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on August 29, 2006
After you're through reading the recommended list of books that the New York Times and everyone else says you're supposed to read (Brown's "Da Vinci," McCrae's "Katzenjammer" and Martel's "Life of Pi," might I suggest you tackle this book---"The Alchemist." It is simply superb. Easy to read, it is nevertheless somewhat complex in meaning. The content of this novel is remarkable in its telling. I kept me up at night, but not in that thriller kind of way. Rather by its deep meaning and insight into human nature. I highly recommend it.
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on December 15, 2008
This is a great book to help the world-weary soul. I helps open your heart again and see beyond the everyday problems that crust your heart with worry and toxic sludge. A very easy read.
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on October 28, 2009
The Alchemist is a simple fable that alludes to the fact that all of us have a purpose and a dream in life. It is a simple book, but nonetheless inspiring. It is a story about a young boy named Santiago who has reoccurring dreams about a treasure, when he goes to see a gypsy about the meaning of his dream she tells him to follow his dream and not to pay her now for her services but to pay her one tenth of his treasure once he finds it. Santiago left home to become a shepherd to follow his dreams of travel. He is hesitant to leave his flock, but begins to follow omens. Through his travels he overcomes many obstacles and meets many people who guide him in his journey. He meets to love of his life Fatima. Santiago tells her that he will need to continue on his journey but rest assured that he will come back to her. Through the story Santiago is led by many spiritual guides, and leaves the readers inspired. All of us have a purpose in life, and we need to listen to the omens around us. Our heart will lead us, where it will need to go.

I did enjoy the novel. However, near the end I did want it to end. This book was given to me from a coworker and I'm glad I read it. I do recommend the novel, especially for someone who is struggling to make life decisions. It's a spiritual and inspiring book that I'm happy to add to my "read in 2009 list."
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on October 31, 2014
When a book is as infamous as “The Alchemist”, debaters are no surprise. However I don’t consider simplicity a downside; a lack of depth. The word “basic” is the root of “base instincts” and “base emotions”. These are the core of who we are and a core equates profundity. A single-threaded fable is the hinge onto which authors hang important principals; why the message of children’s stories are more complex than the adventure carrying them. I put aside this novel a long time, expecting uppity scholastics. I was thrilled I could coast and soak up the nuggets that resonated with me.

Let’s dispense with critical analysis and just consider this: few of us have careers in what we love doing best; what our most natural talent is. We don’t dare take a pay cut in pursuit of it, we don’t want in-laws leering at us; we accept the most lucrative jobs among those readily available and stick there for life. I’m certain Paulo Coelho is addressing we, who dream of writing; who hesitate to believe we can be published authors.

We permit roadblocks to overrule treasured hobbies too, or the most sincere items on our personal wish lists; because we think them costly or impractical. I adopted a saying that I use whenever something I dream, begins to look feasible. I declare: “There will be bills whether I do something fun with the money or not. Let’s create some bills we’re happy about”! ‘None of that is new but it comes as a relief to see other people courageously asserting the same thing you believe. A new thought for me is that the universe conspires to help us, if we are true to ourselves and make a move. I smiled throughout this whole book. That says five stars to me.
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on December 2, 2006
This book changed my life.

I still reference it on a weekly basis, whenever someone needs help; direction in life. It leads me every day.

Thanks to this book, I listen to the messages out there... Little signs that the world gives you to let you know if you're on the right or the wrong path. It never fails me.

My husband and I (he hasn't read it, but I have) base all of our decisions on our "Légende personnelle" (I read the French translation). Is this your légende personnelle? Are you meant to follow this path?

I strongly recommend this book if you're at a pitchfork in the road. If you need direction, or if you know someone who DOES, then recommend this book, and tell yourself (or that person) to read between the lines.

Thanks, Paulo - you put me on the right path.
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on June 7, 2003
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.
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on February 28, 1998
I read The Alchemist in a single day and was enchanted by the beauty and truth in what was written as well as the immense wisdom incorperated skillfully in the story line. I loved every second of the shepard boys' search for his treasure by the pyramids and his journey through the desert. A wonderful book about seeking your personal destiny, and learning from the quest.
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on January 23, 2007
Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, has been awarded France's Legion d'Honneur, Italy's Grinzane Cavour and was inducted into the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 2002. "The Alchemist" is invariably blurbed as "much loved" and was first published in 1988.

