Book Review: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho
Rating: 9/10

Book Cover of The Alchemist

I read The Alchemist when I first started travelling alone, soon after leaving my full-time job, mostly on the ferry between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Colonia, Uruguay. Just before that I had spent two weeks in Brazil. I learned in the book’s introduction that this is where the author, Paulo Coelho, is from. “Probably just a coincidence”, I thought. But by the end of this book, I couldn’t help but wonder if the universe had me reading it at just time it wanted me to.

It’s an unabashedly feel-good coming of age epic about a shepherd boy in Andalucia, Spain (where I visited in 2009, and so I enjoyed remembering the rolling yellow hills, olive trees, and sunflowers). His life is simple with his sheep, but he’s okay with that. One day he meets a mysterious man who offers to trade information about a great treasure in exchange for the boy’s flock of sheep (his safety net). As the boy pursues this treasure, and second guesses his decision to take a big economic risk, I often found myself warmly smiling at its charm and feeling the tickle of goosebumps when the author drops words of positive believe-in-yourself affirmation and repeatedly personifies the “Soul of the World” encouraging the young boy.

It’s not particularly complex, or nuanced, but it’s not trying to be. It hits you over your head and into your heart with its message, which is repeated like a mantra several times: “When you’re pursuing your own personal legend, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.” It’s a quick, happy read that I wish I would have read much sooner. It’s inspiring and very very sappy, and I’m okay with that.

Read this book when you need some inspiration.


King: The book describes people’s inability to choose their own Personal Legends. And it ends up saying that everyone believes the world’s greatest lie. What’s the world’s greatest lie? the boy asked, completely surprised. It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.

One’s Personal Legend is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. “At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend….whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.


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