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1,342 of 1,405 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed But Ultimately Thought-Provoking and Worthwhile
Yes, much of what negative reviewers of this book have to say is true: the writing is blunt and simple, the characters lack depth and complexity, it is quite male-focused in its subject matter and language, it has a bunch of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo, and so on. This book should not be put on the list of great literature for the ages. There are doubtless many novels...
Published on March 1, 2003 by Kenny O.

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256 of 304 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial simplicity
Last spring I read "Illusions," by Richard Bach. When I read the reviews online, one guy mentioned he thought "The Alchemist" was superior to the story of "Illusions." I finally got around to "Alchemist" and I must say I was quite disappointed.
First off, yes I realize it's considered a fable, but the writing style is far too...
Published on July 14, 2000 by Chris Foreman


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1,342 of 1,405 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed But Ultimately Thought-Provoking and Worthwhile, March 1, 2003
By 
Kenny O. (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
Yes, much of what negative reviewers of this book have to say is true: the writing is blunt and simple, the characters lack depth and complexity, it is quite male-focused in its subject matter and language, it has a bunch of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo, and so on. This book should not be put on the list of great literature for the ages. There are doubtless many novels that cover subject matter from this book far more artfully. As I read the book, I was aware of its hokeyness and lack of redeeming literary qualities. I am, in fact, usually the first person to criticize books that read like this.
And yet, I have to say - and I feel a bit sheepish about this - that I found it meaningful, even profound at times. How can I say this, given my criticisms? First of all, unlike many reviewers, I did not approach this book with great expectations. No one told me that this was Shakespeare or Tolstoy; I had never even heard of it until it was recommended to me recently. And by the end of page 2, I had adjusted my expectations further. This clearly was not going to be winning the Booker prize.
But I found the book moving in its simple way. The characters deliver their statements without subtlety, but subtlety is more a literary virtue than a philosophical one. In fact, I essentially came to view this work as a life philosophy expressed as a fable, so I didn't particularly mind that its messages were not buried far beneath the surface.
Are those messages novel? No, but what of it? Novelists have been recycling themes for centuries, becuase many themes are of enduring interest and relevance. The point is, the messages are worthwhile and deserving of consideration. They are simple, but I think that simplicity is itself one of the central themes of the book: that life is not that complicated when one follows one's dreams honestly and passionately, or as the book says, "with love and purpose." And yet the book reminds us that it is very easy to give up dreams and abandon one's passion.
I have to disagree with one often-mentioned criticism of the book, namely, that it advocates pure materialism. That is, in my opinion, a serious misinterpretation. The book is written in the style of a fable, and therefore the goals people strive for are the typical gold-and-buried-treasure stuff. But I think one would have to misread the book quite severely to think that it is advocating material gain. The book is not at all about the specific goals that the protagonist pursues. It is about the importance of wanting something urgently and how the wanting seems to reorient the universe in harmony with that goal (just as a magnetic field can reorder the particles around it), how genuine passion and enthusiasm are rewarded with success, how those who love us encourage us to pursue our goals, and how the act of reaching for goals - whatever they are, and whether or not ultimately reached - plunges us into a strong current that carries us to places that we can never expect or know when we embark. There is something here in common with the beliefs of the Romantics, in that much of the value of the goal is in the journey that it leads us on -- the experiences gained and the lessons learned.
It's not a fair criticism of the book, I think, to say that it doesn't tell us what happens when people's goals conflict with one another, or disclose that circumstances outside of our control often render us unable to reach our goals however sincerely we may pursue them. We don't need a book to tell us that. Anyone who has made it out of childhood knows that, and I have to believe that the author is well aware of this as well. I suspect that through his simple tale, he is trying to provide some kind of argument against the kind of cynicism or fear that the world can sometimes instill in us, and encourage us to keep diving into that "strong current" to see where it takes us.
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369 of 397 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the Universe can be observed in a single grain of sand, March 12, 2001
By 
Robert Anderson (Pacific Northwest) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I checked this book out from the library, but I'm going to buy a copy and re-read it at regular intervals.