"The Alchemist" tells the story of Santiago, a native of Andalusia. He had trained, briefly, for the priesthood though had always been keen to travel. As a result, he left the seminary and - since the only Andalusians who travelled were shepherds - bought some sheep. As the story begins, he has just arrived - aptly enooough - at an abandoned church where he is planning to shelter for the night. That night, for the second time in about a week, he dreams of being taken to the Pyramids by a girl. There, she promises him a hidden treasuer if he comes to the Pyramids when awake. Although he has his dream interpreted in a nearby town, he only decides to follow his dream following a conversation with a man who calims to be the King of Salem.

"The Alchemist" is a very short, pleasant, easily-read book and has a message I'd really love to believe : everyone has a single goal in life (even if we don't realise it) and that the Earth itself wants us to be happy. Maybe I've just become too cynical over the yeras, but I couldn't honestly describe it as anything other then fluff - very likeable fluff, admittedly, though still fluff. Coelho himself has become an alchemist of sorts with this book, though he hasn't needed to turn lead into gold : he's made his fortune telling people to chase their dreams and to follow the right omens.
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This is an amazing book. It is a story of a young man who has a dream of hidden treasure. It is a book that alludes to that fact that all of us have a purpose and a dream. Yet many settle and give up their dream, and lose their passion for life. In this book it is stated again and again that each of us has our own Personal Legend, a quest; "When you pursue your personal legend the universe will conspire with you to make it happen." You will follow Santiago on his adventure and during the process be challenged to think about your goals and dreams and what you would have to do to pursue them.
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on December 31, 2001
Believe it or not, the author of this book starts his narrative by recounting how he lost and then FOUND his way seeking truth in alchemy.
All straight-faced. Anyone who was taught elementary chemistry is left dumbfounded.
But the first pages of 'The Alchemist' are just an indication of what's to come: this book is a mixture of supposedly apocryphal wisdom, recycled spiritual teachings and fantasy. All delivered in a tranquil, friend-to-friend (not to say Master-to-novice) manner which adds a false sense of credibility to the storyteller. Coelho must either be a misguided fool with a talent for words or an expert exploiter of peoples' need for a purpose.
Possibly the latter. That's why he calls his tale a fable. But that it ain't, unless we mean to re-write the rules of the genre as set down by its father, Aesop, more than 2500 years ago. Short as it is, 'The Alchemist' is still way too long to be rightly called a fable. That nice term though is smooth cover for Coelho's chosen means of delivering his moral: the story unfolds in a twisted imitation of '1001 nights' (too bad Aladdin-type heroics have to be mixed with recent day Englishmen, one almost misses a couple of mad dogs). But maybe Coelho's moral needed this kind of imaginary setting: how else can you justify a hammering of 'If you follow your dream the whole Universe will conspire in your attaining it'? In 'The Alchemist' we read of the wind, the sun and other elements assisting the hero (Santiago, a boy shepherd and, doubtless, a future Master Alchemist) overcome all odds in his quest. Which is?... None other than finding a treasure in the Pyramids... That, we're told, is Santiago's 'Personal Legend'. This catchy phrase presumably denotes what we too are supposed to look for in our lives (and then follow, no doubt).
Coelho though is a gifted writer. All the folly is remitted in a slick, deceptively enjoyable bedtime story style. This has prompted many a reviewer to suggest this book is great for kids. I think not; I would be very wary of any material that suggests to my children it's OK to become soldiers of fortune if the whim takes them.
All said, this book does not live up to its illustrious reputation. Moreover, to this reviewer it appears a phoney. If you like the mystics I would suggest you seek 'The Book of Mirhad'; if you are after spirituality go for the real thing, 'The little Prince'; if you want fantasy 'The Lord of the Rings' will offer it to you aplenty minus the didactic overtones; and if you're looking for a good children's story Rowling's 'Philosopher's stone' is the vastly preferred choice.
With 'The Alchemist' you may think you're going in for a fable. But in reality you'll be going in for a myth.
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