interpret the events encountered throughout our existence and be able to follow them in search of the ultimate fulfillment and meaning in life. We should not be afraid to follow our destiny, our dreams, everything is possible as long as we really want it to happen, and what is to be avoided is to sacrifice fulfillment to conformity. The treasure is not what is to be found at the end of the journey, but the journey itself and the wisdom acquired in the process.
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse
than the suffering itself," the alchemist replies.
"And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes
in search of its dreams, because every second of the
search is a second's encounter with God and with
Paulo Coelho himself is a non-conformit, a writer who himself went on a long search for his personal fulfillment. His success relies much in telling people what they want to hear (an illusive reality), using a language that does not speak to the brain but rather to the heart. His writings follow similar lines as other writers such as Livingston, Carlos Castaneda, Ben Okri, John Redfield, Deepak Choppra, Rodney Ballenden, Merrick Rosenberg, all of them in search of a way of life which will enrich the meaning of existence and bring a message of hope.
on June 17, 2002
This story is another quest tale and a nice parable. It was hard to put down. But once I finished it, I was disappointed. The boy follows his dream and learns many lessons he didn't expect. The quest would seem to be more spiritual than monetary even though it is the "treasure" that spurs him on. When the treasure does turn out to be monetary, I was really let down. Where is the real lesson here? His reward was his lessons and the finding of a soulmate. It wasn't really necessary for him to get gold too. Also, his life was so easy. For the few times he was distracted or detered from his goal, there was a simple solution for him. And through it all, he could always go back to being a shepherd which he enjoyed doing anyway! I never felt his dream was challenged or in danger. He could have stopped anytime he wanted and still been happy. Most quests are things you can't live without, a much more driving force. The book never convinced me that he HAD to have that treasure. Is he just greedy? After all, what were his plans for it? Buy more sheep? He already had enough money for that. If he needed the treasure to provide for a big family, or use as a ransom for a loved one, or any noble reason, it would have been more suspenseful and understandable that he had to keep on. As a fable, the treasure should have remained a symbol of something else or he should have realized the money wasn't what was important. Having him continue on to find a chest full of gold, leaves us with nothing but a spiritually enlightened, yet still greedy boy.
A better quest tale that also is full of spiritual truths is "The Destiny of Miro" which has many more trials and obstacles. These obstacles include the hero's own self-doubt which is something that really isn't included in "The Alchemist".
on March 18, 2002
I came to the Alchemist without any preconceived ideas about its purpose as an inspirational tome or its literary accolades. It was only after completing it on a flight back to WA from AZ and going to review it, that I saw the 306 polarized opinions. Read for simply entertainment value, it is a light, breezy tale of a shepherd who makes a personal vision quest to find a treasure ostensibly in him the whole time. Sprinkled throughout is a hodgepodge of philosophical / new age tidbits from more mature belief systems and religions. I read with mild amusement the author's take on the idea of Platonic Forms and absolute truths, harkening back to my classical philosophy readings. I could see where its continually hammered message of 'listen to your heart' might hit home with those yearning for direction, and to that I say, "To each, their own". People find inspiration in many things, and apparently this book provides that to some. For sheer elegance in a short form, I enjoyed Silk by Barrico much more but found the Alchemist innocuous enough, and not deserving of the vitriol of some of the reviews.
on January 4, 2002
If you'd like something light to read to provoke a little thought about paths not taken and goals not pursued, why not try The Alchemist as an easy first step toward evaluating your own life?
Santiago is a shepherd living a fairly ordered existence, yet intrigued by a recurring dream of a child playing with his sheep, who then transports him to the Pyramids, and shows him a spot where a great treasure is hidden. He seeks out a dream-interpreter, who agrees to tell him the meaning of the dream for one-tenth of the treasure. Santiago then sets out on a journey toward the treasure.
The journey is long, and involves many hard decisions between action and safety, and whether to trust his instincts or to do the "responsible" thing. He makes mistakes, gets sidetracked a little, and finds more than he bargained for on his journey, which makes a great fable about persistence and seeing priorities.
Okay, it's a fable - you have to be pretty forgiving to glean any hard tips about pursuing dreams from a story about a shepherd. Anthony Robbins it's not, but it's pretty well written, and uplifting - I don't know that a book that you can finish in one afternoon can be held to that strict a standard. This book can be a kind of relief if you have some soul -searching to do about what you're doing with your life. In a time and economy where every iota of common sense dictates no unnecessary risks, this simple fable can help to reframe much of the fear and uncertainty we all have as we see some of our dreams retract from us due to neglect or every day life.
This type of book won't offer the same type of guidance as the bullet-pointed self helpers littering the Bestseller rack, yet reading books like The Alchemist can give you the inspiration and the emotional energy to keep on keepin on - which is nothing to sneeze at. If you read Illusions, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, or even One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, you'll find something in The Alchemist.
on June 18, 2001
"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it" - King Melchizedek to Santiago pg. 23
This short story by Paulo Coelho will certainly be a source of encouragement for those who are following their dreams and hopefully will rekindle the embers of those who have settled for something less than hearts TRUE desire. The story is simple enough for a child to understand and yet memorable enough to put its principles into daily practice.
The story is about a young Spanish shepherd boy Santiago's desire to follow his heart. The young lad has a reoccurring dream and seeks to understand it and follow it where it may lead him. Selling all that he has, the lad takes a journey from the comfort of his known world to the hostile and alien world of the Northern Sahara Desert. The journey will take him thousands of miles across the Sahara Desert to his final destination, the pyramids in Egypt.
Along the way, the boy meets those for various reasons, have abandoned their hearts desires or settled for something less. Some have exchanged their dreams for money, creature comforts, family, etc. Others are "afraid that if my dream is realized, I'll have no reason to go on living", or "I'm afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it", while others, "seek the treasure of their destiny, without wanting actually to live out the destiny."
The book has numerous practical teachings including, synchronistic events, and chance meetings with people and even painful and dangerous situations, which all eventually help him to achieve his dream. One of the boy's final encounters is with a man who is an Alchemist who teaches the boy how to transform his life into a real treasure. True alchemy is manifesting your dreams in the real world of physical reality. "Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart".
Pros: This is an easy story line whose principles will stick in your memory, which makes it easy to apply and remember in your daily life.
Cons: Oversimplified and strait forward plot doesn't make for a very exciting book. Everything is explained for you so there is nothing to think about except for possibly how it applies in your life.