I read it over the course of one day, thought "nice fable" & began reading another book as soon as I finished this one. But I found that the lessons contained in this simple story of a shepherd boy seeking treasure, won't be dismissed so easily. They must have taken up residence in my subconscious and kicked up some dust, because my mind keeps returning to the lessons of the story to find new and more subtle insights having formed.

These are lessons that we all know in our hearts, but that we forget as we get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of our material lives. Lessons about listening to our hearts and following our dreams. Lessons about living in the moment, the transient nature of possessions and the illusion that we can even "possess" something to begin with. Lessons about freeing ourselves from fear and about understanding our lives as part of the energy of the Universe and understanding that everything will work out the way it was intended to. Lessons about trusting in signs, knowing that our lives have a grand purpose and that the forces of the Universe will conspire to help us fulfill that purpose. And the lesson that all of the fortunes and misfortunes we encounter in life are part of our spiritual education, and that it's not the earthly "treasure" we seek that's important but the lessons learned while in pursuit of it.

If you like to ponder the meaning of life, then let your mind and spirit mull over the lessons in this book. It's a quick and enjoyable read that will provide some new insights, or remind you of some old one's that you've forgotten.
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139 of 157 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is it about the desert?, October 26, 2012
This review is from: The Alchemist (Paperback)
October 26, 2012
A review of the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This review is written by Anthony T. Riggio. After reading the above book, given to me by my youngest sister, as a gift, during a recent visit, I promised her I would read it. My sister, who suffers from a mental illness, said the book had impacted her and thought it a spiritual work. Mental illness is certainly a stigma in our society but I have come to see it as a blessing by God to allow my sister to see things in an unvarnished way. She has lost everything and lives a most simple life in a therapeutic family care environment. She lives there because neither of her siblings are ill prepared to handle things when the chemical unbalance occurs, which it inevitably happens at the unscheduled moments.

Even in her limited world, she has been able to see the spiritual where most of us cannot. That she spent the full publisher's price infuriated me but then I stopped to think about the genuineness of her generosity and love she has for her older brother, I decided to graciously accept her gift.
The Alchemist is a simple story which some might refer to as a fable. It is however the story of a boy, Santiago, who search for the meaning of a dream which hopes to lead him to a treasure. It is the story of one finding his/her Personal Legend (roughly destiny and/or meaning for life).

The book emphasizes the reason for each living in the now as opposed to one's past or future. This is often a difficult task but a profound spiritual experience when fully accomplished because in that now moment we experience ourselves and get a glimpse of God. This book however is not a religious book because as the author advised religion provides the discipline for the community experience in its devotion to God.

I had to look up exactly what an alchemist was, as I was always informed he was a pseudo-chemist who always tried to turn lead into gold, but this is a rather shallow definition and one that will be better defined by reading this exquisite book.
The alchemist in this book is more like the "Desert Fathers" who fled to the desert in search of God and the meaning of life. It is most interesting how three of the world's largest religions have their roots in the desert. What is it about the desert and communion it allows with our maker?

This book is a delight to read and very quick, though I have found myself reviewing past pages to understand fully the very simple message the author is conveying. This book can be read in one sitting very easily but I advise against it because it has a lingering flavor you want to savor.

I highly recommend this book for those that enjoy a compelling simple story and for those caught in the niche of other genres; I recommend it as a book to pull you back to your center.

Writing a review for book's that someday will be the tool for future study and analysis is an intimidating undertaking and I hope that I have not misinterpreted or offended the author who will be / is, one of the great authors of our time.

This book was given five stars and is available on Amazon Kindle for a most reasonable price.
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292 of 337 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Parable, June 21, 2006
By 
Kevin Joseph (McLean, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Alchemist (Paperback)
More parable than novel, "The Alchemist" uses the story of young shepherd Santiago's search for his Personal Legend as an allegory for everyman's struggle to break from the comfortable confines of conformity and pursue his life dreams. Along the way, of course, our young everyman is beset by all manner of setbacks, testing his resolve and forcing him to become attuned to the Soul of the World in order to survive. By paying attention to the details in the world around him, which serve as omens guiding him towards his goal, young Santiago becomes an alchemist in his own right, spinning unfavorable circumstances into riches.

Aside from the ubiquitous theme about the power of perseverance, my favorite part of the book was its glorification of simplicity. Like the pared-down manner in which the story is presented, Santiago's rare ability to get in touch with the Soul of the World comes not from the procedures described in arcane tomes pursued by traditional alchemists, but rather from a simple honesty and observance of the workings of the world. While the lack of character or plot complexity precludes this minimalist work from being considered a great novel, it will be a satisfying read for those seeking inspiration of the purest sort.

-Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
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256 of 304 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial simplicity, July 14, 2000
By 
Chris Foreman (Pittsburgh, Pa.) - See all my reviews
Last spring I read "Illusions," by Richard Bach. When I read the reviews online, one guy mentioned he thought "The Alchemist" was superior to the story of "Illusions." I finally got around to "Alchemist" and I must say I was quite disappointed.
First off, yes I realize it's considered a fable, but the writing style is far too simplistic. I don't know if it's the translation, but it reads like a book an elementary schooler would read for a report. Annoying points: there are page after page of adolescent terms like "Master Work" and "Personal Legend" and "Language of the Universe", repetitious redundancies of quotes, just in case you haven't been paying attention, and very little masking of points. Coelho must not trust the reader to pick things up because he screams them at you.
But, that's just the writing style. As for the writing, there is a clear spiritual basis to the story, which is welcome, but the incessant talk of fate was a complete turn-off. I also felt there was an air of superiority to it. Santiago would pass people who seemed happy in their lives, and he would feel sorry for them because they weren't on a trek. In the case of the crystal shop owner, yes, he was pathetic for not pursuing his dream of going to Mecca. But to look at another shop owner and judge he has not pursued his dream, when perhaps his dream was to settle with his family, was distracting.
On to love....um, he meets a woman midway through the story and falls in love before they speak? Oooookay. And this woman he supposedly loves, and with whom he could settle with and be rich, he leaves to discover a treasure. Why is his dream that of a material/monetary nature? I had a tiny problemo with that one.
So, before this becomes a lecture. I give it 3 stars for some of the dialogue Santiago has with the alchemist, and for its basic idea: pursue your dream, as it will haunt you if you don't. However, this is hardly a fantastic book....it just speaks to the masses, where others may require one to think more.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An illuminating story for all faiths and ages, December 4, 1998
By A Customer
I love this book -- with its wondrous tale of adventure, the sensitively written characters, and most of all, the lessons of the heart to be gleaned in the book's central premise -- that the Universe does all it can to help when one is brave enough to follow one's own dreams, and that you ignore the lessons of the heart at your own peril. This is probably the second or third time I've read the book, but this edition -- with enchanting illustrations by Moebius -- is a special treat, and I read the book completely transfixed! The story, the drawings, and the beautiful typography all combine to form a sensuous, exquisite reading experience. Do get the book, and it's the perfect gift for a loved one for your own self.
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686 of 829 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beauty is in the Simplicity, January 22, 2002
By A Customer
When I thought about reviewing this book, I had many things to say...but after reading some of the other reviews which pick apart and criticize it, I can see the meaning of the book even more clearly.
The writing is simple and clear- not juvenile. It's entertaining and brings a message which does not need to be complicated, except for those who are not ready to see the truth. They are the ones who like their truth heavily veiled and masked, as their self-gratification is in the pursuit. The reality is, the only place you need to look for the truth is in yourself. There is no search required- just your own personal journey.
Life does not need to be complicated, and the folks who have made negative comments about those who enjoy this book have obviously missed the point of it entirely- and they bring to mind the phrase "Casting Pearls before Swine."
You are not going to get anything valuable from this book unless you are READY for the spiritual knowledge which it contains. And that is one of the main points of the book anyway.
Personally, I received deep spiritual messages and peace from reading The Alchemist- and I have been on my own spiritual path for over two decades. This book presents information that only those who have actually paid attention to their journey would understand and appreciate.
If you read it and don't like it, I suggest you forget about it for at least 5 years and pick it up again. You might be surprised.
Update, 10/2003:Oh. My. Gosh. I can't believe how many people just "don't get" this book!!! Look: the point is not about anyone's "Personal Legend"!!!
THE POINT, is that what you search for is usually RIGHT THERE all along, and that the journey you take to find it is about learning lessons and growing as a person. Get it yet? LIFE IS IN THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION!!
Santiago set off to find his "pot of gold," and after a long journey during which he grew mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, he finally discovers the location of the treasure. He follows the directions and find it RIGHT WHERE HE STARTED!
GET IT?!!!
You have what you need inside of you all of the time. You don't need to search outside yourself- you need to look within. THAT is the point.
Sheesh.
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123 of 149 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Both original and inspiring ..., June 24, 2000
By 
Cartimand (Hampshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
... unfortunately the original bits aren't inspiring and the inspiring bits aren't original. (Ok, OK, if Coelho can rip ideas off why can't I?).
This I-Spy book of philosophy is nothing more than 10th rate, watered down Voltaire. For Santiago, read Candide and you'll get some idea of where Coelho's influences came from. If you have not already read Candide or Micromégas, then you may find a spark or two of inspiration within The Alchemist, as Coelho does pull the right string occasionally, making the reader ponder where life is taking them and the essential power each of us possesses to change things. Admirable stuff indeed! When, however one recognises how dirivative and inferior Coelho's writings are, the message becomes tainted, insubstantial and ultimately worthless.
By all means click to register your disapproval of my little review, but please, try Voltaire's Candide, either in the original version (if your french is up to it) or in one of the excellent english translations available, and experience the wisdom and humour of a true master who genuinely understood life's great comedy. Coelho falls far short of those he seeks so desperately to emulate.
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195 of 239 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is no Little Prince, October 16, 2006
By 
Frank Camm (Northern Virginia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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I feel like I am pushing against the tide, but perhaps I can warn others, like me, who agreed to read this book because of comparisons to St. Exupery's classic, The Little Prince. It is too late to warn off my book club. Others expecting anything remotely as charming, disarming, witty, and downright delightful as Le Petit Prince should look elsewhere. I have read St. Exupery, Mr. Coelho, and you are no St. Exupery.

Perhaps it is the translator who lets us down, but the underlying text lays it on so thick that I doubt it. Where the Little Prince is light on its feet, The Alchemist is sluggish and burdened to groaning with its own ethical importance. Where the Little Prince repeatedly pierces and nudges us with the persistent and indefatigable wisdom of children, The Alchemist slogs on through its mythic mish-mash of hazy, tired images. Where the Little Prince constantly surprises us, The Alchemist surprised me mainly by its insistence on piling the cliches on.

When I got to the "darkest moment comes just before the dawn," I thought Coelho might be pulling my leg, trying to see how much foolishness he could wrap together before I caught on. And when, on the very next page, he spoke of how God protects children and drunks, I could hear him screaming with laughter--when will they all catch on?! On and on. But the ladling is SO thick that Coelho hasn't made much of a game of it. There is nothing playful in sight. I can only assume that Coelho is sincere and actually believes that the frailest cliches bear repeating. Over and over and over.

I do have one good thing to say about the book. It convinced me to return to the Little Prince to see if my memory had failed me. Mais non! After far too many years, I rediscovered the dashing companion of my youth, as fresh now as he was then, but full of new meanings I could not have guessed at then. If you seek a spiritual journey that might refresh you in the most unpredictable ways, try The Little Prince instead. It's short. It's delightfully illustrated. It's cheap. And it's actually worth your time.
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486 of 601 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quasi-religious, psuedo-inspirational seriously inane drivel, June 5, 2005
By 
Steve R (New York, USA) - See all my reviews
Contrived. Pretentious. Juvenile. That's just the introduction, in which the author discusses his amazement at the popularity this book has gained. It is equally astonishing for any reader who is able to endure more than five pages of: "The Soul of the World spoke to the Heart of the Boy as he prayed to the God of the Dessert who commanded the Spirit of the Wind..." I found myself praying to the God of Literature that the boy's beloved sheep would stampeded and trample him to death, sparing me from the Demons of Boredom. If you liked the Celestine Prophecy you'll love The Alchemist. You can read it while you're waiting for the mothership to return. Otherwise, take a pass and read something more intellectually engaging, like the tax code.
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The Alchemist
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Paperback - April 25, 1993)
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